Keep shining for Solar-powered mobile phones

25 02 2009

If you read my blog on mobile phone innovation for the elderly – then you’ll know that one of my pet hates is rummaging for my phone in my bag. My second mobile phone hang-up is running out of battery power. You know it’s fully charged, but you forget to double check. Dropping off the kids at school you need to use your mobile phone and guess what, no power…. Arrrghhhh. Does this only ever happen to me?

It seems my prayers have been answered. A plethora of solar powered mobile phones will be hitting the market later this year. Being blessed to live in a place that boasts 300 days of sun, I’m in luck.

Here’s a quick overview of the early to market contenders that were unveiled at the Mobile World Congress:-
Hat’s off to ZTE, China, together with Digicel Group and Intivation who have launched the Coral-200-Solar, the world’s first low-cost solar-powered mobile phone aimed at the world’s poor (or financially challenged).. The Coral-200-Solar, manufactured by ZTE, uses proprietary technology from Dutch-based innovator Intivation. Since early 2008, Digicel has been providing its’ customers with low-cost or free portable solar charges in many markets. The concept of linking charger devices and a phone is sure to be a winner.

Here’s one new innovation that will certainly make a difference to people’s lives in locations where (a) price matters (b) electricity connections may be difficult. As ZTE state in their news release “there are an estimated two billion people in the world who have limited or no access to electricity”. Analysts have estimated that 5B people could have a phone service if they could afford a phone, service and be able to charge it. The population of many emerging markets in which Digicel provides cellular services will benefit greatly by access to a mobile handset that can be powered by the sun, or by electric power when it is available.”

Likewise, I tip my hat to the South Korean manufacturer, Samsung who have also launched an eco-friendly full-touch screen solar powered mobile phone – Blue Earth. – available in the UK during the second half of 2009.

The latest in a series of eco-friendly products, Blue Earth comes with a unique user interface which is designed to draw attention to preserving our environment. Simple to set screen brightness, backlight duration and Bluetooth to an energy-efficient mode, this new user interface allows the user to be energy-efficient with just one click of ‘Eco mode’. Through the ‘eco walk’ function the user can count their steps with an in-built pedometer, calculating how much CO2 emissions have been reduced by walking as opposed to motor transport. – Sounds more fun than the gym.

Blue Earth is made from recycled plastic called PCM, which is extracted from water bottles, helping to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the manufacturing process. The device, including charger, is free from harmful substances such as Brominated Flame Retardants, Beryllium and Phthalate.

Not to be outdone, LG will also launch another eco-friendly solar-powered mobile phone at the end of 2009. Proto-type mobiles were available for viewing at the Mobile World Congress but no product name, as yet.

By simply pointing the phone’s solar panel at natural light, the panel will convert solar energy into electricity without needing to be plugged in. For a ten minute exposure to the sun, this will give the phone enough power for a three-minute call – ok for a quick emergency call but not to call your clients. If left in natural light for long periods, the solar panel creates enough standby power to power the phone without any charging devices. Great news, should work for me in my sunny kitchen!

LG’s green initiative has not stopped at phones. The company’s LG HFB-500 Bluetooth solar car kit, first introduced at this January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, gives customers hands-free mobile use in a fully rechargeable solar unit. A definite must have to avoid those fines.


How religion is embracing technology

24 02 2009

Normally I would not include politics or religion on this blog – as the goal here is to offer reports on key music/film/sport/communication events and reference how technology is helping to improve lives in those sectors.  However, this being Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) and the last day of Mardi Gras, I was reflecting on how religion and churches may be using technology in their work today.  Now forgive me for being so slow, but I was blown away by the results that I quickly found on the web.

Here I was thinking, that if Jesus was here today, he’d have a much easier job of spreading his word and securing disciples.  For starters he could have his own web site, be signed up for Facebook, Twitter, webinars, Live Chat, SMS, Mobile communications, and a Blog – of course and so on.  (Please don’t take offense – this is just for fun).

So thinking back to my church going youth, I recall that one had to remember to look at the church notice board to find out about any interesting events or listen to the sermon.   Religious marketing back in those days did not really exist. It was no wonder that attendance dwindled away.

Now, all faiths have woken up to using technology to help them attract new audiences, keep people motivated and encourage involvement  – they could do more – but here is a quick scan on how different religions are embracing technology today:

Christian faith
Websites but found MP3 downloads of sermons (helpful if you were ill and missed the previous weeks’ mass), email (some doing better than offers by offering two way communications and pushing out weekly emails to interested parties), download forms to offer payment gifts, pdf for wedding or bereavements guides etc, and some even had their own blogs!

Appear to be pretty switched on with technology – jammed packed web site, their famous genealogy search engine, live chat, You Tube, video streams, information offered in different languages and American sign.

Web/email sites seem to be the norm but saw few other features highlighted on these sites. Did find a few links to order music cds.

Again, web sites, pdf files, payment forms.

Web, email, streaming video.

So what do we learn – religious organisations are using technology to help their own ministries, missionaries and disciples communicate and reach out to the world.  The above was not an extensive research survey, but clearly there is scope for wider adoption.  Placing their music on YouTube or selling download files to help raise funds for their church is one possibility (I bet someone, somewhere is doing this!).  For certain, some organisations push out regular emails to their flock but how much more could they do to achieve greater awareness and or secure better fund raising.

I think it’s great that better communications are in place – it can only serve to help understanding and evoke tolerance.  House bound people, or those away from home can still feel involved with their religion via activities they can find on the web (Live Chat, downloading MP3 church music, sermons, finding out about events and so forth).

There’s definitely scope and potential to do more business.  For example, 33% of the world claim to be Christian, 21% Islam, and 14% Hinduism (see more data from an ARIS study on Religious Tolerance) – that’s a lot of people – those of you involvement in technology sales get busy.

Report from Mobile World Congress 2009, Barcelona

24 02 2009

“A crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind”
– Chinese proverb

People like technology for its own sake. That fact was abundantly clear at Mobile World Congress (MWC 09), as it has been clear down through the years in telecom, computing and consumer electronics. The desire for something new drives these businesses forward, sometimes without real regard for customer benefit. When 3G mobile first launched in France, you could buy a 3G phone from the operators with the disclaimer that 3G service was not actually available yet.

Technologies like Wireless Access Protocol, which promised “wireless internet” and delivered 80’s dial-up modem experience, have shown us that technology for its’ own sake is fun, but will not drive new services revenue.

Let’s hear from Michele Campriani, CEO at Accanto Systems and Advisory Director at TM Forum, who cautions operators to be careful with 4G investment. His company is a provider of intelligent Customer Service Assurance solutions for communications services providers globally.

At MWC most of the promotions still focus on cool technology rather than how to help operators make money. Handset manufacturers come to the event with their consumer focused marketing which fails completely to show operators how to make new money

Quite a bit discussion focuses on Application stores. Apple came from nowhere in the handset to a number 2 position in the US in the space of less than two years. Are they revolutionizing mobile in the same way they took on the music, and new video and TV on demand market. A simple well integrated universal storefront and device? Apple’s app store claims half a billion downloads.

This success has caught the attention of Microsoft and Nokia, amongst others, as the App store launches are coming fast and thick. Microsoft must by wondering what hit them. Why wasn’t there a similar site for Windows Mobile? I’m using, but lets face it, it is not sexy and the install process can be pretty fraught.

Clearly people want App stores (even if they don’t make much use of the apps that they download) are great, but if Apple, Microsoft, Palm, Nokia, and Google have one how will operators make money from that?

Meanwhile in handset land, activity seemed to be focused on “iPhone clone” wars. Each major manufacturer has there touch screen icon-encrusted offering. Why is no-one talking (at least in their public promotions) about how to make new revenues from these? Nuvifone offers GPS navigation on a mobile phone (like we didn’t have that before!) – this will actually take money from operators who have their own subscription-based navigation services. Yahoo had a significant stand where they showed their iPhone like interface. Oddly despite all the Google Android hype, Google did not have a stand at the show.

Part of the answer may be that you need to look a bit more closely at the offers from the suppliers. Alcatel Lucent had some intriguing technology on their site that could trigger some new service offers, and is reminiscent of the Shazam music recognition technology

Keith Barnett, Digital Media Product and Solution Marketing Manager, HP shares his MWC discoveries and highlights some of the new innovative services for 4G from device, application and content providers.

More details about the Alcatel-Lucent ng Connect Program can be found on the link above.

With all the talk at the show of “Next G” capabilities offered by Long Term Evolution (LTE) (less so Wimax it now seems), let’s hope operators can figure out ways to monetize the services that take advantage of these impressive new mobile speeds. I certainly didn’t see much to give much indication which shape these will take. Some said 3G meant Girls, Games and Gambling and there is some evidence of that from MobileKing seen at MWC ’09.

R18 livecams and video-content - helping to drive much needed revenue

R18 livecams and video-content - helping to drive much needed revenue

Mobile Phone innovation for the elderly – or for those who shop

23 02 2009

If you’re like me and store your mobile phone in a bag, I generally either miss hearing it ring, or whilst grabbling for it, miss the call as it trips to voice mail. At this point I then move the phone to my pocket – my husband always re-dials as he knows me well…

Enter the new wave of mobile phones that should help improve this situation. At the Mobile World Congress ‘09 (MWC ’09) many companies were vying for the spotlight with their newest and coolest gadget phones.

LG, Electronics were sporting a new range of wristwatch phone that any James Bond fan would desire. Comprising a chunky wrist watch mobile, with full touch screen and a blue-tooth headset to ease use (sounds interesting) one can continue to shop and talk. Despite it’s small size, it is still jammed with the same multi-media features: a full touch-screen interface, 3G HSDPA and video-calling capabilities. Better still, Orange announced last week that they will be the first operator to offer this Touch Watch phone (LG G910) in Europe later this year. Pity they don’t offer it in different colours. They may need to offer a more girlie style to attract fashionistas.

I also applaud LG for their position on making their mobile phones environmentally friendly. The company’s website states their eco-design concept and new eco-products help create a safer, cleaner world – that’s refreshing news. By substituting harmful materials in their mobile phone production with healthier alternatives it increases energy efficiency and recyclability. At present, no lead, cadmium, and other EU RoHS materials are used in the production of LG mobile phones. The use of nickel is also banned due to the risk of skin irritation. Let’s hope other suppliers will follow.

As mobile phones become an essential tool in our lives, the late adoption by all segments of the market is now taking place. Most people I know over the age of 65 years, generally only recently purchased a phone, or have received one from a concerned family member. Typically they regard the mobile as an emergency tool – to be carried when leaving home in order to make emergency calls. They rarely turn them on, or give out the number, and of course have the same issues that I encounter; the ability to hear the phone ring in noisy stores or streets is a challenge.

Calling all Mobile phone developers, here’s an opportunity for you. In addition to developing those sexy smartphones with tonnes of gadgets – consider what could be developed for the “third age” sector. Yes, I know there a few phones for easy use with large buttons and loud ringtones (visit Doro – congratulations for winning the Stevie Wonder & Friends vision free product award at CES, Las Vegas last month) but that’s it. Why not consider developing a mobile phone brooch? It would be easy to wear on a coat, with volume cranked up to help the owner hear the ring tone. Perhaps a mobile ring phone – powered by voice recognition. Come to think of it, if developers could come up with a range of designs that were funky, I’d consider swapping my phone to secure a model that could be worn to avoid all that rummaging in my bag.

Back to the future – I mean Fira ???

22 02 2009

Having spent years working in marketing groups and managing major events, it is still amazingly, a delight to attend exhibitions and observe what has been effective, who has made a major impact, where the innovation is coming from and learn about new stuff!

Should I stay or should I go?

Fira de Barcelona - Home to Mobile World Congress

Fira de Barcelona - Home to Mobile World Congress

As carnival parties continue it must be time for the annual GSMA Mobile World Congress (formally GSM World Congress). Over the years it has become the hot show for anyone wanting to do business in mobile communications. As I sit here in my French villa looking out over the snow-capped Alps my travel plans are set to go to Barcelona. I do miss the event’s previous location, in Cannes, that had a great sense of glamour. Of course the location had various limitations that contributed to the city switch: success of the show drove up attendance figures leading to over crowding, insufficient hotel rooms, high costs and navigating the rabbit warren to seek out exhibitors and hospitality rooms created difficult challenges for attendees. It was a fun spot: there was always competition for the best hospitality marquees on the beach vying to host THE event party. The harbour would be bursting with yachts and the super class monster boats hoping to lure senior level attendees to hang out to discuss business – a change from those cramped noisy event halls. Or witnessing scenes like Richard Branson (Virgin Mobile fame – who made it hip for American teens to use mobile devices) running down the “Croisette” – late for his early morning keynote at the show, due to late night partying and having his pr man tackled to the ground by over zealous security men – thinking he was being chased and attacked as he scrambled up the red carpet and into the Cannes Film Festival Home at the Palais des Festival! What halcyon days – great fun.

So pre-show preparation was required and questions prepared. How is the mobile industry working to improve our lives? What “must have” innovation would I find, which partnerships or new products will this year’s show unveil?

As both a consumer and business user it has become apparent that the strict boundaries and roles of organisations and services from my youth are now becoming blurred. Everyone in the food chain from goods (be it groceries, clothing, music, books, event tickets etc) and services that we wish to buy or obtain online is now stepping up to re-evaluate their role. This is no more true than in the mobile world where operators, financial services, retailers and mobile devices and applications suppliers are figuring out how to make it all work together. Will I discover at MWC ’09 some new service that will change my life for the better?

In this economic “belting tightening” times that we have entered, companies need to fight to remain in business. That means working to reduce costs while revenue is falling, but investing to improve customer service and retain customer base to retain market share by launching new exciting services. Hang on minute, doesn’t this all sound familiar? – the same mantra of the 1990’s….

There is a big difference from the mini crisis experienced in 2001-2003 – we are now facing the worst global economic downturn for 70 if not 100 years. The overspending and problems of inflation cannot be wiped away in one year – so hang on to your hats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, perhaps it will be 7 even 10 years before recovery returns.

On that note, I re-considered my trip, finances and carbon footprint. Together with other annual attendees (this year’s show attendance was reported to be down 9pc – the Hotel Association of Barcelona reported a 32% drop in hotel bookings… maybe more people are sharing rooms or renting apartments). I decided to abandon my trip to MWC ’09. I had after all sufficient business colleagues and friends attending who could provide show feedback, so a virtual attendance was my plan for 2009, thanks to technology – my feet and wallet thanked me as well!

Will 4G deliver? A question of revenue.

22 02 2009

Where will all the extra revenue come from to support the new 4G investment? This is the same question that was asked for 3G and few killer apps arrived to deliver the golden goose to repay the operators huge financial risk they took to achieve implementation.

Wireless Intelligence report that countries such as Iran (68%)Vietnam (51%) and India (48%) are showing some of the highest subscriber growth in 4Q 08. You can bet that the majority of accounts will be pre-paid as this is where arguably operators are winning new business. With growth principally coming from price sensitive, low spend accounts such as the pre-paid sector, no killer apps surfacing, where and how will the operators secure the revenue to cover their new 4G investment?

In the wake of this financial downturn it is unlikely people will give up their mobile phones as spend for many only accounts for about 3 percent of income. What innovation will the market launch to persuade people to open their purse strings? Any suggestions?

Le crise (What the French call the Credit Crunch or Crisis)

22 02 2009

“Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

All this gloom and doom talk about recession has taken its’ time to filter to France.  Whilst in the UK, USA and other places have been pulling in their belt – banks going belly up and cap in hand to their respective governments, stores closing down, lay-offs and redundancy a weekly news item since late October 2008 – the pain was still not felt in la belle France.  I put this down to a reduced habit of buying on credit, over borrowing and spending.  People in France generally wait until they have the funds before buying, and thankfully the “I want it all, I want it now” behaviour is greatly reduced.  Plus the “retail therapy” habit is diluted as there are better ways to spend the weekend in France than just shopping.  As a result, the trickle and slowing down of the economy is only just hitting.  The slow down has first been felt in a place where it hurts most – in the stomach.  Restaurants in particular have felt the reduction in dining numbers and are fighting back.  The first “le crise”  menus have appeared in southern France: lunchtime menu, main course, dessert with coffee for an inflation beating price of only 6 euros – that should hopefully encourage the weary sandwich munching crowd to rush back.

The next step to help beleaguered restaurateurs and retailers – let’s hope the mobile marketers are listening – is the speedy roll-out of improved mobile advertising.  A great example was the experience I had today to try and find a restaurant for lunch.  My mobile phone was able to dial a “yellow page” style application to find suitable names and “Mappy” – A European LBS specialist – popped up great maps to offer location guidance but that was it.  Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have been given the option to open a video clip giving me a “virtual tour” of each restaurant, or receive a copy of the menu, perhaps read reviews, perhaps push me a coupon to get a meal discount, or get the restaurant to call me back to make a reservation.  You get the picture – these are the services consumers are seeking but sadly the market has not as yet delivered on those desired “killer apps” .

The mobile advertising sector will be worth $18.5 billion by 2010, largely because advertisers want to take advantage of the most exciting channel for delivering targeted messaging in the history of advertising, but also because operators want to supplement their traditional business with an additional revenue stream says Cathal O’Toole, Product Manager Jinny Software.

As operators fumble to figure out how to open and release this pot of gold, a potential solution is now being offered by an Irish company, Jinny Software.

Jinny is offering a fully-managed mobile marketing and advertising service with a revenue share commerical model so operators do not have to worry about the up-front CAPEX required to build and implement the solution.   By offering a wide range of mobile channels – SMS, USSD, MMS, WAP, HTTP – to the advertisers, Jinny can implement a campaign on any of these channels and then expand into others as the success of mobile advertising is proven.

Let’s hope this will drive improvement on mobile advertising in the near future.

As I grabble with this new application, I hope to add further content and features over the coming weeks.  I will immediately delete any spam or impolite messages.