Fairly Positive

The Mobile University

On the 13th May I attended Eduserv Symposium 2010: The Mobile University at the Royal College of Physicians, London. It was a stimulating event with talks from people involved in both the education and private sectors. It provided an opportunity to network, meet current and former work colleagues and talk about the Mobile Campus Assistant project to anyone who would listen.

The slides and videos of the presentations are available online. All of the talks were interesting, but three stick in my mind:

The opening keynote, “Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!”, was given by Paul Golding. Golding is the CEO and Lead Innovation Architect of Wireless Wanders and author of Next Generation Wireless Applications: Creating Mobile Applications in a Web 2.0 and Mobile 2.0 World. The keynote started with an overview of the development of mobile technologies in the in the last 10 years, using the terms Mobile 1.0 and Mobile 2.0. There were some interesting statistics given, including 1.2 billion mobiles are sold annually and smartphones are expected to have 40% market penetration within the next 2-3 years. Some of the drivers for the success of Mobile 2.0 include data friendly tariffs, faster networks and mobilised social networks, such as Facebook. In addition, mobile technologies were a closed platform 10 years ago where it was difficult to distribute applications. The platforms are more open with 2.0. Golding believes the future will be focussed around augmented reality where phones can recognise objects or people! There are a number of existing services like Google Goggles.

Dr Christine Sexton, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services at the University of Sheffield, “The role of a University Computing Service in an increasingly mobile world. Or: ‘We don’t support that…’”. Sexton talked about the challenges facing IT departments in supporting mobile devices, such as infrastructure, security, licensing and support. It was interesting to hear that the wireless networking infrastructure installed in buildings three years ago can no longer support current demands. Sexton outlined different support models and emphasised that IT departments can no longer default to the ‘we don’t support that’ stance with mobile devices.

Tom Hume, Managing Director, Future Platforms talked about “Real life experiences launching mobile apps”. Hume’s talk was particularly interesting because he highlighted how, in developing applications, the market remains very fragmented. For example, to reach 70% of UK mobile owners you need to support 375 different handsets. iPhones will only deliver 3.63% and the ten most popular devices only covers 28.11%. It is expected that the fragmentation will only become worse - even if you develop for iPhone OS you still have devices (iPad, iPhone, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch) that have differing capabilities. In the questions after the talk it was suggested that the Web provides better opportunity for supporting more devices. In a recent O’Reilly Radar article, Jason Grigsby illustrates that even though the Mobile OS market continues to fragment, the Mobile Web continues to converge on HTML 5 and Webkit.

I would highly recommend watching all of the videos if you have time.

Other blogs that mention esym10 include:

The whole event fed my interest in developing for the Mobile Web and I hope, at some point in the near future, that ILRT and the University of Bristol secure funding for the continued development of Mobile Campus Assistant. If you are interested in this project my colleague, Damian Steer, will be talking about the Mobile Web at Institutional Web Management Workshop 2010, 12-14 July. I will be giving a demonstration of MCA at JISC’s Joint Innovation Forum 2010, 28-29 July.

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