Satellite display devices

When I joined H3G, known with the com­mer­cial name of 3, back in 2001 I remem­ber that UMTS mobile phone did not even exist.

We started look­ing at mobile device trends and one thing was quite evi­dent: devices were get­ting smaller and smaller.

Here’s and exam­ple of what I was using at the time.
Motorola V60, great J2ME imple­men­ta­tion for that time though.

Motorola v60

Other sim­i­lar hand­sets I was play with were the Eric­s­son T28 and the Nokia 8310. Small size and light weight was the main dri­ver in GSM devices evolution.

Then we started to think what a UMTS mobile phone had to look alike and which ser­vices we were going to deliver to our clients. It was pretty much clear that the trend was going to be very different.

Mul­ti­me­dia was going to drive devices to big­ger screen sizes and, pos­si­ble, touch displays.

Year after year we saw screen size increase reach­ing what we see to day.

You range from basic candy bar mobile phone with a 2.2″ inches dis­play up to the 3.5″ iPhone dis­play and to the new Acer Stream 3.7″ display.

Touch and dis­play size are play­ing a big role in the game today.

A new trend is emerg­ing: satel­lite dis­play devices.

The first exam­ple of this is the Sony Eric­s­son Live­View.

Sony Ericsson LiveView

It’s a very nice device. 1.3″ dis­play size, Android based. The Sony Eric­s­son Live­View will con­nect to your mobile phone and will dis­play caller ID, incom­ing SMS, face­book noti­fi­ca­tions, twit­ter update and so on. It’s def­i­nitely a satel­lite of your mobile dis­play small chunks of rel­e­vant informations.

What I like the most if that the device is pro­gram­ma­ble and you can install already baked appli­ca­tions from the Android mar­ket. Even­tu­ally Sony Eric­s­son will release an SDK to allow third par­ties to develop applications.

Actu­ally Sony Eric­s­son already did this kind of stuff in the past with a blue­tooth wrist watch that was able to dis­play phone noti­fi­ca­tions. It was not pro­gram­ma­ble at but it was the first step toward LiveView.

Some other quite nice devices, not really con­verg­ing to the mobile phone world are devices like the Texas Instru­ment eZ430 Chronos. It’s a pro­gram­ma­ble wrist­watch that is equipped with short range com­mu­ni­ca­tion fea­tures that will allow you con­nect the wrist­watch with your per­sonal computer.

Another inter­est­ing device, fully pro­gram­ma­ble via an SDK, is the inPulse wrist watch. It first appeared cou­ple with a Black­Berry device allow­ing the client to see noti­fi­ca­tions with­out pick­ing up his phone. In this case con­nec­tiv­ity is pro­vided by BlueTooth.

I def­i­nitely think these are inter­est­ing devices that may open up oppor­tu­ni­ties for new applications.

Noti­fi­ca­tions, quick inter­ac­tion with a back­ground appli­ca­tion run­ning on the phone are just the beginning.

There is a lot of space to build new stuff with these devices. Some­how I think this can be part of the future of mobile.

Which one would you get and what for?

Hon­estly I think that for the time being I would go with the Sony Eric­s­son Live­View, even if the inPulse is quite tempting.

3 Web Cube

The 3 Web Cube was the last prod­uct devel­oped by my team before I left H3G to join frog design.

I think it is one of the best prod­uct we ever designed, even if it had a trou­bled birth, somehow.

3WebCube

From a tech­ni­cal point of view it is noth­ing else that a MiFi device; a WiFi/​UMTS router for domes­tic use.

The orig­i­nal idea was very sim­ple. Let’s take an exist­ing MiFi archi­tec­ture, redesign it for domes­tic use, and sim­plify the end user User Experience.

Sounds easy, isn’t it. Well, it wasn’t.

Design wise it’s made of two dif­fer­ent pieces. The first piece is the device itself. It can be plugged in a wall out­let and it will starts its oper­a­tions automatically.

The sec­ond piece is a cra­dle where you can plug in the main device in order to place it on a desk or on any flat surface.

Design was an inter­est­ing exer­cise. We ana­lyzed all of the MiFi devices and UMTS/​WiFi routers out there and we dis­sected them from an hard­ware point of view. What are the func­tions of all the LEDs? How do you power the device? What visual indi­ca­tions are given to the user? How does the device com­mu­ni­cates its sta­tus to the client?

The same process hap­pened on the soft­ware side. How do you con­fig­ure the device? How do you con­nect to the 3G net­work? How is the con­nec­tion man­aged? How do you con­fig­ure your WiFi connection?

We found that most prod­ucts were com­plex, unfriendly and ugly. Well, most of them.

Our goal was to have a sim­ple, sim­ple, sim­ple device.

The next step was to strip out everything.

What is impor­tant for the cus­tomer? The answer was an easy one:

  1. He wants to know how strong the 3G sig­nal is.
  2. He wants to know the sta­tus of the device.

That’s it. Noth­ing else.

This is why the device has just one visual sig­nal indi­ca­tor in the front show­ing the strength of the 3G sig­nal and a set of blues LEDs in the back to visu­ally rep­re­sent the sta­tus of the device.

We wanted our client not to be scared about the device and the configuration.

If you look at the main device it’s a very sim­ple one. It has a plug on the back, one but­ton in the front and that’s it. When the client will take it out of the box the very first thing that he will see is the wall plug. The only thing he can do is to plug the device. Noth­ing else.

Then some magic hap­pens. The device turns on auto­mat­i­cally, con­nect to the 3G net­work and pow­ers up the WiFi inter­face. In less than fif­teen sec­onds the device is up and running.

Now you are ready to con­nect to the Internet.

Just look at the quick user guide and type the WiFi pass­word on your per­sonal com­puter and your connected.

Three sim­ple steps com­pared to a much dif­fi­cult path with other devices.

We have seen other prod­ucts with huge user man­u­als and CDs in the pack­ag­ing. We did not want this.

The pack­ag­ing is very sim­ple. You have the main device, the cra­dle and just one leaflet with the quick user guide. That’s it.

The quick user guide has been designed to be visual in order to show to client what he has to do to con­nect to the Inter­net in three sin­gle steps.

My team has worked really hard on this prod­uct, and it is not per­fect. What’s the reason?

Any prod­uct, or ser­vice, you design has to cope with exist­ing processes in your com­pany and we had to go through so many hur­dles with this. We come down to com­pro­mises that some­how made the prod­uct less friendly com­pared to what we orig­i­nally designed. Well, you know. That’s how it works.

Nev­er­the­less it is some­thing I am really proud of.

Thank you to all of my ex-​team who has worked on this and to all of the col­leagues that made this hap­pen: Adam, Ser­gio, Lavinia, Mauro, Marco, Oronzo, Francesco, Marco, Mar­lene and so many others.

We wanted to cre­ate magic, and now I still do!

Corriere della Sera: Italy As It Is?

I have been a reader of the Ital­ian news­pa­per Cor­riere della Sera, online and offline, for a very long time. I always thought it had some rep­u­ta­tion and an abil­ity to report news in a quite bal­anced way. My per­sonal view, obviously.

Yes­ter­day night I come across this dicus­sion on Friend­Feed. (Sorry, it’s in Italian)

Here’s what hap­pened. Paola Caruso has been work­ing at Cor­riere della Sera for seven years with sev­eral temp con­tracts. Hon­estly temp con­tract is not the right word to describe the type of con­tract Paola has been work­ing with. It is quite dif­fi­cult to explain to a non Ital­ian reader which is the sense and scope, if any, of these kind of contracts.

Any­way, back to the story.

After sever years of hard work one of her col­leagues resigns and she finally thinks it’s her turn to land the job. Guess what. It did not hap­pen. The job was assigned to a fresh school of jour­nal­ism grad­u­ate. If you live in Italy you will quickly guess why: friend of a friend, pos­si­bly a very impor­tant friend.

For this rea­son Paola decided to vol­un­tary stop of eat­ing and drinking.

Cor­riere della Sera is a pri­vate com­pany and their can hire who they want. No dis­cus­sion on this, even if, at least inter­nally, they should jus­tify those choices with some­one who has been work­ing seven years with, as I read, good performances.

The most absurd thing here is that the com­pany seems to have used a temp con­tract for seven years to avoid the hir­ing of a full time employee. This is where we should inves­ti­gate and ask for clar­i­fi­ca­tions to Cor­riere della Sera.

This is a very com­mon issue in Italy and we can’t stand with this anymore.

For the time being I will per­son­ally stop buy­ing the news­pa­per and I have just deleted the appli­ca­tion from my iPhone and my iPad. I will also stop read­ing the online ver­sion. Not much, I agree.

Dear Mr Fer­ruc­cio de Bor­toli, edi­tor in chief, would you please explain us what’s hap­pen­ing and why?

[Update]

I have received some per­sonal mes­sages on this with some crit­i­cism on what I wrote and I think they deserve an answer.

It’s quite clear that we do not know what cri­te­ria Cor­riere della Sera’s has used in hir­ing some­one in place of Paola. The fact that she has not been hired in the first place does not auto­mat­i­cally mean that some­one else has been pushed to that posi­tion. That’s not the point I was mak­ing here.

The main point is that in Italy we have a labour law that is killing this coun­try or, to be less dra­matic, not applied as it was sup­posed to be.

This is why I think we can­not accept what’s hap­pened to Paola, her being just one of those 20% of the work­ing force in Italy in the very same situation.

And this is why I would like to read an expla­na­tion from Cor­riere della Sera.

Are Mobile Phone Jacks Of All Trades?

A few weeks ago I was read­ing this story from Gear Diary and I was really impressed.

Short. Jim Furyk, a pro golfer, was dis­qual­i­fied from a PGA tour event because he showed up late at the tee.

Why did this hap­pen? Sim­ply because his mobile phone where he set the alarm died because the bat­tery was drained.

I think that this has hap­pened to almost any of us at least once in our life.

This would have not hap­pened if the pro had used a more com­mon alarm clock with much more long last­ing batteries.

So, it the mobile phone the jack of all trades, mas­ter of none?

I think so.

Nowa­days mobile phone can do a lot of task usu­ally per­formed by elec­tronic devices.

They can act as an alarm clock, they can take pic­tures, they can read and send emails and so on.

As we have seen their bat­tery can eas­ily drain and fai to wake you up; the pic­tures you can take may be worse than those you can take with a ded­i­cated cam­era and your desk­top email client is for sure bet­ter than your mobile one.

At the end of the day we are keen to sac­ri­fice some func­tion­al­i­ties in order to aggre­gate them in one sin­gle device.

What do you think?

UXCon 2010 — Corporate User Experience

Last year I had the oppor­tu­nity to give a speech at the User Expe­ri­ence Con­fer­ence in Lugano.

The User Con­fer­ence Con­fer­ence is an event pro­duced by Luca Mas­caro and the great guys at Sketchin. It is def­i­nitely a fan­tas­tic event if you are into User Experience.

If you are not into User Expe­ri­ence that con­fer­ence will then be even more valu­able to you, and I will tell you why.

If you know me you know that I have a very tech­ni­cal back­ground even if in the last five years I have been run­ning the prod­uct devel­op­ment team in H3G, an Ital­ian mobile net­work oper­a­tor. I can tell you that in the early stage of my pro­fes­sion, back in 1991, I was pretty much sure that every­thing was sit­ting in bit and bytes of prod­ucts and ser­vices.
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My Bonsai Is Texting Me!

This is the pre­sen­ta­tion I gave at the Mar­cus Evans con­fer­ence on the future of Mobile Messaging.

The con­fer­ence title was “Next gen­er­a­tion mobile messaging”.

The main mes­sages I want to trans­fer is

  • The Inter­net of Things is becom­ing a reality.
  • Not only humans can send messages.
  • (Social) Appli­ca­tion can send messages.
  • Objects can send messages.
  • There is a huge oppor­tu­nity there.

One note: my pre­sen­ta­tion style has changed a lot recently, and I under­stand that some of these slides are not that use­ful if you are not able to lis­ten at the speech itself. I will work on that!

As always, you may down­load the pre­sen­ta­tion from Slideshare.

Playing With A Mini Led Panel

Dur­ing one of my trips to China I found some Mini Led Panel in a shop.

They are mini led dis­plays that are able to scroll up to 5 five 250 char­ac­ters mes­sages. They come with a USB cable and some Win­dows soft­ware that allows you to pro­gram them. I actu­ally bought two of them for some­thing like 15 USD.

I was quite intrigued by the con­cept of using them to dis­play alerts on my per­sonal com­puter or show direct mes­sages com­ing from Twitter.

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Stimulating A New Generation Of Mobile Internet Applications

This is the pre­sen­ta­tion I gave a cou­ple of weeks ago at the “Mobile Net­work Appli­ca­tions, Open­ness and Web Inno­va­tion” con­fer­ence in Amsterdam.

I had the oppor­tu­nity to meet great peo­ple and was fun.

Enjoy and drop me a line if you need to know more about it.