Category Archives: technology

Use of Multiple Mobile Phone Numbers (part 2)

Continued from part 1….

There are several tactics to use multiple phone numbers. Four notable solutions are listed here – please keep in mind that at the time of this research (2007), there was only very few mobile phone models that had the dual SIM feature.

Solution 1. Carrying two or more SIM cards but only one mobile
Not everyone can afford to buy multiple phones, or wants to carry two mobile phones with them all the time. The extra SIM card is carried in a safe place such as inside wallet or inside the battery cover of the phone, which makes an intuitive storage for switching the cards. Some people who go for this solution are typically well aware of call divert function as it allows receiving calls from both numbers even though there is only one active number to make calls at a time.

Solution 2. Multiple phones – A phone per number
In markets where users do not have separate SIM cards, this is the only solution for the user to get multiple phone numbers – while in GSM markets it is a matter of users’ preference and affordability. Users may maintain separate phone book on each of the phones – sometimes intentionally (refer to 1. lowering the cost of communication), sometimes because they do not have the option of easily synchronize them. When affordability is not an issue, physically separating the phone per number provides the greater control over managing the multiple points of contacts.

Solution 3. Mobile phone with multiple SIM card slots
At the time of research, there were very few multiple SIM phones in the market from the known brands. However we observed a few Shanzai phones featuring dual SIM. Obviously after 4 years, this feature has become a de facto requirement for a mobile phone. There are numerous new mobile phone brands popping up in India, and invariably all their products feature dual SIM, sometimes triple SIM functionality.

Indian mobile phone brands’ ads: Most phones have the dual SIM feature

Solution 4. Stitching up multiple SIM cards into one
We found a service offered by a local mobile phone dealer (Mobile Phone People, one of the Nokia authorized dealers) in Ghana. It costs 15 euros to have the two SIM cards combined into one. There is an even more advanced operation, which requires a special SIM card imported from Finland. This card can host up to 16 SIM cards into one, but costs 40 euroes. Either of these operations costs considerably high for the market, as it is more than purchasing a mobile phone. Therefore the clientele is mostly business people who do need to have two or more numbers but do not want to go through the inconvenience of switching SIM cards or carrying multiple phones.

Interviewing the engineer who was working at this service center mentioned that this technology is from Finland, but cannot tell more about its source as it is a business secret. He was proud to say that he was the first one who got trained for this operation in Ghana, and subsequently he trained others working currently in the shop. The way this operation worked was brilliant at the short sight, but obviously I suspect that it may have the legal issues in terms of manipulating the network SIM card directly. 4 years down the road, I don’t see this service booming in the market.

User’s two SIM cards are punched out and combined into one new card

A special chip can host up to 16 SIM cards into one, at high cost of €40

Application to control the stiched SIM card settings. Works with any phone.

I haven’t had a chance yet to study how people actually manage multiple phone numbers – the multiple identities on their dual SIM phones. If the mobile usage goes beyond the voice calls, it will definitely require design considerations in various parts of the mobile phone applications, as it no longer is going to be an issue of cost management, but identity management. Technologically and as a matter of market availability, owning multiple mobile phone numbers is now very easy. But its potential and implications is largely unexplored beyond the manufacturing of physical hardware.

Acknowledgment of the project team: Ti el Attar, Jan Chipchase, Fumiko Ichikawa, Indri Tulusan and local collaborators

Guns allowed

I only learned a couple of months ago that there are two states in India where the sales of firearms are legal. I found it a bit uneasy. Coming from a country that is still technically at war, I wish other countries to be free from man-made weapons of any sort as much as possible: Destruction and protection are separate concepts only from a matter of perspective. I personally prefer living in a country where majority of citizens do not own firearm, as they do not need to. However I am aware that the sentiments around this topic certain vary a lot especially when it comes to connecting the ownership of firearms to power and personal freedom.

Gun shops lined up on one street I came across right outside of our hotel in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. At the local fair ground, the toy gun looked scarily realistic. I never touched a gun myself – except the plastic guns at arcade game centers. But holding a wooden toy gun and aiming at the colorful dolls and balloons is not my idea of an entertainment. Perhaps in the name of education, making you a more complete, independent and rounded individual.

Obvious physical constraints

Many countries utilize RFID cards at high way tollgates, ranging from free passes with which cars can simply drive through the gates, to transportation or credit cards. Replacing cash transactions alone can speed up the process of passing through the tollgate.

This tollgate in Seoul, on the way to Incheon airport, had 3 card scanners each accommodating the different height of the driver seat. Designers must have gone through several options before deciding on this solution: A stronger scanner? Material and manufacturing cost of the machine? Off-the-shelf components available on the market? Ergonomics of the driver reach on different vehicle types? Maintenance cost? Variations in the usage contexts where the scanner should be installed and used?

Cash is an incredible medium that has lived through centuries in human lives to facilitate exchange of values. Any attempts to replace cash were accompanied by the heavy investment in the infrastructure over a long period of time, such as transaction terminals that suit various contextual and business requirements. Similar to any communication technology where the real value is in exchanges among people, it could move very slowly till the minimal size of ‘majority’ starts to get equipped with the tool and people get convinced that there is a clear benefit for conversion.

This slow change, in turn, could also result in intermediate technology solution in order to accommodate the existing human processes. For instance this signature pad has become a very common tool at the checkout using credit cards in South Korea. This replaces a printed receipt for getting the customer’s signature for the shop to keep. The credit card payer signs on the pad and gets the final receipt with the signature captured on the pad printed on it, typically in low resolution. This allows the shop to keep the transaction record electronically, which simplifies the process of bookkeeping. Is this working better than ‘Chip & Pin’, requiring a 4-digit personal code with IC chip embedded on the card as is widespread in UK? Advantages and disadvantages are different between the two methods, but I guess that’s beside the point. South Koreans opted for a technology solution that produces an equivalent outcome to an existing process: a printed receipt with personal signature, while being able to record the data digitally at the same time.

The signature pads I have tried invariably made me write my signature distorted or cut due to the inadequate feedback and lack of personal calibration (I was not exactly given a practice run either), or simply I started with the wrong size for the given space. So most of the times, I get a receipt with my signature printed too small, too big, unrecognizable, or incomplete. Does this matter? In theory yes, but in practice no. People have embraced the ineffectiveness, the defect of the technology tool because it still allows them to comply with the existing rule and process to a degree.

In India, I sometimes have to hand over my credit card to my driver (yes, I have to rely on a driver to live in Bangalore) for transactions. First time I got the receipt with no signature, I asked him “Don’t I need to sign this?” His answer was clear and simple as he started the engine: “Anyone can sign.” A similar attitude, but a different behavioral solution from the South Korean example.

Will either of these solutions prevail in the future? I would say yes, until the evidences of failure becomes apparent to the majority. We are, after all, humans who embrace mistakes and learn from them. But still – can we really design for adoption, abuse, appropriation and degeneration? Is it a matter of trying, an attitude? This is an increasingly relevant topic for my work these days. If you are involved in designing an infrastructural service that will have to transcend time, space and a large body of population, the cost of ‘we will iterate the design after we deploy it and get the feedback’ can be huge, if not leading to the failure altogether. It becomes critical that the patch tests of contextual validation trigger a wide variety of scenarios to consider, for policy creation, changing the existing process (gradually), training personnels, and establishing the word-of-mouth concept propagation message – including the potential ‘myth’.

Bonus: The new equipment invested is a chance to add on other features. The highway tollgate receipt comes with advertisement and coupons; POS system with the signature pad often comes with a screen facing customers that play ad videos.

body maintenance

I believe it is and will be one of most growing industries – body maintenance and enhancement. There must be a lot of local practices worth revisiting and possibly spreading. Some intimate snapshots from Chinese ear cleaning (making sure your ears are in good working order and cleaned) and suction cup treatment (boost your circulation) sessions, thanks to the co-adventurers who were not camera-shy.

bodycareexp_cleaner

bodycareexp_earoperation

bodycareexp_suctioncups_fire

bodycareexp_suctioncups

bodycareexp_lounge

the suction cups left my back in red polka dot pattern for a couple of weeks afterwards.

Approaches to sustainability

Do you remember shops in the movie Blade Runner where people could buy spare parts, whatever it is you are looking for, like eyeballs? When you use things beyond its expected or intended duration that they are designed for, spare parts are inevitable. People live longer. Second-hand goods trading extend lifetime of things.

Among those things, there are a lot of battery-operated devices, increasingly so. I personally don’t remember having used any electronic device long enough to see its battery life drained of it, except my first electronic tooth brush. The very first model from Braun lasted 7 years of use with me before its battery gave up, which was not replaceable. My father once collected 7 motorola startec batteries from his friends who were changing their phones to newer models because he did not want to ever change his mobile phone (as it was the last simple model in the market, he claimed). He did survive on those scavenged batteries for a couple of years, but eventually had to give up as it became impossible to get more batteries for that model and repair service too costly. He was alone; too few people shared his interest in the market to support him to use his mobile phone that long.

batterycharger_consumableparts

In the back alleys of the huge mobile phone district in Chengdu, you will see many ‘inofficial’ shops serving the popular needs of their customers – including repairs and spare parts. Easy-to-lose items like stylus, consumables like battery, and cosmetic items like phone covers and protective cases are all vibrantly traded here. They are offered alongside of numerous mobile phones that are made more affordable.

Who do you think would buy extra batteries, and why? Some design decisions, intended or not, have the bigger impact on products’ lifecycle in the hands of people.

Bonus:
In the market – I noticed this universal battery charger, which was sold to me at 10 yuan (~1 UK pound). This charger can be adjusted to fit any type of popular mobile phone batteries. Recently we saw many nice ideas to reduce waste generated around charging, like a smarter charger to prevent overcharging or making a universal charger standard. I am not sure how safe this product is, but thought it’s quite a neat idea.

batterycharger_overview

batterycharger_topview

batterycharger_sideview

batterycharger_inshopuse

service efficiency – managing the wait

South Korean tourists are known to be impatient, represented by the well-known word ‘ppali-ppali’, meaning ‘fast, fast’. Waiting time does play a big role in making a service business a success or a failure. If you can’t make it shorter, you may as well look for other options to make it at least more enjoyable.

200811_seoul_cafe01

This Call / Bill / Water button set is available on all tables in this cafe in Seoul (Shinsa-dong). Compared to the more typical model of just pressing the button to call the waiter, this eliminates one additional visit to inquire about what the customer wants.

200811_seoul_cafe02

The opposite example is also found at this self-service cafe chain called pascucci. Once you place your order, you are given this little pager. You go and sit at the table of your choice, instead of waiting around the busy counter. When your drinks are ready to be picked up, it will light up.

200811_seoul_cafe03

200811_seoul_cafe04

I would rate these two systems high because of their simplicity for use and implementation, requiring minimal modification in the existing infrastructure and workflow knowledge, hence lowering the barrier to the initial adoption. A contrasting example would be McDonalds’ ‘Touch Order’ trial together with SK Telecom. RFID reader was provided to be plugged into the mobile phone to enable ordering through touching the menu, with the bill to be topped up in the phone bill. When the order is ready, a text message is sent to the phone to alert the customer to pick the food up. One reviewer righteously complained: “Ordering was fast indeed. But no one paid attention to my order behind the counter so I ended up getting the food much later.” Managing the human skills and habits will still be the prevalent issue in deploying a service backed by new technology.

sharing resources: street car

I don’t and can’t drive a car. And I do not wish to change that ever. But the concept of Streetcar: self-service pay-as-you-go-car is still intriguing. I don’t know how successful they are, but it does sound like they found a niche market for city dwellers that need a car just occasionally for those unavoidable ikea trips, or big grocery shopping days – considering most regular car rental companies have their pick-up and drop-off locations for out-of-city travelers or foreign visitors. It is a business model that is made possible because of the substantial percentage of their customers booking their cars through internet and mobile phone calls, micro-managing their rental duration, location, reservation changes, and post-payment with credit cards. Streetcar states that it takes just 60 seconds for the booking information to reach the specific car, and charges are made by the hour.

200802_streetcarlondon02

Having witnessed all the failed examples of free city bikes where bikes ended up miserably valdalized, I was surprised to see that the condition of the streetcars was really good, without any sign of coercion present in the car itself like cctv, or sensor monitoring any damage to the car.

This business model does have the potential to increase the inherent value of the resource, provided that it is helped by tools for effectively managing and negotiating its utility and the supply-demand is on balance. What other commodities could we expect to adopt this model? Chain saw? People’s excess leisure time and skills? Storage space?

Streetcar membership card is indeed another near field communication device. As people’s wallets are getting populated with more than one of these cards now, I wonder how the industry will cope with the presence of multiple NFC-enabled devices at the point of input.

200802_streetcarlondon01

Better pictures and videos of UK’s streetcar are found on the company’s website: http://www.streetcar.co.uk/

exploring an exploratory design research method: nokia open studio

for readers looking for light musings like this, or this, i would like to mention that this is no toilet talk. while i try not to make it a habit to write about my professional work here, i feel that i owe an explanation to those who listened to a few conference talks i gave this year. being non-native english speaker, crowd-shy and nerdy designer/researcher, i always struggle with telling stories in the typical 15-20 min talk time in conferences. so here comes a 24-page paper reflecting on nokia open studio as design research method.
my eloquent and diligent co-author, jan chipchase, who has a knack in publishing has uploaded a presentation version in slideshare, which is linked below.

Entry from Dharavi, Mumbai

nokia open studio was a community design competition with the theme of ‘design your ideal mobile phone’, hosted in 3 communities of Dharavi (Mumbai, India), Favela Jacarezinho (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and Buduburam (Accra, Ghana). it’s a method that we have been developing through several projects over years. my pursuit is to find a way to meaningfully engage and understand people in the design research phase when the research topic does not provide coherent anchor points to real-world behaviors. that’s why we call this work exploratory design research: often starting with a guiding theme but not knowing the full extent of what we will learn and discover.

entry from favela jacarezinho

working for creating something that is about far into the future is similar to finding pearls in the sand, except the fact that you will be responsible to find the sand grain that may turn into a pearl in the future of different shape and quality. ethnographic research methods guide the design research phase for innovation as far as creating opportunities through which we can understand the present living and underlying motivations behind why people behave the way they do. but it often does not let us see beyond the barriers of the present living: people who are not using technology not because they do not need it but because they cannot afford it; people who do not have time or social network to introduce them to new tools. through open studios, we wanted to lift these barriers and understand how people see the relevance of technology in their lives, sometimes for the future, sometimes in relation to what is lacking today. it is not a marketing tool, and it is not a tool to hunt ideas to implement in products directly. but it is a tool that supports our thinking and projection about the future. open studio is also a way to bring the very raw voices of people in the corporate context, which may function as a stopping sign for technology driven industry’s eternal hunt for the new. and as designer/researcher on the ground, it has been an effective tool that taught me how little we know, how creative people can be, how to be aware of our own intellectual arrogance, and how not to be presumptuous.

entry from Buduburam, Ghana

i would recommend to read the paper only if you are interested in design research method, how diverse people’s perception towards mobile phones are, or believe that mobile technology is all about more mega-pixels, better screens, and thin/small/miracle sizes.

> download the report (PDF, 9.7mb)
> business week hosts a slideset of a selection of entries
> my first conference talk on open studio at LIFT 2008 in Geneva

> please note that text in the slideshare below will be readable only in full screen mode.

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: mobile phone)

 

internet etiquette education in Korea

i enjoy reading korean news online whenever i have leisurely time at home, though it happens rather sporadically nowadays. what caught my attention today was an article (in korean) about the new morality class text book content for elementary schools.

with the majority of its citizens having embraced lifestyles which internet is an indispensable part of, korean government’s march on adjusting its policy and legislation for the digital era is quite thought-provoking, to say the least. when camera phones came out, it was quick to mandate all camera phones’ shutter sound to be at least 65db years ago. more recently it is considering making it mandatory for GPS navigation device manufacturers to provide software update facilities in gas stations or convenience stores so that consumers do not become a victim of outdated map databases and map software on the road. not long time ago, a government organization, IAPC (internet addiction prevention center) also started running the bootcamps for internet addicts, a program to help serious internet/computer game addicts rehabilitate. the program made participants totally disconnected from the internet but instead engage in several physical and social activities in the real world. this organization was established in 2002 and has been doing research on koreans’ internet addiction. according to their website, it also conducted research on students’ mobile phone addiction and resulting behavioral changes as well.

it is not surprising to see the government’s effort to educate children about the right and wrong in the digital world early on, as the age when people first start to use internet is getting younger. morality classes start in the first school year for everyone in korea. according to the article, the current morality class text book has the following internet-related content:

4th grade (age 9)
danger and harm of hacking
immorality of illegal content downloading
5th grade (age 10)
respecting others in the internet
6th grade (age 11)
harm of cracking (malicious hacking)
telecommunication etiquette

the new text book proposal will have more pages dedicated to internet behaviors:
2nd grade (age 7)
preventing internet addiction
using polite and appropriate language in internet
4th grade (age 9)
moral problems children experience in internet
problems caused by improper netiquette
what netiquette is and how to behave accordingly
5th grade (age 10)
understanding the danger of computer game addiction
reflection of my own computer game usage behavior
desirable way of enjoying computer game

i believe these topics were chosen reflecting what has been researched well and emerged as patterns of problems like online gaming. It may have been that the article simply did not mention it, but I hope they would touch on identity related topics as well. many children including myself go through the phase when they relate their identity to imaginary or fictional characters. i am no expert in this area so i do wonder how future children would discover and exploit the fact that they can be the imaginary character to a certain extent if they want to, aided by other ‘people’ in the digital world, not just by their own imagination while they are going through the blossoming age of developing their social perception and individual identity. it is up to whether the child will be able to master the delicate skill set of constructing and maintaining the perception of a world in a non-physical form. there was an incident in korea last month that a girl in her early teens left her home for a few days trying to find her ‘virtual husband’, a 30 something years old guy she got to know through online chatting months ago. he had told her that he cannot be ‘with’ her anymore. heartbroken, she wanted to go and look for him even though she had never met him before as the real life form. even for adults, it is not easy to define what is real and what is not nowadays. more embarrassingly, we may have to be in the position to explain to younger people whether what is not real is good or bad.

while i am being a novice fascinated by the potential of education here, i am curious how much of korea’s move is shared by other countries. as far as i have experienced, most mobile / internet cultural norms people tend to be aware of are mostly based on or affected by the immediate communities they belong to. korea has always been a patrimonial society so their approach of institutionalized education and preventive legislation against mishaps and misbehaviors in the internet era seems appropriate.

considering the internet can be catalyst for globalization, how will we come to terms in establishing the desirable behavioral norms in years to come, and from what motivation? if we look a bit farther into the future, internet globalization will be advanced and hence we will have to come up with desirable norms.

there is a downside of authorities acting too fast without the reliable foresight: because korean government’s legislation on the internet banking security was made such a long time ago when there were only a few internet browsers were around, korean online banking systems do not allow access via newer internet browsers, according to a friend working for mozilla.

lastly, there was a very good talk at the new yorker conference in 2007 on morality by Jonathan Haidt, if you want to continue pondering on the topic.

the first picture was taken in tokyo underground in 2006; the second picture is my 3yo nephew watching the animation ‘cars’ on my sister’s laptop.

gradual dissemination: the usefulness of touch

going through some of my old photos, i noticed how SUICA system, initially rolled out as a public transportation card replacing paper tickets using nfc (near field communication) technology has been gradually introduced in japan.

the copy on the ad above is translated something in the line of “fun transformation of your mobile phone” (photo taken in april 2008).

around march 2006 when this picture was taken, i saw lots of advertisements and posters featuring this penguin character representing suica. all focused on the concept of how suica can be used to pay for the tickets, make small payments at shops instead of cash, and touch interface. for instance, this little penguin character would appear in the tv commercials accompanying a lady traveling alone passing through ticket gates with her, and drinking beer with her at a bar. it was going everywhere with the owner. the penguin also enjoyed the stardom through lots of character goods produced around it – flush toys, key chains, hats, whatever you can imagine.

suica is one of the brand names in japan that does more or less the same thing or using the same technology (like UK’s Oyster card)- which is essentially a cash top-up card. with japan rail behind it, suica had the power to educate the mass about the new interaction method as the benefits were quite clear: no need for queuing to get tickets, less hassle in passing through the crowded ticket gates, fewer reasons to carry coins. the clear benefit primarily as transportation tickets supported the mass adoption as well – though we are still talking about several years. the maturity of adoption brought a few variants as well: registration is now possible so that you can get your money back even though the card is lost; you can link it to your credit card so that it can be automatically charged once the balance goes below a certain point; commuter-pass registration is possible, as most japanese employers reimburse the commuting transportation cost based on the price of the monthly pass.

of course suica and its sister systems have become available on mobile phone for some time (under the name ‘mobile suica’). it seems about 60% of mobile phones in the market supports the function already. my tokyo colleague, Fumiko Ichikawa has a brief report on the current state of adoption in her blog. what is pleasing to observe is the gradual expansion of its use for other purposes than micro cash payments.

ana (all nippon airways) supports several methods for check-in. obviously mobile phone enabled with nfc like mobile suica is one of them.

suipo (suica poster) is launched last summer – it is an advertising platform using mobile suica as interface. people can touch the indicated spot on the advertisement to get the ad on the mobile. or you can use the normal suica card to get the 2-d bar code displayed, a technology that has been around longer in the market. if the boss canned coffee ad does not tempt you as a smart usage of nfc, you can also read about navita, the public maps using the same information distribution system as suipo. as with 2-d bar code, i am not sure how widely this is used at the moment.

from penguins to mobile micro payment to touch-based information distribution: it is a nice example of how a new technology is disseminated in incremental steps, which was a long journey.

i had a chance to probe how chinese people think about touch or near-touch interface a couple of weeks ago. while the metro ticket system in shanghai is same as oyster or suica, most people could not think of any other use of a similar system beyond that. on the other hand, their understanding of bluetooth wireless technology seemed to confuse many people about possibilities and benefits of near field interaction. a remote indication to think about the adoption curve and mass-market education of new technology – with or without a cute penguin’s involvement.