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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A Billion Cell Phones in Africa?

Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
10:46 pm

CNN published an intriguing article today, “Seven ways mobile phones have changed lives in Africa,” which addresses the transformative effect of mobile telephony on the continent of Africa.  And it is only beginning:

“Google, for its part, plans to sell 200 million of its Android phones in Africa and it is estimated that by 2016 there will be a billion mobile phones on the continent.”

Electronic communications has a huge potential to lift and bless the lives of people not only in Africa, but throughout the world.

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Source Doc: The Information Needs Of Communities

Social Media, Source Doc, Technology, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, June 13, 2011
5:08 pm

Federal Communications CommissionOn June 9th, the Federal Communications Commission issued  an interesting document, “The Information Needs of Communities – The Changing Media Landscape In A Broadband Age,” authored by Steven Waldman and The Working Group On Information Needs Of Communities.  (A two-page summary of the document is available here.)

The document introduction states:

In culmination of its work over the last year, the FCC Working Group on the Information Needs of Communities delivered a report on June 9, 2011 addressing the rapidly changing media landscape in a broadband age. In 2009, a bipartisan Knight Commission found that while the broadband age is enabling an information and communications renaissance, local communities in particular are being unevenly served with critical information about local issues.

Soon after the Knight Commission delivered its findings, the FCC initiated a staff-level working group to identify crosscurrent and trend, and make recommendations on how the information needs of communities can be met in a broadband world.

I enjoyed reading the statement by FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps that accompanied the document’s release; here are a few excerpts:

Let’s begin with a basic truth: the future of our country’s media is an issue that goes to the heart of our democracy. A well-informed electorate is the premise and prerequisite of functioning self-government. To make this compact work, it is imperative that the FCC play a vital role in helping to ensure that all Americans have access to diverse and competing news and information that provide the grist for democracy’s churning mill.

The Digital Age holds amazing promise for expanding the scope of our democratic discourse. The Staff Report recognizes this and the present Commission has focused tremendous energy on both broadband deployment and adoption. But let’s recognize up-front that building a new town-square paved with broadband bricks and stacked with good news and information is not going to happen on auto-pilot.

An open Internet is not the entire solution for robust Twenty-first century journalism. It’s tougher than that, and I, for one, don’t believe we’ll get there absent some positive public policy solutions. We have never had successful dissemination of news and information in this country without some encouraging public policy guidance, going back to the earliest days of the young republic when Washington, Madison and Jefferson saw to it that newspaper were financially able to reach readers all across the fledgling young republic.

These issues mean a lot to me because I believe they mean a lot to our country. I have been outspoken about them–and sometimes blunt, I know. I intend to keep speaking out on them in the months and, if needed, the years ahead. This nation faces  stark and threatening challenges to the leadership that brought us and the world successfully through so many dire threats in the century just past. Now we confront fundamental new uncertainties about the revival of our economy, where new jobs will come from, how we will prosper in a hyper-competitive global arena, how to support the kind of education that our kids and grandkids will need to thrive–indeed to survive–in this difficult time, how to open the doors of opportunity to every American, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives.We’ve got a lot to get on top of as a country and if we don’t have the facts, don’t have the information, and don’t have the news about what’s going on in the neighborhood and the town and the nation and world around us, our future will be vastly diminished. That’s why so much rides on the future of what we are talking about today.

I think these are valuable objectives, but it isn’t clear where this document will lead.  One author commented, “FCC Report on Media Offers Strong Diagnosis, Weak Prescriptions.”

I personally feel sensitive to this changing landscape.   I love the innovation of the USA Today and Wall Street Journal iPad apps, but I still enjoy reading the local paper-based newspaper over breakfast.  But my favorite local newspaper went out of business a couple of years ago, and the surviving newspaper is steadily shrinking in size.  This local newspaper’s online presence falls far short of the USA Today/WSJ readability model.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

To start with, I think I’ll transfer the whole 465-page report to my iPad and read it there.

PS.  I think the FCC has an ugly logo.  That’s all.

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Hey Steve! Why are you tracking me?

Information Security, Privacy, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, April 22, 2011
4:05 pm

I first read the news about Apple’s secretive location tracking capability in the Kaspersky Labs Threat Post article, “Secret iPhone Feature Tracks Owners’ Whereabouts“:

Security researchers have discovered a hidden iPhone feature that secretly tracks and saves the meanderings of the phone – and presumably its owner.

The tracking feature was described in a presentation at the Where 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. According to the researchers, Pete Warden, founder of Data Science Toolkit and Alasdair Allan a researcher at Exeter University in the UK, the tracking feature records the phone’s movements, including what cell phone towers and Wifi hotspots it connects to, when and where. While that information isn’t shared with Apple, it is retained even when iPhone users update their hardware, suggesting that Apple had plans to use the data at a later time.

Was I surprised?  No.  Irritated?  Yes.  We have one more piece of evidence, that when power is concentrated in the hands of a few, abuses tend to occur.

After reading the O’Reilly Radar article, “Got an iPhone or 3G iPad? Apple is recording your moves“, I followed a link to an application to see for myself:

How can you look at your own data?

We have built an application that helps you look at your own data. It’s available at petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker along with the source code and deeper technical information.

The broad view clearly showed the four states in which I have used my month-old iPad:

But the real interesting view was of my supposed meanderings in Arizona:

I can easily explain three of the four major clumps of usage in the Phoenix metropolitan area – my home, the Phoenix airport, and a client site. But I have never taken my iPad to the fourth area of supposed heavy use.

All the outliers are even more problematic.  I used the iPad once in a mountainous area northeast of Phoenix, but all the other outliers?  My only explanation is that I must have forgotten to place the iPad in “Airplane Mode” on one or more more of my flights (heaven forbid!).  The iPad must have connected with dozens of cell towers as we flew over.

My message to Steve Jobs?  Please, just call. I’d gladly invite you over for dinner or take you to my favorite restaurant, where we could discuss the things that are important to me in my life.  But these shenanigans?  Really tawdry for a supposely high class company.

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When Can I Pay for Stuff with my iPhone?

Identity, Information Security, Privacy, Technology, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, April 15, 2011
10:47 am

 

I am anxious for the time when I can buy groceries or pay for a meal with my iPhone.  According to Juniper Research, that time may be be closer than you would think.

As reported by GigaOM, Juniper Research predicts that 1 in 5 Smartphones Will Have NFC by 2014.  NFC, or “Near Field Communication,” is a technology that allows a payment to be made by holding a device, such as a mobile phone, in close proximity to a NFC-capable point of sale terminal.

I think it would be great to use a mobile wallet on my iPhone, working in concert with an NFC chip embedded within my iPhone, to make a payment.

The GigaOM article states:

Juniper said the increasing momentum behind NFC, with a stream of vendor and carriers announcements in recent months, is helping boost the prospects of NFC. North America will lead the way, according to Juniper, with half of all NFC smartphones by 2014. France, in particular, is off to a quick start, with 1 million NFC devices expected this year.

Of course, there is more than just putting moble wallet apps and NFC chips on smartphones.

But the NFC ramp-up will still faces challenges. With so many players involved, from merchants, operators, manufacturers and web giants like Google, service complexity will be an issue. The industry also needs to work out business models around NFC while ensuring strong security for consumers unfamiliar with the concept of a mobile wallet, said Howard Wilcox, the author of the report.

Which smart phone vendor will be first to the races with a mainstream NFC-equipped device? Will the next iPhone be NFC-equipped?  I hope so, but I had also hoped for that in the iPhone 4.  Time will tell.  I’m just hoping for sooner, rather than later.

And, by the way, Identity Management and Information Security are crucial to an overall solution. Knowing who the user is and that user wants to do, and making sure their information is absolutely safe, are critical components of the mobile payments infrastructure that must be built. In that vein, its great to be in the industry that is making this all happen.

 

 

Has the Malware Focus Shifted to Android?

Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
2:05 pm

imageHas the focus of malware attacks shifted from Windows to Android?  Not completely, I’m sure.  But as the Wall Street Journal reported this morning,

A major software attack on mobile phones has put pressure on Google Inc. to do more to secure its online store for smartphone applications.

The company behind the now ubiquitous Android operating system came under fire after computer-security experts last week uncovered more than 50 malicious applications that were uploaded to and distributed from Google’s Android Market. …

Google has said 58 malicious apps were uploaded to Android Market and then downloaded to around 260,000 devices before Google removed the affected apps last Tuesday evening. It isn’t clear how many users activated the applications, a Google spokesman said.

Google doesn’t employee people to evaluate and approve applications before they are posted to the Android store, but rather depends on consumers to report bad behavior.  Unfortunately, that practices can allow attacks like this latest wave to compromise the integrity of downloaded apps.

The apps involved in the latest incident were corrupted versions of legitimate products from three different developers. The apps, which included Super Guitar Solo, Advanced Barcode Scanner, Bubble Shoot and dozens of others, were adulterated with a malicious code called "DroidDream" that could compromise sensitive personal data, including the IMSI number of the user’s phone, a unique identifier that carriers try to protect.

I’ll bet Google will quickly change its practices in this area.  There’s nothing like a bunch of infected apps to play havoc with brand loyalty.

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What is Your (American) Smartphone Preference?

Technology, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, March 4, 2011
5:17 pm

In a recent article in PCMAG.com, an interesting graphic highlighted the market share of smartphone operating system preference.  Where are you located?  I’m firmly in the Apple iOS camp, grateful that I bought an iPhone a year and a half ago, rather than casting my lot with the Palm/HP WebOS.

I enjoyed the comments John Dvorak made today in his article “The US Smartphone Revolution”:

Overlooked in the commotion, though, is the transformative nature of the entire market. The whole world is looking at these changes. Wherever you go, the hip, trendy phone users around the globe will most often be seen with one of these North American smartphones. And to be honest the hippest of the hip will have an iPhone.

I find this particularly amusing, because I recall a constant barrage of anti-American accusations during the late 1990s, whereby we were told that the mobile phone world has passed us by. When I was doing Silicon Spin, a cable show for TechTV, guests would often arrive having just visited Japan, carrying some dingbat phone, such as the Docomo, and singing its praises. …

It’s expected that within just a few years the entire market will consist of varieties of smartphones, whose designs and operation were all invented in the U.S. and Canada.

It’s great time to be an American!  Yes, my Canadian friends, we include you!

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iPad 2 to Have SD Card Slot & Qualcomm Chip [RUMOR]

Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, January 14, 2011
9:13 pm

iPad 2 to Have SD Card Slot & Qualcomm Chip [RUMOR].

Sign me up for both iPad 2 and iPhone 5!

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Pay by Phone: The Rising Tide of Mobile Payments

Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, August 20, 2010
5:14 pm

image

Yesterday, in an interesting article yesterday for ReadWriteWeb, Mike Melanson wrote about increased industry cooperation in mobile payments:

Bank of America has started working with Visa to begin testing the use of smartphones to make in-store payments without the need for cash or credit cards. The system will make use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which is a short-range communication technology for mobile phones, to make payments as simple as waving your phone at another NFC-enabled device.

Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb reported earlier in the week that:

Apple has just hired Benjamin Vigier, an expert in the field of near-field communications, as its new product manager for mobile commerce, reports NearFieldCommunicationsWorld.com, a trade publication for NFC-based products.

A couple of my colleagues at Sun Microsystems had predicted that the iPhone 4 would include NFC capability.  They were premature, but I hope the next iPhone version is NFC enabled, because I really like the idea of mobile payments, and by then, my 3GS iPhone will be due for replacement.  We’ll see …

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How Does Your Broadband Connection Perform?

Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
10:43 am

Thanks to my friends from the Arizona Telecommunications & Information Council (ATIC) for pointing out a valuable broadband performance testing service provided by the Federal Communications Commission.

A bit of introduction to the testing system:

“The purpose of the Consumer Broadband Test (Beta) is to give consumers additional information about the quality of their broadband connections and to create awareness about the importance of broadband quality in accessing content and services over the internet. Additionally, the FCC may use data collected from the Consumer Broadband Test (Beta), along with submitted street address, to analyze broadband quality and availability on a geographic basis across the United States.”

My Desktop results:

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My iPhone results, using the FCC  Mobile Broadband Test iPhone application:

image

Further information about this service provided by the FCC:

The Consumer Broadband Test, currently in beta, is the FCC’s first attempt at providing consumers real-time information about the quality of their broadband connections. Because measuring broadband speeds with software tools is not an exact science, we are providing two popular consumer broadband testing tools in this Beta version: Ookla and M-Lab. Both will enable consumers to test the quality of their broadband connection by transferring a small temporary file back and forth and measuring the results. Users will be randomly assigned to one of the two chosen testing tools: Ookla or Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT) running on the Measurement Lab (M-Lab) platform, or they can choose their preferred tool by using links on this page. Each test is likely to provide a different result, and the differences may be significant in some cases. While the tests will give consumers some information on relative speeds, the FCC does not endorse either one as being a definitive testing method. In the future, the FCC anticipates making additional broadband testing applications available for consumer use. The FCC does not endorse any specific testing application.

Try it out!  Does your broadband performance match what you think you should get?

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How Many iPhone Apps Do You Use?

Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
5:53 pm

On a recent trip out of town, while waiting in the Phoenix airport to board my flight, I suddenly become aware that I had really used a lot of apps on my iPhone that morning. So I counted the ones I had used – all 15 of them – before 10am.

  1. iphone2 Mail
  2. Phone
  3. iPod
  4. Safari
  5. Messages
  6. Calendar
  7. Toodledo
  8. Evernote
  9. Tweetie
  10. Facebook
  11. Brightkite
  12. Livestrong
  13. AP Mobile
  14. Weather Channel
  15. Tripit

I went on to use some more apps later in the day, but this all goes to prove that the iPhone has become an indispensible part of my life – helping me be more productive, connected and responsive to the people in my life.

What apps are a critical part of your everyday life?

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