Sunday, February 26, 2006

ethics of location tracking services

I came across this article about a UK-based service that allows people to track a mobile (for about 30 cents each time the location is requested). It's done via the Internet and locates people down to the network cell they are using; there is no mobile software involved. The person who is going to be tracked has to agree (via SMS) -- but there is some concern over whether that could be done without the real phone user knowing. The article also covers how the service can be made safe for children.

The company offering this service is World Tracker -- apparently plans for a US service are in the pipeline. I think this could be relevant for the people who were talking about child-tracking applications, or ways of locating lost/stolen cellphones.

The Mobile Broadband Group in the UK deals with regulatory issues for cellphone providers and has just drawn up a code of conduct for location-based services.

NTT DoCoMo's "Interconnected World"

While doing some research for my latest project idea (cellphone pedometer*, instead of the restaurant locator/reviews idea I presented last week), I came across the website for NTT DoCoMo, "Japan's premier mobile communications company."

They have a section entitled "Interconnected World" in which they list mobile communication services that they have implemented, some of which Frank mentioned on the first day, like the barcode scanner and cellphone "credit card." These services are available only in Japan at the moment, at least from this company.

* Bodies in Motion just released a fully-loaded cellphone pedometer program two weeks ago (demo video here), available only on select Sprint/Nextel GPS phones. I'd like to come up with my own version, obviously much simpler than theirs, for the A780. (I have no programming experience other than a little C, so am currently just focusing on learning Java, heh.)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Call to Arms

Hey everyone, there seems to the this large idea of social networking technology floating around the blog, and I am curious how many people were interested in it. I feel that this can be a really awesome project if there were a lot of us working on it, and at the same time incorporating from other projects.

Currently from my end, I am looking particularly at Flickr and photo sharing. Personally I would rather go to my contact list and see if my friends had any recently photos added instead of going through an app. I was thinking if there are lot of ideas that deal with one's person contacts, editing the contact list might be a good idea. I.E. if I was editing the contact Bill, I would enter say his username into a flickr textfield, then the backend would search for his page, collect his photos, and view them when I click on a button in the popup menu at his contact info. You could imagine something like this working for other networks, like a blogger and read what you a contacts most recent post.

I think where I am going with this is the idea of giving the contact list a small makeover. This would be native but would really cool to see. I have a small issue implementing this in a java app since it might be cumbersome having to go through your applications click on the app and then go walk yourself through it to see your friend's most recent photos. Everyone goes through their contact list to call anyway, so the idea is say I wanted to call Bill I could possibly check if he has any recent photos and then call him say something about them.

Another view option could be through google maps. Is there anyone thinking of implementing something with google maps , when I look at Flickr, I think it would be cool, especially for that friend that travels alot to see her photos from a map.

Another personalization of a contact might be what that contact is listening to, through a web service incorporating AudioScrobbler which implements.

The meat and potatoes of it all would be:
- setting up the web service(s) that will do the talking between the networks and the phone.
- creating the textfields in the editing option of contact list and the buttons in the popu menu
- writing the code that would take the input from the from the text fields, make the call to the web service and retrieve the requested info.
- gui(s) for view the info from the networks.

I think this can work out really well with three of four heads in on it. Anyone interested.

Friday, February 24, 2006

MoSoSo papers

There's a collection of papers on Mobile Social Software that might be relevant to some of your projects posted on the web. These are position papers (so not a lot of detail) that will be discussed at a workshop at CHI (ACM Conference on Human Computer Interaction) this spring.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

RC Cars?

"The FCC today approved a set of accessories for Motorola that reveals plans to launch a set of remote controlled cars in cooperation with Nikko. Chances are Motorola will use this opportunity to further tie in Nextel's NASCAR sponsorship to iDen handsets. The approval was for a Zigbee dongle that can either plug into a traditional looking RC vehicle remote or into the accessory port of an iDen phone. Either the dual-joystick remote or a Java application on an iDen handset (specifically an i850), can then be used to control a Zigbee-enabled RC car. Each "Wireless Wheels" set will include a dongle, remote and car. This is not the first phone-controlled RC car. A few years ago, Sony Ericsson sold a Bluetooth car that could be controlled from any of their Bluetooth-enabled phones."

Wow, if our 780 model phones cost $600, I don't even want to think about how much a 850 model costs bundled with a remote controlled racecar!

I also found some more details on the company building the cellular MySpace product... here's their official press release with brief feature descriptions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Cell Social Network

I found this startup ( ) that seems to be doing a lot of the stuff that we talked about in class as far as social networks.

You may want to sign up for their invite list to check out the service once its out of beta, it may give some good ideas if you are thinking of doing something similar.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

barcode image decoding software

Something that looks very clever and useful is technology from Scanbuy, which decodes images of barcodes captured using mobile devices. They have produced a couple of complete applications, including ScanZoom, which lets you scan a barcode on a product in a store and see a price comparison using PriceGrabber or Amazon. Sadly it doesn't look like the applications are available for the A780. They also have SDKs, including one in Java -- according to their developers' page, these are available for download, though the link didn't work for me.

I think it could be interesting to look into ways of using barcodes scattered in public places, maybe in conjunction with GPS, to pinpoint locations, associating information or opinions with places or objects. I think Frank mentioned the use of barcodes on posters to disseminate advertising information, but could barcodes be used as an entry point to digital 'repositories' in public places? A picture in an art gallery or an item on a restaurant's menu could have a barcode attached to it; you'd scan the barcode and your phone would look up opinions or comments made by previous viewers/diners. Then you could add your own. This would work especially well if any opinions recorded by your friends were presented first. That way, someone could recommend an exhibition to you, then you could go to the gallery at a convenient moment and it would be a bit like you'd gone with your friend, because you'd be able to hear some of their thoughts about the paintings.

Social Networks and their API's

I haven't been able to find an API for myspace but it looks like it won't matter since News Corp., who recently bought myspace, made a deal to give their service to Sprint, Nextel and Verizon. "Users would be able to read and post to the site at no charge".

View article here

There isn't an offically API for the facebook that I could find but there is one written by Andre Cohen. It's implemented in Perl, which raises the question, Will I be able to use it if I am writing in Java. I really don't know how friendly Perl is with Java? Anyone know?

Facebook API Documentation

Flickr does have an API. The issue with Flickr is that to use it one needs an API key which can be commerical or non-commerical. I'm not sure which category our projects fall into. There is another photo sharing site called 23 whose API has support for Flickr's API. 23 is trying to create open standards in the sharing world.

On a related note if you have a flickr account, there is an uploader for your cell phone called MobUp. The JAD and JAR files are available here by downloading the mobup source file.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

User Manual for A780

I'm not sure if this is already posted somewhere, but here is a link to the Motorola A780 user manual in English:
A780 User Manual

Hope this is helpful.

Friday, February 17, 2006

SIM card update

For those who needed SIM cards, they are on their way to coming. After dealing with some corporate-ness (lots of phone calls and lots of form-filling-out), I managed to get 10 cards at a discounted rate without contract. They'll be shipping them to me early next week, and I hope to get them to all of you by Friday. They will be Cingular with no voice service and have 20MB/month of data. They are in a pooled plan, so some people can go over 20MB as long as some people don't use that much. The MB possibly roll over from month to month, but I'm not sure on this yet. Anyway, not totally ideal, but that should be sufficient for everything you guys need to do.

If any projects think they need much more data than that, let me know and I'll let you know the additional cost for adding significantly more data to the SIM. We need to figure out payment for these, but just budget $90 for the semester as we had mentioned earlier and Ed and I will figure out a way to get that money to the appropriate place at some point.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Location Data, Law Enforcement, and Privacy

I just came across an editorial discussing some of the things we were talking about in class last night. It's an interesting read because the author asserts that some law enforcement agencies are sidestepping both the letter and the spirit of CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act -- the same act being scrutinized in the current wiretapping debate) by requesting cell phone location data. From the article:
Consider the implications. If you voluntarily transmit your exact GPS-derived location to a cellular provider--so you can get information returned about nearby restaurants or driving directions--the Justice Department apparently believes that your location should be available without a warrant.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Collaborative Photo Sharing

Check out this new Collaborative Photo Sharing site: In class tonight some of you were talking about placing the locations of photos on Google maps - this website might be one way of doing it. At the very least, it's an alternative to Flickr. What do people think?

Also, check out this new site from Engadget -- Engadget Mobile. Engadget Mobile is a new blog devoted specifically to cell phones and mobile technology. I'm going to add it to the link bar on the right.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Polite Phones

Take a look at one of today's Slashdot posts. The post is a pointer to an article on NPR's website detailing how researchers are looking into more "polite" mobile phones. Here's a link directly to the article it sites. From the story:

Larry Marturano doesn't want his cell phone to ring when he's sitting in church. Luckily, his phone has a built-in calendar, and he can program his phone so that it won't ring at certain times of the day. He's told it to always be respectfully silent on Sunday mornings, so it won't interrupt the sermon.

The article goes on to describe what Motorola and Carnegie Mellon University are doing to account for similar situations. Coincidentally, Larry Marturano heads the Motorola Research group in which Frank works. He is also responsible for approving Frank's request for phones for the class. Thank you, Larry! :-)

Some ideas

21W.780 Mobile Technology Blog
I like the idea that Neil had about combining the social network of the internet with our GPS capabilities. When Neil mentioned facebook and livejournal I thought of, which is a site for viewing personal photos. and which is similar to the facebook. I was thinking of a profiling system that took information from such sites and placed them in a phone version that showed all the information from those sites in a nice, simple package. Then using the GPS abilities, one could view profiles of people that are in the area. I think interaction among people would increase as the initial confrontation is eased by the use of a profile interaction and messaging.

Other Ideas

Reading from The Social Life of Cameraphone Images, I took that a system that could automatically share images with friends would be highly valued. After playing with the phone for a bit I found out that you can select as many contacts as wish when sending the image as a message to another phone. I haven't gotten the emailing working yet, but I'll assume that it has the same capabilities. I not sure if the A780 is able to save certain sets of contacts when sending photos. I believe most people have a set circle of friends that they are in contact with and I think it would be a haste to constantly have to select each friend. Creating a Sharing List that would allow quick sharing to many people would be useful. Then encorporating the profiling system idea one could use it to share with people you know that fit a certain profile.

Reading from How Do People Manage Their Digital Photographs, I found out that
annotating photos is essential for searching for photos. This might be important if when one uses their phone as their main storage of photos which could become the case. An automatic annotation engine that adds tags to photos, would make text based queries more powerful. Using the GPS system, such an engine would add a tag to the photo indicating the place where the took it. An ambitious engine would would use a picture of a friend from a profiling system like the one above and attemp to find a match of it in the image taken and tag the friends name.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Data Plans...

In order to use data from your own applications on the phone, you'll need an unlimited data plan. The following are the recommended plans...

Cingular: "Unlimited EDGE/GPRS Data" - call 1-866-cingular, and be sure to ask for the MIT "Premier" rate. It should be $29.99/month. Please post a comment if you're able to confirm this!

T-Mobile: "Unlimited GPRS/VPN" $29.99 - Call 1-877-387-4324 to change your plan. Don't let them talk you into the WAP/T-Zones for $5.99. T-Zones will let you use the web browser, but not to use data from your own applications or ones that you download.

Interactive Mobile Pet/Character

Brad and I had an idea about a Tamagotchi like application. Our pet would be more advanced than a Tamagotchi, though. We were thinking about a character that several people could manage at the same time. The data would be stored on a server and could be retrieved by SMS or GPRS. In combination with the bluetooth interface there could be some interesting interactive elements like pets getting the flu or falling in love with other users' pets. Then you would have to go to a pharmacy (GPS controlled) to get some medecine :-)

We have also been thinking about a role playing game element. Instead of a pet you could play with a wizard or knight. Then you could develop a game enviornment in a city: game masters design riddles that have to be solved by a group of people at a certain location in town (in the dungeons of Filene's Basement, for example). Unfortunately, I don't think it is possible to use GPS indoors. But I haven't tried it with the A780 yet.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Using cell phones to retrieve information about environment

From New Scientist Technology Blog:
With Mapion Local Search, users can now walk down the street anywhere inJapan and point at over 700,000 objects such as buildings, shops,restaurants,banks, historical sites and instantly retrieve information on what they arelooking at or find what they are looking for just by pointing their phone.Just like one uses a mouse to click on an object on a computer screen andretrieve information, now users can Click on the Real World® using their mobilephone. -

WAP Push

It seems you can send a special type of SMS message called WAP Push that acts as a service indicator and directs the recipient's phone to particular location. I did some looking around and found a bunch of services, mostly in the UK that will act as Internet->SMS gateways for a fee. We should try to get access to one of these gateways, or if anyone knows of free ones that we might be able to make use of in our projects (particularly ones that support WAP Push). Or perhaps Cingular and our other providers could provide direct usage of their own SMS gateways to our class?

Invites Sent Out

Ed just gave me the class list a few minutes ago, and I sent out invites to everyone. If you don't have an invitation to join the blog please email me and I'll get you another. Now that everyone (should be) signed up, feel free to both create your own top-level posts and reply to other peoples' posts. Enjoy!!

Also, don't miss all of the cool links on the right side of the page --------------------------------------------------------------------->
If you have ideas for more cool links please blog about them and I'll add them on.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Data settings for your phone...

Sorry for not getting this out sooner. Here are some instructions on how to set up the A780 for data on various carriers. There are two places they have to be configured, in the Setup application and in the web browser. Comment if you have questions/problems...

In Setup, go to Data Network
Menu, New
Profile Name:Cingular GPRS
Save and close.

In the web browser go to Setup, Profiles
Menu, New
Profile Name: Cingular Web
Network Link: Cingular GPRS
Leave everything else the same, Save

T-Mobile WAP
In Setup, go to Data Network
Menu, New
Profile Name:TMobile GPRS
DNS server (checked)
Save and close.

In the web browser go to Setup, Profiles
Menu, New
Profile Name: TMobile Web
Primary Gateway IP:
Port: 8080
Network Link:TMobile GPRS
Leave everything else the same, Save

T-Mobile Unlimited Data
In Setup, go to Data Network
Menu, New
Profile Name:TMobile GPRS
Save and close.

In the web browser go to Setup, Profiles
Menu, New
Profile Name: TMobile Web
Network Link: TMobile GPRS
Leave everything else the same, Save

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

SIM cards - Action required....

Please post a comment to this entry by Friday if you'll need a SIM card for the class. I'll work with Cingular to get one as soon as possible for everyone who needs one. My best guess is that it'll take 1-2 weeks, but you can still play with the phones and develop non-networked applications in the mean time.

Speak Of The Devil...

This course has proven to be pretty timely... Take a look at one of today's Slashdot posts. :-)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

First Post

Welcome to the 21W.780 blog! Post early, post often!