App Extensions/Plugins – An idea to reduce app redundancy

This idea was conceived trying to contemplating a one general trend and one significant challenge in mobile.

The challenge is that, despite the opportunity for innovation provided from few barriers to building and deploying apps, App stores have become flooded, making discovery and management difficult & time consuming for the user. Additionally we see a lot of duplicated functionality across applications (think Retail, Events/Venue Finders, Restaurant, …) i.e. the concept just doesn’t scale well.

The trend is the move towards deeper integration into the platform, taking the true advantage mobile such as better understanding of your current context, interests and being available when needed. The most obvious examples are the Personal Assistants offered by the 3 major players, giving you information based on interests and intent e.g. Google Now provides you with a card of near-by products that you have previously searched for.

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Using Semi-Autonomous Car Technology to Assist Visually Impaired

I’ve committed myself to writing and talking around the concepts of Micro-Interactions and Anticipatory computing and using a SmartWatches app as a vehicle to deliver the content such that it has particular relevance. The challenge is actually coming up with a compelling use-case (apart from the obvious), initially it was a Water Consumption Monitor, then a Pace Setter (i.e. allow the user to set a pace and nudge them when the user is slowing down), but then settled for a way for the user to navigate to a destination with less reliance on their SmartPhone (more on this on a later post).

This idea sparked a thought of how Smart devices (Phone/Watch/Earpiece/…) could help navigate the visually impaired around urban areas using similar techniques used by semi-autonomous cars.

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The Phenix Project

Despite the average Smartphone life-cycle getting longer, it’s still approx. 22 months (inline with operator monthly plans) and with the over 52% of the worlds cell phones now Smartphones means there is probably a lot of useful devices gathering dust in peoples draws.

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Solving difficult problems using play and collective intelligence

The Problem
This problem came apparent when trying to design a “Gift Recommendation service”. The general idea is to use a retailers API and your contacts interests (interest graphs built using LIKES, Follows, Favourites using data available via the users social networks – FB, Twitter, LinkedIn) to recommend relevant gifts (based on their interests, occasion, and strength of the relationship). This was the easy part – the difficulty came when trying to associate the contacts ‘interests’ with ‘gifts (products). One way would base it on keywords e.g. filter products using features from their description and the contacts interests (‘sport’, ‘music’, …) – I imagine this approach would have failed miserably.

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What to do with iBeacons?

One of my first projects I endeavoured out of Uni was building a proximity marketing service using some discounted Motorola phones with JSR-82. Imagine being able to push messages to customers in proximity with vouchers and special offers – reality of this was spam, unsolicited messages interrupting the customer, normally inconveniently. A lot of the ‘services’ currently being implemented using iBeacon remind me of these days, the good news that this time round the user has to ‘opt-in’ i.e. install an app. 

Since then my interest has shifted from being intrusive to invisible and you can see this with our current iBeacon prototype at Razorfish UK.   

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Social App Discovery (prototype)

The app ecosystem has exploded over the last few years; creating inefficiencies for app discovery. Great for the platform vendors but not for the developers (or users), there have been numerous attempts to improve this, some of the obvious ones listed below (ignoring marketing tactics such as free-app-a-day):

  • Vertical and specialised app stores (Amazon, Samsung, Sony, …)
  • Cross promotional networks
  • Review sites
  • Increased categories
  • Improved recommendations
  • Third party apps (e.g. AppFlow, Appreciate, …)

This inefficiency is one major reason why Just-in-Time Interactions makes sense, especially as the app model extends to other platforms (desktop, TV, SmartWatchers, …).

Haven been faced this with question many times (how to market a mobile app) I thought I would have an attempt in making app discovery more relevant.

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Prototype for a Digital Innovation Contest (Games)

I came across a competition recently that sounded interesting (and of interest) – the competition is organised by a UK Government technology board called IC Tomorrow and sponsored by Google Chrome (details here). The competition is to explore new ways of initiating web apps using new technologies, description shown below:

New technology can change the way mobile web games are shared and initiated between players. Typically, mobile web games (i.e. those run in a browser, not native apps) are started by typing in a web address on a mobile device and shared by sending the address to friends. More innovative ways to start games’ sessions between users on the web will increase the potential for games to engage and attract players. This challenge seeks the development of a new service or new interaction that will encourage players to start their games’ sessions with other users with as little effort as possible.

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The growing need for an Advertising Broker Agent

While flicking through the news this morning I came across an article on Venture Beat talking about online advertising trends for 2014. One of those trend was the implications the absence of the cookie for targeted advertising (achieved by tracking the users past browsing), but also highlights the limitations of this approach for the new digital landscape (i.e. unable to track between devices). The article wraps-up by highlighting how internet titians are jumping in to fill this void (e.g. Clearinghouse from Mozilla, Google AdId, and others) and how this will lead to a central repository (for the user) to control privacy.

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Realising Just-in-time Interactions (the end of mobile apps)

Back in 2011 Scott Jenson, at the time a Creative Director at Frog, wrote an article titled Mobile Apps Must Die. In this post he claims, essentially, that the current model of searching, finding, and obtaining mobile applications is archaic and one that has been thoughtlessly taken from the desktop world. The main frustration is around discoverability, distribution, and fragmentation. Scott proposes a model where applications are made available to the user based on their current context, or rather, just-in-time, and delivered using ubiquitous web technologies.

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