I have been invited to attend Push-to-Talk World Asia, a Singapore conference where the latest developments in PTT – “the next big thing in telecommunications” – will be presented. PTT sounds like something I used to sell back in my two-way radio days, and it is in a way. It is a service that provides simple communication with other PTT-enabled devices such as cellphones and smartphones.
Is there a market for such a service? Possibly, if it is significantly cheaper than a normal voice call. With the huge adoption of text messaging and the increasing popularity of SMS, there has to be a race to find even more ways of getting people to use their cellphones and smartphones. Cellphone manufacturers -- including Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Audiovox -- appear to be racing to manufacture PTT-capable devices with push-to-talk buttons. Cellular operators around the world are also busy with rollout plans for this new technology. Orange has budgeted for a million users in 12 countries within 12 months on a service that will be available shortly on the PalmOne Treo 600. The service, to be called Talk Now, will allow users to talk to their favourite contacts individually or in conference, depending on the selected settings. We are going to have to learn a lot more jargon, and I am delighted to know PTT terms before my children do. First, we have Contacts, the people with whom we want to be able to have PTT conversations. These Contacts go into a special database, separate from your contact list. You can also group your Contacts so that you can send them a voice message simultaneously. This could be a lot of fun and it could also be very useful in business. You could send a reminder about a meeting in five minutes, or the IT administrator could use it to tell everyone to get off the network briefly. It could be a great feature to enhance service dispatch services, a useful way of finding out who is available to take the next job. Presence, a feature that will be familiar to MSN users, will allow you to see if the person you want to talk to is available. An icon will be displayed next to each person’s name to let you know if they are currently connected to the network. Different types of calls can be made. For example, an Alert Call tells someone that you want to speak to them, whilst a Barge Call sends out a tone that is immediately followed by the caller’s voice. I could use that one happily for my kids: “Inside. Homework. NOW!”. Unfortunately, though, they could activate the Ignore Alert feature, which tells the sender the recipient is unavailable. Those of us with smartphone-based solutions will certainly be looking at PTT as a way of adding value to our solutions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become more popular for business use than text messaging, especially for users who feel intimidated by wireless data solutions. I will certainly be looking forward to its launch in New Zealand.
Wi-Fi Card for PalmOne PDAs PalmOne has released an SD Wi-Fi card for the Zire 71 and Tungsten T3 handhelds. This sounds like a great add-on for any corporates with wireless networks, especially for those that are now synchronising their enterprise data, PIM and email. I’m still waiting to hear from the providers of public Wi-Fi networks and hotspots about when I will be able to use my PDA to access their services without needing a proprietary PC Card, which of course won’t go into a Palm.
Cellphone wallet In a previous life I was involved in retail technology and spent some time investigating and working with smartcards as a replacement for those horrible jingly metal things we call coins. Isn’t cash just so passé? Anyway, lots of companies, especially in France, developed smartcards that would become electronic wallets but for various reasons they only became popular for niche services such as public transport or in localised activities -- student membership services, for example, or for loyalty programmes in shopping malls. A few years ago I purchased a Coke from a vending machine at Ericsson’s Auckland office and paid for it via SMS from my cellphone. Again, this was an isolated service. I was delighted to learn that NTT DoCoMo has launched a new service that involves putting a microchip smartcard in your cellphone and loading it with electronic cash up to a value of around $1000. There are already around 9000 venues in Japan where you can use this service simply by waving your phone within a few centimeters of a special display unit. Maybe I will finally have my way and be able to throw away my loose change. We have long agreed that the cellphone is the most important piece of personal technology that we can no longer live without. It must be the obvious choice to replace the smartcard, which seems unlikely to become pervasive in its current form factor.
Luigi Cappel is managing director the NZ Smartphone and PDA Academy. He can be reached at Ph: 09-444 5136, Mob: 0274 801 998 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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