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Femtocells know you're home again - but so what?

Hi honey, I'm... curiously disenchanted

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Intrinsyc has been demonstrating a handset app that changes the user's interface when they get home, though no one is mentioning the most obvious application.

Intrinsyc demonstrated its application, UX-Zone, along with Airvane, ip.access and Ubiquisys to prove cross-manufacturer compatibility. The app runs on Windows Phone or Android devices and can detect if a femtocell is being used, changing the interface when it is. Which is all very pretty, but only useful if operators start giving discounts on femtocell-routed traffic: something they've been remarkably reluctant to do.

Changing the interface dependent on location and/or time is nothing new. Companies such as Surf Kitchen have been creating time-and-location specific interfaces for years, but neither operators nor customers have shown any great interest in the idea.

The only popular dynamic interfaces are those that show when cheaper calls are available: O2's Home Zone product was revolutionary when it was launched in Germany, a small icon (a house) popped onto the screen when the user was near their own home, and calls immediately became half price. At the time such functionality required lengthy negotiations with Nokia, but users loved it.

These days that would be technically trivial, and the use of a femtocell provides a legitimate reason for cheaper services, but the companies involved in UX-Zone won't even admit that indication of cheaper calls and data is the obvious application. Such an idea would risk upsetting the network operators who see no reason to discount services just because they're being carried on the customer's infrastructure.

For the moment punters will pay twice - once to the network operator, and again to their broadband provider - just to get coverage, and operators have no reason to deny them that opportunity, but perhaps one day that will change and then we'll want an application that tells us when we've arrived home. ®

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