Dahlonega Technology Roundup 1914

The following article was written by Mobile Mind owner Shannon Sims and originally published as a two-part guest column in the December 17 and December 31, 2014 editions of our local newspaper The Dahlonega Nugget.

When I first moved my company’s offices to the Sargent Building on the Dahlonega Public Square over a year ago the irony of a cutting-edge technology business being headquartered in a century-old historic building was not lost on us.  I became particularly intrigued when I soon found out that the Sargent Building opened in 1911 as the Dahlonega Hotel and was one of the first buildings in Dahlonega to have electricity.  The electricity was supplied by a dynamo turned by water directed from Yahoola Creek via an aqueduct called the “Hand Ditch”.  It was left still operational by the then bankrupted Consolidated Mining Company at their huge but mainly fruitless gold mine east of town.

The early twentieth century was a time of great technological advancement, including the introduction of electrical power, in the United States.  I began to wonder how much of this technology, besides electricity, was available to the citizens and visitors of Dahlonega back during this incredible period of innovation a hundred years ago.  After several months of research, including the much appreciated assistance of local historian and author, Anne Amerson, I discovered that not only was Dahlonega not the backwoods town as many outsiders may have perceived it, but that it was a city that embraced the many new technologies available at the turn of the last century.

Antique Rambler advertisementAmong the many innovations that emerged during the first two decades of the twentieth century, one that was arguably just as important as electrical power was the automobile.  These newfangled “horseless carriages” were a sight in Dahlonega as early as 1906, two years before the production of Henry Ford’s famous Model T.  In May of that year brothers Bob and Frank Meaders purchased a Jeffery’s Rambler in Atlanta and used a team of horses to help get it up the final long steep climb of a hill on the outskirts of Dahlonega.  At the top of the hill Frank cranked it up, revved the two-stroke engine and drove down into town as people gathered on the Public Square to cheer him on.

Postal service in Dahlonega dates back to the founding of the town in 1833 and in 1914 the Postmaster was none other than the aforementioned Frank Meaders.  Back then sending or receiving “snail mail” would have involved only a short walk across the Public Square to the current location of the Dahlonega Tasting Room in the building built by Frank for the main purpose of housing the local post office and the local bank.  At the time, providing an actual location for the post office was the responsibility of the Postmaster after all.  But before automobiles became more widespread waiting for that letter to arrive could have taken weeks.

Candlestick phone modern photographRadio was still in its infancy a century ago and primarily being used for wireless telegraph utilizing the well known Morse code.  If you happened to have access to electrical power and could build your own amateur radio kit you could tap out messages to a handful of other “ham” operators around the Southeast, but not much else.  Sending an official telegraph message to any major town or city still required a trip to a commercial telegraph station, the closest one of which was located in Gainesville.

For the fastest and most reliable communication nothing could beat the telephone.  And apparently, like most of the cutting edge technologies of the era, the Meaders brothers had to have it.  So in 1900, Bob and three partners built a phone line all the way to Gainesville to provide telephone service for such places as venerable North Georgia College, the doomed Consolidated Mining Company, and Bob’s family’s general store in their corner building on the Square where The Dahlonega Fudge Factory presently resides.  By 1914 the Bell companies and their exchanges had come to town and hundreds of residences in Dahlonega and Lumpkin County were connected to the rest of the country, and now had phone bills.

Cane Creek wheel period photographDahlonega’s adoption of innovative technologies in the early 1900s allowed its citizens and visitors to become more productive and, for the first time in their history, actually have some spare time on their hands.  So I could not help but wonder how they might have spent their free time utilizing the newest technologies of their day.  The first portable cameras had recently  become commercially available and were quickly gaining popularity thanks to the Eastman Kodak Company and their hot selling “Brownie” product line.  Bicycles had made their first appearance in Dahlonega back in 1893 when a stranger rode one into town.  But you would have to wait until the turn of the century before you could purchase one with electric-powered lights.  Silent movies were also becoming a very important form of entertainment but viewing them required the very technology that first piqued my interest:  electricity.   Although several silent movies were filmed in and around Dahlonega, including the The Plunderer in 1915, there wasn’t a movie theater in town until the mid-20s when Robert D. Howser opened one at the location now occupied by the Picnic Café on the south side of the Public Square.  But that was only possible after he installed a giant water wheel at Cane Creek Falls in 1921 to supply electricity to the town and his film projector’s 1000-watt light bulb.  The Hand Ditch that had originally supplied electricity to the town eventually sprung one too many leaks and apparently left Dahlonega in darkness for a number of years.  Such is progress!


~ A special thanks to Anne Amerson and a Happy New Year from Mobile Mind! ~


Mobile Mind-blowing Gift Ideas

Since last Christmas we have blogged about evolving mobile technologies, particularly wearable devices, and their place in our lives and in society.  We predicted we would see many new examples of such technologies on the market in the near future and secretly hoped some of them would be around in time for our holiday shopping this year.  Well, we can’t say we aren’t a little disappointed in our options, especially when it comes to wearables such as smartwatches.  Sure, there are plenty of wrist devices out there that you can use to track your fitness or tether to your existing smartphone.  But other than the Samsung Gear S, QOne or previously posted Neptune Pine there are very few that are true self-contained devices that can make calls on their own, run apps like their larger counterparts, and are readily available for purchase.    Other mobile gift ideas, such as projected keyboards and Bluetooth talking gloves, don’t really seem all that evolved and left us wondering if we shouldn’t just give up and go analog this year.

But before we took that drastic step we Skyped Santa and asked him for a few suggestions.  He pointed us to the following miraculously innovative pieces of mobile technology.  And when we say innovative we mean bleeding-edge 22nd Century mobile mind-blowing stuff.   Yes, it is all real and yes, we know you’ll want it under your tree this holiday season.

Holographic Displays for Mobile Devices

Photo of boys with Holho deviceItalian company HOLHO produces a line of multifaceted devices that when used with their complimentary mobile application enables your mobile device to generate three dimensional images and video with stunning detail.   You can also use their app to film objects and people and display them on your Holho device (dark background required).  Particularly trained and talented individuals can even create their own images and videos from scratch and display them straight on a device.  We’ve seen this technology in museums before and we’re not sure if it technically qualifies as holographic.  But who technically cares?  These devices would certainly be useful for business presentations or product demos or viewing messages from the Rebel Alliance.   The Holho devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes including three and four-sided pyramids accommodating smartphones and tablets.  Best of all, most models are priced at under $100!

Scent-based Mobile Messaging

Photo of woman sniffing oPhoneWe already interact with our mobile devices via our senses of sight, hearing and touch.  But if Vapor Communications is successful you will soon be able to send smells via mobile messages, or oNotes, using their oSnap mobile app for iPhone and receive them using your very own odor emitting oPhone device.  The oPhone uses oChips which contain a total of 32 different aromas that can be combined to create more than 300,000 unique scents.  We personally think that such a device is ripe (pardon the pun) for abuse in both humorous and disturbing ways.  Nevertheless we can see the oPhone becoming popular with foodies and chefs, perhaps used for testing fragrances, and maybe even as a teaching or training tool.  Unfortunately the oPhone isn’t scheduled for mainstream production until next year.  So for this holiday season you’ll have to settle for downloading the app and sending an oNote to a beta version of an oPhone located at the Café ArtScience in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Coutume Café in Paris, France.  Beta version?  That could make for an interesting trip this holiday season.

Mind-controlled Mobile Applications

We aren’t called Mobile Mind for just any reason.  Though we appreciate mobile devices that enhance and titillate our five senses (yes you know the tastePhone is coming next) what we appreciate even more is a device that doesn’t require them at all and solely relies on the power of your mind…and one AAA battery.  Yes such a device really exists and is available for just under 100 Euro via MindTec (love the name) and their online store.  The Neurosky MindWave is an EEG Headset that uses built-in sensors to read your brain’s electrical activity and transmit the data to your mobile device.  There you can use the MindWave to interact with a variety of mobile apps available from the MindTec App Store.  With these apps you can stimulate your brain, increase your cognitive skills and even play games – with your mind!

Photo of man wearing Mindwave device with Google GlassAdmittedly we can’t decide which poses a bigger threat to our sense of fashion:  the MindWave or Google Glass.  They both stick out from your face and make you look like an extra in a sci-fi movie.  But if fashion means little to you or you’re searching for a more surreptitious way to take photos with your glasses then look no further than the MindRDR open source app for Google Glass.  This nifty little app allows you to use a Neurosky Mindwave device to take photos with Google Glass and post them to Facebook or Twitter.  No hands or voice needed, just think…and it happens.  This in itself would make for a somewhat creepy gift idea.  But anyone who is rigged up like this isn’t exactly going to blend in, are they?  Keep that in mind when adding this to your shopping list.  If your friend, colleague or loved-one is already considered a Glasshole you certainly wouldn’t want to make them look like a Glasshat at their next outing.

~Happy shopping and Happy Holidays from the Mobile Mind team!


Guided Discovery

What could be more emblematic of our heritage as hunter-gatherers, in our modern era, than electronic devices that hunt and gather information, that lead us to people we want to meet and places where we want to eat, shop, and play? In our article on facial recognition and biometric security (“What Happens in Vegas”, August 2014), we alluded to some concerns about involuntary exposure to visual recognition, and being tagged by face, time, and place. But if you’re willing to offer up your demographic identity and current location, you can interact with a range of mobile apps that help you participate in the world around you, on terms you define, to take advantage of opportunities you might not otherwise learn about.

ompass symbolMarketing and commerce companies have turned to some educational concepts to offer customers a self-determined approach to gathering and using information, epitomized by our emerging generation of apps, which depend upon your subscription to curators of information on subjects you wish to track. In educational terms, “exposition” and “instruction”, where a curriculum is designated by a teacher, moving from generalities to specifics, is being replaced in the apps world by “guided discovery”, which starts with specifics and leads the learner toward unique insights, progressing with its conceptual partner, “exploration”, into your chosen pursuit of information and adventure.

Curating data allows companies to perceive trends in product interest, but also the geographic realms where those trends are developing. For instance, the Japanese casual wear brand Uniglo used the commentary on social media to roll out “pop-up” stores in locations close to where they saw a greater number of potential shoppers commenting on outfits they’d tried or places they’d shopped. The goal of these retailers is to identify who is browsing a website, and from which location, allowing them to offer relevant deals to a potential customer in real-time; and they’ve discovered it’s even better to collect consumer data on cell phones because they come with a unique device identity.

Product forums like Pinterest are increasingly used to crowd source data and offer suggestions based on preferences or interests a consumer has demonstrated in the past, pushing deals and guiding them to products and retailers that might interest them. Once you’ve landed on their site, retailers depend on knowledge of their customers for product development, but especially for productive recommendations. About 35 percent of sales for Amazon depend on its recommendations, and 75 percent of sales at Netflix are directly tied to guided search or recommendation. Other retailers report that recommendations can help to increase their average purchase between 75 and 100 percent.

magnifying glassBusinesses are also customizing their home pages according to a customer’s profile, so the landing page for an in-coming customer will vary according to their online profile, and the list of products you’ll be shown may also have been refined to reflect past purchases or perceived interests, saving you time and effort devoted to wading through products that don’t interest you. The additional benefit to retailers will be your general impression of their store as an easy place to shop, encouraging you to recommend them to others who may not even share your tastes or style, but will still enter with the expectation of a positive experience. The stores also gain guidance for customized e-mails, which have proven to have a response rate three times greater than regular e-mails.

It’s a huge give and take between retailers and customers: browse and be browsed. If you visit a site, but leave without buying, you’re likely to see an ad for that retailer next time you’re on Facebook or other social media sites. But you don’t have to wait to be noticed as part of a statistical set on social media to find what interests you. This is one great benefit of mobile apps: your ability to subscribe to the curators of information you care about. Restaurants and other businesses with loyalty programs know when you’re in the vicinity, and can alert you to storefronts in a city you’re visiting, or a special deal at a location two blocks away. And guided discovery doesn’t have to be about shopping. An app called Guardly allows you to transmit your GPS location to authorities, family and friends in an emergency. Similar features on apps like Find My Friends allow people to locate one another in real time, indoors or outside. And if you want to find your way to a place that interests you, and find your way around once you get there, apps like Mobile Mind’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest are guides to discovery, too.


What Happens in Vegas

Guardians of our civil liberties sounded their alarms when, in 2001, it was revealed that criminals with outstanding warrants who had chosen to attend Super Bowl XXXV had been detained after being identified by facial recognition software installed at the Tampa stadium hosting the event. Fears over unconstitutional intrusions invited subsequent reporting on the growing use of facial recognition in crime deterrence and denial of service in places like the casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

First marketed in 1996, facial recognition software immediately demonstrated its utility by identifying eight baccarat cheats after three days of use at Trump Marina, and it continues to be a valuable tool to protect businesses and the public. But are sports and gambling venues serving as the real world proving ground for the aspirations of the TSA, the NSA, the CIA, and the FBI? Run by private enterprises attended by willing participants, it’s a business security application. Does it raise different questions if the application is law enforcement in a public place, or in a private venue?

Face detectionThere are several methods of facial recognition in use now, with more sophisticated programs in development for law enforcement and commercial use. For example, current Principal-Component Analysis (PCA) and Linear-Discriminant Analysis (LDA) technologies are useful in controlled environments – comparing mug shots and other “front facing” photos for skin and hair color, et cetera.  But Elastic Bunch Graph Matching (EBGM) creates 3D models from two-dimensional images, mapping “fiducial” anchor points to a latitude and longitude grid of a subject’s head, from as few as a half dozen anchor points to as many as 40,000. This can account and correct for poor lighting and odd angles, and even partial images. EBGM can build a model from as few as 80 pixels between a subject’s eyes, and as few as two images to create a 3D reconstruction.

The FBI is currently upgrading its facial recognition system with the help of Lockheed as part of its Next Generation Identification (NGI) program.  Nonetheless, the FBI’s facial recognition reliability is still said to hover around 85%, and their database is predicted to reach 52 million by next year, whereas Facebook already has a face image bank of around 250 billion. Facebook makes face tagging suggestions for you to confirm, which depends largely on reported human recognition. But their DeepFace software project has demonstrated accurate recognition of individual faces 97.25% of the time, just slightly behind human accuracy at 97.53%. The implication is that commercial and social media can, for now, identify your face more reliably than the FBI, but maybe not as accurately as your Mom.

MORIS app in actionIn use now by some law enforcement agencies, MORIS (Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System) is a mobile app for iOS and Android devices that requires portable add-on equipment for face or iris scans, as well as a metal panel for fingerprints in the field, making it easier to positively identify accident victims or people without documents. Fingerprints can and may be used against you, but fingerprint identification can also be used to protect access to your mobile phone and other devices. And there are other positive uses in development for facial recognition and other biometrics. For instance, facial recognition software has recently been used in combination with X-rays to identify and locate cancer, possibly leading to earlier detection and accurately focused treatment.

As we described in our comparisons of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Apple iPhone 5S (Choosing Worlds – Part One, May 31, 2014) fingerprint recognition is used by both as the preferred method to access your mobile phone. At the time, we reported that only the fingerprint scanner of the Galaxy S5 could be put to other uses such as verifying PayPal transactions or being accessed by third party apps.  But this summer Apple reported its Touch ID fingerprint recognition technology will be opened to third party developers sometime this fall with the release of iOS 8. In the meantime, a few Galaxy S5 fingerprint identifying apps are starting to appear, such as “LastPass”, a password manager available on Google Play. Others are sure to follow as the value of fingerprint identification is recognized and trusted by more and more users. A password manager for the iOS platform, “1Password”, as well as financial apps like “Mint” will be utilizing the Touch ID technology, though in conjunction with traditional passwords for now, as user confidence grows.

We’re told if we’re doing nothing wrong, we have nothing to worry about.You might not be worried about the FBI, or a greater threat like your Mom, but what about that stranger eyeing you on the train? A new app called “NameTag” has been developed for Google Glass, iOS, and Android, that allows the user to snap a photo of you, and immediately link your facially recognized identity to your social network pages and relationship status, allowing them to make an informed decision on whether to ask you out, leave you alone, or perhaps follow you home. Here we try to figure out a clever reference to The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.

But it’s not our purpose to present biometrics as a source of gloom and paranoia. We’ll soon follow up with an exploration of Guided Discovery, and apps being developed for people who want to be seen and found, accurately identified, and directed to other people and places they might want to discover. You may not be able to hide at the Super Bowl, but you can decide to participate in the new world of biometric recognition, personal location, and offers tied to your stated preferences, and use the give and take of information to your advantage, in a voluntary way and at the time and place of your choosing.

iPhone 5s Touch ID


Choosing Worlds – Part Two

Meet the Family

Whether your first major tech purchase is a mobile phone or a home computer, there are implications from day one, as you choose the type of products you will need to coordinate and integrate into your personalized information network. As you acquire laptops, tablets and other devices that work in cooperation with your smartphone, you’ll want to consider which products work best together. As we suggested in Choosing Worlds: Part One, it might be advantageous to take the long view at the outset, before the choice between devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the Apple iPhone 5S locks you into a family or suite of products, and enforces brand loyalties upon you that you might not have intended or understood going in.

Android logoOperability between Apple iOS devices via iCloud, or between Google Android devices via Google Play, is something to consider based on the features you actually need to use or to be able to modify on your own. The popular perception of an iOS device versus an Android device may provide an instructive generality that could indicate the product line you’re inclined to be happier with: Apple devices offer fewer options, but are simpler and easier to use, while Android devices afford more flexibility, but more complexity, which requires more technical knowledge and a longer learning curve for the user. You’ll have to decide what kind of user you are, and which product line best fits you.

Some differences can be accommodated by purchasing additional apps that may level the field in certain respects, but you’ll want to understand which features are native to a particular product, and the cumulative costs of adding “missing” features, which can be accommodated by acquiring free or inexpensive apps, but only if they’re available for your device. Because statistically iDevice users are more willing to pay for apps, developers of games and other apps often publish for iPhones and iPods first, and develop subsequent versions for the iPad before creating a version for Android devices. The e-mail app Mailbox is one example of this trend.  Nonetheless, Google does boast superiority in some categories, especially where their apps maintain an advantage over the versions they create for iOS, such as its Maps app, and their unique app offerings such as Google Sky and Google Goggles.

Extended Family

iOS logoExpanding your device network to include your television, stereo and other media devices adds versatility, but can also be limited by compatibility. For example, connecting your mobile phone to your television not only allows you big screen visibility, it can allow you to use apps that don’t have a desktop alternative in a larger format than your phone. The Samsung S5 along with many newer Android smartphones can display media on televisions and other DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certified devices or by utilizing streaming media devices such as Roku or Chromecast and their corresponding apps.  The iPhone 5S and other iOS devices can display media via an Apple TV or other AirPlay compatible streaming media devices.  However the two systems are not cross-compatible and it is only through third-party vendors and their apps that users can stream media from either family of devices.  The same will certainly hold true when it comes to new wearable devices soon to be released by both Google and Apple in the coming months.   And users may even face this dilemma when it comes to their future choice of vehicle thanks to the recently announced Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems.

Again, consumers must consider that when they purchase a device (or soon an automobile!), whether Android or iOS, they are also buying into a platform and its family of devices.  Planned obsolescence notwithstanding, you and your “family” will likely be together a long time. Considering the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the Apple iPhone 5S as starting points toward a deeper product line engagement, the choice of a smartphone might not be such a simple proposition, but one with broader and deeper implications for long term adaptability and expense.  So choose which world you want to live in wisely!


Choosing Worlds – Part One

Physical Attractions

Commitment starts with first impressions. Physical attributes, cosmetic and practical, as well as the way you operate and interact, can determine your potential for compatibility. Available resources and your intuition about future developments can also sustain or discourage deeper commitment over time, and continued attachment can be influenced by seemingly pragmatic considerations and the recognition that it can become impractical or expensive to change your mind at some later date, reinforcing your initial decision in spite of intractable problems as time goes on. Degrees of investment and pain are at stake, and so is your pride.

Your decision can also be made more difficult when you’re faced with a choice. Prejudice, facts, social pressure, and the pitfalls of misconceptions all come into play when making comparisons. In light of all this, we consider the daunting task of deciding whether to purchase the new Samsung Galaxy S5 or the iPhone 5S.

S5 displayWe have Android and iPhone users here at Mobile Mind, and we understand the loyalties. We don’t expect to change your mind if it’s already made up, but we hope to offer some objective observations for first time buyers, or those who sense a timely change in product philosophy.

There are some obvious differences between the S5 and 5S, besides being based on competing operating systems, with a different selection and approach to apps, as well as cross-functional considerations with companion devices like tablets and home computers. We’ll cover that in greater detail in Part Two, but for now we’ll contrast the physical features.

If size matters, consider that the body and screen of the Galaxy S5 are substantially larger than those of the iPhone, which can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending upon what’s important to you. The Samsung has a 5.1 inch screen with greater pixel resolution, compared to the 4 inch screen of the iPhone, which means it’s easier to view movies, videos, and just about anything else on the S5. But the smaller iPhone is more portable, and easier to operate with one hand. So for smaller hands and smaller pockets (not a euphemism), the iPhone might be a convenient choice, especially if you watch your movies on other devices anyway. But if you are streaming movies on your phone, the other advantage to the Samsung screen is its bright and dense color saturation, afforded by its Super AMOLED screen.

S5 gasketThe quality of the case is another issue, and here again, there are pro’s and con’s to both. The Samsung phone has gaskets designed to keep it waterproof, but the case itself is plastic, maybe more breakable, and it feels flimsy compared to the iPhone’s sealed metal case. But the iPhone is not waterproof, which can be a liability, and its solid seal means that you have to take it to a dealer to replace the battery, whereas the Samsung case can be opened by the user for battery replacement. And speaking of batteries, it might be interesting to note here that the talk time on a Samsung battery is twenty-one hours, versus ten for the iPhone; and the stand-by time for the Samsung battery is 16.2 days (390 hours) versus 10.4 days (250 hours) for the iPhone.

The iPhone, some critics claim, might be easier for technophobes, with a more intuitive approach, but this, too we’ll discuss in Part Two.

Put a Ring on It

Security is a major concern for all mobile phone users, and the S5 and 5S are two of the first to use fingerprint ID access. There are differences in their approach, however, that offer some clear distinctions. The placement for your fingerprint ID is roughly the same for the S5 and 5S, but the iPhone uses a single touch and an ID digit; while on the Galaxy, you’ll swipe your finger on the screen. This brings up the issue of convenience. Early comments indicate that, while the single touch of the iPhone works almost every time, the Galaxy is less accurate and may take a few tries, especially during the learning curve, while you’re getting used to the feel of moving your finger over its scanner.

5S fingerprint sensorThe actual security ability of these systems has come into question. A sales rep at the Apple store claimed that the Samsung system was hacked within the first two weeks of its introduction. And one critique we read documented a method for breaking into the iPhone, although it sounded like a mission improbable, requiring observation of the user’s check digit, then lifting a fingerprint off the phone with tape and re-creating it with the use of a gel.

But the Galaxy S5 fingerprint system scores points for its versatility. The S5 system can be used to validate PayPal purchases, and has the added benefit that developers can incorporate use of its fingerprint technology in apps. The iPhone’s Touch ID sensor is locked down, so it can only be used to open the phone or authorize purchases on iTunes. These kinds of “closed” systems will be dealt with in more detail in Part Two, when we discuss compatibility within families or suites of devices, where you can feel locked in to brand loyalty, whether you intended it or not.

Making Memories

5S dual ledThe iPhone 5S is available with 32 GB or 64 GB of built-in storage, with a jump in price, of course, from one to the other. The Samsung S5 typically comes with 16 GB, but 32 GB models can be found. But the ability to insert memory cards in the Samsung, at about $20 for 32 GB makes the S5 more expandable for a reasonable amount of money.  And you will definitely need as much storage capacity as you can muster for the Galaxy S5 considering it comes with a camera/camcorder with twice the resolution of the iPhone  (16 megapixels vs. 8 megapixels and 4K video vs. 1080p respectively).  But although the S5 eclipses the 5S when it comes to memory capturing capacity the iPhone still comes with cool photo taking features such as image stabilization, face recognition and the much loved panorama mode.  The iPhone also has a dual LED flash and can take pictures while recording video.

Yes, the Samsung boasts faster processing speeds, as it uses a quad core processor versus the iPhone’s dual core. It also has double the system memory of Apple’s current flagship.  But will you notice?  It all depends on the kind of information you plan to access on your device. It certainly will be noticeable if you’re watching movies or playing graphics intensive games on your smartphone where download times and play quality definitely favors Samsung.

More to Come

Did we mention there’s a Part Two to Choosing Worlds? This is where we will discuss the broader implications of choosing between the iOS and Android family of products. We’ll also explore other competing platforms, and how they interact with the giants of mobile devices in our next post.


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?”


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.


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.