The Weekly Round-Up: Tweeting airlines, MeeGo a no-go and Glasto tech

Twitter solves ash cloud woes, Nokia's uncertain future and Orange keeps Glasto goers juiced...
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor

Twitter solves ash cloud woes, Nokia's uncertain future and Orange keeps Glasto goers juiced...

What's one to do when faced with the elemental, volcanic rage of planet Earth? Turn to Twitter, of course.

That's precisely what KLM Royal Dutch Airlines did when they faced a backlog of passengers because of the vast cloud of volcanic ash pumping out from the beautiful, seismic and prohibitively expensive-to-visit nation of Iceland.

During last year's ash cloud incident, which saw millions of people inconvenienced, KLM found an unlikely saviour in microblogging.

Faced with travel chaos, passengers promptly jammed the airline's call centres and other communications channels trying to find details of their flights.

Thinking swiftly, the airline employed 120 people - wouldn't 140 have been more apposite? - working in shifts for seven days to provide regular updates on rescheduled flights and answer customer queries and rebooking requests through the social networks. They Twittered while the cloud rolled.

Peter Hartman, CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines told the Sita Air Transport IT Summit this week how the airline turned to the social web when the traditional channels failed.

According to the CEO, the move to customer service 2.0 helped the airline clear its backlog. "We hit the bullseye," he said.

Indeed, the company was so impressed with how effective the social web was with customer service it decided to set up its own social media department. The 23-strong unit deals with customer queries through Twitter and Facebook. It also monitors the interweb channels for feedback about the airline.

Hartman cited an example of the unit spotting a tweet from a US KLM passenger complaining about being stuck in Amsterdam airport and not having any water. "Fifty minutes later, one of our staff walked up and said, 'I have your water'," he said. The suitably hydrated and happy customer then sent another message saying how good the service is at KLM.

Which is lovely and clever but the Round-Up is betting the passenger wishes he'd been thinking bigger. Who knows what would have happened if he'd tweeted, 'In Amsterdam Airport. Not only do I have no water, I haven't got one of those electric go-cart things and a load of duty free. Or a zebra.'

So there you are. Faced with adversity in the shape of a giant volcanic ash cloud? Turn to Twitter. Next week, Qantas will be demonstrating how Bebo can be used to mitigate disruption caused by typhoons...

MeeGo a no-go

Nokia is a funny old company these days. Once the darling of the mobile telecoms world, the Mighty Finn has seen its stock dwindle in recent times as Apple and Google have encroached on its once impenetrable territory.

More recently it's jumped into bed with Microsoft, made job cuts, hired an ex-Microsoft exec as CEO and committed its smartphone future to Windows Phone 7.

The next natural step was then to launch a very swish new smartphone handset running, not Windows Phone 7, but MeeGo, the platform it has pledged to kill very shortly to make way for the Microsoft mobile OS.

The N9 is a good-looking phone but it's a bit unlikely that either customers or developers will flock to the platform given it has the longevity of a mayfly.

Yes, go take a look at the beautiful shiny thing, for it may not be around long. Nokia's ex-Microsoft CEO Stephen Elop was filmed this week taking another N9 from his pocket, but wouldn't you know it, it was running Windows Phone 7. Gasp!

Stone the crows. Nokia announces two new platforms on one sleek, sexy device in one week. Just like buses, you wait ages then two come along at once.

Suddenly, the video goes viral and everyone's talking about Windows Phone 7 on a very interesting piece of Nokia hardware. Talking of which, Microsoft this week took the wraps off the next version of Windows Phone 7, known as Mango.

Nokia and Microsoft hope their combination of hardware and software will be enough to stem the losses to iOS and Android. Their first phone is arriving sometime in early 2012.

No hurry.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports claim that Elop was later spotted at the rear of the building dressed in a sheepskin coat and standing behind an open suitcase shouting: "MeeGo on an N9? Who'll give me a tenner for an N9 running MeeGo?"

"Going cheap..."

Keep yourself juiced at Glastonbury

Finally this week, tens of thousands of music lovers descend on South West England, specifically to the small, historic town of Glastonbury, doubtless much to the delight of the locals.

It's time for the annual festival of music, mud, beer and strange herbal smells - and a bit of sleek mobile technology, naturally.

Mobile carrier Orange has again sprung to the rescue of festival goers whose mobiles have run out of juice.

This problem is getting worse, apparently. Partially because large, hungry touchscreen devices are demanding more power and year-on-year our reliance on mobile tech to keep us in touch with changing events leaves us using them more.

Don't fear. Orange is here with its annual offering of a festival-friendly solution to your power woes.

Last year, the company devised a pair of wellies with chargers in the heel that gained energy from the movement of walking. Good news for some, bad news for those incapacitated by drink or something else. The year before, Orange developed portable wind turbines for generating electricity.

This year it's gone back to the wearable-technology motif with a T-shirt that uses the noise of the music from the various stages and tents to charge a mobile. Clever, eh?

Here's the science bit. The technology is based on a "piezoelectric film" which turns vibrations into voltage. The material is fine enough to be woven into a T-shirt and generated volts are stored in a temporary battery.

If you get low on mobile juice, simply plug your phone into your wearable electricity generator and - hey presto! - you're able to field calls from your mum worried about someone spiking your drink or picking up some disease from all the mud and oomska swirling around your ankles.

It has to be said that the amount of energy is not massive, but it may be enough to tide you over until you queue for the bus home.

The only downside is that with U2 headlining you'd need to expose yourself to absurdly high levels of Bono-drone to guarantee you can pick up your text messages.

The Round-Up supposes there are always earplugs...

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