Feeds

Free info for London visitors

Shape of things to come

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Analysis A DTI-funded project might save visitors to London a few bob - if they can get their hands on the right kind of phone.

The iWan2go.com project won a DTI R&D grant and is about eight months into it trial; but it is interesting for what it could become, as much as for what it has already achieved.

To get hold of the eight information services on offer - including route planning, pubs, clubs, accommodation and entertainment - you need a GPRS-capable phone that can run Java MIDP applets. A Java client that caches queries means you can compose your questions offline. Despite a few rough edges in the user interface, we found that the service worked very well - with the route planner the most useful. And you can't complain about the price. The company operating the service, which includes former Psion veteran Alan Ferdman, isn't allowed to charge the end user. To sign up, go here, or text 2GO to 88600.

But iWant2go.com is interesting because really, it's a pluggable framework for mobile content. (The company behind it, Iwann2, sources the content from a third party). It isn't difficult to imagine it becoming the framework, although this would necessitate Iwann2 becoming as much an integrator as it is a service provider.

Help the New Aged

Although network operators are much less confident about mobile data than they like to admit in public, there's still a yawning gulf between the information mobile services deliver now, and what they could.

Most of the information we find useful is generated by the local and social institutions we already know, and are already part of. Questions like "What's the kid's soccer schedule?", and "Is Thursday street cleaning day on Geary?" are never going to be provided by commercial data services.

Ah, you're thinking - aren't the Californian techno-utopians, with their blogs and wikis - providing such a framework? The answer shows up the big difference in approach from Asian and European technologists, and Californians.

From a distance, it looks like both parties are trying to crack the same problem, but being Californian techno-utopians, wiki-fiddlers start with several huge liabilities. Socially, they're more inspired by junk science than by providing your Mum with a useful service. There's a very New Age religious desire to see stuff spontaneously "emerge" from these tools, rather than tap the good quality, reliable data we already have. This not only frustrates users, but it frustrates the most useful "information professionals" we have: our librarians.

Technically, these projects are completely web-centric, as many of those involved are web designers, 1990s throwbacks hoping to recreate the dotcom boom again. You can bet that a successful framework for mobile phones will not require 500MB of MySQL and Perl libraries at the client end.

So the most useful thing the Wikipedia project could do is not write another adoring 20,000 word article on our good friend Joi Ito (the spiritual leader), or "memes", but nail down a simple lightweight framework that librarians, schools, churches and small businesses could use as an annotation and broadcast channel. (There has been talk on the Wikipedia mailing lists of WAP access, but that's more about propagating the New Age encyclopedia's content, rather than a framework). The most useful thing we could do for Wikipedians is try and integrate them back into the community, but that's beyond the scope of this article. In Asian and Europe, the idea of creating technology that isn't socially useful is an anathema. In California, it's a feature, notabug!

Because so much of the socially useful information isn't commercial, it's a given that it will be "user generated". Of course it won't emerge spontaneously, but it could be provided by conscientious citizens like librarians, teachers and church wardens if the process is made easy enough.

At least the techno-utopians are thinking big, and without grand dreams, we achieve nothing. But we suspect it will be a company like Iwann2, or the librarians themselves, who makes those dreams a reality for the rest of us. ®

Related stories

GPRS prices drop 40%
Wikipedia's Emergent People fail to impress readers
Wikipedia 'to make universities obsolete'
Howard Dean's Net architect blasts emergent punditocracy
Bloggers on wheels
One blogger is worth ten votes - Harvard man

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
Broadband Secretary of SHEEP sensationally quits Cabinet
Maria Miller finally resigns over expenses row
Skype pimps pro-level broadcast service
Playing Cat and Mouse with the media
EE dismisses DATA-BURNING glitch with Orange Mail app
Bug quietly slurps PAYG credit - yet EE denies it exists
Like Google, Comcast might roll its own mobile voice network
Says anything's possible if regulators approve merger with Time Warner
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
Facebook splats in-app chat, whacks brats into crack yakety-yak app
Jibber-jabbering addicts turfed out just as Zuck warned
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.