Mobile tech bods beg devs: C'mon, where's that KILLER app?
Can you code? Phone gear makers need YOU
MWC 2013 The overriding theme among technologies being showcased at Mobile World Congress this year was their reliance on you lot - developers young and old - to create the killer applications they need to achieve commercial success.
Take Plantronics, a perfectly respectable manufacturer of headsets and other phone accessories, which now expects you to create applications that create value for its Spokes API for detecting how the headset is being used. Or perhaps you'd prefer a shot at the dashboard with the latest API from the Connected Car Consortium, enabling smartphone applications controlled from the steering column, or you could try your hand creating apps for Ericsson's Sustainable City, Samsung's Wallet or Mozilla's Firefox OS, or even link in the shiny new OneAPI Exchange to bill for a bit of WebRTC. Whatever kind of developer you are, the mobile industry wants you.
The GSMA, representing the mobile operators and hosting Mobile World Congress, was even handing out window stickers declaring "I Love APIs" presumably on the premise that the more APIs you have, the 'appier you'll be.
Take the Connected Car Consortium, which has working kit which replicates the screen of a phone on a dashboard so your car no longer needs sat-nav, music player, etc. Touch points on the dashboard screen are passed back to the phone, along with basic commands for play, pause, skip, volume and so forth, which could originate in the steering column or dash buttons. That's version 1, but in June the 'Consortium will be publishing version 1.1 which not only adds wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi Direct, since you ask) but will provide free APIs allowing the phone to interrogate the CAN Bus - a standard diagnostic interface providing vehicle speed, engine revs and a load of other stuff which has no use at the moment, but will no doubt be firing the imagination of some of you already.
For those lacking a developer bent, one can envision apps for by-the-mile insurance, or parental monitoring, or even tuning and diagnostic tools alongside big buttons media player and satellite navigation. The idea is to do as much as possible without distracting the driver with Temple Run.
More pedestrian developers might like the look of Stick N Find - button-sized stickers with Bluetooth Low Energy allowing accurate distance measuring from a smartphone, to an accuracy of five centimetres. The stickers run for a year on a button cell, and the company behind them will be providing APIs for both iOS and Android next month. There are plenty of obvious applications - finding your keys, the remote control, or sticking onto a bag/purse/child to be automatically alerted when they stray more than 40 metres from your phone - but more esoteric applications also exist. For example, your correspondent scored a couple to use as triangulations points for his robot lawnmower.
Stick N Find needs compelling applications. The stickers are going to cost $50 a pair, which is a lot to pay for the modern equivalent of a whistling keyring, so decent ideas from developers are welcome.
Unless you'd prefer to launch into the world of Smart Sensors with the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC headset, which comes with its own developer conference dedicated to those who want to spend their time adding value to someone else's product. Out of the box the headset can answer calls when placed on the ear, and pause the music when removed, pair it with the (included) Bluetooth dongle and applications running on the PC can get proximity, battery and usage information as well as control, which presents some interesting possibilities.
There are dozens of other projects calling for developer time, far too many for the developer community to support even without taking on board the big players like Firefox OS or BlackBerry 10, which have their own APIs that they're dying to show you.
We're always talking about the Internet Of Things. We've asked ourselves which network technologies will ultimately allow the predicted 50 billion devices to communicate with each other; how they will be manufactured and powered; and who will run the servers hosting the database records they'll generate. But it seems there's another question we should be asking: who's going to write the apps for all these new devices, and which devices do you think are going to be worth your time? ®