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Mobile phones - John C. Kirk

Sep. 28th, 2005

09:42 pm - Mobile phones

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A few thoughts I've had lately about mobiles - the specific technology involved is a bit outside my area of expertise, so these are all from an end user perspective ("what" rather than "how").

1. When I've been meeting up with people, we often use mobiles for the specifics. E.g. if we're both in Hyde Park, someone might say "I'm halfway between the blue tent and the red pole, ah, I can see you now, can you see me waving?" Could the phone do this automatically? This assumes that both people consent, and that they're with the same phone company (or that there's some co-operation between companies). Presumably my phone company knows where I am, and can triangulate my position based on the nearest beacons, so that they can swap me to a different one when I move around. Ditto for the other person. I realise that they can only narrow it down to a certain area (e.g. 100 square metres), but even so, that would be a good start. The interface could be a bit like a Geiger counter (or the Ghostbusters' PKE meters), where you'd get a stronger signal if your phone was pointing in the right direction, so all you have to do is turn around until you're aiming towards the other person.

2. Because I work in a hospital, I have to keep my mobile switched off during the day; this is (theoretically) to avoid interference with medical equipment. Are the signals really a problem, or is it just paranoia like the petrol station thing? And if it is a problem, could some enterprising person come up with a "work offline" option, so that I could turn my phone on to get at the address book and then call that number from a landline?

3. Why do I have to tell my phone what time it is? There should be some analogue for NTP (the internet's Network Time Protocol), so that it can get that information from the phone company (who obviously know what time it is for billing purposes). A good time to do it would be when I turn the phone on, and it has to do a "handshake" with the phone company to authenticate the SIM card - just get the phone company to say "Ok, you can now make/receive calls on number X, and by the way the time is now such-and-such". Granted, there'd be some backwards compatibility issues, but that shouldn't be a major problem.

4. This is a more specific question - does anyone know how the predictive text works on the Motorola V3 (aka the "Razr Noir" phones)? If I type in a word by pressing each number key once, it will make a reasonable guess at which combination of letters I want, and I can press "Select" to accept that or use the left/right cursor keys to choose a different possibility. That's all fine, but I've noticed that it often suggests the rest of the word in grey (after the black text that I've actually typed). Is there some way to say "Yes, that's the right word", and get the phone to fill it in, rather than me having to type the remaining letters? For instance, if I type "9-2-7-9-4" then it comes up with "Warwickshire." (where "Warwi" is in black and the rest is in grey). It would be handy if I didn't have to type the remaining 7 or 8 keys, but I couldn't find anything relevant in the instruction manual. I'll have to drop in to an Orange shop and ask their "phone trainers" if I can't figure it out.

If anyone with the requisite skills is reading this, feel free to steal these ideas and make a fortune out of them; I'd probably buy the resulting gadget myself.

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From:rjw1
Date:September 28th, 2005 09:07 pm (UTC)
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3) should work. most nokia phones have it as an option. however the operators dont send the right signal.
in fact theres no reason why phones these days shoudlnt just do ntp.
and hey they could try and pick up the radio time signal form rugby/frankfurt as well

i suspect there reeason it doesnt happen is because the users dont relaise they need it.

1) just have gps in them anyway. a couple of the bigger motorolas do. admiiitedly then soem clever way to transfer you geo data would then be good.


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From:billyabbott
Date:September 28th, 2005 10:40 pm (UTC)
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The operators in the US seem to send the right signals - when I visit my phone picks up the right time along with a network provider. However, when I get back to the UK I have to change the time back manually...
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From:terpsichore1980
Date:September 29th, 2005 07:53 am (UTC)
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On point 2 - Some Sony Ericsson phones (I know the p910 and p900, and from a quick look at the web site most of the phones on there) have a "flight mode" in which they turn off all the data sending/receiving bits (phone, bluetooth, infrared etc.) and leave the other features (address book etc.) accessible. Of course there is a challenge in persuading anyone official that your phone is actually off despite the fact that the non-phone functionality is still on.

On point 4 - I realise I am just a mere accountant and don't have the engineering knowledge of a mouse, but have you tried reading the manual? It has to be preferable to being shown what to do with your phone by the children they employ as "phone trainers".
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From:elvum
Date:September 29th, 2005 08:59 am (UTC)
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1. Read this. Locating phones to within 100m is technically feasible in most circumstances. But in order to point you in the right direction, you need something like an electronic compass built into the handset too. All the electronic compasses I've seen have been crap, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. :-) Possibly a better solution would be integration of GPS receivers into handsets: then you can automatically text your location to someone, and they can see where you are relative to them. That gives you 10m accuracy, and possibly even a graphical map, if you subscribe to a mapping service provider (or your network does so for you). GPS integration is probably only a matter of time.

2. It's partly paranoia, partly playing it safe - the argument would be that the inconvenience for a large number of people is insignificant compared to the risk of killing even one person by interfering with their life support equipment, etc. cf terpsichore1980's answer for the second part of your question.

3,4. Answered elsewhere. :-)


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From:rjw1
Date:September 29th, 2005 09:06 am (UTC)
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>GPS integration is probably only a matter of time.

as i said it is already on soem phones. now we just have to wait for lots of them to have it.

eg
http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,115893,00.asp.


http://www.phones2udirect.co.uk/Products/type/phones/BundleID/38617/?source=aw

we actaully have that one in the office. its huge
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