Wednesday, February 25, 2009

metaTXT: Aiming for one web and gaining discoverability!

One particularly interesting new contact I made at MWC last week was Sinead Quealy of visibility mobile - the mobile SEO company founded by Bena Roberts. As well as telling me about their work on mobile SEO she mentioned they were involved with pushing the "metaTXT" spec through W3C in order to improve discoverability of mobile sites.

Now I have got back and the dust has settled I have had a look at the metaTXT white paper and it seems to be promising stuff. Fundamentally it is an attempt to solve the problem of supporting multiple versions of a site for different classes of device in a way that is transparent to the user - creating a practical step towards the one web ideal I have blogged about before.

What is interesting is it does this by adding a small file (meta.txt) alongside the existing robots.txt at the top of the site providing metainformation about the site. The primary use of this is to provide different paths for the root page for various different device classes - which is all well and good though one webbers may quibble about not driving them via the same markup.

Perhaps more interesting is the ability to provide further meta information about the site within meta.txt - in a standard form independent of any device and/or markup specifics. This can include the usual title and keywords, and intriguingly things like the location the site is related to which opens interesting possibilities for the return of context specific results for the mobile user.

The primary challange they will face with all this is obviously the usual chicken and egg one of convincing sites to publish meta.txt files, and convincing search engines to look for and use them. That said they have already got a couple of mobile search providers deeply involved in the associated working group which is a good sign.

Discovery is one of the key problems that needs to be solved in mobile and this may be one part of the solution to that problem.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Truphone's new "intelligent SIM" at #mwc

Every now and again as you wander around the halls of the Fira you trip over something which is clearly a bit of a game changer - something deliciously disruptive. Truphone themselves seem to think so. They are brimming with excitement about it!

The new product - whose availability is still to be confirmed - is based around a combination of two key things:
  • In April 2008 Truphone acquired roaming operator SIM4travel.
  • They have now developed a SIM card sporting an ARM core and 2MB of flash storage.
This combination gives them the ability to issue SIMs which can use the intrinsic SIM signalling capability normally used to setup roaming connections etc to communicate between their little embedded device and their core network.

I will say up front that I am not very clear on the specifics of SIM signalling but as I understand it this effectively this gives them a ~256kbps data channel to the device which is both free and exists whether or not the SIM has been able to formally bind to the host network.

Clearly this opens up many interesting possibilities and I understand that beyond using it to help support their existing voip/roaming products (e.g. intelligence to allow incoming calls to be recived as if local) they are also looking at expanding into situational services - with a continuous location feed being the first element of that.

Of course there is the question of how the more conventional mobile operators will react to this since it will clearly cut into their juicy roaming revenues, and takes a step beyond their control of what happens on their network that they are unlikely to be 100% comfortable with.

This is my first really exciting product (baring our own of course ;-) of the show this year. Look forward to hearing more about it when it is officially released tomorrow.

UPDATE: On reflection I was a little loose in my use of the term data channel above. It is of course a channel that Truphone can use for their own signalling to and from the cpu on the SIM card in order to implement their services - NOT a channel for user IP data.

Truphone have now formally announced their first service built on this kit.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Barcelona here we come

As I made my final source control commit of the day at midnight last night I reflected briefly on the less glamorous side of the run-up to the four days of frenetic activity that makes up Mobile World Congress. The past week or so has been mayhem and this week is even worse, but now the various demos, graphics and materials are coming together and things are falling into place and it is time to focus on the event itself.

There are many sites out there (and m-trends is a good starting point) listing all the many parties and events striving to gain your attention and your footfall around the conference proper so I won't try to list them here - but there are a couple which deserve a special mention.

Longtime mobile marketeer, blogger, and MoMo London co-organizer Helen Keegan has worked up her usual magic to create not one, but three different events this year. Swedish Beers has moved onto the Wednesday night and into a bigger venue - that being a really good thing after the crush at Belchica last year! Not satisfied with that she is also working with UKTI to organise a fascinating lunch event focussed on the Future of Mobile, and I understand will be announcing a third and final event "for the ladies of mobile" tomorrow.

It is interesting and encouraging to see that despite the economic troubles of the world at large that sponsorship for so many events is still forthcoming. That said it will be interesting to see what the overall visitor numbers end up being. Many of the "usual suspects" to turn up to the whisky reception are taking a year off MWC - the Americans in particular.

Of course within the exhibition itself there are also interesting events - and none more so than the traditional whisky reception run by Scottish Development International on whose stand we are based:

If you are in the exhibition do come along and enjoy a dram or two. This year there is competition though with Rapid Mobile having branched out onto a stand of their own in hall 7 and running their own whisky tasting starting at 5.30pm on Wednesday evening!

Of course beyond the networking and socialising there will be a *lot* of new devices and services to absorb and evaluate. Will be great to get hands on the new Palm Pre in particular!

One new experience this year is that we are delighted to have been invited to contribute to the mobile advertising sessions on Thursday afternoon in the conference proper - with Chris taking part in the panel on "The New Enablers" and then both of us putting various of our services through their paces in the "Entertainment & Advertising Demonstration & Networking Session". Looking forward to it!

Now time to get back to eclipse and get the next chunk of that demo sorted out!