Smartphones Archive

Smartphones and tablets now working with sensors and controllers

Introduction

A trend that we may be seeing with smartphones and similar devices is that they work with various third-party sensor or controlled devices through the use of various apps written by the sensor’s or controlled-device’s vendor. A main driver for this trend has been the “There’s an App for that” mentality that has been established around the Apple iPhone with that smartphone becoming the centrepiece of most people’s lives.

Examples of this include the recently-launched Parrot “ARDrone” remote-control helicopter that uses a dedicated Wi-Fi link to an iOS device running a special app that is its controller; a barbecue thermometer being launched at the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 that uses a Bluetooth link to an iOS device that acts as a remote temperature display. There were even other examples like the Nike running-shoe pedometer that uses a dedicated wireless link to an iPod Nano running an exercise-tracking application.

These applications may be novelty ideas of implementing an iOS or Android smartphone as a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) device but there will be more applications that will become more real in our lives.

Examples application fields will include:

  • Food safety (thermometers that measure temperature for areas where perishable food is stored)
  • Personnel health and wellbeing (blood pressure and heart-rate monitors)
  • Building automation and security (dashboard apps that work with HVAC, security systems, smart meters and the like; garage door openers that work with a touchscreen smartphone)
  • Automotive and marine instrumentation (engine monitoring and diagnostics)

The current situation

The main problem is that whenever an application that works with an outbourd sensor or controlled device is developed, a lot of code is added to the program to work with the sensor or controlled device. This extra “bulk” is written by the app writer usually because the writer is the one who designs the device. The communications between these device and the host smartphone or tablet is typically using USB for wired connections; Bluetooth, dedicated or network-integrated Wi-Fi for wireless connections and the application developer has to work with the link that is appropriate to the device.

If the device designer wants to build a lively application-programming environment around the device, they have to either prepare a software development kit which usually requires the distribution of a runtime module with the application. This can take up memory and can put a strain on the battery life of the device.

What can be done

An improvement to this situation that would improve the lot for device designers and application developers who write SCADA for smartphones and tablets would be to establish a “driver” model for sensor and controlled devices.

Here, the operating system could run a “driver” for the application in a similar vein to how peripherals are managed by desktop operating systems. Here, the operating system can do things like manage the polling cycle for sensors or transmission of events to controlled devices, including responding to sensors that are set to trigger software events for the device class.

This can help with conserving battery power by disconnectiong from a sensor or controlled device if the destination apps aren’t run; or sharing data between two or more apps benefiting from the same sensor data. This could benefit some platforms, most notably Android, where one can write lightweight indicator applications like “widgets”, notification-area icons or active wallpapers which just benefit from sensor data or respond to certain conditions.

The problem is that the smartphone operating systems such as iOS and Android don’t support the same kind of programmatic modularity that desktop computing has permitted due to limitations placed on them by battery-operated handheld device designs with constrained memory and storage size. This issue may have to be examined whenever a subsequent major revision of the smartphone operating system is being worked on; and could include whether a separate “driver store” is maintained at the platform’s “app store” or that drivers are supplied as “apps”. This can then allow the manufacturers to update drivers as necessary, for example to add new functionality.

Conclusion

The idea of controlling or monitoring devices from computers or mobile devices is going to becoming something more mainstream rather than just a novelty and the operating system designers may have to factor this in to their designs.

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TwonkyMobile app–another DLNA control point for your Android phone (VIDEO CONTENT)

Twonky Mobile app for your Android phone

 

Click on this link to view the video if it doesn’t show up on your device.

Direct link to the Twonky website

No doubt you may have decided to go towards an Android smartphone or tablet device and it may not have come with an adequate DLNA media app. There is another DLNA so

Judging from this video, I could see that the Twonky Mobile app can do what is expected of a DLNA control point app for a mobile phone or tablet device. It can even link with online content like podcasts or YouTube videos that you pull up through your Internet browsing as well as the content that is in your phone or DLNA media servers.

To get at this software, you would have to go to the Android Market and hunt for “Twonky Mobile” and is currently free for a short time.

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PROMISE Technology’s contribution to the DLNA Home Media Network

News Article

PROMISE Technology Announces General Availability of SmartStor Zero and Its Fusion Stream DLNA Digital Media Apps | DMN NewsWire

From the horse’s mouth

SmartStor Fusion Stream

My comments and notes

SmartStor Fusion Stream app

The SmartStor Fusion Stream app is another program that integrates a smartphone or tablet computer based on the iOS or Android platforms in to a standards-based DLNA Home Media Network.

It is capable of what is nowadays expected for a smartphone-based DLNA network media app. That is it can play or show media held anywhere in the DLNA Home Media Network on the device itself or a DLNA Media Renderer device capable of accepting media that is “pushed” to it from a control device.

Another key feature is that it integrates the local storage with the DLNA Home Media Network. Here, you can upload pictures or videos taken with the device’s camera to a DLNA-compliant media server that supports the upload function. It can also download media held in the DLNA Home Media Network to the device’s local storage so it can be enjoyed “on the go”.

The ability to download content held on a DLNA Media Server to the local storage of an iOS or Android device with this software could be handy especially for iOS users who want to add selected pictures to their device without having to perform special sync routines. This is because iTunes doesn’t seem to support “drag-n-drop” syncing of pictures that a user selects to an iOS device – a feature that can come in handy if an iPod Touch or iPad is put in to service as an electronic photo album or digital photo frame.

A main question that I would have at the moment would be whether pictures and videos that come in to a smartphone that runs this software can be shown via a DLNA screen or uploaded to a DLNA Media Server if they came in via email, MMS picture or Bluetooth? Similarly, I would like to be sure that the program doesn’t impair the performance of the smartphone or device; or doesn’t take too long to browse the a DLNA media collection on a server.

This program could raise the bar when it comes to DLNA interface programs for mobile phones and internet tablets.

SmartStor Zero

The SmartStor Zero is another two-bay network-attached storage device which is optimised to work as a media server. As well as serving media to DLNA equipment and iTunes clients, it can accept content that is uploaded from mobile devices that are equipped with DLNA-Upload software like most of the DLNA-integration software for the Android platform and the abovementioned Fusion Stream app for the iPhone.

This device’s Web-based user interface has the ability to become an access point for the media held on the NAS. But it supports the ability to allow one to directly upload selected pictures to Facebook whether to a new album or as extra images for an existing album.

Another bonus is that the Installation software doesn’t add any drivers or other components to allow a computer to gain access to the NAS. Instead, the software works with the host operating system’s network-storage capabilities to “find” the NAS and provide a mount point or mapped drive letter for the storage resources.

One feature that I would like the DLNA software to benefit from is to support the photo tags that are part of iPhoto or Windows Live Photo Gallery. This could even include the People Tags and Geotags that Windows Live Photo Gallery supports so as to allow one to search or browse for people in the photo library using the user interface provided by a DLNA-compliant media player or control point.

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What would you choose for your next touchscreen smartphone?

There are now three major touchscreen smartphone platforms that are available for the choosing – what would it be.

Hi everyone!

Your mobile phone contract’s up or you are about to consider moving from prepaid service to a regular mobile phone service. It’s now time to consider one of those new touchscreen smartphones.

Would you go for an iPhone or one of the new platforms – the Android or the Windows Phone 7? Would you also jump carrier if your desired phone platform or handset wasn’t provided by your current carrier?

Please leave a comment on this site about what you would consider choosing for your touchscreen smartphone. If you are following this site through its Facebook page, you can leave a comment on the Wall after the post.

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Increase in competition in the touchscreen smartphone market

Nokia N8

Nokia N8 shipments begin, ushers in Symbian^3 era – Engadget

Nokia N8 shipping – Units mailed out to pre-order customers | RegHardware.co.uk (United KIngdom)

Microsoft Windows Phone 7

Microsoft prepping Windows Phone 7 for an October 21st launch? (update: US on Nov. 8?) | Engadget

Windows Phone 7 sortira bien le 21 octobre | Businessmobile.fr (France – French language)

Microsoft: Windows Phone 7 kommt am 21. Oktober | netzwelt.de (Germany – German language)

Microsoft bestätigt Starttermin von Windows Phone 7 | derStandard.at (Austria – German language)

My comments

Over September and October 2010, there is increased activity concerning competing touchscreen-smartphone platforms. This will definitely make Apple squirm even

The first one will be the Nokia N8 with its Symbian 3 operating system, which will be a way of keeping Nokia users loyal to the Nokia N-Series phones with the Symbian platform. This platform is shipping now and most of the European mobile-phone operators are likely to have the various contracts worked out for these phones by October.

The second one will be the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 which is intended to be launched in the European market by 21 October. At the moment, HTC have worked out various models for this platform

These phones will use a “windowed” UI on their home screen so it is easier to go to particular functions at a touch rather than working with a list or scattered widgets on the home screen as what Android or iOS (iPhone) do.

There is a question that I have yet to hear an answer about with the Symbian 3 or the Windows Phone 7. It is whether developers will have greater freedom to develop apps for these platforms and whether there are many paths available for provisioning the software to the phones. This includes whether the app stores can charge for the software through the mobile-phone provider’s billing system for post-paid services as well as through credit cards or vouchers as is the current practice with the iTunes App Store.

Similarly, there is the issue of whether a person can download an app to a regular computer and upload it to the phone via the local network or through a USB or Bluetooth tethered connection. This practice may be useful for people who are provisioning software to employees for example; or installing / updating a “mobile component” app as part of the installation procedure for a piece of hardware or software.

It will then be interesting in a year to see which of the companies will “own” particular touchscreen-smartphone markets such as the consumer market, small-business-user market and “enterprise / corporate” market.

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Mobile codes to boost Google account security | Security – CNET News

 

Mobile codes to boost Google account security | Security – CNET News

My comments

Google have worked on a way of improving security for Web-page login experiences because these login experiences are easily vulnerable to phishing attacks.

What is this technology

This method is similar to a hardware security “token” used by some big businesses for data security and increasingly by some banks to protect their customers’ Internet-banking accounts against phising attacks. This is a device that you keep with you in your wallet or on your keyring which shows a random number that you key in to a login screen alongside your user name and password and is based on “what you have” as well as “what you know”.

This time, the function of this “token” is moved to the mobile phone which nearly all of us have on ourselves. It will appear as a smartphone “app” for the Blackberry, Android or iPhone platforms that shows the random code number or will operate in the form of your phone showing an SMS with the token code or you hearing a code number from a call you answer on that phone. Of course, you will register your mobile number with Google to enable this level of security.

The direction for the technology

Google are intending to use it with their application platform which covers GMail, Adsense, Analytics, Picasa and other Google services. Initially it will be tried with selected user groups but will be available to the entire user base.

They will provide an option to avoid the need to use this “Google codes” system on the same computer for a month, which would appeal to users who work with their GMail account from their netbook or desktop PC. They will still need to have this work if they “come in” to their GMail account from another computer and it will work if someone else uses the same PC to check on their GMail.

What I am pleased about with this is that they intend to “open-source” this system so that it can be implemented in to other platforms and applications. Similarly, the “apps” can then be ported to newer smartphone platforms or “baked in” to other PDAs and similar devices. As far as the “apps” are concerned, I would like to allow one piece of code to service multiple service providers rather than loading a smartphone with multiple apps for different providers.

Making the home network secure

I would like to see this technology being tried out as a method of securing devices that use Web-based data-access or management interfaces, similar to D-Link’s use of CAPTCHA for securing their home-network routers’ management login interfaces. This is becoming more so as nearly every home uses a wireless network router as the network-Internet “edge” for their networks. Similarly, there is an increasing tendency to use a network-attached storage for pooling data to be available across the network or as backup storage and most of these units use a Web-based user interface.

Conclusion

One feature that I like about this Google project is that they have applied a security technology normally available to big business and made it available to small business and consumer users.

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Apple iOS 4.2 beta becoming enabled with handset-driven printer access

iOS 4.2 beta hits Apple’s developer portal, wireless printing dubbed ‘AirPrint’ – Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

HP ePrint enabled printers first to support printing direct from iOS devices |  The HP Blog Hub

My comments

A function that most of us who own smartphones long for is the ability to print documents from the smartphone using a regular printer. The main problem with this is the requirement for the computing device i.e. the smartphone to have drivers for the various printers that it will encounter. Typically this has been achieved through printer manufacturers providing free single-purpose apps through app-store platforms like iTunes App Store that only do a task like printing photographs on the manufacturer’s printer.

Now Apple have taken up the initiative by establishing a one-size-fits-all printing mechanism as part of the iOS 4.2 operating system. This mechanism is intended to work with the HP ePrint-enabled printers like the HP Photosmart Wireless-E printer that I previously reviewed but is intended to be rolled out to more printers offered by other manufacturers.

There are a few questions that I have about this wireless-printing platform. One is whether the platform is really reinventing the wheel that standards like UPnP Printing have established or simply is a way of allowing a manufacturer to market one of these standards under their own name?

Another more serious question is whether other handset operating systems and platforms like Android will implement the wireless-printing platform in a universal way at all. It may be easy to accept the status quo with Apple providing support in the next version of iOS but if this feature is to work properly, it has to work for other handset operating platforms and devices made by other manufacturers.

Other issues worth tackling include support for public-access printers, including secure job submission and collection as well as support for paid operation models.

This concept may open up a new field of access to hard copy for devices like smartphones and tablet computers as well as dedicated-function devices.

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HTC Unveils a DLNA-based ‘Media Link’ for Handset TV Streaming | eHomeUpgrade

 

HTC Unveils a DLNA-based ‘Media Link’ for Handset TV Streaming | eHomeUpgrade

My comments

At the moment, Samsung has already delivered a DLNA media control point / server with their Android handsets in the form of AllShare. This would have meant that someone who had an HTC Desire or wanted to start a mobile service contract using an HTC Android handset would have had to visit Android Marketplace to add on TwonkyMedia Server and Andromote to add on DLNA media-sharing / media-control functionality to their handset.

But HTC is intending to supply a “Media Link” app with their newer Android handsets to integrate them in to the DLNA Home Media Network. At the moment, this app is standard with the upcoming Desire Z and HD handsets and is intended to be available for newer HTC Android handsets.

The main issue I have with this app is whether it is available as an in-place upgrade or add-on for existing HTC Android handsets or will these users need to look towards Andromote and TwonkyMedia Server?

From what I have gleaned about this program, it seems to be able to work with content held on the handset but I would like to know whether a person can use the handset to have content held on another DLNA media server like a NAS playing on the DLNA-enabled media player or be able to “pull-down” selected content held on the DLNA media server to the phone via the network.

It is still worth keeping an eye on the Android market for apps that may do the job better than whatever comes with the phone, especially if you are after more DLNA functionality.

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Windows Phone 7 code now “set” – another change to the smartphone landscape

Articles

Microsoft locks down Windows Phone 7 code • The Register

Windows Phone 7 – Released To Manufacturing | Windows Team Blog (Microsoft)

My comments

The touchscreen-smartphone establishment is now feeling threatened due to Microsoft going “gold” on the Windows Phone 7 operating system. This will mean that the code is ready to roll out to the likes of HP and HTC in order to provide another competing platform for this class of device. In some ways, this platform may also work as a platform that competes with the Blackberry for business-use smartphones. This would be primarily because of the Microsoft name being of high value when it comes to traditional-business computing which is based around a fleet of information-technology devices that belong to the business and managed by IT-management staff.

It reminds me of 1984-1985 when the home computing scene matured with at least six computing platforms became established in the marketplace and this opened a path for a mature home / educational computing market. Similarly, the late 1980s saw the establishment of at least three mature mouse-driven GUI-based desktop computing platforms on the computing market. During these time periods, software developers had to know how to pitch the same application or game at different platforms. In a lot of cases, the developers had to know what the different platforms were capable of and what their programming limitations were. With some platforms like the IBM PC, they also had to know of different display, sound and input-device combinations that were available for the platform at the time.

In the case of the smartphones, the developers may run in to issues with different models on the one platform being equipped with different screen sizes and functionality levels like availability of input or output devices. Similarly they may have to make their software please the companies in charge of some platforms before they can sell the software through the platform’s software marketplace. This may affect utility applications like Wi-Fi site-survey tools or remote-control applications that may implement functionality that may be “out-of-scope” for the platform.

These next years may show which platforms will mature and stabilise to become the preferred ones for consumer, advanced-consumer and business smartphone classes.

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Video demonstration clip of Nokia’s Terminal Mode in action

Previously I have mentioned about Alpine showing interest in implementing Nokia’s “Terminal Mode” mobile-phone interface standard in their car stereos, mainly as a competitor to the iPhone. Now more vehicle builders, including Volkswagen are registering interest in this technology to “show the mobile phone display” on the car dashboard and have come up with this video demonstration clip that VW had supplied.

The application that was mainly illustrated was to set up a phone call and plan a journey with your hands on the VW car stereo’s touch screen and all of this going via a Nokia N97.

 
It would be interesting to see whether other smartphone platforms like Android will implement the Terminal Mode technology as a way of providing control through the car’s touchscreen dashboard UI.
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