Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Do we want technology to be able to reach us wherever we go?

rural landscape
Photo credit - Gian[The Ciccio]'s

Over the last few years we've seen a massive growth in the mobile technology area.

Now, as we become more dependent on these technologies, we often find ourselves wanting in terms of coverage.

Over 27% of the UK's mobile user population now use their devices to connect to the internet in order to receive e-mails, update social applications, access online maps and many other uses.

The adoption of technologies such as femtocells to improve mobile signals at home are one solution to more macro issues, but receiving a good 3G signal in some of the countries "not-spots" continues to be an issue.

With an ever increasing demand to use mobile technologies, and more importantly the increasing demand for mobile data, we are likely to see an ever increasing number of ground based mobile antennas improving our national mobile coverage.

But in this chase to improve data connectivity is anyone considering the flipside of the coin?

Do we all really want data/mobile access everywhere we go?

I remember my time in London as an infrastructure engineer, I was pretty much on call 24/7/365. I used to relish tube journeys where just for a few minutes I would drop out of mobile reception ensuring some time without intrusion.

As a semi counterpoint to my last post, is anyone ensuring that we protect not only the landscape from the infringement of mobile transmission towers from an aesthetic perspective; but also attempt to protect the solitude and escapism that can be attractive in the more remote parts of this already heavily populated country?

Speaking for myself here, I always carry my mobile with me whilst out on the hills, either mountaineering or fell running, in case I have an accident and need to call for help. But I don't rely on it.

In addition, when I am out in the mountains the last thing I'd want would be someone disturbing my thoughts with a mobile call or for that matter the person next to me whittering away about a subject or world that just for that moment I'm trying to forget about.

In the dash for 24 hour connectivity are we as a species going to lose anything about our character if we are always hooked up to a global network of communication?

Do we need our isolation in order to be able to reflect on the busier moments in life with better perspective?

Or, at least, should those that do want the isolation be able to choose to visit these locations without the intrusion of other visitors bringing their technology with them?

Obviously there are a number of technologies that are already out there in regular use that negate the need for mobile transmissions in order to operate.

Satellite dependant technologies already jump geographical boundaries that the likes of GPRS and GSM are unable to compete with.

But the use of satellite phones for voice communications is still a rarity mainly due to the prohibitive costs of hardware and network subscriptions.

GPS devices are common place in the mountains, although I do find them a more regular sight in the less remote locations with leisurely Sunday walkers ensuring they are fully kitted up with the latest and greatest of outdoor kit.

GPS, however, does not allow you to perform communication between other device users, instead simply allows you to discover and track your location.

Technologies can bring economic benefits to remote regions but, like the highways that came before them, they can also bring intrusion and unwelcome change.

From an overall stand point I am an active supporter of ensuring that wired broadband technology should be available to all, in all areas.

But from a wireless or air-bound perspective, I'd like to think that we as a nation would perform some protection of the sanctuary that can be found in the more remote parts of our busy island from the ever growing world of mobile technology.

What are your thoughts?


Related reading:

When is Google going to starting using OS maps? - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2010/02/when-is-google-going-to-starting-using.html

Data Management - The social world is a vast multiplier of data - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2010/02/data-management-social-world-is-vast.html

The future of digital - So where do we go now? - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2009/08/so-where-do-we-go-now.html

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Thursday, 11 February 2010

When is Google going to starting using OS maps?

Map of Wasdale Head
I like maps, always have.

There's something aesthetically pleasing about their appearance, well good ones, but also they're a great method of illustrating content.

I'm not talking about your average tourist brochure map here, more your outdoor pursuit suitable maps.

In this world of cartographic data you'd be hard pushed to find a more reliable and excellently executed example of good cartography than the products that Ordnance Survey (OS) produce.

Their contoured, graphically clear maps can be spell binding for me as I envisage new areas that I'm exploring, creating a 3D landscape in my mind.

Working in the digital arena I'm always interested to see new digital developments on the map front.

One of the better known innovators or certainly technologists of modern times is the Google corporation. Google have introduced some truly interesting ways of improving methods of displaying and utilising content through the map format over the last 5 years or so.

That said, Google have continually let me down with their implementation of the "Terrain" feature or similar alternatives. Okay, it shows that there are hills, but come on I need more context.

Why don't Google use OS maps for this particular requirement like many other digital map solutions do such as Streetmap?

I thought this was a simple question and after some quick investigation it seemed like it might be a simple answer.

It seems to bore down to the fact that Google are obsessed about owning all content that they publish. There have been numerous articles published on issues with Google terms of use and using Ordnance Survey data.

Following the governments key advisers reading books such as Groudswell and Here Comes Everybody (no affiliate links on here) it seems as though the UK government have woken up to the fact that sharing valuable data can extend the benefit of that data for the greater good and they've embarked on a program of "active sharing".

So here we are a few months later and the government has announced an active plan to make OS data available to the public. News stories cover the decision far and wide.

Yet has this really changed the relationship between Google and OS at all? It seems not, while the UK Government have taken the giant, but long overdue, leap of faith by opting to free up data in the public interest, Google are still mired in their obsession with wanting to own the data world.

This has only been further illustrated just this very week with Googles announcements about their social media platform Buzz and their decision to dive into the broadband market.

Google seem to be dead set on ensuring they have a piece of all action going on in this fast developing digital world, leaving their fingerprint on historical records of the rise of a data giant.

So where do we go from here. When are Google going to start adopting the same trend curve the rest of the world is surfing on and start thinking Open Source?

Yeah sure they use Android on their phones, but from what I've read the latest incarnation is actually taking ownership away from the community and taking it back to a more exclusive environment.

They are already in the OS market, PC and mobile, now the social landscape (although they've been there for a while with Blogger and other tools), search is theirs, video is doing pretty well on YouTube.

At the end of the day all I am really looking for from Google is for them to accept that they can't have sole rights to the data world and give people in rural areas or with rural activity interests, access to decent map data?

The popularity of Google software, and now hardware, can only mean that Google maps are going to become more widely used and accessible.

When are Google going make an concerted effort to address this failing properly and focus on good content rather than spending money on the likes of snow mobiles to improve their great, but supplementary to requirements, Street View.

Come on Google, surely you can illustrate the flexibilities of modern corporations to create new rules in order to improve your customer offering?

Or perhaps they can't . . .

I'm going to talk some more about how technology, and the pioneers behind technology, should be working more to penetrate remote geographical areas of the world for the greater good at some other time.

I'll leave this post on a commercial point, Google only need to look to the percentage of time the average adult spends pursuing outdoor activities to see how this could benefit their application uptake to justify some further improvement in this area.

But I would hope that for company that seems to base at least some of its core principles on actions for the greater good that it could endeavour to do better with its rural map service without the need for commercial reasoning.


Further reading:

Data Management - The social world is a vast multiplier of data - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2010/02/data-management-social-world-is-vast.html

Data visualisation - The beauty inside the data - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2009/05/data-visualisation-beauty-inside-data.html

Sharing content - Extending the value of existing data - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2009/03/sharing-content-extending-value-of.html

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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Data Management - The social world is a vast multiplier of data

database diagram
Photo credit - Michel Vuijlsteke's


In this world of disparate data sources it is now more important than ever before to ensure you have good data architecture/structure and validity.

While the world may currently be obsessed with the adoption and influence of social technologies, their benefits will not as readily realised without a thorough understanding and a strategic plan in place for the management of collated data.

The likes of CRM, e-mail marketing and contact management systems have been a round for some time now, allowing customer service teams to track contacts and relationship developments for their customers.

With the advent of two-way/group communication and web interfaces such as forums, comments, product review sites and now more recently social media products such as Twitter, Facebook et al, the amount of valuable data that a company could be tracking has increased significantly.

More importantly, this data is often far more valuable than the previously recorded data in the likes of CRM's.

Unlike the data recorded in more traditional customer relationship/management platforms, this current breed of data is usually written by the customer themselves. It's direct from the horse's mouth.

There's no need to guess what the customer might desire for your next release, they're actually telling you directly.

If my experience (gained from a decade or more working in enterprise environments as a infrastructure manager) is anything to go by, business units will be embarking on little engagement projects perhaps without thinking about the bigger picture.

Possibly gathering data without consideration of how that could be merged with pre-existing data to provide better insight, or how this specific data could benefit another arm of the business.

The data gathered from all of these sources can add up to provide a real profile of your customers. Amongst other things, allowing you to identify brand advocates to empower your product in this dynamic environment, but also to find customers that are less impressed and might require customer assistance to help with improving their experience of your brand.

It can help you pinpoint minor issues before they develop into major problems. It can provide insight into which products are looking like they might be big hits compared to their less favoured counter products.

A final point, that is a powerful reason for this approach, is that it should significantly reduce the chance of accidental spamming of certain customers by multiple departments using the same contact details without knowledge of their actions.

So what data should we be considering when embarking on this data consolidation?

Well the list is slowly becoming more and more expansive, but items that should be consider are predominantly within the social tools field. This could include Facebook conversations, Twitter streams, LinkedIn conversations and contacts and the often forgotten realm of the blog comment.

There are a number of companies out there that can help you with information monitoring such as this.

These data sources need to be combined with the usual pre-existing data sources such as e-mail marketing databases, CRM's and other customer relationship data sets.

When reviewing your on-line budgets for the year it might be idea to consider the value of this data consolidation project before embarking on your next all singing and dancing website.

Not that I'd want to put you off that as well . . .

Once a data consolidation platform is in place it should provide you with a single source for all of your customer relationship and information. Investing in a development company's time to assist you with this process should be money well spent.

If you need to restrict access to certain elements of the data to certain departments within your organisation, then do this within a single application, ensuring that the validity of your data is preserved.

The data out there about your brand or product has multiplied ten-fold over the last decade in this self-publishing/self-editorial generation.

We should all be making a concerted effort to ensure that we are compiling and reviewing this data to gain the greatest insight into our customers wants and needs.


Related links

Why bother with social media? - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2009/06/why-bother-with-social-media.html

The cost of social media - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2009/04/what-is-cost-of-social-media.html

Sharing content - Extending the value of existing data - Digital Signals http://www.digital-constructions.com/blog/2009/03/sharing-content-extending-value-of.html

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