Feeds

Femto cells with big ideas

Good for coverage, bad for teenage romance

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Femtocell World Summit Visitors to the Femtocell forum in London this week are being deluged with demonstrations showing what a Femtocell application can do, the only problem being that they are all the same, and that none of them work.

Femtocells - very small network base stations designed to sit in the living room connected to the home broadband network - are very good at providing additional network coverage, particularly in buildings. But the manufacturers and network operators are keen to emphasise the huge range of applications that having your own base station offers, which would be more interesting if those applications weren't limited to detecting when a handset enters your house.

Being able to detect phones does provide some functionality: Airvana demonstrated a particularly entertaining "Boyfriend Buster", which reports back to dad (via SMS) when his daughter brings her boyfriend home. It's a nice idea, but only works if the boyfriend in question happens to be on the same network, so beware of gifts from your girlfriend's dad. Intruder detection suffers from the same problem; a Femtocell can be tweaked to detect handsets from other networks, but it can't see the phone number so can't tell friend from foe.

Lots of other applications were variations of that theme, with podcasts automatically loaded onto your phone as you walk into the door, or a Facebook connection that allows thieves to check on-line if you're at home. Most of the applications - like the podcast - are predicated on the idea that networks charge less for data used at home, despite the fact that no network is doing that as yet. There is also a real obsession with getting notifications that the kids are home.

Motorola Femtocell

Motorola - packing more functionality than the average Femtocell

Several vendors demonstrated applications that would deliver you reminders as you walk into your house, posted by yourself or friends, which is all very well if you need location-specific reminders - "feed the fish" is fine, but "call your mother" can be delivered anywhere.

To be fair, these are all intended to be examples of the kind of applications that Femtocells enable, and the Femto Forum has launched a developer portal, where it's hoping to create some standard APIs to allow everyone to have a go at creating applications for the technology. The idea is to create standard APIs for both interrogating Femtocells so applications can be deployed across different hardware - if the operators will let them.

And that is the nub of the matter - if you have a nice web API to access phone numbers attached to a Femtocell, you might be tempted to knock up an app that logs how users travel around your office during a fire drill, or one that switches on a bit of Barry White when your loved one walks into the house. But it's pretty unlikely that operators (the only people legally allowed to deploy a Femtocell, even in your house) will allow you to do that kind of thing. They'll want applications that generate revenue, and revenue they can understand, which means Femtocells will remain a technology to extend network coverage - at your expense - no matter how open the Forum tries to make them. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Virgin Media so, so SORRY for turning spam fire-hose on its punters
Hundreds of emails flood inboxes thanks to gaffe
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
AT&T dangles gigabit broadband plans over 100 US cities
So soon after a mulled Google Fiber expansion, fancy that
AT&T threatens to pull out of FCC wireless auctions over purchase limits
Company wants ability to buy more spectrum space in auction
EE & Vodafone will let you BONK on the TUBE – with Boris' blessing
Transport for London: You can pay, but don't touch
Turnbull gave NBN Co NO RULES to plan blackspot upgrades
NBN Co faces huge future Telstra bills and reduces fibre footprint
NBN Co plans fibre-to-the-basement blitz to beat cherry-pickers
Heading off at the pass operation given same priority as blackspot fixing
NBN Co in 'broadband kit we tested worked' STUNNER
Announcement of VDSL trial is not proof of concept for fibre-to-the-node
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
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.
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.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.