Feature Ideas for the new Mobile Portal

July 7, 2009

We’re currently working out what kind of features we’d like to present to users (both staff and students) on the up-and-coming mobile portal. At the moment we have the following ideas (in no particular order of priority):

  • Contact search – This could possibly be location-based, e.g. “Find all lodge / reception numbers for buildings that are near me”.
  • OLIS search – Find a book by title, ISBN etc., and be presented with a map of relevant libraries.
  • Emergency contact numbers – e.g. University security services, NHS direct, the OBSU/OUSU Safety Bus, police.
  • Wake-on-LAN (WoL) – As part of the University’s Green IT initiative, many departments support WoL to encourage people to turn off their computers overnight. Being able to turn your PC on from your mobile as you enter the building could save Vital Seconds.
  • A condensed calendar – With the move to a University-wide calendaring solution we should be able to present a simplified interface to one’s itinerary.
  • OUCS service status
  • University / departmental news feeds
  • Simplified access to the new VLE, WebLearn.

Anything else you’d like to see in that list? A major hurdle we’re still working out how to overcome is the issue of authentication and delegated authority. Some of these ideas (such as WoL, calendaring and the VLE) require the user to authenticate, which they’d either have to do directly (requiring each project to implement a separate mobile interface) or we’d act on the user’s behalf (requiring each service to implement an API for use by the mobile portal). OAuth may not fit the use case exactly as it requires the user to confirm access from the delegated service, which isn’t mobile-friendly.

Other points of inspiration include the mobile portals of the MIT, Warwick University, the University of Iowa, and Swinburne University.

Thoughts and suggestions welcome!


Life with a Google phone

November 22, 2008

When the much-herald Google phone was launched in the UK towards the end of October, and we started the Erewhon project at about the same time, I decided that fate had intended me to acquire my first smartphone. I therefore went out on day 1, signed up for the exorbitant initial contract offering from T-Mobile, took home a white G1 and have been using it ever since.

If you have not heard of it, the G1 phone is the first device to use Google’s Android operating system, intended to be freely available to any phone manufacturer, and enabling application developers to write high-quality tools which will run on a wide variety of phones. If it is successful, you can expect to see more
manufacturers picking up on Android. This first model is made by the respected HTC company from Taiwan.

In summary, what the G1 and Android give us today is

  • phone (as you might expect!)
  • always-on internet (seamless switch between 3G and wireless networks)
  • touch-screen interface, enhanced by slide-out keyboard
  • storage on micro SD card (I added an 8 gbyte one)
  • complete syncing integration with Google apps (mail, contacts, calendar, maps, search)
  • camera
  • GPS
  • web-browsing
  • media playing
  • .. and as many other applications as people care to write
G1 Google phone desktop

G1 Google phone desktop

Reviews of the G1 are widely available, and vary wildly in their assessment depending on the standpoint of the reviewer. To those who love the Apple iPhone, it is a cranky weak imitation; to long-time
phone-watchers, it’s a ho-hum bit of hardware with an interesting operating system; to “openness” advocates, it is the second coming, real-Linux-onna-phone. Read the rest of this entry »