Friday

Friday 7/3/2003If you've been paying attention -- wake up at the back there -- you'll know that location-based services are going to be huge. Stuff that tells the network the whereabouts of your mortal remains will change our lives, once the relevant infrastructure is in place and the massive commercial enterprises involved have deigned to provide the services.

Friday 7/3/2003
If you've been paying attention -- wake up at the back there -- you'll know that location-based services are going to be huge. Stuff that tells the network the whereabouts of your mortal remains will change our lives, once the relevant infrastructure is in place and the massive commercial enterprises involved have deigned to provide the services. Maybe. But why wait, when companies like PsiNT are there already? This small outfit from Poland has been developing Psion, now Symbian, applications for the past five years, and made quite a success of the endeavour. Now, it's produced MiniGPS -- a piece of software that runs on a Nokia 3650 or 7650, doing a simple job with marvellous consequences. All it does is monitor the identity of the GSM network cells you're passing through as you travel, allow you to give them names and optionally trigger actions when you move into some you've been to before. Why is this good? Well, you'll soon learn which cells service your home, office, friend's flat, destination railway station and so on. You can then get your phone to change or mute ring tone and otherwise reconfigure itself to a state appropriate to each location, you can set an alarm to warn you when you're getting near to the end of your journey (invaluable to those who snooze on late night, post-pub commutes), have the phone go bleep when you drive into a zone with a low speed limit, and so on. No doubt you can think of more -- the idea of it sending SMSs on entry or exit from certain areas has a whole set of applications of its own, for example. It'd be nice if there was a central directory of what cell ID maps onto what part of the map, but traditionally that's been seen as dangerous information and not published. Bet it won't take long for the glorious company of hackers to throw together one, though, whether or not the networks approve. MiniGPS works. One of ZDNet UK's developers, James Cohen, has been playing with it and pronounces himself delighted -- and he's a tough customer. It costs around a tenner, you can try it before you buy it, and it's the sort of genuinely useful application that just couldn't happen in the world of closed standards. We'll be waiting a long time before this sort of magic appears on Smartphone 2002 -- and in the end, that'll make more of a difference to the market than any number of choleric rants by such as I. A good thing too.