MVNOs – Strategy for Innovation?

I had a completely kooky idea the other day while meeting with Mike Liebhold and Francois Bar to discuss a research project. One of the big challenges for creating innovating services, apps, devices — what have you — within the current mobile ecosystem is that the carriers don’t adopt the same kind of spirit of innovation that many entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors in the internetworked world hold. They have things called “walled gardens”, untenable strategies that block independent developers from creating new usage scenarios, applications, services and such all on the carriers’ platforms. Now, one is not entirely blocked, and there are points of entry for creating cool things. But it’s a rocky, basement lab approach that forces one to consider all kinds of obstacles to success. And on top of that, there’s the challenge of user adoption. You know the drill — 16 people in the world think your idea is cool and will try to get it running on their top-end handset. What about the other 16 zillion people with handhelds? The one’s we mention in our PowerPoint pitch? In the part about “enormous growth of the mobile media market?” Are they going to spend a weekend getting the app up and running?

So, there’s that.

And then I started thinking about the [w:MVNO] – Mobile Virtual Network Operator. White-labeled service in front of an existing carriers infrastructure. They’re popping up all over the place. Some with positively moronic profiles, like Voce by T-Mobile and Sprint.

Voce will launch by offering unlimited flat rate service to the rich and famous in New York and Los Angeles using Cingular’s network. For a $1500 sign up fee and $500 per month, Voce will offer their subscribers unlimited voice and data, personalized live service, and new, exclusive handsets every 4 months. Voce hopes to expand to the US’s top 10 markets by the end of next year, and may also expand their carrier partners to include T-Mobile and Sprint.

[via phonescoop]

Erraaa..okay. I mean, unless being rich and famous means having chalk in your brainpain, I’m not sure what the upside here is. I mean, if you’re rich, famous, and smart, you can probably plug a few numbers into a spreadsheet and find out that you can have virtually unlimited voice and data for a $129 1500 minute plan that includes unlimited data for an extra $15, and subscribe to an off-shore valet service for $300, or just take advantage of the live attendant service of your Gold Amex or Platinum Visa.

It occurred to me that an MVNO might be a relatively challenge-free way for a carrier to introduce some speculative service, like a mobile games (mobile as in movement and location, not just games on a little portable device) MVNO.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something about the MVNO economics that doesn’t work? Amp’d seems to be in some sort of flat spin:

Is Amp’d in trouble? The cloyingly hip MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) targeted at the youth of today hasn’t even launched yet and there already some signs that things aren’t going well. MocoNews reports that three senior execs have recently jumped ship..and that an executive recruiter they spoke to has reported seeing a number of resumes from current Amp’d employees looking for an exit. To make matters worse, the company’s new COO has been barred from working there while a judge decides whether her former employer (T-Mobile) can enforce a non-compete agreement she signed.

[via engadget]

The Amp’d thing is a little weird. I just met with those guys a week ago. I think at least one of the people I met with bailed. Or was bailed. Or whatever.. I guess the “commercial world” moves quickly, which can be great if you’re actually trying to get things done, unlike academia where you ask for a research budget..and a year later they say, wait..did you ask me for a research budget or something last year?

Why do I blog this? I’m trying to capture various approaches, both at the level of experimental/laboratory research as well as commercial possibilities for innovating mobile designed experiences.

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UN predicts 'internet of things'

Smartmobs says:

UN predicts ‘internet of things’:

While World leaders discussed in Tunis net and development a study by the ITU looks at how the use of electronic tags and sensors could create an “internet of things”.

“It would seem that science fiction is slowly turning into science fact in an ‘Internet of Things’ based on ubiquitous network connectivity,” said the report.

“Today, in the 2000s, we are heading into a new era of ubiquity, where the ‘users’ of the internet will be counted in billions and where humans may become the minority as generators and receivers of traffic.”

read more on BBC News

Why do I blog this? Seems to be a lot of discussion about science-fiction becoming science-fact, Google’able things and an internet of such objects.

thx mobsters

More here on

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Google Is The New Surveillance

[wikilike_img src=|width=500|align=thumb tleft|caption=Google Absorption Plan|url=]

Why do I blog about this image? This one came across my reBlogger’s desk shortly after I offered a few remarks to a draft of an essay called “Meet the Spime” presented by Bruce Sterling right before he ran off to get married. Needless to say, it was a lively and all-too-short discussion/workshop format.

Here are a few nuggets to think about in the context of Google and the world of the spime.

Google is a good place to work and does good things, by most accounts. So, there’s that. All monopolies are selfish and they become unstable for their selfishness. They eat themselves. The joke that isn’t funny in that image is that Google doesn’t just aggregate, it consumes. I’m not saying that Google is a monopoly yet, but I wonder if it quickly could become one — a monopolist in the [w:episteme] of folksonomies, Web2.0, permalinks and trackbacks. A monopolist in the era when finding what you think you need is currency or a window into opportunities. With Google Base becoming the attic of tagged and marked “stuff”, does it seem to become what at first was intriguing and exciting and undo itself? Does the seduction of its clean, spartan, modernist, white interface (or “wand” if Google’s a spime wrangling instrument) hasten it to become the Wal-Mart of the tagged-and-named object world?

Google becomes the incarnation of what is potentially insidious about a crawlable world, where things about you (mostly unexpected) authored elsewhere are “open” for consumption. So, when Google crawled the ZKM which had made me 5 years older than I actually am, there was a sense of a different kind of identity crisis — not theft, or pernicious abuse, but, well — just crisis. It is as if Google is the new surveillance. Who hasn’t Google’d a friend, neighbor, enemy, blind date, prospective boss? And if nothing comes up, as Bruce pointed out, there’s a problem. “Would you go out with someone who had a 0 Google quotient?”

It isn’t a matter of taking over the universe. Monopolist of the gizmo era attempted that and continue to fail, albeit slowly. (Sony in the movie business? Huh?) It’s much easier to become the universe, especially in this new episteme where “findability” seems to matter most.

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Air Traffic Control, Spimes and Jerry Bruckheimer

[wikilike_img src=|width=500|caption=N477JB Wrangled|url=|alight=thumb tleft]

Sorry to continue to be thoroughly hopped up on the FlightAware as prototype spime wrangling wand, but I’m preparing remarks for a draft of an essay BruceS has authored. Thinking about linkages between his homesteading and prospecting on the foothills of Spimedom has me searching for a map to this new territory.

A couple of days ago, it was FlightAware that caught my attention. I found it to be the spime wranglers “wand” par excellence in that it allowed me to “wrangle” not just flights, but equipment. Now it appears it allows me to wrangle individuals whose personalities who precede themselves and mark their own identities by naming their objects.

This is a wave of the wand, or a wrangler’s lasso, over [w:Jerry Bruckheimer]’s Gulfstream IV twin jet.

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NetMagnet — New Thoughts

[wikilike_img src=|url=|caption=Bonjour!|width=320|align=thumb tleft]

I met with Eduardo Sciammarella over at Protohaus today. We talked about the various projects we were working on and I mentioned an oldie — NetMagnet. I can’t find much by way of documentation except all the code, but I’d like to come back to this one soon.

The backstory was an experiment in proximity-based social networks. I wanted to create networks that were “[w:ad hoc]” in the social sense of that word. In the world of technical instruments, ad hoc wireless networks are ones that form without the need of a central arbitor to delegate and reference and index services. No central node.

If I’m getting it right, social ad-hoc might mean connections and communication that occur with some degree of sponteneity, or without a concurrance as to who is where for what reason. There’s a certain anonymity and no sense of an expectation as to what might happen.

As an experiment, I wrote an application that used Apple’s Bonjour zero-configuration discovery framework. (see also [w:Apple Bonjour]) At the time, in 2003, it was Rendezvous. The application allowed you to tag things on your computer — music, images, documents — anything, really, in such a way that other people running the same application could stumble across. It was like a proximity-based P2P swap meet. The social component was that it was based entirely on proximity. If you weren’t cuddled together within “range” of other social beings, your NetMagnet application wouldn’t attract other bits of digital ephemera.

It seems like this is a potential candidate project to extend into the proximity+mobile research folder.

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Flight Aware

[wikilike_img src=|width=400|align=thumb tleft|caption=Flight Aware real-time tracks of flights into Santa Monica Airpot|url=]

Flight Aware provides real-time tracking, but not just of flights or traffic to airports — actual unique, tail-number identifiable equipment. So, you can see where the plane you’ll be flying has been. It’s always sort of floored me the way airlines shuttle planes through their service loops. Los Angeles to Tokyo, clean the toilets and shove some more food on board, and fly it back. Don’t airplanes need to rest for a few days? Something?

Why do I blog this? The telemetric connection amongst objects in the sky is one of the more fascinating and satisfying aspects of air-traffic control systems. Having had the exhilirating experience of sitting in the right seat of a fully loaded Cirrus SR22 (a FlightAware-trackable vessel), an aircraft who’s avionics broadcasts its whereabouts, tells where everyone else nearby sky is, warns when another aircraft gets too close, indicates where it could get to if it had to glide in for a landing, when it falls beyond fuel range of an airport suitable to handle a landing, and which comes stock with a parachute(!) to float to a landing if everything really went south, I can say that aviation has near completely transitioned to a world of gizmos. Will aviation reach a tipping point where too many parts and too many obfuscated points of failure overload the balance of maintenance and human perception? Can we track more than just the vessel, but manage the history, aches, pains and concerns of smaller scale parts? Do parts need their own tracking and control visualizer before they tell their stories on retrieved flight data recorders? With air travel growth expected to double by 2017, the industry forecasts that such growth will lead to 50 major accidents per year unless someone does something, or probably a lot of things.

[thx joi]

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Google 8bits maps

Nicolas dug this one up.

Google 8bits maps:

It seems that some folks came up an 8 bits version of the google maps: google 8-bits maps:

[wikilike_img src=|width=480|align=thumb tleft|caption=You’re The Man Now, Dog!]

According to aeropause:

Google 8 bit maps has taken some of the old maps from the first Sim City game on the SNES and introduced Googles map search. There’s no pages to go to really. It’s just something to look at and ponder. Dig that isometric Sim City view, eh!

This piece was created by YTMND which is an acronym for “You’re The Man Now, Dog!”, is a website community that centers around the creation of YTMNDs, which are pages featuring a juxtaposition of a single image, optionally animated or tiled, along with large zooming text and a looping sound file. YTMND is also the general term used to describe any such site.

Why do I blog this? a funny and old-school mash-up + I like this “You’re The Man Now, Dog!” concept.

Why do I blog this? I’ve been fascinated with SimCity for a long time — I even wrote a long essay on the game a long time (1994!) ago. The art for that game is just exceptionally delicious — the isometrics and their fun detail are like caramel.

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Pocket Sakura

[wikilike_img src=|url=|caption=Walk with Pocket Sakura|width=145|align=thumb tleft]

I came across this site about something called Pocket Sakura. I found it through a serpentine path that started around my Flickr! stream and went through some of Dens teendrama mishegoss and onto his notes on a Pedometer Wars! game he’s hashing about.

[wikilike_img src=|url=|caption=Dennis Crowley’s Pedometer Wars! Game scoreboard|align=thumb tright|width=200]

Why do I blog this? I’ve been trying to tie the blogjects concept, together with an interest in kinesthetic interface s and a health/fitness scenario. It’s all tied into the cloud of ideas in which Vis-a-Vis Games circulates, and some research vectors into character-based objects that have things to say about what they’ve done, or stories about the world around them.

[wikilike_img src=|align=thumb tleft|width=240|caption=Mad Prophet|url=]

The concept is being exercised as a prototype through the Mad Prophet project being developed in the Advanced Mobile seminar I’m teaching this semester, and there are grander ideas that will carry beyond what we can finish in the next three weeks. It’s also related to the discussions Nicolas and I have been having about blogjects.

I’ve also been looking into pedometer guts to see about how one would integrate pedometry-style step measurements into a more robust application framework.

Also, cf Piedmonsters, and these notes on Spimes.

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Fizzees – Kinesthetics Interfaces for Health

NESTA Futurelab is showcasing their prototype reseach project called Fizzees “..that enables young people to care for a ‘digital pet’ through their own physical actions. In order to nurture their digital pet, keep it healthy and grow, young people must themselves act in physically healthy ways.”

The Fizzees project aims to encourage young people (aged 10 and 11) to undertake greater amounts of physical activity whilst developing a better understanding of the constituent parts of a healthy lifestyle. This will be attempted through the use of a dual sensor device that accurately measures heart rate and accelerometer data, and a complex scoring system that equates the maturation process of the digital pet with the recommended levels (and types) of physical activity for young people.

The prototype accurately measures the player’s physical activity, which is then represented visually in the form of a virtual pet (a Fizzee) ‘living’ on a wristworn device. The digital pet’s appearance changes depending on the activity levels of the player, and as they investigate the best way to nurture their digital pet, they discover how to best nurture their own physical wellbeing.

In addition to the wearable technology, a website provides the opportunity for players to compare their Fizzee with others, to swap suggested activities and to find out about other aspects of healthy lifestyles, such as healthy eating. A further important part of the website is for players to interrogate their health data in a variety of forms to investigate their past activity rates and to see how they have developed over time.

And their list of design goals

* the potential of new technologies to promote greater physical activity and healthier behaviours in young people
* whether young people are motivated to nurture an external representation (avatar) of their health through engaging in real-life physical activity
* whether this external representation encourages/motivates young people to engage in greater amounts of physical exercise
* whether developing an understanding of the rule system governing the external representation improves understanding of healthy lifestyles
* if the ability to review changes in the ‘health’ of an avatar and to compare this with the health of other avatars leads to engagement in greater amounts of physical exercise
* to what extent do young people transfer nurture of an external representation of their health (avatar) to nurture of self.

Why do I blog this? Firstly, I’m interested in figuring out, conceptually, the distinctions between micro-mobile and macro-mobile activities. Something that’s micro-mobile might be articulations that are more close to the body — moving arms and such, whereas macro-mobile are larger scale movements (“motility”) of individual or larger social formations. There hasn’t been a whole lot of attention to the micro-mobile, especially as it relates to the design of interfaces, actions and activities of devices or how attention and point-of-view is articulated through body movements. This kind of project, Fizzees, pays attention, at least, to the micro-mobile, within the fitness/kinesthetic domain of research.

I like the idea of objects that have some sensibility to them — characters — and tie those characteristics to things that are compelling to the user provides, presumably, a point-of-entry for the user to become engaged. So, the idea here is that, like Nintendogs or tamagotchi it’s “play” so you’re motivated by a sense of enjoyment or satisfaction in achieving a goal — all the while you’re exercising! Okay..maybe. But, the challenge is topical — the statistics keep rolling in on the declining nutritional and physical health of youth, at least in the United States where we’re soaked in cholesterol and fat. There’s also a systemic educational problem here — kids, in my humble and unsupported opinion, have no critical skills when it comes to making choices about what they eat!

Thinking about this reminds me of Piedmonsterz.

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