Sunday, December 23, 2012

Social GPS navigation. A good way to find your Waze... .


See other drivers and the event which
they add in real time
Just in time for the holiday season a good friend of mine suggested to test out the Waze GPS navigation app.

I have always been a great fan of Google Maps, and was a bit suspicious about trying out a new GPS app. My conclusion is that each app has justified their right to live side-by-side on my phone screen, and here is why.

Waze is a real-time community app allowing users to communicate in a very simple way about the events they observe in traffic. Yesterday, I drove seven hours from São Paulo to Teresópolis in the state of Rio, and unlike most people who take the Ayrton Senna (BR-070) I chose the parallel Dutra (BR-060) highway. Google maps helped me to make the right decision as the Ayrton Senna was heavily congested on a section of about 10 km. The precise colored traffic information on Google Maps is always a great help to me when driving through the yet few cities in Brazil that are covered with this great feature which show traffic congestions with accuracy down to 100 meters. Waze, on the other hand, give the opportunity for users to communicate in real time about accidents, police check points, bad weather, heavy traffic, gas prices, obstacles, and other hazards on or by the road. You can also sign up to one of the groups on Waze and share traffic information with others from your work, street, or city.
Check out gas prices on a gas station
near you

When I left the São Paulo urban area and drove into the Brazilian hinterlands I left the Google Traffic overage area, and found that the Waze app offered a great value add by giving me a good overview of the traffic. I got alerts on heavy rain, accidents, slow traffic, and some of them even with detailed comments from others on what had happened and the consequences for drivers.

So when traffic comes to a stand-still, things are now less tedious with Waze as you can now get information on what is ahead, and even chat with others in the traffic while the car is stopped, which those of us living in São Paulo are quite used to. I guess it won't be long until we hear about the first couple who met in a traffic jam.

Google Latitude, a once separate app now included as a function within Google Maps, never seemed to get me as a regular user on sharing my position, but Waze seems to be easier and more convenient to use if you momentarily want to share the progress on your route towards your destination. The Meet Up tab offers you to share your current location, share your progress en route, and to request a pick-up with one of your friends on Waze. The function is disconnected when you reach your destination or otherwise stop your navigation towards that point, which should attend most privacy concerns.
Send SMS or email so other can follow you en route to your
destination.

Based on the increasing problems with traffic jamming up in cities around the world, there should be a good basis for a growing audience to this application. Going social in traffic seems as a great idea, if we just remember to keep attention on the road, but Waze will help you remember that by the way it's build. I look forward to testing it in the US or Europe in a not too distant future.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Time for a new Nexus phone?

Nexus 3 (Samsung)
When I bought my Samsung Galaxy Nexus I9250, also known as the Google Nexus 3 earlier this year, I had decided to keep it for two years.

I am very happy about the phone, and things was going just well until two weeks ago when I discovered that the auto-focus on the main camera was suddenly un-functional. I can take close-ups, but a landscape picture looks like the one shown here. If I hand in the phone to a repair shop, I will have to live without it for weeks, that seem unbearable.


Meanwhile, a new Nexus came out. The LG Nexus 4, this time made by LG, also called the E 960. Google seem to release one every year. I like the Google phones because they have no handset manufacturer OS overlay to Android, and I am the first one to receive the latest updates of the Android OS, and this phone already runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.
Nexus 3 Picture without auto-
focus

So, should I buy the Nexus 4 and repair my Nexus 3, and sell it? Well, the jury is still out on this one, but tell me your opinion, and I will make a choice first in the new year.

Nexus 4 (LG)
The reviews that I have seen are largely positive towards the Nexus 4, some saying that it has a good mechanical tight feel in the hand, and that the glass back panel is giving it a good feel also. From the comparison between the two on GSM Arena I could only discover three differences which are significant to me: RAM has doubled to 2 GB, the processor is faster, and there is more battery life. But, compare for yourself. The screen is a little larger, but that does not make much of a difference to me. Also the Nexus 4 does not have LTE, as some of the Nexus 3 models have, which I find strange, but here in Brazil coverage will not be significant before I will have to upgrade next time anyway.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Web is now designed to judge your intentions ... and so are the terror conventions.

In both marketing and some definition of crime, what really counts are your intentions.

In several of my presentations on the Digital Footprints that we leave behind us on the Web, I have highlighted the changes in the definition of committing a crime. The film - Minority Report - presented us with the vision of condemning individuals based on their intention or imagination of committing a crime, even if in their dreams. This vision is becoming reality faster than many of us would imagine.

The terror conventions are in the forefront when it comes to defining a crime as the intention to harm people or  property. "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public (...)" United Nations, December 9, 1994, UN Doc. A/Res/60/49. This still leave it unclear wether you must have committed the act in order to be considered a terrorist, but we already know that many terrorists are arrested before they commit the intented attack. Looking at the  Counter-Terror Social Network Analysis and Intent Recognition (CT-SNAIR) project, the Web component of the prediction of ill-intented individuals becomes more clear.

The interesting match here is that both the terror definition and the lawful and well indented use of the Web for marketing purposes result in the interest in identifying and segmenting the intention or interest of people or groups of people . In the case of terror, you can rightfully say that it makes little sense to claim that a suicide bomber should commit his planned crime before he or she can be arrested and sentenced.

As a very successful advertising and segmentation company, Google knows a lot about our intentions, and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt once said that Google wants to present the answer to us even before we put the question. This makes Google and other Web marketing and search companies interesting for certain type of crime prediction. According to Wikipedia, the Brazilian government topped the list of governments requesting information on citizens from Google between June and December 2009 with 3.663 requests against 3.580 from the US government. The article from Wikipedia also mention possible links to the CIA and NSA, and the US magazine Wired brought earlier this year an article on the logging of much of what we do on the Web.

A similar consideration came up last week during a trial in Denmark where 5 men are accused of committing acts of terrorism. The Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet reports that one of the accused allegedly made a search on his computer on the location and about the attack before the story had been reported by the media. He is now accused of having committed the attack where his Web search pattern is part of the evidence presented to the judge.

So, be aware. Your intentions might frame you. And the systems made for predicting your intent as a consumer, might be tweaked to screen you out as possible ill-intented person or even considered a criminal. Even before you become aware of it, as Google say...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Will Wi-Fi off-load save us?

So Wi-Fi off-load seem to be the savour of our times.

It is very interesting to note that with hundreds of megabyte of spectrum sold to the mobile operators, it is apparently the un-licensed general purpose spectrum in 2,4 GHz and 5 GHz which is going to be the solutions to the ever growing data volumes that operators are trying to coupe with.

I got curious and read trough 5 reports from well estimated suppliers of industry analysis about Wi-Fi off-load, and none of them talks anything about the outlook for the scenario where all private and public Internet connectivity providers seem to be heading for the same crowded street. My feeling tells me that we are heading for congestion.

In licensed spectrum operators do their own radio cell planning, because they know that others are not allowed to interfere with the transmission that they provide. In the un-licensed frequency bands however, everybody seem to be doing their own planning for the same spectrum.

Some global operators have informed that up to 70% of their current fixed and mobile broadband data volumes are now being transmitted via Wi-Fi at some point, and the above named industry analysts estimate that mobile operators will be off-loading at least 40% of their traffic in 3-5 years.

It is good to see that the Brazilian regulator, ANATEL, has taken initiative to establish targets and measurement for the quality of broadband services in Brazil, where some operators are being criticized for delivering much less than what their customers are paying them for in terms of bandwidth and availability. On the other hand it is difficult to understand how operators can guarantee the quality of a service when depending on shared spectrum where there is no entity responsible for the planning and utilization of the spectrum, other than the general purpose certification of the transmission equipment required by ANATEL. One of the consequences is that when I go to a downtown restaurant to try to get on a Wi-Fi network toady, I get a long list of networks all struggling for the same spectrum, as you can see on the enclosed picture. There are also several reports where people get lower performance of the their installed Wi-FI at home when the public and operator driven Wi-Fi networks begin to transmit on the same channels used for the home solutions.

Maybe one of the reasons for this increased interest in the un-licensed frequency bands is coming up now because operators and other industry players are realizing that with the current growth in data volumes, there is no other way out than to go for smaller cells. There is no way that each user can seize a transmission channel in an area of a square kilometer or more when spectrum is a scarce resource. It seems that the vendors of cellular technologies (CDMA and GSM), moving on with 3G and 4G, have not been too keen on developing equipment for these small cells, and that operators now see a change to get acquainted with low cost technologies that that serve the need for smaller cells. The trade-off, however, seem to be that everybody will deploy in the same limited spectrum with little or no coordination between the players.

If you have an Android phone, you can download the Wi-Fi-analyzer shown here at the picture, and check out if the Wi-Fi frequencies near you are congested.

Ericsson's acquisition of Belair should also be seen in this light. Ericsson has lately decided to accelerate its strategy for small cells. It would however, only be natural that both the small cell strategy and technologies with the same cost level as for Wi-FI would spread into the licenced bands also, using LTE for example. This might not be in all of the current cellular tech providers interest, but it would make sense from two points of view. Small cells give higher data traffic densities in any frequency, and thus also for the licenced spectrum, and LTE 4G is the latest set of very robust cellular coverage technologies with great resistance to interference and made for continuous coverage.

There is no doubt that Wi-Fi is gaining importance, and with up to 90% of tablets sold with Wi-Fi as the only way to connect to the Internet, the Wi-Fi demand will continue to grow strongly for some time going forward.

One thing is for sure: The efficient usage of spectrum will continue to be a hot topic for years to come.

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