Archive for March, 2009

Google offers free books on mobile

More than 1,5 million books (free of copyrights) have been made available for free on the iPhone and other mobile devices working with Android. 
The stunt is part of the Google Book Search project.

Google has reached an agreement with American publishers to offer public libraries free access to books that are no longer available for purchase.  Individuals and other libraries can buy a subscription to gain access.  Google takes 37% of the revenues; the remaining 67% is given to the copyright holders.  The agreement is valid only in the United States.


Mobile in Belgium is expensive

Calling with the mobile phone is expensive in Belgium.  According to a study by the European Commission, the prices in our country are a lot higher than the European average.  Although prices have slightly dropped last year, the average GSM user in Belgium pays 26,26 euro per month.  In Europe that average is only at 19,49 euro.

Because of this, the Belgian consumer is less tented to buy a new mobile phone.  With a GSM penetration of 102%, Belgium is way below the European level of 119%.  Because of this, we lag behind for several mobile technologies and services.  The use of Mobile Internet, for example, is at a mere 3,5% in Belgium.

According to Viviane Reding, the solution lies in increasing the competition on the Belgian market.  She believes a 4th mobile operator would be a good idea.  And Telenet has already shown interest in that.


Belgacom introduces mobile payment service Ping.Ping

Last week, Belgacom announced they’re taking a 40% share in Tunz, a Belgian company specialized in micropayments.

This week, the telecom giant said they are starting up a mobile payment service called Ping.Ping, which should allow to pay with your mobile phone for small amounts, such as a can in a vending machine or a drink in a bar.
Belgacom has made a large range of partnerships for this service.  One of them is with Accor Services, responsible for the food checks.  Goal is to digitize the food checks and put the value on a digital account. In a first trial, 500 Belgacom employees will be able to spend this digital money in horeca establishments in the neighborhood of Belgacom’s headquarters in Brussels.

There’s also a partnership with Coca-Cola, testing out the micropayment for vending machines.  Another trial will be with supermarket Delhaize.
To allow a ‘contact-less’ payment, the NFC technology will be used.  If the trials are successful, Delhaize wants to introduce customer identification by the mobile phone instead of the Delhaize Plus card. 

Ping.Ping is supposed to become a group name for all these different mobile payment services.  The already existing SMS parking and SMS bus ticketing – services from Mobile-for which was acquired by Belgacom – would also fall under this umbrella.  Belgacom promises several more applications in the coming weeks and months, including vouchers, reduction coupons, payments on campus and person-to-person payments. 


iPhone OS 3.0 presents new features

During last Tuesday’s keynote, Apple presented the new OS 3.0 beta for the iPhone and iPod Touch. 
This interface promises more than  100 new functionalities for iPhone applications.

Some of the new features:

Apple Push Notification service, which offers developers a channel to alert users of new information

In App Purchase, which enables users to purchase content or services from an application, e.g. new levels of a game or additional chapters of an e-book.

Peer-to-Peer Connectivity, which enables mobile game developers to add multi-player capabilities.

Map Kit, another new framework that enables programmers to embed maps within their applications.

iPod Library Access, which enables applications to directly access music, podcasts or audio books in a user’s iPod library by means of the updated Media Player framework.

– Support for MMS and cut, copy and paste functions

More at the New York Times

Next year mobile payment for train tickets?

The Belgian railways (NMBS/SNCB) has been talking about SMS ticketing for a while already. 
Recently, Minister of Public Companies Steven Vanackere stated that there’s currently no project regarding mobile payments.  But now Philippe Tomberg , publicist for NMBS, carefully said that the company is studying different channels to digitize the train ticket.  The possibility to offer mobile ticketing on a mid-long term (say, a year from now) “can not excluded”. 

Still pretty vague, but a step in the right direction…

Euro parliament wants 50 cent limit on data roaming

The European Commission and the European Parliament both agree that there should be a limit on tariffs for data roaming.  While the Commission had proposed a limit of 1 euro per megabyte, the Parliament wants to go further and put the limit at 50 eurocent. 

To avoid the so called ‘bill shocks’, the unexpectedly high roaming bills, the Parliament wants to force providers to introduce a price limit.  Users should receive a warning when 80% of this limit is reached, and again when the total limit is reached. 

Other decisions made for mobile included:
– Listening to voicemail across the borders should be free (as of 1 July 2010)
– International SMS sending should cost maximum 11 cent (as of 1 July 2009)
– International calling should be limited to 40 cent per minute (as of July 2010)
– Receiving calls internationally should be limited to 16 cent per minute

These issues still have to be discussed in plenary and agreed upon by ministers from the member states.

Facebook Connect available for iPhone

Facebook has announced that their Facebook Connect service is now available for the Apple iPhone.  This means that developers of iPhone applications can now integrate a social component.  In times when social networking has become more popular than e-mail, this is a smart move.

Facebook Developers program manager Gareth Davis: “With just a few lines of Objective-C code, your users can log in to Facebook from within your app, find their friends, then share what they do in your app back on Facebook, which opens up exciting new opportunities for your users.”

This offers many possibilities; for example an iPhone game, allowing the player to connect to Facebook and share his score with his Facebook friends, to play games with friends, to see their movie recommendations, to chat during live sports games, etc.


Drive a car with your iPhone

Over the past months we’ve seen many funny, interesting and even bizarre iPhone applications emerge.    This one however is very particular.  Rinspeed, a Swiss company specialised  in car design, has presented a car that can be driven with an iPhone.  Just put the smartphone in the build-in dock station in the dashboard and start the car by pushing the big green button on the screen.   The button replaces the key and starts the electronic system of the car.  Other electronic functionalities, such as turning on the headlights, are also integrated into the mobile device.  The iChange car was presented at the Geneva Motor Show.   Check Network World for a slideshow of the iChange.



KLM introduces mobile boarding pass

Dutch airline company KLM is introducing a boarding pass by SMS or MMS.  For the past 6 months, tests were done on flights between Amsterdam and Paris.  Starting March 10th, it will be possible on nearly every European flight to use a PDA or smartphone at the check-in.

Passengers have to check in on the Internet. They then receive a barcode on their mobile device, which is scanned at the airport. Combined with a valid passport, this code gives access to the airplane.  Mobile devices that accept MMS can receive the code as an image.  Smartphones such as the iPhone and Blackberry, can get the code in their e-mail. 


Italian bishop bans SMS during fasting

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI surprised us when he sent spiritual SMS messages to the young participants of the World Youth Day in Sydney.

But just when we thought the Catholic church was embracing modern technology, an Italian bishop has called upon people to ban SMS during the Lent, the 40 day period of fasting before Easter.  He asked his parishioners to abstain from sending text messages on the 4 Fridays before Easter to allow a moment to escape from the virtual world and to obtain an ‘interior serenity’.  Other bishops were inspired by the action and followed the example.

Italy comes second in the list of European countries with the most consumers of SMS, behind the UK.