What Are YOU Looking At?

The New York Times reports that Google has entered a partnership with the largest eyeglass company in the world, Luxottica Group, to design, manufacture and distribute frames for Google Glass, adding another piece to our on-going discussion here at Mobile Mind regarding the future of wearable computers. The Times also pointed out that some bars have banned patrons from wearing Google Glass, lawmakers see them as a distraction to drivers, and Homeland Security recently interrogated an Ohio man who was removed from a theater for wearing them.  Questions about security, safety, and copyright infringements abound. Google GlassAdding Ray-Ban and Oakley frames to Google Glass represents an effort to overcome the fashion objections.  But we see additional market challenges to Google Glass, as well as some unmentioned opportunities.

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but the acceptance of Google Glass may depend upon which side of the lens you’re on. This is where we see a particular advantage for Google Glass, not as a fashion statement, but as an occupational tool. Where the public senses a reasonable expectation or rationale for scrutiny, like in medicine or law enforcement, they might be more receptive to being observed through a smart lens by a doctor or a first responder in an emergency, rather than a creep on a barstool. In fact, Google Glass on the other side of the bar could afford wait staff (or bouncers) another chance for ID verification and a reduction in liability, if patrons could accept that. We think Google Glass could serve as a valid diagnostic tool for medical professionals, and an aid in reviewing and organizing cloud-based medical and insurance records. They might even enhance your doctor’s powers of observation, noting changes from one visit to the next. Of course, if you’re already intimidated by the State Trooper approaching your car in dark glasses, imagine the extra apprehension and sense of resignation when you know behind those shades he’s gathering information about you, your vehicle, and your passengers.

Android WearOr imagine Google Glass for TSA when you’re standing in the security line at the airport. Questions about profiling are reduced or eliminated if we’re all caught in the same Net. That friendly chat with the gate agent could have new implications when they add facial recognition and biometric readings for all: an arbitrary intrusion or the democratization of scrutiny?

As for “the masses”, we think they’ll see particular advantages over Google in owning one of the many smart watches about to flood the market. For instance, we don’t anticipate anyone being pulled over (or punched out) for checking their watch. And their low profile should serve as a plus versus the more conspicuous hand-held or nose-perched devices. Of course, we look forward to the expansion of wrist-worn devices as flexible displays are improved, allowing them to be embedded in a sleeve or other parts of clothing. Then the question will move from “What are you looking at?” to “What are you wearing?”


Like Minds Thinking Alike

University of North GeorgiaWe love Dahlonega, Lumpkin County and north Georgia and are eager to support our community in any way possible.   That includes providing Mobile Mind technologies for local groups and organizations utilizing local talent and resources in their development.   The demand for mobile apps continues to grow, not just globally but in our local community.  But until recently, finding skilled and educated individuals in the local community to help us build these applications has been extremely difficult.  However, that is about to change.

Thanks to Dr. Bryson Payne, Department Head of Computer Science & Information Systems at the University of North Georgia, the university is now offering a Mobile Application Development course beginning with this spring semester.  This course was initiated and developed by Dr. Payne who also teaches it.  In the course students are learning to develop mobile device applications for both Android and iOS devices, from simple games to advanced camera and sensor applications.  In the class they’re learning native Java and Objective-C for the Android and iPhone platforms, along with cross-platform development tools, by building games in both languages.  In addition, through service learning projects, the students get the opportunity to apply what they’re learning to solve a problem in the community, or to build their own app for sale in Google Play and the App Store. But this class is only the beginning!  Starting with this year’s fall semester in August the university will begin offering a Minor Degree in Mobile Application Development, the first university in north Georgia to offer such a degree!  This minor will provide students with both mobile and web application development expertise, for building complex client-and-server applications from a photo sharing app to the next Facebook or Twitter!

Mobile Mind is proud to be a community partner with the University of North Georgia.  We look forward to providing internship and local service learning opportunities for students enrolled in UNG’s mobile application development curriculum.  These opportunities will provide students with real-world experience in the mobile application industry using the same tools and skills they utilize in their daily coursework.   As members of the Mobile Mind team, students will have the opportunity to work with the local community and publish apps on a global scale.  And with our convenient office location less than a two minute walk from the university campus, they will never have to worry about being late for a meeting.

We at Mobile Mind would like to thank Dr. Payne and the University of North Georgia for the chance to work with them to expand the potential of their future graduates and to embrace the future in mobile technology.  We look forward to a continued and fruitful relationship!


It’s All in the Wrist

We at Mobile Mind regularly receive news via email and social media touting this or that latest and greatest cutting edge mobile device.  We usually dismiss these announcements as publicity stunts, propaganda or spam but one device in particular caught our attention this month.

Neptune Pine smartwatchThe “Pine” claims to be an all-in-one smartwatch with the functionality of a full-size Android smartphone.  It is the creation of Canadian company Neptune Computers that managed to gather over eight times their initial pledge goal of $100,000 on Kickstarter at the end of 2013.  Unlike current Bluetooth-tethered smartwatches, the Neptune Pine is described as an “independent smartwatch” featuring voice calls, video chat, GPS, a full keyboard and dual cameras.  It can also be paired with a belt clip, helmet mount or pulse counter for extended functionality.  For all the technical details and a chance to pre-order before the March 2014 release be sure to visit the Neptune Pine website.  Also be sure to check out this site to see a couple of interesting videos and a neat smartwatch comparison chart.

So, is it just a fad or is it a glimpse of things to come?  We’d like to think the latter.  We’ll be sure to post additional mobile “curiosities” that catch our attention and this year promises to be full of them.


Mobile New Year!

As another year comes to a close many big names in the mobile and technology industries have made their predictions of what tech and trends await us in the coming year.  We here at Mobile Mind take many of these with a grain of salt.  But for the sake of tradition we have put together a short list of those predictions that we think have a chance of coming true.

Watches, glasses and more flexible mobilewear

Mobile devices other than traditional smartphones are going to make a big appearance in the new year.  But with the development of flexible display materials they won’t be limited to just watches and glasses.  Depending on the flexibility of the material we might soon see mobile devices that can be folded into a wallet or purse or become part of your clothing.

Living in the Cloudcrystal ball

Distributed data storage will keep growing but so will the public’s wariness.  With the fear of government access to data stored in company cloud servers many people will turn to private cloud solutions instead.  These solutions will allow users to store and access their data on their own personal computers and home servers.


Javascript and XML will continue to be used to display dynamic web page content on mobile devices as an alternative to Adobe Flash or Java applets.  But more and more programmers will turn to JSON for data transmission because of its compactness and ease of use compared to XML.  But when will they start calling it AJAJ instead of AJAX?

Context awareness

Mobile devices will grow smarter and more aware of their users in the coming year.  They will utilize a variety of sensors to determine their current environment and your current situation and adapt their own functionality accordingly.  Some mobile devices already respond to hand gestures and facial expressions.  The coming year could bring voice analysis and posture recognition to help your device learn how to better serve your needs.


This article was researched using Google’s search engine, written using software developed by Google, and all on a mobile device manufactured by Google.  So it’s not too difficult to predict Google’s place in the world for 2014.  As this company continues to grow and becomes one of the biggest in the tech industry the question remains can it do so “without doing evil”?

Of course one can only appreciate the accuracy of any New Year’s prediction by reviewing those of the previous year.   But however this new year turns out we wish everyone a safe and prosperous one!

~ Mobile Mind Technologies


Eye Candy

The  holiday shopping season is in full swing and mobile devices are once again a popular item on many shopper’s lists.  While comparing the display specs of various smartphones and tablets shoppers will notice the term “pixel density” being thrown around a lot this year.  Pixel density is a measurement of display resolution and in the U.S. is usually expressed in pixels per inch or PPI.  Pixel density can be calculated by simply dividing the width or length of a device’s screen resolution in pixels by its physical width or length in inches.  For example, a screen with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels and physical dimensions of 4 x 3 inches equates to a pixel density of 200 PPI.   The pixel density of a screen determines how detailed of an image it can display with higher pixel densities resulting in increasingly sharper and clearer images.

AMOLED pixelsBut are there limits to just how sharp and clear an image a screen can display?  Technologically there appears to be no end in sight (pardon the pun) with new devices coming out every year with higher and higher pixel densities.  But what about the human eye?  Are there limits to how many pixels we can actually discern in a given inch of space?  According to late Apple founder Steve Jobs the “magic number” is about 300 PPI for a device held 10 to 12 inches from your eye’s retina.  With a pixel density of 326 PPI it is easy to understand how Apple came up with the name “Retina Display” for the screens of its newer iPhones, iPods and iPads.  Although some would argue that the number is higher it is generally accepted as correct for a person with 20/20 vision.  Of course the closer a device is held to the eye the higher the pixel density it can perceive.

This holiday season shoppers should keep in mind that most new smartphones and many new tablets feature screens with pixel densities greater than 300 and even 400 pixels per inch!  This will of course soon become the norm leaving mobile device users with a more important question to answer:  Exactly what size device works best for me?  Smartphones are typically between 4 and 6 inches long, making them pocket size while anything longer usually qualifies as a tablet.  But use is also a factor when considering what device to purchase.   No matter how high the pixel density, movies will always be hard to watch on a screen smaller than four inches while screen size is almost irrelevant for someone just looking for a phone.  Be sure to consider all these factors when shopping for that perfect mobile gift for yourself or someone else.  Happy Holidays!


Mobilis in Mobili

Nautilus enginesJules Verne is one of the pioneers of science fiction.  He kept close tabs on the cutting-edge science of his day and utilized this knowledge in his writings which often made logical, if not eerily accurate, predictions concerning future technologies.  In his novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea the submarine Nautilus is equipped with features that did not exist in Verne’s time but would become standard in the years to come.  The Nautilus is completely operated by electrical power including its propulsion, lighting and even cooking — a novel idea for any marine vessel in 1870.  Electricity was generated by what was essentially a giant renewable sodium/mercury-carbon battery, a primitive analog to today’s experimental sodium-ion batteries.  The submarine utilized fluorescent lighting several years before the invention of the electric light bulb.  Electricity was also used to distill fresh water from sea water and compress surface air into tanks.  The vessel also contained integrated airlocks from which divers wearing air tanks and regulators could enter and exit the ship.  All of this described decades before the invention of SCUBA gear.

The motto of the Nautilus was “Mobilis in Mobili” which is Latin for “Moving within mobility”.  This same motto also applies to Mobile Mind Technologies.  In Verne’s world his fantastical vessel navigated the seven seas.  In the real world Mobile Mind navigates a sea of constantly changing mobile technology while continuing to move forward and keeping an eye out for what lies just over the horizon.  We realize that we are living in an increasingly mobile world where smartphones and other mobile devices are just the beginning of what is to come.   Mobile technology is quickly becoming wearable with devices such as head-mounted displays (e.g “Google Glass”) and smartwatches (e.g. “Samsung Galaxy Gear”) just beginning to enter the market.  Flexible displays, wearable computers and smartclothes will soon follow.  And of course this will all become antiquated with the adoption of brain-computer interfaces and other cyberware.

Flexible displayIn anticipation of these revolutionary changes Mobile Mind has expanded its products and services beyond native mobile application development.   We now offer hybrid application development services and are planning to release some of our own hybrid apps in the future.  Hybrid apps allow companies with robust Web sites and infrastructures to utilize their current Web presence and investments while allowing them to enter the native OS markets.  Hybrid apps are more platform independent than native apps and therefore easier to build for a wide variety of operating systems and devices.  Hybrid apps are also easier to maintain because at least part of their content is stored on an external server.  Mobile Mind also offers responsive Web design services to select clients whose audience is more widely reached via the World Wide Web than with mobile device applications.   Mobile Web apps provide the greatest platform independence and the easiest maintenance compared to native and hybrid apps.  This flexibility and control can be extremely useful for companies who wish to readily display their online content on the widest variety of mobile devices both now and in the future.

Jules Verne embraced the newest electrical and mechanical technologies around him to create marvelous devices that at the time existed only in his imagination.   Mobile Mind embraces the latest mobile technologies to produce applications that exist on the equally marvelous but very real devices of today.  Our mobile world is constantly changing.  Our tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices were once objects of science fiction but are now almost ubiquitous.  Future technologies are certain to follow the same path and Mobile Mind will continue to move right along with them.


True Mobile Mobility

Helton Creek FallsThe term “mobile application” is usually used to describe a piece of software designed to run on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.   However a truly mobile app is one that is used while traveling and for travel and therefore typically utilizes a host of technologies such as GPS and Internet connectivity via Wi-Fi, 3G and/or 4G.  But as many travelers that use mobile devices will attest, the availability of these technologies can be uncertain and even nonexistent at times.

Wi-Fi is usually limited to stationary locations such as restaurants, hotels or tourist centers.  It is usually not an option when traveling by road or by foot in rural or wilderness areas.  3G and 4G data coverage has become widespread in recent years but can disappear when traveling underground, in mountainous terrain or too far from civilization.   And even though GPS encircles the planet it too can be lost  underground or even under dense foliage.

When Mobile Mind was presented with the opportunity to build the U.S. Forest Service’s first mobile application we had to take into consideration all of these communication limitations.  While developing the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests (CONF) app we always kept in mind that it would eventually be depended upon by hundreds, and potentially thousands of travelers.  They would use the app to locate and find their way to, and from, their favorite recreation sites and keep on top of the latest news and alerts issued by the U.S. Forest Service for their area.  So ironically we built this most mobile of mobile applications to be as least dependent upon mobile communications and connectivity as possible.

No Internet!

Caching maps is one of the first steps to ensure that a map-based mobile application like the CONF app will continue to function during intermittent Internet connectivity.  This approach is not straightforward however as storage space and retrieval time has to be balanced with availability of underlying base maps when communications fail.  We decided to hardcode the recreation site locations and details instead of streaming them to ensure that this information was always available to the user regardless of where they used the app.  Changes to the recreation site information and photos are infrequent enough that they can be made through periodic updates to the app itself.   As part of the detailed information for each recreation site we included the latitude and longitude coordinates for each site.  This can be useful when having to use another GPS device with a better connection or even traditional paper maps to find a rec site.  As a last line of defense for when all signal is lost we also included good old-fashioned written directions which anyone with an odometer and the ability to read street signs can use to get to their destination site.

Time critical information such as news, events and alerts are pulled from U.S. Forest Service web servers every time the app is started or the refresh button is touched.  This information is stored on the device for display when there is no Internet connectivity so the user is not stuck viewing a blank screen.  We also made sure the CONF app displays an alert when there is no Internet connection so the user immediately knows whether the app is running in online or offline mode.

The key to creating useful and functional travel apps is to realize and accept the limitations of modern telecommunications technology and to build fallbacks into the application so that it can continue to operate and assist the user regardless of connectivity.   Even if these fallbacks utilize centuries old analog technology it is better than letting a hiker deep in the woods or a driver high on a mountain become lost or stranded.  Many of us here at Mobile Mind love and enjoy our National Forests, but we would hate to be left staring at a blank screen when we’re left without a signal.


Get the App!

CONF app flyerThe U.S. Forest Service has created a flyer advertising the new Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests mobile application developed by Mobile Mind and published by us in July.  The 8.5 x 11 inch flyer is free to download in a printable PDF format from the Forest Service website here.  The flyer is colorful, informative and can be displayed in a variety of settings.  You may soon see them at local businesses.  QR codes at the bottom of the flyer allow visitors to scan and download the app for both iOS and Android devices.

A few months ago we posted our opinion on the use, and abuse, of QR codes in today’s society.  Although we favor the artistic and creative use of QR codes, good old fashioned black and white squares are actually advantageous when lighting conditions are unknown or could vary.   In these conditions you want to give visitors the best chance to successfully scan the displayed QR code on the first try.  We think the simple and fun design of the Forest Service flyer accomplishes this nicely!


Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests

Chattahoochee-Oconee National ForestsIt took a team with true long-term vision, not one just looking for short-term rewards, to make our latest mobile app a reality.   There were a few challenges along the way, a few obstacles to be overcome, but thanks to the perseverance of our talented group of designers and developers we have finally released the official mobile application of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests!

With our latest app users have all the information they need to navigate and experience Georgia’s two national forests. This app is absolutely free and initially includes information about the facilities and opportunities available in 49 different recreation sites in both the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests.    These recreational opportunities include hiking, camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, off-roading, horseback riding, mountain biking, and sightseeing.  The sites are presented in both a map and list view and can be filtered by the recreational activities selected by the user.  The app also displays the latest news, events and alerts related to the national forests and to specific recreation sites so visitors are always kept informed, safe and secure.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank those folks at the U.S. Forest Service who had the foresight, insight and patience to initiate this project and see it through to the end.  It was their encouragement that helped us get through the tough times and their praise that made it all worthwhile when the job was done.  Together we plan to add more recreation sites and more features to the app to make it even easier to use, more fun to use and all the more valuable of a tool for visitors to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests!


Google Nexus and HSPA+

Nexus 4Google’s Nexus phones and tablets are currently hot sellers.  All models feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but the Nexus 4 and some Nexus 7 models are also compatible with HSPA+ wireless networks.  But what exactly is HSPA+?  This question is not an uncommon one, particularly here in the United States where we are more familiar with its predecessor, 3G.   HSPA+ stands for Evolved High-Speed Packet Access and is a wireless communications standard that enhances the data speed of 3G networks.  In fact it is considered the pinnacle of speed for 3G networks.

Nexus 7

What makes HSPA unfamiliar in the US is how the technology is presented by the two biggest carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile.  Both carriers use the term “4G” to refer to their HSPA+ networks, though this is not to be confused with the term “4G LTE”.   LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution, a wireless communications standard based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA network technologies.  So in actuality both of these terms refer to 3G, not true 4G, or fourth generation, mobile communications technology standards.

So how does HSPA+ compare to LTE?  In terms of speed HSPA+ offers up to 42 Mbps downloads and 11.5 Mbps uploads while LTE can potentially deliver speeds of 300 Mbps for downloads and 75 Mbps for uploads.  But realistically a typical user can expect up to 10-15 Mbps download speeds for HSPA+ with that currently being the lower end for 4G LTE users.   However 4G LTE service requires the building of completely new infrastructure and so is still limited in availability outside the United States and even in some areas within the US.  Whereas HSPA+ is available to all current 3G networks which provide the majority of coverage around the world, particularly Europe, Asia and South America.  So although the Nexus line of devices may represent the perfect marriage of the Android OS with mobile hardware, consider your network options for your location or travel destinations before you purchase.