Mobile Technology: Driver Tracking and Lowering Insurance Premiums
In Australia there is an ongoing controversy around the implementation of driver monitoring using mobile “black box-style device[s] that monitor whether drivers are speeders“ (Thompson, 2013). Essentially, drivers can opt-in to the service allowing for their insurance premium to go down so long as they maintain a safe driving record. Advocates state that “the GPS system would particularly benefit the parents of young drivers, who incur larger car insurance premiums” (Carsguide, 2011). This is particularly important to Australian drivers as the learner license/provisional license stages can last several years, suffering high premiums all the while.
The debate comes from the fact that police can subpoena the data from these devices in order to confirm or deny vehicular incidents. Additionally, there is the problem of constantly having one’s position tracked by a third party, thereby causing an invasion of privacy. Insurance companies can also branch out from how they charge their customers for insurance. Raising their rates based on what they consider to be unsafe, rather than what road rules declare to be safe.
My personal opinion on the matter is one of dubious confusion. Most drivers these days install GPS systems in their vehicles out of hand. Alternatively, they carry smartphones which have embedded GPS tracking. The use of a “black box” seems a bit redundant when the technology is already at hand. Moreover, drivers use these technologies without complaint (mostly).
The concern comes from how insurance companies take this data and bend it towards their own financial goals. It is a slippery slope from lowering premiums based on good driving, to raising rates based on corporate decision making. After all, as much as insurance companies may make the claim they are trying to save lives, they are in the insurance racket for monetary gain primarily. It is one thing to give tracking information to the police to help with investigations; it is another to user tracking information to boost sales figures and corporate bottom lines.
Thompson, A. (2013, October 13). Insurer Driving Device puts Safty at a Premium. Retrieved October 15, 2013, from Herald Sun: http://www.themercury.com.au
Novel Uses for Bluetooth
Bluetooth technology has been around for over a decade now, and in that time has epitomized what it means to be ubiquitous. It has gone from being a strange new wireless technology, to being something that elementary school students use to transfer files with their friends. Moreover, it is embedded in our phones, computers, and vehicles, and yet its capabilities could be so much more.
Before the advent of Bluetooth, data transfer between simple devices would have been done via a physical medium such as Ethernet or other device-to-device cable. However, with Bluetooth, data and voice can be transmitted wirelessly with little pre-existing training or knowledge. Users simply pair their devices with each other and begin transmitting without any protocol setup or fiddling with settings.
Bluetooth transmits data via a short wavelength of 2.4GHz to 2.485Ghz at a minimum range of 10 meters (Bluetooth SIG, Inc., 2013). There is no specified max range for Bluetooth, but there is a danger of signal degradation over larger distances which cause most wireless transfers to stay within 100m. Furthermore, Bluetooth tends to avoid frequencies which are being used by other devices, cycling through 79 different channels more than 1,600 times per second.
In terms of security, there were initial concerns during the early days of Bluetooth that the protocol would be hacked and thereby leave users open to have their devices hijacked. However, because the method of connecting devices requires an active response from a user, the chances of this occurring are negligible (Franklin & Layton, 2000). Furthermore, most modern devices contain a non-discoverable mode which limits the chance of connections of foreign devices by only allowing paired devices to see the said Bluetooth enabled source.
However, beyond the currently standard smartphone usage which is everywhere, Bluetooth has a number of potential uses which should be considered, for instance: Bluetooth internal mapping, sensor networking, medical tracking, or even as a wireless repeater. Each of these is beyond current everyday use of the technology, and yet fully within its current capabilities. There is really no reason to not have these functions already present in our lives.
Bluetooth has been proven to enable mapping of internal areas in much the same way GPS is used to map and coordinate external areas (Zhang, Liu, Song, Gurrin, & Zhu, 2013). This would enable large multifaceted operations to track and monitor key resources throughout a large internal area. E.g. monitoring where all doctors are located at any given moment in a hospital, or tracking the location of sensitive gold movements within a reserve. This technology can even be used to monitor where children are located in a large family home or school, although this can lead to some privacy concerns.
Environmental monitors (temperature/humidly), health monitors (heart rate/blood pressure), or artificial environments (robotic systems/computer systems) can be networked together via Bluetooth. In essence, it becomes a means to network diverse pervasive, and ubiquitous, sensors which are programmable and adapt based on their network coverage (Ahmed, Mohamed, Alzubaidi, Mohmmed, & Khamisi, 2013). A sensor on a wall can track the location of a patient and transmit it to a passing medical device which can store and retransmit the information to a central location upon gaining access to a central node, all without user intervention (so long as the devices are paired, of course).
Another form of sensor is personal tracking, such as a “SmartShoe” as described by Sazonov, Hegde, and Tang (Sazonov, Hegde, & Tang, 2013). Such a device would track physical activity and transmit said data via embedded Bluetooth within the shoe. Such ideas could further be expanded to other forms of clothing. The shoe is simply a good example due to its rugged use in everyday life.
Bluetooth can be used as a form of network repeater, whereby attenuated wireless signals could be rebroadcast from a Bluetooth enabled mobile device, thereby extending the range of said signal beyond its normal capacity (Sharafeddine, Jahed, Abbas, Yaacoub, & Dawy, 2013). This is especially important to remote locations where the last fifty to one-hundred meters of physical cabling would cost a great deal more than a simple Bluetooth enabled repeater. Furthermore, the repeaters could be daisy chained, thereby extending the distance of the signal indefinitely, and causing a localized wireless broadcast which is secure due to only paired devices having access.
Overall, Bluetooth has become an enabling technology which is accepted without question in our daily lives. Its uses are various and yet currently are being underutilized by society. Internal mapping, sensor networking, medical tracking, and network repeaters are all viable extensions of this technology which are proven to work. It really is not a matter of if this pervasive technology will happen, but when.
Ahmed, Y. E., Mohamed, B. A., Alzubaidi, S. O., Mohmmed, Y. M., & Khamisi, M. G. (2013). Design and Test of a USB/Bluetooth/IP Self-adaptive Connector for Sensor Network Application. Wad Madani - Sudan: International Confrence on Computing, Electrical and Electronic Engineering (ICCEEE).
Sazonov, E. S., Hegde, N., & Tang, W. (2013). Development of SmartStep: an insole-based physical activity monitor. Osaka, Japan: Annual International Confrence of the IEEE EMBS.
Sharafeddine, S., Jahed, K., Abbas, N., Yaacoub, E., & Dawy, Z. (2013). Exploiting Multiple Wireless INterfaces in Smartphones for Traffic Offloading. First International Black Sea Confrence on COmmunications and Networking (BlackSeaCom).
Zhang, L., Liu, X., Song, J., Gurrin, C., & Zhu, S. (2013). A Comprehensive Study of Bluetooth Fingerprinting-based Algorithms for Localization. 27th Confrence on Advanced Information NEtworking and Applications Workshops.
Amazon Smartphones: Benefits and Challenges
Amazon is a customer centered organization built around the idea of giving users of its services the ability to “find and discover virtually anything they want to buy online” (Amazon.com, 2013). As such, moving into the mobile sector, specifically smartphones, is a given since so much of online access is done from mobile platforms these days (dotMobie, 2013). That being said, when Amazon announced that they were developing smartphones, the news was taken with a bit of wonder (Panzarino, 2013). Amazon already has their flagship Kindle devices as a mobile platform, so the market is well prepared to see what they can do with a full smartphone (Amazon.com, 2013).
The two devices Amazon has up its sleeve are a 3D capable device and a standard smartphone. The 3D device uses “four cameras, one at each corner of the device” which tracks user’s head and eye movements in order to simulate a three dimensional view (Panzarino, 2013). On the other hand, the second phone does not contain this ability, and is more closely like a smartphone running Amazon’s software.
Gimmicks aside, both platforms will need to appeal to users, and provide a sense of familiarity. “Users of new applications and inventions across a wide range of industries generally dislike having to learn any new user interface” (Ahmad & Orton, 2010). As such, finding out that HTC has purportedly joined with Amazon in creating these smartphones was a boon to the potential user base of Amazon (Velazco, 2013). This means that, while the software will be Amazon based, the hardware will have grounding in existing mobile technologies such as HTC’s One (HTC, 2013).
Nevertheless, there is the concern that Amazon will rebuild the wheel, so to speak, when it comes to the software user interface. However, these concerns are unwarranted as Amazon bases their software platform on the preexisting Android OS (Google, 2013). This in turn means that UI usage is familiar to their user base. Additionally, Android software is fully compatible with their FireOS platform (Amazon.com, 2013). Meaning users will have access to the entire Google Play app store (Google, 2013).
Beneficially, Amazon branding and releasing their own smartphone mean that they can maintain greater control of user usage when it comes to Amazon applications. It also means that their brand, Amazon.com, will be out in the physical world being seen and heard by users from places where it normally would not have marketing access (e.g. in corporate offices, out in the countryside, and places where smartphones are used but marketing is untenable). In essence, users of the Amazon smartphones will be paying to market the Amazon brand whenever and wherever they use their Amazon smartphone.
The primary challenges Amazon face is the increasingly competitive smartphone market. There is already an overabundance of mobile handsets which users have access too, most notably the Apple iPhone. While the Amazon smartphones will be marketed towards the Android user base, the Apple user base is still a threat to their potential market share. This means that the Amazon smartphone will need to appeal not only at a technical level, but at a fashion level, as well. That is, Apple products are not only technical marvels, but real world fashion statements based in technology (H., 2012). If Amazon wants to move in on this market, then they need to ensure their product makes a likeable fashion statement towards potential users.
Overall, building these smartphones is directly in line with Amazon’s stated goals. As long as Amazon does not try to reinvent the wheel, and sticks with familiar hardware and UI designs, users should not feel alienated with their products. This, however, will need to be balanced against making a fashion statement that users will enjoy. Implementation of this technology should not only go ahead, but should bring a much needed joining of three incredible brands to the market, Amazon, HTC, and Google.
Ahmad, N., & Orton, P. (2010). Smartphones Make IBM Smarter, But Not as Expected. Training & Development, 46-50,6.
Amazon.com. (2013). Introducing Fire OS. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from Amazon.com: Mobile Device Management: https://developer.amazon.com
Panzarino, M. (2013, October 2). Amazon's Smartphones Detailed: 'Project Smith' 3D Flagship Model and a Value Handset with FireOS. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from TechCrunch: http://techcrunch.com
Velazco, C. (2013, October 15). Amazon Has Reportedly Teamed Up with HTC for its New Line of Smartphones. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from TechCrunch: http://techcrunch.com
PPI Mobile Website
For a toy company, the primary concern for anyone going to their site, and for the organization itself, is to get their products to their customers as quickly and easily as possible. In this regards, the focus of a mobile application should be split into three large scale-able buttons which allow for a dig-down approach to site hierarchy. Additionally, a Google integrated search box should be prominently displayed for quick access to specific items on the site (Google, 2013).
The order of the interface items should be as follows:
Google search box at the top for easy access.
Categories Menu Button, for immediate access to advanced browsing.
News button, for media information about deals and promotions.
Contact button, for easy customer service satisfaction.
(Optionally, since the primary page is all about getting customer to buy products, a banner advertisement about promotional sales can be placed at the top of the list and the News button disregarded)
In terms of sizing, all buttons should be big enough that when displayed on a small smartphone they are still recognizable as such. That is, on a display of 480px x 800px the buttons should be 98% x 145px. The background of the site should be kept extremely simple, just a few neutral colors and the company logo. As the site is being loaded on a small device, there will not be much room to enjoy the background anyway.
Below is a rendition of what this would look like:
Mock-Up PPI Mobile Website
Images taken from Plush Packet Inc. Home page and Google (Google, 2013) (Walden University, NA).
A novel use of RFID in everyday life for many people around the world is in the use of prosthetics. Trachtenberg et al. have posited the use of RFID to greatly enhance the dexterity of mechanical movement in prosthetics hands (Trachtenberg, et al., 2011). Specifically, RFID offers a level of miniaturization and wireless transmission heretofore unutilized in this particular field. In essence, incorporating RFID technology into prosthetics has the potential to decrease latency and increase user functionality by relaxing the cognitive control required to use said prosthetics.
The primary concern with the use of RFID in this type of situation is in a third party taking malicious control of the prosthetic device. Symantec have written an article describing how “RFID information can be stolen from three feet away” (Power, 2013). Taking this to the next level, a third party (given enough time and effort), could break into an RFID controlled prosthetic to cause it to fire the wrong controls. For instance, making the prosthetic grip when it needs to release, or vice versa.
How this can be seen as an ethical and legal issue is all dependent upon when and if such remote control takes place. Say a parent is walking their child to school and holding their hand with the prosthetic, unethically a third party causes the hand to grip tighter causing pain and even damage to the child. Alternatively, national leader with a prosthetic could be under direct duress and being lead to safety by their prosthetic. A third party could cause the grip to release, thereby losing contact and perhaps causing the loss of a life.
Without direct knowledge of who the third party that altered the commands on the prosthetic was, the incident could seem to be freak accident and or the actions of the user. This brings to light the legal implications of “who did it.” Furthermore, other types of actions may take place with the prosthetic which have not been posited here but could be done without correct safeguards. While the use of RFID should not be ruled out, safety precautions should be put into place prior to implementation of such devices on a massive scale.
Power, J.-P. (2013, July 24). RFID Information Can Be Stolent from Three Feet Away. Retrieved from Symantec: http://www.symantec.com
Trachtenberg, M. S., Singhal, G., Kaliki, R., Smith, R. J., Thakor, N. V., & IEEE, F. (2011). Radio Frequency Identification - An Innovative Solution to Guide. 33rd Annual International Conference of the IEEE EMBS (pp. 3511-3514). Boston, Massachusetts USA: IEEE. doi:10.1109/IEMBS.2011.6090948
The Digital Divide: How Smartphones can Bridge this Gap
Mobile technology, specifically in the smartphone sector, offers many advantages and disadvantages to bridge the digital divide. With these considerations comes new facets of social and ethical standards which must be considered. Moreover, providing access to internet enabled mobile devices is not enough to fill in the technological gap between those with mobile know how and those who simply have mobile devices. Providing access to the devices is only the first step on the bridge to ubiquitous mobile technology.
Modern smartphones transport a veritable ocean of information to the fingertips of their users. The entire internet becomes available at the click of a button, maintaining instantaneous access to any bit of data a person requires. Prior to the smartphone, users needed to go to an internet café or library to gain such widespread information outside of home internet use. This makes the mobile smartphone an enabling technology, clearing away the fog of disinformation.
The disadvantage of such instant information gathering is in information overload (Pinola, 2013). Constant online access that is forever following the user around ensures that they do have information, but filtering out what is useful information from all the proverbial spam becomes a job unto itself. Smartphone users must learn to adapt their information gathering and consumption or risk being buried under the sheer weight of the near limitless knowledge available on the web. Information is knowledge, but the trick is to gain understanding about a particular subject from that information.
As Aristotle once said “Man is by nature a social animal,” and smartphones bring this social aspect to ever greater heights. Social media has been around for quite a while now, but smartphones enable users to gain access to these networks anywhere and anytime. Mobiles enable users to better plan and interact with their social network, both locally and on a larger international scale. For instance, an immigrant from India who has moved to Australia can keep in touch with their family while working in a foreign country. Moreover, they can coordinate their local social plans based on a larger community wide view of what is going on via social media communications.
Nevertheless, the unprepared smartphone user can become bogged down by the sheer number of social media outlets available (Rocha, 2013). Just as someone can become inundated with information, they can be overloaded by social media. Rather than it becoming a tool enabling the user to interact with their network, social media becomes a control mechanism whereby the user is constantly trying to keep on top of social updates. Just as balance is required in real world social interactions, users must learn to balance their online social interactions or become a slave to their smartphone.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the smartphone is its sheer computational capability. Mobile smartphones today have “roughly the same computing power as the powerful desktops of 2005” (Berman, 2013). Users are now able to enhance their own cognitive capabilities with what someone in the 90s would think of as a supercomputer, and it fits in a pocket. An example of such a new application called “MyScript Calculator” which allows users to physically draw their mathematical query and receive an answer in real time (Vision Objects, 2013).
However, productivity does not seem to be growing with this increase in computational gain (Berman, 2013). While the device itself is a computational powerhouse, smartphones have become more of a consumer tool rather than a creational outlet. The average user is not likely to create massive balance spreadsheets or write complex coding on a five inch smartphone screen. That being said, productivity is a wide term to use, and it can also be argued that instant data and social access means workers are not always returning to their desks when they are out and about with clients or other work related tasks.
These three aspects of smartphone access highlight a growing need for education on how smartphones change and alter the social and ethical boundaries of the digital divide. While a user may be given a smartphone with internet access and social media connections, they may not understand how to use them, or if they do, what their actions on the web can mean to them legally. Once it is on the web, it is there forever (Mayer-Schonberger, 2009).
Socially, smartphones connect communities via the web through an affordable portable medium. This means that developing populations may gain access to the same technology driven social media outlets that more privileged populations already maintain. For instance, social media became an enabling outlet to the movement known as the Arab Spring in 2011 (Lam, 2012). These connections mean that socially affecting decisions on a global scale do not inadvertently bypass these groups of people who should have a say in the matter.
However, speaking out on a social outlet, and understanding that what is said on the web is kept in perpetuity are two different things. Smartphone users must be taught that what is transmitted via their smartphone is not generally kept private when on the web. This means that governments can take what is said in thoughtful privacy and use it against users in legal proceedings. Moreover, if a user does not actively seek to have such comments removed from the web, they will remain their likely forever.
With all of this, the primary way to decrease the mobile digital divide is in the cost reduction of smartphone technology (Hall, 2013). Developing populations can use older technology to provide access the web via smartphones. As stated previously, smartphones today are as powerful, if not more so, than desktops from 2005. As such, using smartphone technology from just two to three years ago will still enable a high level of technological capability. This is especially pertinent when, “Android smartphones and the latest Nokia Asha devices are available for less than $100 all around the world” (Hall, 2013).
These decreased technology costs must also be combined with decreased costs for enabling technology, such as 3G and 4G cellular connections. For example, in Australia “66% of [low income] mobile phone users said they had difficulty paying their phone bill” as reported from a survey by Anglicare Victoria (Miletic, 2013). Government subsidization of these technologies for those users in the lowest tax brackets would greatly help in alleviating such obstacles. However, this must be done with the understanding that the digital divide is a real thing, and not having access to such technology is the equivalent of denying basic phone and television usage.
The advantages and disadvantages of smartphones bridging the digital divide are numerous. Additionally, the social and ethical implications of denying such access cannot be ignored. Access to smartphones is only a key point in filling the mobile divide. Education about what such access means for users in filling in this gap is also of paramount concern. Decreased costs and government intervention are both key aspects in removing these hurdles.
The Samsung Galaxy smartwatch, a.k.a. Samsung Galaxy Gear, is not the first smartwatch to hit the market, but it is a defining example of how the technology has matured enough that customers are finally taking it seriously (Samsung, 2013). It is a disruptive technology that has the potential to alter the way in which users interact with their information systems on a large scale. By itself, the smartwatch is not much different than a smartphone without a SIM that is strapped to a user’s wrist. However, in conjunction with Samsung products, like the Galaxy Note 3, it becomes a powerful networked tool that adds a much needed level of ease that is readily integrated into a user’s environment (e.g. a wristwatch).
Smartwatches have been in the public imagination for many years, with one of the most popular mindsets being that of the fictional character Dick Tracy (Buckley, 2013). As such, it should not come as big a surprise to that the smartwatch idea has taken off in such a storm, and yet there are still doubts as to whether users want them (Jesdanun, 2013). Specifically, how is wearing the smartwatch going to improve or enhance the life of the user, which is a bit of a misunderstanding about what the smartwatch represents.
The smartwatch, while being a computer, is a new wave of fashion technology which integrates itself into our lives without causing disruption in the way we live our lives. When smartphones came into the market, users went from using several different pieces of equipment (mobile phones, books, laptops, and music players) to using a single all inclusive device. The smartwatch does not do this, it is not a smartphone replacement, but rather an advanced accessory that complements the user’s existing wardrobe. Yes it is technology, but it is a watch that does some of what a smartphone does, without having to dig into a bag or pocket to take out the device.
Uptake of this device will likely occur with tech savvy individuals who still wear watches. A random poll showed that a number of users have switched to using their smartphone as their primary time telling device (McFarlane, 2010). This means that for a large part of the potential customer base, the smartwatch is a redundant piece of hardware. However, for those individuals who still use watches, this may be the device for which they have been waiting. After all, the watch is present on the wrist in order to make telling information like the time and date a flash, the smartwatch can add further information to this flash information such as weather, phone call information, SMS information, and news alerts.
Samsung Galaxy Gear SWOT
Based on the above SWOT analysis, the smartwatch is definitely primed to enter the market. There is very little competition at the moment, and the Galaxy brand will help the Galaxy Gear ride into the public mindset much more smoothly. It is advisable that Galaxy Gear be marketed as wearable tech, a fashion statement for everyone. Walls to shore up are ensuring patents are not being infringed, and that any anti-Samsung rhetoric is backed up by positive counter arguments for why the Galaxy Gear is a needed accessory to customer’s wardrobe.
Buckley, S. (2013, October). Samsung's Galaxy Gear ads play on your nostalgia, invoke Dick Tracy. Retrieved from Endgadget: http://www.engadget.com
Jesdanun, A. (2013, November 4). Sure, smartwatches abound - but who really wants one? Retrieved from The Columbus Dispatch: http://www.dispatch.com
Leap Motion is a new take on gesture control for computers (Leap Motion, 2013). It is a small rectangular cube about the size of a lighter that sits on the user’s desk, table, or other surface, and allows the user to interact with their computer using the motions of their hands (think minority report, but without the silly gloves) (IMDB, 2002). For instance, a user can completely interact with the Windows 8 user interface even as though they had a touch screen monitor, but obviously without touching anything.
A novel use which has already been posited for this, is in converting sign language into written language, thereby removing a communications gap that would otherwise exist (Pasolini, 2013). Alternative uses could be in using gesture specific security systems, whereby a door can only be opened upon making the correct gesture; or in industrial engineering, manipulating real world objects in three dimension environments via gesture control (think dock or steel workings moving large heavy objects). All of these interfaces would be immediately accessible to the average user as they would come naturally from the way we already interact with our environments. Sign language is obvious as it is a direct translation, but creating secure gesture controls is already done on Android devices, and moving things would be a matter of converting small gestures into large actions (pouring a cup is equivalent to pour a bat of molten steel, picking up a block is the equivalent of picking up a shipping container).
The primary concern with a technology like Leap Motion is to ensure that it gets as much coverage in as many different environments as possible. It is an enabling device, a third tier to the mouse and keyboard, or even a complete UI replacement in some cases (why use a keyboard at an ATM when you have gesture control). It is not a device that will replace our current mouse + keyboard combo, but it is likely a device that years down the road we will wonder how we ever lived without (likely it will not be Leap Motion itself, but a better even more accurate version).
Leap motion is most definitely a beneficial improvement to human computer interaction. It will take time to get used to, but if history has proved anything with smartphones, it is that we are all too ready to accept gesture controls. That being said, there are plenty of bad reviews about Leap Motion on the internet (just search “Why is Leap Motion bad”), but the primary complaint is that “it is not enough.” In this instance, a company has provided a revolutionary UI mechanism, and society have embraced it to such an extent, that they already want the next level of immersion! If that is not evidence enough that gesture control devices on a massive scale are already acceptable by the public, there will never be enough.