Monday, October 20, 2008

Wireless Communication and Information 2008, October, Berlin

A few days ago I was invited at the symposium of „Wireless Communication and Information“ which was organized by Prof. Jürgen Sieck of FHTW Berlin and the Alcatel-Lucent Stiftung für Kommunikationsforschung.

I enjoyed the forum and experienced following highlights (you find the program here):

First, when I arrived Prof. Schildhauer was envisioning a number of future mobile phone aplications. He based his visions on a number statistical trends proving the relevance of mobile phone applications. Namely he introduced the idea of last minute insurance to be booked by touching tags before boarding the airplane. For me this was interesting to see since our Ph.D. students Dominique Guinard and Tobias Ippisch have implemented a prototype that allows to extend the house-hold insurance to a new purchased item (joined work with Nokia Research).

Furthermore Prof. Schildhauer showed the power of mashing travel apps by the example of an easyjet journey. Finally he presented the prosumer, an application proactively supporting consumers in buying decisions. This was particularly interesting for me since one of the developers, Stephan Karpischek, has just recently joined our team.
In the end of his tal Schildhauer outlined the following research questions to be kept in mind when designing wireless and mobile applications:
  • Leveraging the infrastructure
  • Interoperability (e.g. comibiniation of traditional print media with digital media)
  • Understanding of users' needs
  • Designing for multiple use
  • Designing for usability
  • Setting appropriate pricing
  • Establishing of trust between service and user

The complete slide-set can be found here.

Second, I really enjoyed the talk of Henning Breuer who shed some light on mobile applications in currently implemented and being used in Japan. The image of mobile phones he pointed out " is rather a snug and technosocial tethering going far beyond the mere functionality of making phone calls". I-mode is state of the art since 1999, 3G since 2001 - which shows the state of mobile internet as a commidity in Japan.

He stated that half of the most read novels are read and also mostly written on mobile phones. 87% of KDDI (largest competitor to NTT Docomo) are equipped with GPS - which would make sense considering the streets in Japan most of the time do not have names. An interesting culture constraint I must say...

A nice idea was as a finger phone which establishes audio transmission through bone conductivity when putting the finger into the ear. Furthermore he reported that NTT Docomo has developed an audio barcode allowing phone microphones to gather geo-content via micropohones.

Then he outlined the development of micro-projectors that allow mobile users to work around with the small screen-sizes of phones.

Driven by the drasting aging of Japanese society domestic and assistive robots have become a hot reseach topic. "Sounds frightning to us but not to Japanese" according to Breuer.

  1. Finally, Breuer outlined charateristics of Japanese society in order to derive cultural differences: There is a strong curiosity for new technological gadget as opposed to European skepticism concerning faulty betas. Techno optimism and feasibility rule.
  2. Furthermore he mentioned a strongly supported politically policy towards IT.
  3. Corporate internet plices postpone private internet to commute time.
  4. Society rules rather propose to do not disturb each other which again is a strong driver for mobile phone applications.
  5. Finally the broad penetration of broad-band connectio in homes has prepared people for internet content already for a long time.
  6. Cultural factors drive adoption.
Nevertheless, despite this technological advances Japanese companies have proven rather unsuccessful in leveraging their experiences outside Japan.

The sub-sequent discussion focussed a little more on the cultural differences:
Privacy converns have a different standing in Japan: individuum is rather unimportant in the society.individualism vs. Collectivism.

Next I gave a talk on new applications for the mobile phone in a internet of things (slides are here). The talk was well perceived and we had a longer discussion how a future world of applications might look like. I replied to Prof. Sieck that I don't believe in the automation of our daily routines, instead, it should be still the human kept in the loop, owning the control and only being supported by pro-active devices and things.