Thursday, August 28
At Gizmodo, Robert Sorokanich highlights a new mobile app with the potential to save lives:
Infant jaundice, where a baby’s liver can’t remove blood toxins, is potentially fatal. Doctors recognize it as an unusual yellow hue in a baby’s skin and eyes, but what if you’re a nervous parent far from a pediatrician? This experimental app turns your phone’s camera into a doctor’s trained eye.
BiliCam’s premise is simple: Just lay the printed color key on your baby’s belly and snap a photo. The app sends the photo’s data to the cloud, where an algorithm measures the difference between the baby’s skin tone and the color chart to instantly send an estimated bilirubin level to your phone.
Wednesday, November 20
Earlier today, we held a Twitterview with innovative mobile video sharing service Ferris. You can check out the condensed version of our interview via our respective Twitter handles (@iiabroadband, @seeferris). Here’s the extended interview. — IIA
What is Ferris and how does it work?
Ferris is a mobile video sharing service which aggregates content based on a number of metrics in order to provide a continuous relevant viewing experience. Videos are organized and searched via tag, location, channel, user, etc. allowing users of the Ferris service to explore the ecosystem quickly and efficiently. Ferris allows users to capture, organize, and view content in a simple manor, with stunning results. Users may organize their videos into collections of their own, or add to a larger pool of content by contributing to a particular tag, or by filming at a location where other Ferris users are filming. Once the content is captured and tagged by the user, the Ferris service uses all available metrics to aggregate the content automatically. This aggregated content is available as an interactive, seamlessly stream-able collection of videos requiring little to no user interaction.
Who uses Ferris?
Ferris is meant for anyone who needs a platform for sharing mobile video. There are hundreds of use cases. Beyond the obvious personal and family related uses (birthdays, graduations, weddings etc.), the chronological arrangement of videos in the Ferris ecosystem is favored among journalists trying to keep the hottest breaking news “above the fold,” while the automatic aggregation of individual videos into a continuous streaming experience is a major selling point for business owners and Realtors who use Ferris as a conduit for advertising and showcasing their products and properties. Ferris is simply the canvas, the user creates the masterpiece.
How does high-speed broadband relate to Ferris?
While Ferris is fairly efficient, it of course uses networks to complete its tasks, making HS broadband very relevant. Whether uploading/consuming content at home over a cable network, or at your favorite pub using the newest LTE technologies, HS broadband is increasingly important for a positive user experience. The faster the network, the faster content is delivered to the user, which improves the overall experience greatly.
Will Ferris be dependent on mobile broadband for helping to build, develop, transform and/or grow? Explain.
While using Ferris on the best and fastest networks is advantageous, Ferris is comfortable even on the slowest networks. As networks become more robust and as speeds increase, Ferris will leverage this technology to provide the absolute best user experience. However, Ferris scales well with available resources by allowing users to upload content at a time and place where solid broadband service is available, even if the content was captured in an area without any mobile broadband at all. Ferris does not “rely” per se on mobile broadband networks to grow, but will scale to take full advantage of mobile broadband offerings going forward. Existing mobile broadband networks already provide a solid user experience and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Does Ferris rely on high-speed wireless networks being reliable and widely-available for consumers? If so, in what capacity?
As stated in the previous paragraph, Ferris does rely on wireless networks, and of course high availability and reliability is beneficial. It would be great if every user could always experience Ferris on a true high-speed network, but that is simply not a reality in this country. Whether “3G,” “4G,” LTE, or WiFi, Ferris provides a great user experience.
Do you foresee more spectrum, the invisible airwaves that carry voice and data signals to and from electronic devices, being needed to support the app economy?
The question should not only be total spectrum, but how efficiently that spectrum is utilized by the government and the private sector. The move away from analog television is a perfect case in point. DTV utilizes less spectrum while delivering better content, faster. As technology progresses, spectrum will be used more efficiently through advanced compression algorithms etc., which should help mitigate the need for an ever expanding spectrum requirement. More spectrum is great and could prove necessary in the long term, but efficient use of allocated spectrum is absolutely paramount.
How would a ‘spectrum crunch’ impact Ferris?
Obviously a spectrum crunch would impact the average mobile device user in a number of ways. Users of Ferris are no exception. If mobile broadband networks fail, the user experience of most any app relying on communication with the cloud will decrease significantly. Mobile devices do have WiFi, and because of this the Ferris platform could still be utilized in its entirety, however the accessibility of the service would certainly decrease as fewer devices would encounter a robust data connection.
Our thanks to Ferris for participating. You can download their app at the Apple App Store.
Wednesday, August 21
At Read Write Web, Devanshi Garg examines why mobile apps are on the rise while traditional software is in steep decline:
Prior to the proliferation of mobile devices, downloading software and experimenting with new programs was left primarily to tech-savvy individuals. Consider the painstaking process of finding a free video editor, a music-sharing program prior to iTunes, or a task-management application. Not many people bothered.
With the emergence of app stores, everyday people are constantly interacting with software, judging its value, and installing and deleting apps on their devices at a rapid pace.
Another key factor is the proliferation — and unprecedented adoption by consumers — of mobile broadband. All the more reason for regulators to do everything they can to keep investment in wireless networks happening at a blistering pace.
Thursday, July 25
Via Robin Wilkey at The Huffington Post comes word on a new app that, well…
Launching at the end of August, LeftoverSwap will allow users to upload a photo and description of their pad thai, pizza or pho and connect them with hungry neighbors nearby.
But while the idea may sound a bit crazy, it might actually be contributing to the greater good: LeftoverSwap will start as a donation-only model.
Friday, May 17
Apple’s App Store, which launched in 2008, has already hit a massive number—and one lucky man received a big gift. Via Joanna Stern of ABC News:
Brandon Ashmore from Mentor, Ohio, hit the app jackpot Tuesday afternoon when he pressed the download button on a word game app called Say the Same Thing and sent Apple over the 50 billion app download mark, winning the $10,000 prize.
50 billion apps and counting. In an ecosystem that didn’t exist just five years ago. Wow.
Tuesday, March 26
The app ecosystem, powered by widespread mobile broadband, is an undeniable success story. Case in point, courtesy of Kara Swisher from All Things Digital:
Earlier today, Yahoo said it had acquired the trendy and decidedly stylish news reading app Summly, along with its telegenic and very young entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio.
Yahoo said it plans to close down the actual app and use the algorithmic summation technology that the 17-year-old D’Aloisio built with a small team of five, along with a major assist from Silicon Valley research institute SRI International, throughout its products.
You read that right. A 17-year-old whiz kid and a small team have just sold an app to one of the biggest online players. The kicker? Yahoo! paid $30 million for the app. Wow.
Wednesday, March 20
Brian Stelter of the New York Times recently reported ABC is working on an app for live streaming shows to mobile devices. According to the report, “The app, which would stream programming to the phones and tablets of cable and satellite subscribers, could become available to some subscribers this year.”
As media companies look for new ways to deliver content directly to mobile devices, wireless companies and the FCC should find new ways to provide the broadband capacity for consumers to enjoy these choices. It is critical that we have a regulatory environment that encourages innovation like freeing up spectrum and exploring the transition to all-IP networks which holds great promise for satisfying consumer broadband demand.
Monday, March 04
At the Wall Street Journal, Jessica E. Lessin and Specner E. Ante report on the still booming mobile app industry:
App stores run by Apple and Google Inc. now offer more than 700,000 apps each. With so many apps to choose from, consumers are estimated to spend on average about two hours a day with apps. Global revenue from app stores is expected to rise 62% this year to $25 billion, according to Gartner Inc.
Not bad for an industry that essentially didn’t exist just five years ago. Just goes to show the economic power of innovation — in this case, with both devices (smartphones, tablets) and the mobile broadband networks that power them.
Thursday, February 21
Here’s something cool. Via Pete Kasperowicz of The Hill:
The House next week is expected to pass a resolution establishing a nationwide technology contest for students, which would initially encourage contestants to develop new “apps” for smartphones and tablets.
The resolution from Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) is scheduled for consideration next week. It would create a contest run by the House of Representatives in which students from every congressional district would compete in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields.
Thursday, January 24
This is a guest blog post from Lindsey C. Holmes, founder of digital marking firm LCH Business SM & Tech. You can learn more about Lindsey and her business at her website. — IIA.
You only need to look around you to see just how mobile our lives have become. Hop a train, visit a coffee shop, look around a crowded bar — you’ll likely see the same thing: People staring at a device in their hands.
We can argue whether all this screen staring is good for our social lives, but there’s no denying that the mobile revolution is changing how we live. It has also changed how we work.
As the founder of the digital marketing firm LCH Business SM & Tech, I specialize in helping clients build a comprehensive “digital footprint,” from a social media presence to creating mobile apps. I live and breathe in the mobile space, and yet I must admit that until recently I didn’t think much about what drives that space. Chances are you haven’t either.
I’m talking about spectrum, the airwaves that power every mobile thing we do. On the technical side, spectrum is all about frequencies and bands — signals carved up for various devices and uses. Your garage door opener? That relies on spectrum. Your remote control? Same thing. That WiFi connection in your house? Spectrum again.
But thinking beyond the technical aspects, spectrum is really one of our greatest natural resources. And like all natural resources, there’s only so much to go around.
Recently, Apple announced 40 billion apps had been downloaded from its App Store. Think about that. I remember when the first iPhone was released six years ago, and in that time 40 billion apps have been downloaded for Apple’s devices alone. An entire industry that didn’t exist six years ago now thrives, and a major component of that industry is the ability to download feature-rich apps to our devices through the air.
That’s what makes dealing with the “spectrum crunch,” as it’s being called, so important — not just for the big telecommunications companies and the government, but for business owners like me. Providers of mobile broadband are running out of airwaves, and unless more frequencies and bands are made available to them, demand for mobile broadband could quickly outpace capacity. And if that happens, a ripple effect will be felt throughout the mobile industry — from major app developers, to owners of boutique businesses like me.
Thankfully, the government and wireless industry have been working to address this problem recently. But as they hammer out the details and put together a plan to free up more airwaves, it’s important for them to remember their actions will have a major effect — good or bad — on businesses and entrepreneurs across the economy.
That’s why I’m paying more attention to spectrum. And it’s why you should be too.
Thursday, January 10
According to Fierce Wireless’ Sue Marek, this year’s CES is all about app developers. As she writes:
If you are an innovative application developer, you are definitely in the driver’s seat at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. Everywhere I turn at CES, I encounter companies that are talking about the work they were doing to attract app developers to their platforms.
From Ford Motor Company launching its new developer program aimed at getting more apps for its Sync connected car system, to Verizon Communications announcing its “Powerful Answers” application contest, it seems nearly every company appears to be courting developers.
The heavy focus on mobile apps — which is only going to increase — highlights the importance of the other big topic at this year’s CES, which is the need to transition to all IP-based networks. Since data-intensive apps depend on fast, next-generation networks, you can’t really separate one from the other.
Monday, January 07
40 billion, which is the number of apps that have been downloaded from Apple’s App Store so far. Even crazier, the company says close to half of those downloads happened last year alone. Wow.
Wednesday, December 12
Analyst (and friend of IIA) Bret Swanson is having a busy week.
In an op-ed for Forbes, he examines the effect 20th century phone regulations are having on 21st century networks. After citing Google’s abandonment of offering phone service via its new fiber network in Kansas City due to a number of regulatory hoops, Swanson warns that requiring network providers to continue investing in old technology is slowing innovation — and the economy — down:
Both native apps and Web apps will be powered by increasingly sophisticated and pervasive cloud resources: storage, computation, collaboration, transactions, location services, content distribution, and remote 3D video rendering. This dependence on the cloud, moreover, will require ever increasing network coverage and speed. This means more cell towers, more small cells, more Wi-Fi, more advanced technology like LTE and MIMO, more spectrum, and more Ethernet optical fiber links connecting all these wireless and data center nodes. All of which requires more investment.
But old style phone regulations often require network operators to maintain and expand obsolete copper wires and TDM (time division multiplexing) switching technologies. This necessarily diverts capital from crucial investments in modern optical fiber and 4G wireless.
For more from Swanson on apps, regulation, and the economy, see his report “Soft Power: Zero to 60 Billion in Four Years,” along with his recent guest post for us “Keeping the App Economy Booming.”
Tuesday, December 11
I recently released a new study called “Soft Power: Zero to 60 Billion in Four Years,” which examines the effect the booming mobile app economy is having in the U.S. A highlight:
Smart mobile devices are the most personal of computers. The colossal numbers of these devices, and their connectivity to each other and to all the Internet’s vast resources, creates a market so large and so diverse that the economic forces of innovation and specialization are supercharged. This platform of distributed computation and bandwidth offers unlimited possibilities to create tools and content serving every interest. We call this phenomenon Soft Power.
Beyond the app boom’s substantial boost to the economy (as I note in the study, economist Michael Mandel has pegged the number of jobs it currently supports at 519,000 and counting), there are numerous benefits in the consumer space. Not just in entertainment, but for health care and education— from doctors managing patient dosages via an app on their iPad, to the growing number of teenagers who now use smartphones alongside textbooks to complete homework assignments.
Those are just some of the benefits we’re currently witnessing — who knows what innovation in the app space will bring us next? But one thing is certain: In order to keep the good times rolling, two things are absolutely critical. Investment in the mobile ecosystem must continue, and spectrum — the airwaves that make mobile broadband, and thus the mobile app economy, possible — needs be made available.
The latter is currently being tackled by the Federal Communications Commission, albeit slowly, via its upcoming spectrum incentive auctions. The former will require a continued partnership between the public and private sectors to encourage the investment necessary to keep up with this new, and accelerating, economy. As I write in the study:
In the same way that Microsoft expanded its software to exploit the ever increasing number of transistors provided by Intel under Moore’s Law, apps will grow to consume the available computer and communications power of the mobile ecosystem. We will push our devices and networks to the limits — and then beyond. The cycle is nowhere near an end.
Bret Swanson is President of Entropy Economics LLC and a Visiting Fellow of Digital Society. He’s also an IIA Broadband Ambassador.
Monday, December 10
On Tuesday, December 11, IIA will be hosting a webinar with Entropy Economics President Bret Swanson about his new report “Soft Power: Zero to 60 Billion in Four Years.”
The webinar will cover the new era of software, where apps are the new American software industry. The App Economy boom has hugely benefited consumers, as well as fields like health care and education. “Soft Power” has generated more than half a million jobs in the U.S., but the App Economy’s dependence on the cloud will require ever-increasing network coverage and speed, i.e. more spectrum and investment.
When: Tuesday, December 11th at 11:30am ET/8:30am PT
Presenters will include:
• Bret Swanson, president of Entropy Economics LLC, a strategic insight firm specializing in technology, innovation, and the global economy
• Bruce Mehlman, founding co-chair of the IIA and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy (moderator)
Friday, August 24
The Online Publishers Association has released a new study, “A Portrait of Today’s Smartphone User,” that examines just how mobile our world now is. Some highlights:
• Smartphone adoption is growing at a brisk pace, with penetration expected to reach close to 60% in the next two years.
• More time is spent on the Internet via smartphones than apps.
• Still, smartphone users averaged 36 apps downloaded last year.
• 68% of smartphone owners claim they can’t live without their phone.
The full report (PDF) is interesting — or, if you’re annoyed by people around you constantly staring at their phones, troubling. Check it out.
Wednesday, July 25
Yesterday, we highlighted a cool new mobile app aimed at helping the visually impaired. Today, Erica Ogg of GigaOm writes about an update to an existing app that could greatly benefit children:
A communication assistance app for those who have difficulty speaking is getting an important update Wednesday: It now has real children’s voices that will play when a picture, phrase or word is tapped on screen. Proloquo2go, an iOS app has been used for several years by both adults and children diagnosed with autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome, as well as adult stroke victims or anyone who’s lost the ability to speak clearly. But after a huge effort in improving text-to-speech, children’s voices are now an option.
Very, very cool.
Monday, July 23
Natasha Baker of Reuters reports on a new mobile app that can greatly benefit the vision impaired:
Called Georgie, the app for Android devices enables people with little or no sight to accomplish daily activities that could be difficult for them.
Here’s how the app works:
Users navigate the app’s features by passing their fingers over various options which are read aloud. Lingering on a particular option produces a beep, indicating that the option has been selected.
The app can make calls or send texts but it also provides location-based technologies, which can let users know, for example, when the next bus is coming, which direction they’re facing, or the ability to set location-based reminders.
Tuesday, March 06
There’s little doubt that Apple will make a big splash tomorrow at the Yerba Center. But the bigger story is Apple’s announcement that its mobile operating system has “created or supported” a remarkable 210,000 U.S. jobs.
Let’s put that number in perspective: the iPhone and iPad didn’t even exist five years ago. The company’s mobile App Store only opened its cyber-doors in 2008.
Now, the iOS alone sustains more jobs than the entire population of San Bernadino. Or Boise. Or Des Moines.
This is a modern economic success that’s virtually unparalleled — and it’s also not just an Apple success. Sure, Apple has been at the forefront. The company also just marked the 25 billionth download from its App Store. (If you’re interested, it was a user in Qingdao, China who downloaded the Disney game, “Where’s My Water.”)
But globally, according to a report last fall, Android has overtaken Apple in total app downloads.
As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said earlier this year, “Our apps economy is the envy of the world.” (For the record, Genachowski’s favorite app is an astronomy app that uses his iPhone’s built-in GPS to present a screen view of the stars overhead. He says it helps his daughter understand astronomy.)
So what’s the problem? As a recent five-part series on CNN reported, this country is running dangerously low on making airwaves available to handle all this wireless data. That threatens a future of slower progress and higher phone bills.
Genachowski himself said earlier this year, “This invisible infrastructure is the backbone of a growing percentage of our economy and our lives. [A lack of available airwaves] threatens American leadership in mobile and the benefits it can deliver to our economy and our lives.”
In an effort to address the looming spectrum crunch, last month, President Obama signed a bipartisan bill into law designed, in part, to facilitate the next round of wireless auctions.
This law is an important step. Not only does it mandate much needed spectrum auctions—the last one was held in 2008—but it also legislates against too much regulatory red tape. Open auctions will ensure that the companies with the best plans and best service will thrive.
Historically, the Commission hasn’t always heeded this and on the government’s coffers have paid the price.
This obviously is no time for regulatory experiments. The stakes are too high.
Wednesday, December 21
This post was contributed by Ahmed Siddiqui, who is the founder of Go Go Mongo!, an educational game company that inspires kids to eat healthier. He can be reached through Twitter: @siddiquiahmed
Educational apps can do amazing things. National news stories have featured apps that teach geography and apps that help some children with autism find their voice. My app, Go Go Mongo, inspires healthy eating habits. Parents with children that use Go Go Mongo ask for more animation and video features. I’d LOVE to be able to provide these features but, unfortunately, bandwidth limitations have hindered my ability to serve my customers and grow my business.
With the introduction of Apple’s FaceTime feature, it seemed we would be able to add some really useful features in educational apps. We quickly found out that we were only going to be able to connect over a WiFi connection. Now, say I develop a homework app. Let’s say that all of your math homework is now done through an iPhone or iPad device. How great would it be to use FaceTime to call a teacher or friend for some help? If either the teacher or the child happens to be on a 3G connection at the time, the FaceTime call is not possible. The current 3G connections cannot support these calls because the live video uses way too much bandwidth.
More bandwidth (more available spectrum) would solve this problem, and a whole economy of educational apps could be built around live video interactions. Teachers could interact with students. Students could interact with parents who happen to be on the road for work. Parents could interact with teachers if their child is struggling in school. How cool is that!?
Another innovation introduced by Apple this year is iCloud. Although I haven’t seen many key implementations of iCloud in apps, I know that this is the next evolution. The PhotoStream feature that syncs all of your photographs from your iPhone to your MacBook to your iPad, works seamlessly in the background. However, as this traffic increases I could see a significant impact to bandwidth and spectrum.
Outside of the iCloud implementations, the general notion of cloud-based services on mobile could create some very interesting innovations. I personally love DropBox. I am starting to save all of my files to DropBox, because I am always on the go and love to retrieve my documents created on my MacBook on my iPhone. However, even short videos stored in the cloud still don’t work well while on a 3G connection.
Today’s mobile-savvy students are creating and consuming content all on their mobile devices. The cloud enables them to store this content and share with their peers and teachers. However, larger files just don’t open on today’s 3G connection. High school students won’t be able to download the 50-page assigned reading until they find a wireless connection.
The cloud and live video interaction are two key functions that need to be built into more educational applications. However, without good bandwidth (spectrum), many of these innovations will go to waste because nobody will be able to use them.
We need the government and mobile phone carriers to open up more spectrum so we can start building more innovative applications to improve education.