Mobilfunk braucht mehr Offenheit für Innovation – Interview mit Timo Arnall

Mobilfunkplattformen müssen sich öffnen, um Innovation zu ermöglichen, meint der norwegische Mobilfunk-Usability-Experte Timo Arnall. Er beschäftigt sich seit Jahren mit der Erschließung des physischen Raums durch digitalen Technologien. In seinem Blog “Elasticspace” dokumentiert er seine zahlreichen Projekte rund um die “erweiterte Realität” – “augmented reality”. Kürzlich war auf der Web Expo 2008 in Berlin zu Gast

Im Sommer 2006 bat ich ihn um ein Interview, das sich aber, nachdem wir es in einem Zeitraum von 3 Monaten zu Ende gebracht hatten,  leider als etwas zu speziell für eine Veröffentlichung der von mir angesprochenen Zeitschriften und Zeitungen herausstellte. Beim wochenendlichen Aufräumen habe ich es jetzt wieder entdeckt – und halte es für noch immer interessant, da wir einige von ihm angesprochenen Entwicklungen erst in diesem Jahr wirklich wahrgenommen haben. Deshalb hier hier nun, mit zweijähriger Verspätung, endlich seine Antworten auf meine Fragen:

Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti: Timo, what are the most interesting current projects for you today?

Timo Arnall: The most interesting current projects are around photo sharing, no other application area is as developed as this. It’s interesting that three to four years ago we were sold cameraphones with the intention of us sending images to each other, and that never happened. It seems that people don’t see the point in sharing images with each other, but on the other hand, people are using sites like Flickr and Blogger to share images daily, with lots of people.

So we now have all of these applications springing up, like Zonetag, Meaning, Shozu, Radar, etc. that run as applications on the phone, and offer instant photo uploading to various photo sites. What is most interesting about these applications is the sharing of location information and other metadata.


Meaning (Anm. CSH: inzwischen wieder offline) and Zonetag in particular are gathering data such as cell position, gps data (if available) and the proximity of other bluetooth devices. This is starting to build up a rich database of pictures associated with people and places. This is all still quite embryonic, and the data is largely meaningless right now, but it has large consequences for the development of new services in the future. Once these huge archives of photos are tagged with such data we can start to browse in much richer ways: by location, by people, by subject. This is a huge opportunity, but also a challenge in terms of privacy.

So the phone manufacturers are catching on to this and offering Flickr integration, Blogger integration, or services like lifeblog. The latest phones from Nokia support Flickr out of the box (N72, N73 and N93), and the latest phones from SE supporting blogger out of the box (SE K800).

From images to sound: it’s possible to create podcasts from mobile phones, which has been used in a number of cases for journalism and live-reporting. This seems a natural mode of operation for citizen journalism, the phone as a reporting tool.

From sound to movies: We will probably see video sharing emerging pretty soon at a mass scale: integration of mobile video and sites like Vimeo and YouTube seems very natural. Instant uploads from phone to Youtube for instance seems very appealing from a social, sharing point of view.

Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti: What are the most important trends in the design of mobile phone services?

Timo Arnall: As Marko Ahtisaari of Nokia says, the next challenge is about reaching the next 2 billion users, mainly from the BRIC countries. This involves smartening the way in which we do simple voice and text, as well as developing richer multimedia experiences.

One of my favourite new services is Jaiku, an application that replaces your conventional contact list with a list that also includes your friends location, descriptions of current and future activities, who they are with, etc. Justin Hall describes it: ‘I love the idea of rich presence, because my friends are the content.’

In contrast to the content sharing services mentioned above, Jaiku is sharing everyday activity, patterns and behaviour with trusted friends, something that Jyri Engeström calls enhanced ‘social peripheral vision’. I really like the simplicity of these things from a user-interface perspective: it’s just adding peripheral information to existing calendars or contacts lists, and for this reason I think it will be widely adopted fairly soon.

From an interface perspective ‘Widgets’ are emerging as a standard for small, focused applications that work extremely well on a mobile phone. Application developers for the web and mobile are starting to get better at designing task-focused interfaces that work well across platforms.

Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti: Web 2.0 projects show that issues of social organisation are crucial for business success. What is your vision of mobile 2.0?

Timo Arnall: The driving factors behind the adoption of mobile services has always been social motivation, SMS in particular gave us so many improved personal and social freedoms over voice that it grew rapidly as a media. Handset manufacturers, operators and application providers have been notoriously bad at recognising this, selling technological advances like WAP or 3G without any perceived improvements from a personal or social perspective.

Unfortunately the mobile platform is still so ingrained in telecoms and operator traditions that it doesn’t look like the innovative space that the web has been for social applications, there is simply not enough room at the moment for communities to become engaged with mobile services, to advocate for them, and to participate in their growth. The web was founded both philosophically and technically on an open, decentralised architecture that allowed services, applications, economics and even social movements to grow within it. This is certainly not true of the current mobile infrastructure, we’ll need to see some decentralisation from the network up before we see more innovation.

Bild: Augmented reality phone cam tennis, Flickr/Roboskirts

About Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti

Freie IT- und Medienjournalistin. Hat dieses Blog 2007 im Rahmen der KoopTech-Analyse eingerichtet. Seit Beendigung des Projekts führt sie es als Multi-Autorenblog weiter. Sie führt ein persönliches Blog auf ihrer Homepage.
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