Just a few more seconds… taking control of my mobile.

How many times have you missed a call because your mobile has diverted to voicemail after a few rings?. A search of the web came up with a solution – changing the time it takes for a call to divert is something which needs to be set on the network not your phone.
So for fellow Vodafone users, your just need to do the following…

1) Key the following shortcode and then press SEND
This returns you your voicemail number which normally you get to by dialing 121

2) Now enter the following code using the number from step 1 and press SEND
where xxxx is you voicemail number in international format and NN is the number of seconds before the call is diverted ( This needs to be an increment of 5 in the range of 5 to 30).

So if your voicemail number is 07878 298399 and you wanted a 20 second delay you would key..
**61*+447878298399*10*20 #

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.


Is anybody using LBS ?

An interesting article in Electronics Weekly reports on the findings of a DTI sponsored study visit to Japan looking at the uptake of Location Based Services (LBS). The headline is that less than 10% of the users of advanced LBS capable phones on the KDDI network actually make any use of the available services.

This would seem to agree with my perception of the market in the UK, if anything perhaps here it is even less than 10%. In this particular case we may be seeing the effect of a particular technology limitation, KDDI use A-GPS on their phones so get high location accuracy but first fix may take more than a minute – Japanese teenagers it appears are at least as impatient as those in the UK!

My guess however is that the problem lies at least as much with the applications that make use of this technology as with the technology itself. In the UK as in Japan I believe, a user must make an explicit decision to use an LBS type function, e.g. find me the closest ATM. Using the best designed WAP interface that will take at least 2-3 mins including time for the user to connect to a portal, the network locating the users phone, the backend GIS analysis and the presentation of results. Time to ask somebody 30 seconds !!

I have argued before to anyone who will listen that for LBS to work the whole service must be transparent to the user, as soon as you switch on your phone in the background various analysis can be taking place so that the most common requests are pre-calculated, and instantly available as contextual information.

When you are roaming the phone and various networks are working to transfer you to the provider with the strongest signal at any point in time, a process invisible to you other than the operator logo changing on the phones screen – this is how LBS should work !!

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.


A free lunch anyone ?

The ongoing and mostly ill-informed debate on the funding of digital geographical information today hit the national press with a article published by Michael Cross in the Guardian . Now I have been a great fan of Cross’s often insightful journalism in the past but today’s article is full of errors and misrepresentation of the facts.

Now before I’m accused of just following the Ordnance Survey party line I must state that Cross does make some valid and interesting points illustrating some of the challenges that a commercially focused OS must must face to compete in an active market place.

Cross seems to see this competition as a bad thing, but if you accept the principle that the “user pays” and that the OS is a trading fund, then the OS must compete to survive. The Ordnance Survey would not last long if every time a new more competitive product came along, the OS gave up and rolled over. I would argue that this cannot be good for the user of geographic information, in every market competition brings improvements both in terms of value and product innovation.

The heat generated about national address databases continues, and one day this sorry story will become public, Cross is right to complain, but on behalf of the tax payer not commercial interests. Acacia which Cross mistakenly calls a company was actually a government funded project which failed to make much progress in developing a method to combine the existing databases to produce the much needed definite national database.

The “Open Access” debate is a good one, and I can see the benefits of providing data a no cost to end users of course, the more people who get access to digital data the better!! But there is one fact here we often lose sight of, there is no such thing as free data.
It costs somebody to collect, manipulate and manage the data collection process, and to maintain the detailed data we are used to here in Great Britain is very expensive. The “open access” advocates argue that this funding is the role of government or of course the tax-payer really, as takes place in the U.S.A.

But is Government really willing to fund the activities of mapping agencies in this way ?

In the US, the equivalent of the OS the USGS is so poorly funded that it has not yet completed mapping the whole country!! and those maps which do exist are often decades out of date ! Because of the wonderful “Open Access” policy the wealthiest country on the planet will never be completely mapped to a consistent standard!

I personally wish there was a way to make digital data available more cheaply, but detailed accurate information about the every changing world around us is expensive to collect.

I hope that the various “Open Source” GI database projects such as Mappinghacks and Open Street Maps are successful in providing free mapping data and these initiatives are very exciting however they will never be able to do what the OS does.

As a politician what would you argue to fund using you hared earned tax payers pounds or dollars? Building more schools or decreasing hospital waiting lists or funding the creation of digital geographic databases an activity which can cost you nothing and indeed generates you some income if done well!

Written and uploaded from the Airport Lounge at Leeds/Bradford Airport using a 3G data connection.