Category Archives: Mobile Device

More on the Integration of Radio and Mobile Telephony

In the post “Integrating Radio and Mobile Telephony” I commended on Nokia’s recently released device 5030 mobile. Here I am reproducing an atricle and video on the topic, produced by Mr. Jonathan Marks and broadcast via Jonathan Marks’ videos on Vimeo.

Nokia on the Importance of Radio

Mark Selby has been giving a talk at several conferences about the importance of radio to the mobile industry. Given his background (including World Radio Geneva) it is perhaps not surprising that he’s interested in forging partnerships between Nokia and broadcasters. By the end of 2008, Nokia says they had sold 425 million devices with digital music players. In addition to that, thay say they have sold 700 million devices with built in (FM) radio capability. Phones like the N85 even have a built in FM transmitter so you can play the music in the car on the existing car radio (its super low power, but handy to have).Part of my current projects involve working with community stations in West Africa to build sustainable business models that bridge both the radio and mobile industries. They have a lot in common, but currently the gulf in terminology is keeping great ideas from happening.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Nokia Introduces Life Tools in India

Using information from Nokia Life Tools pilot shows high appeal for livelihood and life improvement services in India.

In December 2008 Nokia launched in India a pilot range of information services, covering topics in Agriculture, English Language, General Knowledge and Astrology. The services are geared towards mobile phone users in emerging markets, particulatly in rural areas. Nokia has indicated that any successful initiatives in India will be expanded across selected countries in Asia and Africa.

Today Nokia announced the conclusion of the pilot phase of its pioneering Life Tools service in Maharashtra, India, and the results show that subscribers are reaping the benefits. Extensive feedback from actual subscribers revealed that the service had wide appeal, and connected with subscribers at both emotional and functional levels. The positive feedback from beta trial means full commercial launch of the infotainment services is on its way in the first half of 2009.

The service will be enabled out of the box in the Nokia 2320 and Nokia 2323 handsets, which will soon begin shipping. Support for more devices will be added later in the year.

nokia-life_toolsIn terms of content, Nokia Life Tools is a range of agriculture information and education services designed for rural and small town communities in emerging markets. It uses an icon-based user interface that can display information simultaneously in two languages. SMS is used to deliver the content so GPRS coverage and fiddly settings are not required.

The Agriculture service of Life Tools provides an easy interface to Reuters Market Light, an information service which delivers information on weather, market prices and farming advice. Users of the Agriculture Service described that they were better informed about market rates for their produce. Farmers found that getting prices daily on their mobile phones reduced their dependency on agents for basic information. Now with greater awareness on market conditions, there was newfound confidence in their negotiations with the agents. There was also resounding appreciation for the time and money saved from not having to make multiple trips to the market place to get the latest rates.

Integrating Radio and Mobile Telephony

In the last week Nokia released the model 5030.  It is a model developed by the Nokia team based in Beijing and targeted explicitly at the mobile phone maket in the developing world. The device combines the well-established information and communication technology of radio with mobile telephony, a technology only recently available for wide use by people in developing countries.  The Nokia 5030 should begin shipping in the second quarter of 2009 with an estimated price of €40 before taxes and subsidies.

The Nokia 5030 is branded as bringing “radio to the people”.  The model exemplifies convergence by combining the functionalities of a mobile phone with those of a portable radio receiver.  It features an internal FM radio antenna and a powerful loudspeaker.

This mobile phone model can be used either as a radio with 24 hours of listening time between charges, or as a phone with 10 hours talk time.  It is available in graphite or red, and needs to be laid on its side in radio mode. The device also packs a flashlight, and speaking clock and an alarm.  More importantly it supports 75 languages, 500 person phone book (and space for up to 250 SMS messages) and the ability to phone share and track pre-pay usage.

The inclusion of an FM Radio or some other audio entertainment platform on a mobile devices certainly isn’t a new idea.  It has been available as an option on many devices for some time now, and these devices are been becoming incrasingly affordable to users in developing countries.  So what (if any) is the significance of the release of the Nokia 5030?

I think that the Nokia 5030 is a device showing signs of technology producers taking into account the user requirements of people in developing countries.  Still, manufacturers such as Nokia need to show much greater underastanding of the limitations to communication in the environment where these people (especially rural dwellers) live.  Although it is a start the Nokia 5030 is a long way away form constituting a comprehensive information and communication device for the developing word.  To say the least, such a device would enable people not only to receive wireless communication but also to transmit it.  In areas with scarce mobile phone cover transmission is the remaining sticking point.  If Nokia see the solution to communication in less developed countries through the integration of mobile and radio I am wondering if there might be a comprehensive solution they can offer.  For a demonstraton of the problem, we need to look no further than the clear dichotomy between the use of mobile telephony and the use of VHF for the delivery of medical services in rural areas.  That dichotomy can be readily traced in many of the “mobile health for development” initiatives.

Mobiles vs Laptops: regulatory, technological and development issues

olpc-articleCory Doctorow has managed to spur a debate with a recent Guardian article (One Laptop Per Child – what went wrong?, 13 Jan 2009). That is a debate regarding the appropriateness (for development goals) of mobile technologies and associated GSM networks), versus the appropriateness of laptops (and associated mesh networks) for furthering socio-economic development goals in less developed parts of the world.

The issues impinging on the debate are regulatory (intellectual property, wave spectrum property, etc.), technological (functionality, usability, etc.), as well as issues relating to the precise level of socio-economic development (network infrastructure, literacy) within the country in question and the availability of  access to information and communication, alternative to mobile technologies and laptops.

many-possIn Many Possibilities… Steve Song emphasizes the faulse dichotomy within the technological debate. The technological convergence appears to be self-evident. Mobile phones are increasingly better able at tackling Internet applications. Additionally, mobile operators are increasingly savvy in their offerings of mobile Internet access, whereby computers (laptop, or otherwise) are enabled to access the Internet through a wireless “cloud”.

The regulatory issues are much  more prominent within the area of mobile communication, and thereby a disadvatage to that technology. Having paid some exorbitant sums of money at 3G spectrum auctions, mobile operators are understandably looking at recovering those expenditures. Mesh networks are obviously not subject to regulatory interferance. But should they ever become pervasive and significant in daily life, I think that the need for regulation will make itself apparent. The Internet, to say the least, is becoming increasingly a controlled and monitored space.

Last but not least, there are the development issues surrounding the adoption of either mesh-networked laptops or Internet enabled mobile technologies. The adoption of technology and the readiness for adoption clearly differ in different countries. Bulking so many places into the convenient “developing countries” heading seems counterproductive. Negroponte proposes a laptop for every child while I am prepared to see children in different countries using latops or mobile phones, as appropriate, in order to learn and grow. Laptops are still uncommon in classroom setting, even in places where people can readily afford them, while mobile phones have been successfully used within classrooms across the developing world e.g. (Meraka Institute – ICT in Education, South Africa). We need to be able to acknowledge that various ICTs would suit the needs and fit the constraints present at different places.

So what are the implications for mobile marketplaces? Internet marketplaces have existed for a long time now, and have changed significantly the trading landscape throughout the world. They have mobilised the “long tail” by providing trading opportunities which did not exist previously, thereby giving value to items which previously had none. The junk in your garage is no longer junk. Someone would invariably point out its value to you by quoting how much you can sell it for. A quote easily determined by a quick search among recent eBay auctions. Internet marketplaces have enabled dynamic price negotiations (auctions). They have also made obvious the contracting problems and the fraudulent activities which are unfortunately an inextricable part of remote, technology-based exchange transactions.  Consequently, adequate regulation and control are a much needed prerequisite for Internet or mobile trade.

I have named the current blog “Mobile Market Design for Development” because in my observation trader in developing countries are very flexible, mobile and on-the-go. It is difficult for me to envisage their use of desktop computer technology and associated ITCs (telephone landlines, LAN cable connections, etc.). That being said, I can see how web technologies can be used as an additional channel for access to the collected market information (See CellBazaar.).