Digesting Mobile World Congress 2014: Six Key Themes and Two Future Scenarios

10 03 2014

It’s been a while since we attended Mobile World Congress and whilst we have perhaps missed the buzz, we have not missed the sore feet from walking around those huge halls.

We are therefore grateful to, and warmly welcome Richard Arthur, Telecom guru and Head Communications & Media Solutions Enablement at HP, for this fascinating “guest post” on his visit to this year’s Mobile World Congress 214:-

A record breaking eighty-five thousand people attended this year’s Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona Spain.   Many of us who were there are still digesting the cornucopia of booths, seminars, parties, and the one too many tapas and Rioja we all had.

Here’s my round-up of the highlights from the show; also linked my video: a smorgasbord of show floor highlights.

Use this link to watch Richard’s High Speed Review Video of Mobile World Congress 2014: http://vimeo.com/88625618

1.     Face time with Facebook

One of the most talked about keynotes was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who took the stage and justified the $19B WhatsApp purchase.  Meanwhile also at the show, WhatsApp announced a voice service on top of their popular messaging.   Zuckerberg also touted a free internet for developing nations initiative which caused much lively debate.  Shortly after the show, Facebook announced the purchase of drone company Titan Aerospace for $60B to support just such an initiative.

 2.     Wearable tech yes… fashionable?

As is usual, mobile devices were the most visible new announcements at the show.   Wearable tech adorned many booths, although less of the Google garb then we might have expected.  Samsung’s curved OLED watch shone brightly and surprised with a Tizen Operating system.   Companies both big:   Huawei, Sony, Motorola, and small:  GoPro,  Fitbit, and Byonym went wearable.

On the Smartphone side, Samsung Galaxy 5 was the most hotly anticipated launch.   However many reviewers and the GSMA preferred others.   HTC One rang up “Best Smartphone” and, impressively the Xperia Z2 shoots 4K video.   I liked the LG flex’s ability to make like Gumby while still featuring a great display. Nokia surprised with the X low end Android phone announcements:  a new tone for Nokia in the run up to their Microsoft acquisition.  HP announced new business tablets and showed off our  Slate 6 phone tablet now available worldwide.   On the Slate 6 CNET said “The overall fit and finish is excellent given the price range, and with dual SIM support it would be easy to see this new line building a fan base.”

3.     Network Function Virtualization made real

As has been the case recently, network infrastructure announcements were less visible at the show.  However, the major equipment providers and infrastructure vendors did make a series of announcements.   Multiple companies launched Network Function Virtualization initiatives.  If you haven’t heard of NFV, I recommend you check out the latest White paper from ETSI on the subject.  This new approach to telecom infrastructure has the potential to revolutionize the network with huge Capex and Opex savings as well as dramatically improving innovation potential in Communications Service Providers.

HP announced the HP OpenNFV program at MWC which included a new organization in HP, architecture and set of newly launched products, plus a partner and lab program.   It featured seven of the nine ETSI defined NFV use cases in live demos on its booth.    LightReading summarized the HP announcement concluding that HP’s breadth and partner program are key NFV differentiators.

 4.     Headline “No News on 5G”

In the network core, vendors traded opposing 5G views, meaning no consistent definition exists yet, however many approaches to improving 4G and WiFi were demonstrated.   LTE Advanced featured in many vendors and some service providers’ show participation.  LTE-A’s main attractions are support for highly variable network topologies including Pico and Femtocells, and aggregation of multiple carriers (frequency bands) to provide much higher potential bandwidth.

5.     Driving the Connected City

GSMA’s connected city program drove a number of “car-as-mobile-device” launches, including Ford’s high profile launch of the new Ford Focus.    This was quite a coup (not a “Coupe”) for Mobile World as the Geneva Motor Show follows only one week later.  HP’s own Jeff Edlund, with Telsta’s Hugh Bradlow, spoke on Smart Cities and how they can be achieved today.

In some of the smaller booths some cool, if not necessarily ready for primetime, innovations could be found.   I particularly liked the “Brewbot” smartphone-controlled personal brewery and “Joseph” the ceramic Bluetooth speaker which can also be a planter or aperitif dish.

6.     Whither the Smartphone OS?

I dutifully made the rounds to catch up on the Smartphone Operating System trends.    I was disappointed to see that Firefox and Ubuntu, as well as Tizen, all big features of last year’s show, still cannot show significant market penetration.  This is a testament to the ongoing strength of OS market leaders Android and IOS.

img_1742.jpgOne day, in the not too distant future…

As always, the GSMA sets out to showcase the technologies, products and services that are shaping the future of the mobile industry at Mobile World Congress.   In closing this report, I leave you with the following scenarios gestated during a sleep deprived and cramped flight home:

In scenario one, Facebook provides free internet to the unconnected masses via drones while Google launches balloons that carry Wi-Fi to places still unconnected.    These brands become bigger than any telecom brand to communications customers in the developing world.

Scenario two hits a bit closer to home and plays out in real time:

Glance at smart watch – beer time.   Tap to connect to Brewbot and verify via smartphone that beer is proper temperature.   Command connected car to retrieve beer and deliver to friend’s house, where chips and dip are waiting in the Bluetooth speakers playing Smartphone DJ mixed music…. 

Oh and don’t forget the Tapas by app.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Rich ArthurEnjoyed this guest blog?

You can follow Richard on his Twitter account:  @RArthurTelecom

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From Small Cells to Big Data – 5 mobile trends from GSMA Barcelona Mobile World Congress 2013

5 03 2013

My Global Event Reports warmly welcomes Rich Arthur, blogger and technology guru in his spare time; when he is working, he heads a telecom software and service group in HP.   Here he offers a whirlwind review on the fascinating themes and trends at this years’ Mobile World Congress.

Monday back in the office after the furor of Mobile World Congress feels like the calm after the storm.  More than 70,000 people attended the show and I’m pretty sure they were all waiting for a taxi Monday night at 8pm outside hall 8.     Picking through the main themes washed ashore in the cyclone of MWC news, sessions and exhibition activity, I extracted my top five themes.

For a more general take, have a look at my “taster” video (below) of what caught my eye visually at the show.  Think of it as Tapas before the dinner below.

Looking at the conference program, it was interesting to note that the top exhibition and announcement themes were not particularly aligned with the conference.  Conference topics revolved more around operator strategies and services whereas show floor topics were generally more concrete (pun intended) featuring network infrastructure, devices and apps.  What follows is a mix of the two.

Devices

Increasingly Mobile World Congress show floor is all about devices and their accessories.    The GSMA provided gadget hounds a preview with their Sunday press day.  Samsung’s Note 8, described as “almost hilariously huge” by the Huffington post, some new Firefox OS devices and HP’s own Android Slate 7 were among those making the news by Monday morning.  Tens of devices had been announced by the week’s end and booths were crammed with odd sight of video crews with their large cameras and bulky lighting equipment bearing down on small colorful handsets. “Here we have located the Sony Xperia  Z in its native habitat”.

Smaller, cheaper, lighter, faster, larger – devices are moving in all different directions at the moment although rectangular seems to be the design thread.   The tyranny of the touch screen glass looks to have eliminated competing form factors for the moment. Innovations seem incremental as opposed to game-changing.

Device OS

Seems new Device Operating systems were back in the news despite the launches of Windows 8 and Blackberry 10 over the last few months.   Industry debate continues to rage about which OS can take on the IOS and Android duopoly.    Two new operating systems were all over the show this year, with Mozilla’s Firefox OS garnering the most discussion.    This and Tizen, along with some others, such as Ubuntu and Jolla, were mostly touted as supporting the push for the next wave of low cost smartphones.

Mozilla announced that 17 operators were committed to its “open web initiative”, and devices were shown on multiple stands including Mozilla’s own, where the ZTE Firefox OS device was demonstrated.    Operators like the openness of the platform, which is HTML5 based, and Mozilla overall, which is a non-profit organization “dedicated to keeping the power of the Web in people’s hands.”

Tizen was also in the news, this Intel and Samsung operating system is also Linux based and has the backing of the new king of the mobile smartphone castle, Samsung, who seems to have committed to roll their own Badu operating system into it.  However Tizen devices appear to be behind Firefox in terms of commercial availability.

Fira de Barcelona - Home to Mobile World Congress

Fira de Barcelona – Home to Mobile World Congress

Small Cells

There was big news in Small Cells with many announcements and many vendors presenting both indoor and outdoor small cell solutions designed to support both enterprise and consumer demands.   There was some debate over whether Femtocells (the small devices often used at home to provide better indoor coverage and which are managed in a very limited way), are really Small Cell devices versus other Small cell approaches which are more like mini-base stations.

As is often the case an industry group rides to rescue with a set of definitions and deployment guides – in this case the “Small Cell Forum”.

M2M and Cloud

Machine to Machine and Cloud continue as two major areas of interest.    On the cloud side debate continued around the business case for cloud for mobile operators and case studies.  For M2M, the connected car drove the discussion, with the Vice Chairman from GM taking the stage to proclaim “the car is now a device”.  Ford meanwhile showed Ford Ecosport connectivity. See a related blog on our site.   M2M verticals were much discussed, including healthcare, transport and smart city/home.  HP featured our own M2M and cloud service platforms for telecom operators.

Big Data Analytics

What the IT industry is calling big data and analytics, is often couched under the term Customer Experience Management (CEM) in the Mobile industry.   This topic was broadly addressed in the conference program and in the show.   Business opportunities from big data, as well as the tie in to CEM and Quality of Experience, were discussed.  The recently announced HP Telecom Big Data and Analytics solution, including our own HP Customer Experience Assurance solution was featured on our booth.

Good opportunities for IT vendors are available as the mobile industry invests in another round of what we used to call Business analytics, but this time including high velocity (real time) and unstructured data as well as traditional structured “off-line” data.   Unstructured data includes e-mails, social media, phone calls and video.

Other areas

There was surprisingly little discussion on Enterprise Mobility as a topic on its own, considering the huge opportunity this represents for operators.  As enterprises mobilize their workforces and grapple with employees more and more bringing their own devices to the company (BYOD), opportunities abound for mobile operators to support the process such as – mobile device management, enterprise mobility platforms, hosting of enterprise applications, and cloud services replacing enterprise apps.

HP is starting a “Mobility 2020” vision collaboration which debuted at MWC, following on from our successful Enterprise 2020 work.    Some initial scenarios are described here.

To support more efficient mobility, HP announced our own Integrated Home Subscriber Server (HSS) to help MNOs provide seamless access to heterogeneous networks.     As MNOs integrate Wi-Fi and LTE into their networks, the IHSS offers a seamless experience for mobile network users.

In previous years, app stores have been big news at MWC.  While apps were again very present, especially in the App Lounge area around hall 8, specific apps and app stores were not the major news they have been.

Rich ArthurSee you next year

My personal view is that the show has almost completely moved away from its roots as a pure mobile network operator and supplier show, to a much more general mobility show, embracing enterprise and consumer needs and the broad spectrum of internet players who are now increasingly dependent on mobile.     This is reflective of the fact that mobility is no longer an add-on to existing consumer and business services and business processes, but is rather at the core them.    Facebook already counts more usage via mobile than fixed and eBay did more than $10B in mobile commerce revenue in 2012, representing more than half of their total.

It’s a tumultuous mobile world, and an exciting time to be part of it!





Digital Visionairies captured online – available free at Zinio

15 11 2011

Digital visionaries have joined together to be a part of a collection of rich insights for digital marketers today: CEOs, CMOs, founders, authors and even a celebrity rock star share their expertise via video on today’s social consumer in an industry-first Living Magazine. Captured last week by VIVMag from the floors of the 2011 Pivot Conference (Pivot), a leading social conference produced by visionary Brian Solis, the Pivot Conference Living Magazine can be download via Zinio for free today at Zinio.com/Pivot2011.

VIVMag, the all-digital women’s luxury and lifestyle magazine, captured these insights from around Pivot and is providing them in one compelling, interactive digital magazine. The featured digital titans include the best and brightest today:

Read more at Zinio online here:





Tribute to Steve Jobs – a visionary of our world

6 10 2011

This blog is dedicated to reporting on how technology helps to improves our lives. There has perhaps been no greater person, who has contributed to this than Steve Jobs – GodFather of Apple – the company he co-founded back in 1976. He, together with his team at Apple, have changed our lives – the way we use computers, listen to music, watch and create videos. Sadly Steve Jobs died on 5 October, at the premature early age of 56, after a long battle with cancer. Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. Steve Jobs was no doubt a visionary and leader. People like this come along once in a lifetime, and to say that he changed the world would be an understatement. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve. You will be sorely missed. Rest in peace.

If you’ve been living in a a hole – Apple is leading the consumer technology world with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, its family of iPod media players and iTunes media store, and its Mac computers and iLife and iWork application suites. Apple recently introduced iPad 2 which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

I was an early believer, with a brief introduction in 1980’s and a full Mac office, back in the early 1990’s. This was a time when the pc/DOS ruled, and only art studios and the occasional office supported the square and odd “Macs”. Luckily the world discovered how reliable, easy to use and funky Macs could be. Furthermore, everyone wanted to be part of the ad campaign that Apple led to “Think Different”. Indeed,one of the most memorable ads of the Think Different campaign was Crazy Ones, Apple’s tribute to the rebels, the troublemakers, the ones who see things differently. And the ones who change the world. short tribute with his own words:

This accurately perhaps described, Steve, and I’ll close this
For more details visit this link:

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

– Steve Jobs

And his philosophy of death:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

As a tribute, Steve’s own autobiography is due out on 24 October – sadly he will not be here to enjoy the rocket sales, it will no doubt receive.

http://allaboutstevejobs.com/

How has Steve Jobs changed your views on the way you think, your selection of technology, innovation, or the world?





Cloud Computing to save the world?

13 09 2011

Can cloud computing save us from going into the red?

In January 2011 at the Davos World Economic Forum, Switzerland attendees have indicated that via Cloud Computing services/technology the world will be pulled out of the current recession. Strong words you may think but the world’s economic leaders are apparently using the Cloud phenomenon as “the third industrial revolution”. Its’ importance to the future of the world’s economy cannot be understated.

A freelance editor, Frank Booty, on Cloud recently stated “The Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR) reckons that the expected upcoming Cloud adoption will bring the top five EU economies a €763 billion infusion over the next five years, creating 2.4 million jobs in the process. Back up confirmation can be found through analyst cohorts speculating that a fifth of all companies will not own their IT infrastructure by 2012, but be in the Cloud. The Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) emphasises the utility angle, indicating that in 2016 IT will become the next utility, being bought like electricity, gas or water.”

As a result, I believe strongly that Cloud Computing issues will continue to be “hot” and a valid topic for debate at industry events during 2011-12.

As reported on Cloud Vision, “In 2011 there will be some significant announcements about mainstream organisations adopting new Infrastructure as a Service propositions as an alternative to the Amazon Elastic Cloud. Last October HP announced that it was partnering with French alternative telecom provider SFR to offer competitive IaaS services to its 1400 business customers. The new services will utilise SFR’s datacentres and come with end to end Quality of Service guarantees and integrated billing. The opening of the infrastructure market and the introduction of new standard APIs such as OpenStack will make it possible for Cloud “spot pricing” where businesses can trade their excess computing capacity aided by Cloud Storage Brokers.”

The Telcos have been stung by the thin revenues gained from the “Over the Top” Cloud services such as Apples AppStore and want to leverage their own assets to generate new revenue streams from business Cloud services. These assets include reliable communications (the fixed and mobile operators can provide 24/7 end-to-end service monitoring backed by SLAs), long term billing relationships enabling Cloud services to be bundled with other services onto a single bill and customer location intelligence. The leading Telcos have been gradually assembling a team of IT specialists and are also establishing partnerships with the leading IT services companies.

What needs to be thoroughly thrashed out are the security and resilience pros and cons of community, private and public cloud services for public bodies. The ENISA report suggests that national governments and EU institutions should investigate the concept of an EU Governmental Cloud. For the report and recommendations go to: http://www.enisa.europa.eu/act/rm/emerging-and-future-risk/deliverables/security-and-resilience-in-governmental-clouds/

There is the opinion that a national Cloud strategy would have to address the effects of national/supra-national interoperability and inter-dependencies, and cascading failures. It would need also to include Cloud providers into the reporting schemes of articles 4 and 13 of the new Telecom Framework Directive. So much to figure out and a lot at stake. Who will be the winners and losers? Will the Cloud bring economic salvation?

All the signs are that 2011 will be a breakthrough year for Cloud Computing adoption by Enterprises, Telecoms and Government. It’s certainly got a good start with the Davos accreditation.





Google Wallet launched

27 05 2011

Google, Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint team up to make your phone your wallet

Google Wallet will enable consumers to tap, pay and save with their phones

For the past ten years we have been hearing about plans for making payments via your mobile phone. Testing has occurred for mobile commence via vending machines mainly in Asia, but no widespread initiative has as yet been kicked-off. The dream of not going shopping with credit cards, cash, cheques and id is upon us. The notion that you can go into a shop, use your smartphone to check out product information and then buy that same product via your mobile phone, all in one easy step, is now becoming a reality.

At an event today, Google, Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint announced and demonstrated Google Wallet, an app that will make your phone your wallet so you can tap, pay and save money and time while you shop. For businesses, Google Wallet is an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships by offering a faster, easier shopping experience with relevant deals, promotions and loyalty rewards.

“Today, we’ve joined with leaders in the industry to build the next generation of mobile commerce,” said Stephanie Tilenius, vice president, commerce and payments, Google. “With Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint we’re building an open commerce ecosystem that for the first time will make it possible for you to pay with an NFC wallet and redeem consumer promotions all in one tap, while shopping offline.”

Google Wallet is currently in a field test and will be available to consumers this summer. At the event, Google, Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint introduced Google Wallet and invited additional issuing banks, payment networks, mobile carriers, handset manufacturers, point of sale systems companies and merchants to join the initiative.
Next Step in Mobile Payments

At commercial launch, Google Wallet will support payments with two payment solutions: a PayPass eligible Citi MasterCard and a virtual Google Prepaid card. Most people who already have a PayPass eligible Citi MasterCard can simply add it to Google Wallet over the air, using First Data’s trusted service manager service. Or, they can fund the Google Prepaid card with any payment card.

Google Wallet uses near field communication (NFC) to make secure payments fast and convenient by simply tapping the phone on any PayPass-enabled terminal at checkout.

Google Wallet is engineered to enable secure payments and goes beyond what’s possible with traditional wallets and cards. It will require an app-specific PIN and in the first release, all payment card credentials will be encrypted and stored on a chip, called the secure element, that is separate from the Android device memory and is only accessible by authorized programs.

“Citi’s role as the lead bank in Google Wallet is the latest demonstration of how we are committed to becoming the world’s digital bank, providing to customers the tools they need to manage their everyday finances with convenience and value,” said Paul Galant, CEO, Citi Global Enterprise Payments. “Today’s announcement and our active collaboration with Google will be looked at as the inflection point for how mobile payments are evolving from concept to mass utilization.”
Accepted in Stores Nationwide

Google Wallet is built to work with the fast growing MasterCard PayPass network—a merchant point of sale service that enables consumers to tap to pay. As a result, Google Wallet will immediately be accepted at more than 124,000 PayPass-enabled merchants nationally and more than 311,000 globally.

“MasterCard has pioneered mobile payments with our PayPass technology and we’re proud that it is at the heart of Google Wallet,” said Ed McLaughlin, chief emerging payments officer, MasterCard. “We’re excited to partner with these industry leaders today and committed to continuing to play a leadership role in the development of mobile payment technologies.”

Google is also working with point of sale systems companies and top retail brands to create a new SingleTap shopping experience. Consumers will be able to pay for an item using a credit card or gift card, redeem promotions and earn loyalty points—all with a single tap of their Google Wallet. Google is working with VeriFone, Hypercom, Ingenico, VIVOTech and others to develop these next generation point of sale systems. Retailers participating in the new SingleTap experience include: American Eagle Outfitters, Bloomingdale’s, Champs Sports, The Container Store, Duane Reade, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Foot Locker, Guess, Jamba Juice, Macy’s, Noah’s Bagels, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, RadioShack, Subway, Toys“R”Us and Walgreens.

“Google Wallet allows us to harness the power of mobile technology to enhance our in-store shopping experience and helps bridge the gap between our online and in-store consumer interactions,” said Martine Reardon, executive vice-president of marketing and advertising, Macy’s. “Macy’s is always looking for cutting-edge technology that will deliver value and engage our customers in personal ways. Google Wallet delivers this unique interaction across channels.”

The first Google Wallet field tests are focused in New York and San Francisco, where many retailers, Coca-Cola vending machines and even taxis are PayPass-enabled, including major outlets such as CVS, Jack in the Box, Sports Authority and Sunoco. First Data, a global leader in electronic commerce and payment processing, is actively recruiting thousands of new merchants in these areas and will soon expand those efforts to deploy more contactless merchant terminals across the country.

“The payments industry has known for some time that it was not a question of if, but when true mobile commerce would become a reality. We believe today is the day that mobile meets payments,” said Ed Labry, president, North America, First Data. “We’re proud to play a central role in Google Wallet and to bring innovative technology such as Trusted Service Management and contactless acceptance to our clients.”
Saving Made Simple

Google has also been testing a variety of consumer deals that can range from a 20-percent discount on a new pair of boots discovered on a Google search advertisement; to a $5 off check-in offer received upon entering a store; to a “deal of the day” offering a $20 lunch for $10 at a local restaurant. Whenever you buy or save an offer, you will be able to automatically sync it to Google Wallet.

At most stores you will be able to use Google Wallet to show your offer at the register, where the cashier will either scan it or manually type it in. At participating Google SingleTap merchants, you will be able to pay and redeem an offer with one tap of your mobile device.

Because Google Wallet is a mobile app, it will eventually be able to do more than a regular wallet ever could—but without the bulk. Google Wallet will start with offers, loyalty and gift cards but some day items like receipts, boarding passes and tickets will all be seamlessly synced to your Google Wallet.
Open Commerce Ecosystem = Consumer Choice and Innovation

Google Wallet will work best if it’s an open commerce ecosystem so you will be able to carry all the credit cards, offers, loyalty and gift cards you choose—and eventually much more. To this end, Google Wallet will make it possible to integrate numerous types of partners, and Google, Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint invite the banking community, mobile carriers, handset manufacturers, merchants and others to work with Google Wallet.

“We are delighted to be the first carrier to sign on as a partner with Google to deliver Google Wallet,” said Fared Adib, senior vice president of product development, Sprint. “As a leading innovator and proponent of “open,” we are proud that Nexus S 4G is the first smartphone with Google Wallet and we look forward to deploying Google Wallet on many of our upcoming Android phones.”

The first release of Google Wallet is expected to be released on the Nexus S 4G on the Sprint network. Additional devices with NFC capabilities will follow.

So yet another example of how technology is helping to improve your life! At least until you lose your phone! Will you trust this technology or stick to your cards and cash?





Skype launch NEW social network for teachers

30 03 2011

Skype launched today, a free international service called “Skype in the Classroom”, an online platform designed to help teachers find resources, collaborate and contacts from around the world.

Skype, a big supporter of educational initiatives as demonstrated by their September 2010 support of Peace One Day, where they launched their first interactive Global Education Resource. Developed for 12-18 year olds, and free to all, the Peace One Day Global Education Resource was designed to encourage students to appreciate their own individual capacity to make a positive difference to their local community and the world. The service uses Skype video to produce intercultural cooperation lessons.

Another supported initiative is The Global Learning Exchange, which uses Skype to foster communication between a school in California and one in Singapore.

The launch today will definitely receive a big thumbs up from teachers and educators. Skype’s internet telephony services already assist people make free or low cost video conference calls, SMS etc but today’s launch adds another level of service.

There are already over 3900 teachers around the world signed up and using the tool. As an added bonus users can share and find a wealth of knowledge and inspiration in the resources area.

The community has been developed in response to, and in close collaboration with, a passionate group of teachers who are already using Skype in their classrooms to help their students learn.

Young people need to be able to communicate effectively to develop their own opinions and present information and ideas to others. Research in this field suggests that ICT applications strengthen and increase the possibilities of communication and reinforce the development of collaborative skills between peers. This is arguably just one of the reasons why teachers are taking advantage of rich communications tools like Skype to facilitate learning that exposes children to different cultures and ways of communicating.

Taking this blog’s theme: Learning how technology can be used to improve lives, it’s heartening to hear wonderful stories about how software is being put to good use for learning. From international projects on weather, mega-cities, and world populations, to classroom exchanges on earthquakes, culture and language, to helping deaf children communicate, teaching English to Haitian children, connecting students with experts from lawyers and authors, survival experts, paleoanthropologists, and other inspirational guest speakers on global issues such as peace and the importance of intercultural cooperation.

A members-only community, Skype in the Classroom lets teachers easily add each other to their Skype contact lists or message one another. To participate teachers need only sign up with their Skype account at the website, create a profile with their interests, location and the age groups they teach and start connecting with other teachers by exploring the directory, where they can also find projects and resources that match their skills, needs or interests.

The Skype in the classroom is an excellent idea and one that will surely we most appreciated in the education world. It offers the chance for students to received lectures by experts (via Skype) that they may otherwise not receive. They can also exchange ideas with students in other parts of the world and benefit from information sharing. This new service is still in beta (test) mode, which means it is still being developed and refined. They are very open to feedback as to how it can improve it, so please send and share your comments to Skype. That way everyone can benefit.