Monday, February 06, 2012

Internet for the Rest of the World: The Mobile Phone

Greetings from the first Mobile Monday Sydney for 2012. I gave the first talk on "New Ways of Learning to Work: With E-books and E-Learning", this was followed by "VoIP via Mobile Phone: by Dan from VTalk. The last talk now underway is by Mark from Binu on "How to Make a Feature Phone Smarter using the Cloud". Binu uses the Amazon compute cloud to provide a virtual smart-phone server. They host "apps" in the cloud, to overcome the limited processing and storage capacity of non-smart phones. The interesting part of this is that Binu argue they have found a profitable business in providing a service to African customers. What I find interesting is that this same service could be used to provide education, via mobile phones.

Dan argues that these low cost phones, which are popular in developing nations are capable of providing the type of services currently though of as requiring a smart phone. This makes sense as most low cost phones thought of as "dumb" actually have a web browser built in, this is a WAP browser, which was intended to provide simple information services, but was overtaken by smart phones.

Binu's approach is similar to that used by Amazon for their Kindle Fire Tablet Computer. Knidle carry out processing of web content on their cloud computer server and then use the tablet computer essentially as a graphics terminal. This allows a lower cost lower power device to be sued and also reduces the amount of data being communicated (if the application is well designed). It happens I wrote a multi-part article about this for the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch newsletter in 1991, which then lead to a Defense Department sponsored project. With the passage of time some of this has become easier, but other parts have become harder.

At question time the issue of security came up. As with Amazon's service, Binu's by its nature has access to more information that where a conventional web browser is used. Because the apps run on the server, the company could, if they wished to, have access to the internal information. Obviously, like any company, Binu is required to provide information demanded by national security authorities, under national laws.

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