Talking at the Open University Library Seminar

September 25, 2009

Yesterday Sebastian and I spoke at the Open University library seminar
regarding OxPoints and the upcoming Mobile Oxford ( – coming
soon) website for mobile devices.

Slides below!

Download now or preview on posterous

intro.pdf (1664 KB)

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geo.pdf (637 KB)

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Erewhon – Open University Library Seminar 24th September.pdf (4510 KB)

QR (2D Barcode) for

September 23, 2009

Points your QR Code readers at this! :) (Link is due to be live on the
5th October).

Posted via email from Mobile Oxford

Microsoft’s Sense Cam [via Techcrunch]

September 7, 2009

A device that you wear around your neck, photographs, geo-locates,
auto-tags and then automatically uploads your life to the cloud?
That’s what Microsoft Research at Cambridge came up with some time ago
with the “Sensecam”. Techcrunch makes a good point in saying that
although the concept of wearing such a device may seem rather horrific
to many people today, people of yesteryear would have been
uncomfortable making their personal photo albums available for the
world to see as we do with places such as Facebook and Flickr.
I think the concept is certainly pertinent and now is almost
inevitable, as a serious photographer I carry a GPS logger with me
whenever I go taking photographs and whenever I travel great distances
I like to keep a log of where I went for future reference. I would
quite like this information available to my ancestors to come too, so
a device like the sense cam would only make recording it easier.
Of course recording every minute of your day would certainly involve
storing a lot of pointless data, so you would need tools to help sift
through the data. One of the features the Sensecam concept
incorporated was that of ambient sensors to trigger recording only
when significant events happened, e.g. a change in lighting,
temperature or movement.
[Via TechCrunch]

Interview about the Erewhon project at the JISC Rapid Innovation conference

September 4, 2009

I’m currently at the Rapid Innovation conference in Manchester, talking about the Erewhon project and forging links with others approaching similar problems.
Highlights so far include:

  • Jasper Tredgold from the University of Bristol was great to talk to about their upcoming Mobile Campus Assistant
  • Peter Pratt from the University of Edinburgh talked about Walking Through Time, which uses Google Maps on a mobile device to display historical maps for the local area
  • Simon Harper from the University of Manchester represented Structural which, to quote, ‘is a user agent extension which can make sense of the implicit structural layout of a web page and adapt it into a format suitable for a mobile device’

Other interesting links include:

To round off the post, there’s an interview for the conference available at IE Demonstrator.

More analysis and information to follow!

Game changing news?

August 11, 2009

With iPhone, Blackberry, Palm and Android dominating the smartphone headlines. Microsoft and Nokia have been haemorrhaging market share, will an alliance between them be the best way forward?

A conference call tomorrow [via Engadget] suggests so!

Further rumours suggest that Nokia may be ditching Symbian in favour of something more open source. [via Techcrunch]

Geolocating ducks in Essex

July 31, 2009

Earlier this week, Sebastian and I gave a workshop about geolocation at IWMW 2009. Despite ongoing struggles with the wireless networking it all went fairly smoothly, and the 12 or so workshop attendees seemed interested and engaged — and even willing to do the ‘audience participation’ section! This was a re-run of what we did in a local workshop, but with the added advantage that this time the participants came from a range of institutions — so we were keen to see whether our examples and suggestions were things they could all relate to.

Happily, it seems we weren’t being too Oxford-centric, as there was plenty of discussion around our ideas (particularly on the topics of library books and energy usage) and several interesting new suggestions.

Snapshot: whiteboard writeup of the suggestions made by the three groups in our geolocation workshop.

Workshop whiteboard notes

We particularly liked:

Analysing PC/wireless provision and usage to help users determine the likelihood of finding a free PC nearby
It’s easy enough to show the location of currently free PCs, but by the time you’ve got there, what are the chances of there still being one available? Enhancing existing usage metrics with geodata would help users head for the best ‘hotspots’ without wasting time trekking from one bit of campus to another in search of a workstation. However, there was a concern that this might also look like an open invitation to burglars, showing them a map of all the unattended computers on campus!
SMS reminders for courses/meetings with directions tailored to user preferences
Enhance course reminders (already provided by EduTxt) with directions appropriate to the user’s location, mobility, mode of transport, etc. It’d be difficult to do this dynamically based on the user’s location at the time, but possible to allow users to set more general preferences for the sort of reminders/directions they want.

But the firm favourite was one delegate’s suggestion of geolocating a duck: apparently students at York have a pet duck and would love to be able to find its current location and follow its progress! Ducks have generally been less quick to join the smartphone revolution than students, but this problem could be overcome by attaching a lightweight GPS data-logger to the duck. While of course this service would have clear benefits for the duck-watchers, opinion was divided over the benefit to the duck itself: on the one hand it might be more likely to get fed and looked after in a timely fashion, but on the other hand it might not want the constant attention…

Ducks by the lake at Essex University's Colchester campus

Ducks: how can institutional geolocation services benefit them?

See the IWMW2009 website for details of the workshop (including all our slides). Thanks again to everybody who attended the workshop – please feel free to comment here with follow-up, further suggestions or discussion!

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!