21/12/2012

Digia releases Qt 5.0

Digia the company that has taken over the development of Qt (from Nokia) has released version 5.0 of the toolkit. This maintains compatibility with Qt 4.

Qt 5 benefits include:

  • graphics quality
  • performance on constrained hardware
  • cross-platform portability
  • support for C++11
  • HTML5 support with QtWebKit 2
  • a vastly improved QML engine with new APIs

Qt 5 also supports OpenGL ES (the version of Open GL that is optimised for embedded systems).

Qt supports a wide range of operating systems including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, embedded operating systems such as embedded Linux, Windows Embedded as well as the most widely deployed real-time operating systems for embedded devices – VxWorks, Neutrino and INTEGRITY – and popular mobile OSes.

Digia is maintaining 2 versions of Qt, the commercial version and a 30 day free trial is available from qt.digia.com and the open source version from qt-project.org.

Ofcom announces bidders for 800MHz and 2.6GHz auctions

Ofcom the super regulator that covers amongst other things radio spectrum has announced the bidders that have been accepted for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum auctions (a total of 250MHz is being made available). The details of who is bidding for what has not been made available.

Each of the following paid a £100,000 deposit and the actual auction will take place in early 2013.

  • Everything Everywhere Limited (UK)
  • HKT (UK) Company Limited (a subsidiary of PCCW Limited)
  • Hutchison 3G UK Limited
  • MLL Telecom Ltd
  • Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc)
  • Telef√≥nica UK Limited
  • Vodafone Limited

The four existing mobile network operators (MNOs) EE, 3UK, O2 (Telefonica) and Vodafone were expected to bid and will probably bid for the 800MHz spectrum.

BT was a preferred outsider and will probably be bidding for 2.6GHz spectrum.

HKT's parent PCCW already has a nationwide 3.4GHz license (but it's a weird LTE band) but they have launched an LTE-TD wholesale service in the London area, so they may well bid for 2.6GHz spectrum as at least this is a common worldwide LTE band.

MLL already have a low power GSM license and also will probably have bid for a 2.6GHz license, especially as they are developing their own LTE stack (via a 3rd party).

Next year Ofcom will announce which bidders bid for what spectrum.

23/11/2012

Ofcom updates GC17

Ofcom the super regulator has published a statement on General Condition 17 (GC17) which relates to the UK numbering plan and telephone number allocations.

The statement just cleans-up the old GC17 as this was published over 10 years ago prior to Ofcom coming into being and though still relevant things have changed since Ofcom took over the role previously maintained by Oftel.

The statement provides the following modifications to the Numbering Plan and GC17: create a single reference point for CPs and other stakeholders in relation to number ranges and related restrictions;

  • simplify the provisions relating to compliance with the Numbering Plan and other restrictions on the adoption or use of numbers
  • improve the clarity of the Numbering Plan, and remove unnecessary duplication; ensure consistent reflection of current numbering policy across GC17 and the Numbering Plan
  • make other minor drafting amendments such as deleting obsolete or redundant text, removing duplication and correcting textual and typographical errors.

This will also affect number allocation forms to correspond to the changes.

Ofcom consults on whitespace use

Ofcom the Super regulator has published a consultation on the use of whitespace frequencies.

Whitespace is radio spectrum (generally in the Digital Terrestrial Television [DTT] and Program Making and Special Events [PMSE] bands) in the UHF TV bands (470MHz to 790MHz) that isn't used in a particular area. This is because adjacent TV transmitters cant use the same radio frequencies, so there are geographic areas where certain spectrum is available, but those frequencies will be used elsewhere in the UK.

As certain frequencies are available in certain areas, these could be used (in lower power) by other devices such that they wont interfere with their use in neighbouring areas. In order for that to work, the devices (or central transmitter) will have to know where it is and how much power it can transmit and on what frequencies such that interference wont occur.

There are various uses for whitespace spectrum such as rural broadband or hotspot connectivity. Here the central transmitter would have to query the central database and CPE equipment would get transmit power and frequency use from the central transmitter.

Whitespace could also be used for in-home or M2M applications and in this case the central router (which would be connected to the Internet) would make the database queries and the rest of the in-home/M2M equipment would get the power/frequency information from the central router.

Ofcom is proposing making whitespace devices license except, though they will have to contact a central database and pass back their location and thus be given allowable frequencies and their power constraints.

As part of the consultation Ofcom has specified the types of queries and responses, but not how they're implemented as this would be down to the market to implement.

The full statement (PDF) is available on-line and the stakeholders can also respond on-line. The consultation closes on the 10 January 2013.

16/11/2012

Ofcom starts 800MHz and 2.6GHz auction race

Ofcom, the Super regulator that looks after radio spectrum (amongst others) has today released guidance for applicants and bidders PDF) and application forms for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum auctions.

These are similar to recent other spectrum auctions and all applications must be received by Ofcom by December 11th 2012 and at the same time Ofcom must have received a £100,000.00 deposit (which is refundable if the bidder doesn't win or withdraws from the auction within the withdrawal timeframe).

Ofcom will have some time to ensure the validity of the application and applicant (they must pass tests to ensure they are valid applicants).

On the 2nd dat Ofcom will tell all bidders of other bidders in their group.

Ofcom then allow 4 days for bidders to notify Ofcom on any group overlaps.

Ofcom then has 3 days to notify successfully qualified bidders, publish them on the Ofcom website and notify them of the last day for withdrawal.

The last day for withdrawal is 2 days following publication.

Ofcom will then publish the list of actual bidders.

Ofcom will use an electronic bidding system which allows bids to be submitted in rounds (this all gets very complicated, especially when an additional opt-in round is added to the process). Ofcom will train bidders on the use of the electronic voting system.

It's expected that at least O2 and Vodafone will bid for the 800MHz spectrum, though 3UK may join in too as they don't have any sub 1GHz spectrum at present. The 2.6GHz spectrum (especially low power licenses) may be more of a jamboree with some unexpected players joining in.

Ofcom to move DTT from 700MHz to 600MHz

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, is proposing to clear the current Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) band at 700MHz and move it to the 600MHz band that was cleared during the digital switchover. This is not going to be a quick process and Ofcom are proposing a 2018 switch-over date.

This is in-line with both EU and International harmonised spectrum policy.

The 700MHz band is already used for wireless broadband in countries such as North America and the EU also wishes to move in this direction to cope with future broadband spectrum requirements (the band could be used for LTE or other wireless broadband technologies). The 800MHz band is already being freed (as part of the digital switchover) and is being auctioned in early December 2012 and should be available in March 2013 and it is assumed the licensees will operate LTE services in the 2 bands being auctioned.

In order to move DTT services, it will be necessary to ensure maximum spectral efficiency and thus it's likely DTT MUX's will all have to migrate to DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 (as is used by Freeview HD) which may affect end-users as they will have to ensure they have the correct systems to receive these transmissions.

Ofcom are also keen to promote innovative new services such as White Space Devices (WSD) as these can use parts of the spectrum that aren't being used for DTT services (this is mainly due to overlapping DTT regions that have to use different frequency sets and thus there are areas of spectrum that are left empty in one area so as not to interfere with neighbouring areas). The 'white spaces' are perfectly usable for controlled transmissions that wont interfere with neighbouring areas, but can provide spectrum for broadband. WSDs will need to contact a central database, both to ensure that they are only using allowable frequencies and also Ofcom may enforce a kill switch to ensure that if interference does occur, that the devices can be remotely disabled.

Currently trials of WSDs are taking place in the 700MHz band.

Though 2018 seems a long way away, it took a huge amount of effort to ensure the current digital switchover could take place and it seems that this is really a second digital switchover (though DTT services already operate in the lower 600MHz band so new equipment and transmitters/etc shouldn't be required).

12/11/2012

Zapd 2.0 goes live

What is Zapd? Well it's a hugely powerful mobile website builder, but usable by anyone and creates really professional looking websites that are available from any platform (phone, tablet desktop and whatever comes along in the future).

Currently available on iOS from iTunes, the user just selects a template (and there are lots of them, with more added every month) and then starts adding photos (and text and links that can describe the photo or anything else). A photo can be taken there and then, or batch uploaded from previous photos. Of course there are now image editing facilities now built into Zapd such as image enhancement (brightness, saturation, hues, colours etc), resizing, cropping etc.

Zapd 2.0 also has 'social' features built-in so users can now follow other people's Zaps, they can be followed and users can even collaborate on Zaps (so say you're at a wedding or party, just add friends there) and all their photos can go on to the same site.

There's also traditional sharing too so Zaps can be pushed to Facebook and other sites.

It's also completely free, though premium features are expected to be released in the future along with an Android version (note this version is a native app compared to the original Zapd which was built using Sensa Touch and Phonegap).

More info on their Facebook Page, Website and Twitter.

Blackberry 10 to launch Jan 30th 2013

RIM have announced that Blackberry 10 devices will launch on Jan 30th 2013 and that they have already received Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 security certification which means they are suitable for (US) Government use on launch.

The Blackberry 10 platform is based on QNX so is similar to the Playbook operating system which is already based on it and though it's possible to write native and Java based apps, RIM are no where near the number of apps available for Apple's iOS or Google's Android.

RIM have tried to be as developer friendly as possible and have given devices to anyone who'll listen, but with iOS and Android getting Government use approval, they may well have done too little too late.

Blackberry have always made smartphones (with keyboards) that excel in Email, text and instant messaging and also get phone features right (like handling pretty much any phone number format and being able to dial it correctly in the local convention) and they sort of do apps. This is contrast to iOS and Android which are computers that sort of do phone stuff.

Ofcom announces date for 800MHz and 2.6GHz auctions

Ofcom, the super regulator has announced that the auction for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands will commence on December 11th 2012.

The new regulations (pdf) covering the auction (know as a Standard Instrument) has been published and will come into force on November 23rd 2012.

Ofcom is proposing to auction the following lots: -

Lot CategoryA(i)A(ii)BCD(i)D(ii)E
800 MHz 2x5 MHz800 MHz 2x10 MHz (with coverage obligation)1800 MHz 2x15 MHz (Divestment)2.6 GHz 2x5 MHz (standard power)2.6 GHz 2x10 MHz (shared low power)2.6 GHz 2x20 MHz (shared low power)2.6 GHz 5 MHz (unpaired)
Ofcom’s proposal£225m£250m£225m£15m£3m per bidder, £30m threshold£6m per bidder, £60m threshold £0.1m

Lots A(i), A(ii) and C are suitable for generic mobile network operator LTE services, lot B is now irrelevant as EE have divested this spectrum to 3UK.

The low power bands D(i) and D(ii) are more suited to companies that have infrastructure and can offer femto cell type services (probably on a wholesale service to the main operators - for network offload), though new entrants could come in and offer innovative localised LTE services.

Lot E is probably suited to an operator who wants to offer broadband services (not using LTE which requires paired spectrum).

This means the minimum bid (if there only 1 bidder each for the low power license) is £499.1m, and if there are 10 low power bidders £580.1m. Obviously these are Ofcom's minimum bid values and the actual values could increase substantially.

Ofcom have also valued the 800Mhz significantly more than the 2.6GHz spectrum (as it has better propagation characteristics and therefore it's easier to cover large areas of population).

Ofcom agreed to move forward the auction after O2 and Vodafone threatened to take Ofcom to judicial review after allowing EE to offer LTE services on their 1800MHz spectrum, however O2 and Vodafone have no guarantees that they will win a license in either 800MHz or 2.6Ghz (though Ofcom can assess bidders not to be suitable to bid - but based on their stability etc).

Let the fun begin.

25/10/2012

EE releases LTE charges

EE the new name for Everything Everywhere has announced its plans for devices using their LTE bands. EE got permission from Ofcom to use their 1800MHz spectrum for LTE earlier this year and after successful negotiations with the other Mobile Network Operators (and selling off some of the spectrum to 3 UK) they will be launching on Oct 30th.

The prices are at a premium though and EE is charging more for their LTE tariffs than on their 3G bands.

If you want a LTE devices, tariffs are: -

500MB£36
1GB£41
3GB£46
5GB£51
8GB£56

SIM only deals for people with existing devices are: -

500MB£21
1GB£26
3GB£31
5GB£36

As well as a premium EE are imposing heavy data limits and every extra 2GB costs £15 per month.

Though LTE will allow faster downloads of content, EE is effectively limiting how users can actually use their services unless it's for corporates who are willing to pay the excessive charges for data use (though voice and SMS are unlimited).

New .xxx domains go for sale

The ICM registry which controls the .xxx domain has put up 1000 new domains for sale (based on current searches from the search.xxx search engine).

The .xxx is for adult domains and search.xxx is run purely as an adult/porn search engine.

ICM has already released 200 domains under .xxx which have generated around $5m in revenue. The domain Gay.xxx went for $500,000 and Fetish.xxx for $300,000.

Six3 integrates Facebook and Twitter sharing

Six3 have an iPhone app that allows users to send short videos to each other. This now supports sharing to Facebook and a users Twitter stream.

Facebook integrations allows sending to users privately or posting on their timeline (publicly) and any comments can be viewed in the app itself. The new app is also faster (both in loading and responsiveness).

It's available in the iTunes store and will soon be available on Google Play.

0500 Freephone numbers to disappear

Ofcom the super regular that deals with telecoms amongst other things is holding a consultation to remove the 0500 freephone number range.

This was initially allocated to Mercury and subsequently taken over by Cable and Wireless that is the only operator able to allocate new numbers (though some 0500 numbers have been ported to other providers).

The number of 0500 numbers allocated is not large and therefore Ofcom wants to deallocate the number block (which could be used for new services in future). 0500 number holders will be encouraged to migrate to 080 numbers.

Anyone wishing to respond to the consultation can do so through Ofcom's on-line form.

Plessey release consumer ECG product

Plessey Semiconductor have released an consumer ECG monitor based on their EPIC chip. Called imPulse, it works by a user just holding the device with their thumbs and then displays the ECG on a smartphone or tablet connected via Bluetooth.

The devices contains two Plessey PS25201 EPIC sensor (one for each thumb) and the software on the smartphone/tablet can perform simple analysis to display the heart rate.

The sensors work by detecting the electrical potential in the air (about 100V per metre of height) and the disruption caused by the human electrical signals.

The sensors can also be used for non-contact heart rate detection, but there is a lot more ambient noise to remove and requires more complex software for analysis.

The EPIC sensors can also be used to detect people through walls using clever software.

19/10/2012

O2 upgrades HLR

O2 is spending £10m revamping it's mobile registration database system (know as an HLR or Home Location Register) as it has suffered 2 major outages in as many months. The HLR stores the customer IMSI (SIM number) and their real telephone number as well as location and other information. When a call comes in, the HLR is queried to find out how do deliver the call the mobile. If the HLR fails, then mobile calls will not work (as mobiles cant register on to the network) and calls to mobiles will fail too. The current HLR (or cluster of HLRs) are made by Ericsson and O2 is buying new systems.

Droidcon returns to London

Next week (October 25/26th 2012) Droidcon returns to London at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

Droidcon is the best Android conference in Europe and anyone interested in the Android ecosystem should definitely go.

Day one is using the 'barcamp' idea whereby anyone can come along and give a talk (with a few 'proper' talks interspersed) and then demo slots and of course the evening party.

Day two is structured with the the more formal speaking slots.

See you there.

16/10/2012

Will Amazon buy OMAP?

Texas Instruments (TI) recently announced they were 'defocusing' efforts on their OMAP line of ARM based CPUs (OMAP is their bleeding edge line of ARM based CPUs made for mobile type devices, they also have various lines of industrial ARM based CPUs, but these tend to be based on older ARM architectures). The defocusing has led to rumours that TI want to sell their OMAP devision. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble use OMAP processors for their Kindle and Nook readers respectively. It seems Amazon has been in discussions with TI for a while and they may be a leading contender in an OMAP purchase. This would give Amazon control of their own CPUs, much like Apple has done with its Ax range of CPUs. Amazon could also use the OMAP processor in devices that may come to market such as a smartphone or other tablet. Amazon may also be in discussions with RIM to license Blackberry OS 10 and also in discussion with HP to buy or license WebOS (which HP took control of when they purchased Palm). Currently WebOS is being open sourced. Amazon have already forked Google's Android and removed all the Google sign-in functionality as well as Google's apps and they run their own Amazon app store.

Apple to drop Samsung for CPUs

Apple's latest iPhone 5 has hit the streets, but what many people don't know is that most of the phone is actually made by Samsung. Samsung fabricate the CPU and make the display and also many of the wireless chips (they used to be made by Cambridge Silicon Radio/CSR, but Samsung acquired their chip division). Apple are moving chip fabrication away from Samsung and their A7 chip will be fabricated by TSMC (or other fab plant), though they may not completely remove themselves from Samsung as they have a production line set-up for the A6. Samsung contributed both design and technology expertise to Apple's earlier CPUs but now much of this expertise has been taken in-house and Apple just require a silicon fab to actually manufacture their new CPUs. The A6 was almost entirely engineered in-house by Apple. This will be a blow to Samsung as they struggle to fill the production lines at their fabs.

04/10/2012

EE to offer LTE for end of October

EE (the new brand that was Everything Everywhere) is to launch their LTE service on their 1800MHz spectrum by end of October 2012 covering 10 cities on launch and a further 6 by the end of the year. EE have now started selling LTE capable phones including the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE, Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820, HTC One XL and the Huawei Ascend P1 LTE. The launch was delayed by complaints by Telefonica/O2 who didn't like Ofcom's decision to allow EE to refarm their 1800MHz spectrum which would in reality give them 12 to 18 months advantage as the only UK network to be able to offer LTE services (Vodafone didn't like it much either, but were less vocal). After Government intervention where O2/Vodafone agreed not to take legal action against Ofcom and EE agreed to delay the LTE launch until the dispute was resolved. It seems that Ofcom and the Government have agreed to push forward (slightly) the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum auctions and move people out of the 800MHz spectrum more quickly so that these bands can be released for LTE use early in 2013. 800MHz is extremely valuable (it was the old analogue TV band) as it has extremely good propagation characteristics (i.e. it can penetrate buildings well) so is good for wide coverage in rural areas. The 2.6GHz spectrum has poor propagation characteristics though it suits urban areas where high data bandwidth is required. Both O2 and Vodafone are expected to bid for both bands. 3 has purchased the excess 1800MHz spectrum that EE had to sell off as part of the merger (as agreed with the European Competition Commission), however they don't actually get it until late in 2013 (which was the deadline for EE to get rid of it). Though it's likely that EE's launch will go ahead, there could still be problems in future as the operators could still mount legal battles. Another possibility is that a new entrant will try and land grab spectrum which could leave O2 and Vodafone out in the cold.

20/09/2012

Sky keeps their Broadcast License

Ofcom the Super Regulator that looks after broadcasting (amongst other things) has performed an investigation into Sky and found that they are 'fit and proper'.

Ofcom performed the investigation in light of the public debate about phone hacking and other allegations.

This means that Sky can continue to operate in the UK.

14/09/2012

MakeDirect cuts out the middleman

MakeDirect is a new company offering factory products direct to the public. In the UK Made has been doing this for a while, but specialising in home furnishing while MakerDirect does this for varying products including Decor, Electronics, Fashion, Furniture, Kids, Kitchen, Lighting, Patio Furniture, Shoes, Sports.

The products can often be purchased at 90% off retail pricing for similar products.

The company is based out of New York and has seen 300% revenue growth month by month and the company has achieved $500,000 in the first 3 months after receiving $2m funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ).

A new range includes wood iPhone covers.

Unfortunately they only ship to the US or Canada.

RIPE NCC on last IPv4 /8

RIPE NCC the European IP registry has today reached the last /8 of IPv4 address (a /8 block means x.255.255.255 so there are 16.8m usable addresses). Local registries will now only be able to apply for single /22 blocks (i.e. 1024 addresses).

Though the use of IPv4 addresses has been reduced by utilising methods such as dynamic IPs and network address translation (NAT), the explosion of connected devices means that IPv4 space is now close to being used up. Registries will only be able to get these last be blocks if they already have and are using IPv6 blocks.

The only rational way forward is for more Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to support the new IPv6 protocol and roll IPv6 services to consumers. Most current operating support IPv6 natively, though not all consumer routers/etc do.

The death bell for IPv4 is now ringing.

Sony rebuilds distribution centre

In the London riots of 2011 Sony's Enfield distribution centre was burnt down, but now after a year Sony have rebuilt the centre and enlarged it. The centre is operated by Sony DADC (a wholly owned subsidiary) and can hold 1.2m items and send out 55,000 items per day (which ship to 20,000 retail outlets).

Though the centre opened on Sept 14th, it will be completely working in time for Christmas which is Sony's peak time and accounts for 50% of annual revenues.

25% of all Sony's UK stock (of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays) were destroyed in the fire last summer which was devastating to the local community. All the jobs were maintained.

The new centre is over 326,00 feet and 6ft taller than the old building.

Sony have also opened a new distribution centre in Rathbone Place (central London) on the 12th of September to cope with increased demand.

10/09/2012

Street Cabinets, a fuss about nothing

There's been a lot of noise recently about the Government passing a new law that will speed-up street cabinet installs as Telecoms companies no longer need to go through the process of applying for planning permission (recently the London Borough of Chelsea and Kensington refused planning permission for around 96 or 108 application from BT to install new cabinets that would support its high speed fibre Infinity service).

Though planning was refused, BT do have a process whereby they can over-ride planning permission as they have what's know as 'code powers' (this name derives from when the UK had a Telecoms Act and having code powers granted the right to have telephone numbers as well as build street works, much of the old Telecoms Act regulatory environment has been surpassed by the Communications Act, but code powers has retained its name).

Any Communications Provider (as defined by the Communications Act) can apply to Ofcom for code powers which then gives them the right to dig roads, build street furniture etc.

So though the framework already exists, this just allows things to move slightly faster as BT and others can now just install standard sized street cabinets.

Node: Up and Running

Node (or Node.js) is a system using Javascript and the V8 Javascript engine that can be used to easily build fast, scalable network applications. Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient, perfect for data-intensive real-time applications that run across distributed devices. Building servers in Javascript may not seem to be an optimal way of doing things, but as the V8 engine is highly optimised (it's the same engine used in Google Chrome browser) meaning things can run quickly (as node itself is event driven so it almost performs as a procedural server process).

The main advantage though is that code written for the front-end can be duplicated for the back-end and data passed between the two without having to do any form of processing.

Node: Up and Running starts form the beginning (i.e. how to install Node) and then how to master its capabilities and interface it to various services like databases and of could build (web) servers.

Node is also highly extensible and comes with a package manager than can both build packages and get packages locally or from the central Node package system.

The book is laid out as follows: -

Chapter 1 A Very Brief Introduction to Node.js Installing Node.js First Steps in Code Why Node?

Chapter 2 Doing Interesting Things Building a Chat Server Let’s Build Twitter

Chapter 3 Building Robust Node Applications The Event Loop Patterns Writing Code for Production Deep Dive and API Reference

Chapter 4 Core APIs Events HTTP I/O

Chapter 5 Helper APIs DNS Crypto Processes Testing Through assert VM

Chapter 6 Data Access NoSQL and Document Stores Relational Databases Connection Pooling MQ Protocols

Chapter 7 Important External Modules Express Socket.IO

Chapter 8 Extending Node Modules Package Manager Add-ons

Anyone thinking of having a go with Node should definitely have a read of this book, it may save hours of time in looking up stuff on the Internet (though Node does have a very comprehensive documentation site).

A new service Valobox allows users to read books on-line (paying for the whole book or only the bits they need), they support the O'Reilly catalog and here's the link to Node: Up and Running.

23/08/2012

Everything Everywhere sells spectrum to Three (but they cant use it)

Everything Everywhere (EE) the combined company made up to Orange and T-Mobile has sold off some of their 1800MHz spectrum to Three UK (3). The terms of the deal have not been specified.

EE has 2 x 60 MHz bands in 1800MHz and they were forced to relinquish some of this spectrum by the European Competition Commission (2 x 15 MHz chunks) and they have no done this by selling it to 3.

However there's a twist as 3 won't actually get hold of the spectrum until 2013 (which is pretty much the maximum time frame the Competition Commission allowed), which gives EE a whole year to offer 4G (LTE) services in the 1800MHz band and be a UK monopoly for 4G services (Ofcom granted EE a license variation to allow 4G services in EE's 1800MHz band earlier this week).

All of the other mobile network operators have cried foul play as they have to wait for spectrum to become available in 800MHz and 2.6GHz as part of the digital dividend, but Ofcom won't auction the spectrum until 2013 and it's not expected to be available until at least the end of 2013.

By offering LTE services it's likely devices such as the iPhone 5 and other smartphones and tablets will be able to use these frequencies as they're already used in Australia and some Asia Pacific countries. Though UK Broadband is also offering LTE on their spectrum, it's in a band that's not commonly used for LTE and they are having specific devices made to use it.

22/08/2012

Amazon now offer Glacial storage

Amazon have announced their Glacier storage system that competes with traditional off-line storage such as tapes. Storage can cost as little as $0.01 per MB per month (so about $10 per TB) and though archival is relatively quick, retrieval can take 4 or 5 hours. Amazon expect users to utilise their notification service so that retrieval jobs are run in the background and users will be notified when the job has been completed. This should be extremely compelling for companies who want to archive data but don't want to invest in network attached storage or slow tape backup solutions. Users should note other charges will be added such as data transfer charges (which can quickly add up).

CS Odessa adds AWS components to Concept Draw Pro/Office

CS Odessa produce a drawing package that is compatible with Microsoft's Visio called Concept Draw Pro (also included in Concept Draw Office which also contains Concept Draw Project and Mindmap). As part of these packages they provide network diagrams and now have released a compete set of Amazon Web Services components allowing users to design and document their AWS configurations. The pack will cost $29 but is available free for a while for registered users of Concept Draw Pro or Office.

Everything Everywhere is allowed to offer LTE services

Everything Everywhere the merged efforts of Orange and T-Mobile have been allowed by Ofcom to operate LTE (Long Term Evolution) or 4G services in its 1800MHz spectrum.

All of the other Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) didn't want EE to be able to do this, but Ofcom have decided that it's in the public interest for them to do so, even though it may give EE a short-term competitive advantage. O2 have published their disappointment in this result.

EE currently have 2 x 60 MHz bands in 1800MHz though under the agreement with the competition commission they have to divest 2 x 15 MHz as part of its merger (leaving them with 2 x 45 MHz). Ofcom have allowed EE to utilise LTE on the full bands, not just the bands that EE will retain after the digital divide auctions expected next year (Ofcom will auction the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands and EE's spectrum will become available as part of this).

It is rumoured that devices such as the iPhone 5 will be able to use LTE services in this band, so EE will be the only UK operator that allows full use of the iPhone's data capabilities.

Ofcom has also published a statement on the interference of LTE in the 800MHz bands which could affect TV services in the future, though their testing has shown that actual interference should be minimal for real use scenarios.

Ofcom's full statement is here.

16/08/2012

iECG my new start-up idea

I'm developing an ECG monitor that uses a new chip/sensor that allows ECG measurements to be taken by placing the sensors on or near the body.

Some hardware will be developed that will do the filtering/digital signal processing work based on ARM CPU and the clean signal can be displayed on consumer hardware such as an iOS or Android phone/tablet or even a PC. There are many consumer applications such as heart rate monitoring for general health, sports activities and such like. The system could also be used to monitor babies by placing the sensors into a cot and check for things like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). There's also real medical uses such as in ambulances as utilising a sensor that can be wiped clean has many cost saving advantages to current ECG pads which cost around $20 a set and are single use. Please view this video as need votes

Thanks

15/08/2012

BERG Little Printer available to pre-order

BERG London made a bit of a splash when they announced the Little Printer, which is now available to pre-order from the Berg Cloud site for £199.00 plus £6.50 p&p.

The printer connects via wireless to a Cloud Bridge (which in turn connects to a wired network that connects to the Internet).

Once signed-up to BERG Cloud, users can then select services to subscribe to and then these will print out on the Little Printer at the scheduled time, services could be email, Facebook, calendars or events from other systems.

BERG have pblished an API for service providers so they can offer their services to the Little Printer and the specification is here.

Though the mood is positive about the device itself, the £199 price tag seems to be the sticky point as it's quite expensive for a novelty printer that display information that is available on the Internet anyway.

BERG London are offering consultancy top help companies make their services available to the Little Printer and can offer a custom services for people to offer 'private' services.

13/08/2012

Samsung demonstrates Exynos 5 processor

Samsung has announced its Exynos 5 processor based on an ARM Cortex-A15 design and has 2 cores running up to 1.7GHz using a 32nm process. The ARM Cortex-15 design can actually support up to 16 cores running at 2.5GHz, but Samsung has used a dual design to reduce power consumption for mobile applications. The Exynos 5 also has an ARM Mali T604 graphics processor with four cores supporting a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and can also support stereoscopic 3D. It also supports panel self refresh allowing for lower power as the display will only be refreshed when pixels change. The chip also supports USB 3.0 for high speed data transfers. Samsung expect the chip to be in tablets and other devices in early 2013 and is set to directly compete with Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors (which are already being fabricated using 28mm process).

09/08/2012

Nokia dumps Qt

Nokia has sold the Qt business to Digia including 125 staff mainly from Oslo and Berlin. Digia had already purchased the Qt licensing business from Nokia in March 2011.

Qt is a cross platform set of libraries allowing developers to use the same front-end code for MacOS X, Windows and Linux (as well as other embedded system like Symbian, INFINITY, VxWORKS and QNX). Qt was originally developed by Trolltech which Nokia bought in 2008.

Nokia has lost its way in recent years having dropped its lead in the mobile phone markets (though it still has a large base in 3rd world countries) as is now concentrating on a smartphone market using Microsoft Windows Phone.

Digia is hoping to further develop Qt which has been used by over 450,000 developers and Digia is hoping to rapidly support MS Windows 8, Google's Android and Apple's iOS.

The commercial version of Qt will be maintained at Digia and the open-source variant at Qt-Project.

31/07/2012

Spotify hits 15m users

Spotify, the music streaming service has now reached over 15m active users and over 4m paying users.

Though Spotify are not in Apple's league with iTunes, they are gaining ground and if they can continue to grow and get traction with paying users (and the licensing authorities don't put their pricing up) they may actually succeed and keep going.

30/07/2012

BT installs a lot of WiFi

BT has installed 500,000 (HALF A MILLION) WiFi access points in London and the Olympic Park in Stratford to cope with the number's of users on site. When spectators are leaving one game and the next set arriving there can be up to 300,000 people on the site and that's a hard peak to cope with. Operators (Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone) are offering their customers free access to around 4,000 of the WiFi access points to off-load the mobile networks which will be creaking under the loads. BT has installed around 3,000 miles of fibre and the network is carrying about 60GB/s (i.e. around 480Gb/s). BT has installed around four times the capacity that was available at the Beijing games.

26/07/2012

LOCOG bans mobile hotspots

Visitors to any of the Olympic events can bring smartphones and other devices, but are not allowed to bring mobile hotspots or 3G hubs, these are prohibited along with many items (you'd usually expect) and are listed here. Though difficult to police this is probably just to avoid WiFi interference as it's really difficult to maintain healthy signals when there are lots of random devices transmitting. There are also possibly security implications as any WiFi traffic going through the official access points can be logged, while random 3G access points would require tapping at the 3G network, which isn't so easy. Policing (if it happens) will probably be reactive when someone complains they cant access WiFi when they should be able to. Then searching out rogue hotspots is relatively easy and they can be quickly located and shut down (and anybody using a rogue 3G hotspot can be ejected and banned from future events).

25/07/2012

Qualcomm drops Mirasol

Qualcomm has decided not to continue developing the Mirasol colour e-ink display solution, though it will license the technology to other parties. Mirasol uses a MEMS display that uses low power and can produce both static displays suitable for reading and if required video (though higher power is required in that mode as the display only uses power when the image changes). One major advantage of Mirasol is that it performs well in outdoor conditions under sunlight. Qualcomm originally purchased Iridigm Display in 2004 for $170m and subsequently purchased Pixtronix for $175m in January 2012 to strengthen the Mirasol technology. Qualcomm is still going to utilise Mirasol for niche applications but will adopt a licensing model for general use.

24/07/2012

Ofcom announces 4G auction

Ofcom the super regulator has published a statement on the forthcoming 4G auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum.

The 800MHz spectrum has become available due to the switching off of analogue television services (the digital divide) while 2.6GHz was reserved for future IMT-2000 (3G) services.

The 800MHz spectrum will be auctioned as 2 x 30 MHz blocks (paired spectrum) while the 2.6GHz band will consist of 2 x 70MHz blocks and a 50 MHz single (unpaired) block. This spectrum amounts to an 80% increase on all spectrum allocated to date.

Existing spectrum holders can bid for increased allocations, though spectrum will be reserved for a new entrant (i.e. one that isn't Telefonica O2, Everything Everywhere and Vodafone), this new entrant could be Hutchison 3G (who currently do not have any 2G i.e. sub 2 GHz spectrum.

The 800MHz licensee will have to meet 98% indoor coverage which implies 99.5% outdoor coverage, by 2017. The licensee will also have obligations to cover 95% of the populations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ofcom will not reserve any spectrum for low power localised services, though a low power provider can apply for a national license.

Ofcom is reserving spectrum portfolios for a new entrant, these are

Portfolio800 MHz1800 MHz2.6 GHz
12 x 15 MHz
22 x 10 MHz2 x 10 MHz
32 x 5 MHz2 x 15 MHz
42 x 15 MHz2 x 20 MHz

EverythingEverywhere have to relinquish 2 x 15 MHz paired spectrum as part of their arrangements with the EU when they combined T-Mobile and Orange. Ofcom have considered the request from EverythingEverywhere as to allow them to ref arm their 1800 MHz spectrum for LTE us independently from this spectrum auction and will announce its results later this year.

Ofcom has published a draft legal document which implements the auction rules, the consultation will close on 11th September 2012.

Ofcom will invite application to bid before the end of 2012 with the auction starting in 2013 and licenses awarded in March 2013.

Winners of spectrum are expected to roll-out LTE services on the new spectrum starting in the middle of 2013 with consumer services being available after that.

20/07/2012

Ofcom to start charging Telcos for scarce number blocks

Ofcom, the Super Regulator that looks after telecoms, spectrum, broadcasting and media and now the Post Office has published a statement on "Promoting efficient use of geographic telephone numbers". This is a fundamental change to the way Ofcom issues telephone numbers as it will now charge telecommunications providers for number blocks. This initially only applies to 11 exchanges where numbers are in short supply (these will now have a 5 digit area codes). This change will also mean that in these areas local users will have to dial the full telephone number including the area code instead of just the local part of the code. This is so that 0 and 1 can be used in the local part of the code (i.e. Bournemouth has the 01202 area code and the local part is ABCDEF, currently the A digit can not be 0 or 1 or there would be confusion when dialing numbers starting with 0 or 1 such as 118XXX, by enforcing the area code is dialed, this adds another 200,000 local codes). Smaller providers likely to suffer Many telecoms providers just reserve numbers across all the area codes so if a customer joins their service (whether it's a traditional landline telco or a new VoIP service) customers can just get a local number (many VoIP providers allow customers to select their own number). This has been the way to do things ever since the telecomms market was deregulated by the Communications Act 2003. Now providers will have to pay for these blocks of numbers in these protected area codes and blocks of 100 numbers can be purchased at a time (in unprotected areas allocation normally occurs in blocks of 10,000 which is legacy and due to the fact that providers have to tell all the other telcos what blocks they own and this was done by sending faxes around). This will generally only burden the smaller operators such as VoIP providers who are running on very thin margins and having ot pay for number blocks will directly impact their revenue models. Players such as BT will be affected but the actual percentage costs will be negligible. It's also an issue as this is a retrograde charge so all providers who have numbers allocated in the protected areas will have to start paying for them and since previously blocks were made up of 10,000 numbers those bills could be large. Obviously the networks can return them to Ofcom, but this may be problematic if numbers haven't been issued sequentially from the start of the block as then the provider may have to pay for 100 numbers even though only 1 has been allocated in that 100 block. Future The UK is an anomaly and many countries already charge for number allocations. If this pilot scheme works for Ofcom, it's likely to make this happen for all number allocations and not just for areas which have a shortage of numbers available. This then will have a major impact on the smaller providers. Unfortunately the UK is actually hindered by having such a a well established telecommunications system as many of the processes involved have been around for 10's of years and they are still in operation and very hard to change.

18/07/2012

Samsung gets serious with mobile chips

Samsung is buying the mobile chipset division of Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) for $310m. This will add Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth chipsets to Samsung's already hefty portfolio as well as 310 employees and the IP. CSR was formed in 1998 and went public in 2004 and was one of the 'blue eyed' technology companies that was ahead of its time and it dominated the world of Bluetooth followed by GPS and WiFi. Unfortunately in recent times its mobile chipsets haven't been doing so well due to lacklustre sales from partners Nokia and RIM and revenues have fallen by 50% over the last 2 years. Samsung get a "worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive license of CSR's intellectual property rights used in its handset connectivity and location products" which means less royalty payments for them while other handset manufacturers will now have to pay Samsung. Samsung will also get a stronger hold over Apple as they already manufacture the A4 and A5 chipsets, provide some of the retina displays and now own the CSR components used by Apple too. The combined GPS/WiFi/Bluetooth/FM combined chipset market is dominated by Broadcom who control 51% of the market, followed by Texas Instruments (31%), now Samsung play take a bigger role in this $3bn market. Samsung have also taken a 4.9% in the remaining part of CSR.

11/07/2012

The Draft Communications Data Bill - why it's posiibly evil

The Government is proposing a new Act of Parliament, currently known as the Draft Communications Data Bill or DCDB, which will effectively give them access to all your Internet activity. The premise behind this is that they want to be able to fight the war against terrorism and other "crimes enabled by Email and the Internet" as Theresa May put it. There are already measures in place allowing the Goverment to get hold of data from ISPs. The most recent piece of legislation follows on from a European directive known as the Data Retention Directive 2002/24/EC which ensures Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or telecommunication providers (telcos) maintain logs for 12 months (of data they already collect). This generally relates to such things as billing records or call records (i.e. who made a call to whom and for how long), but the important but is that ISPs/Telcos only need to retain what they already store and aren't required to log anything new. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) allows the authorities (and this is where it gets nasty) to ask an ISP to store specific data about a customer (without letting the customer know or anyone else know as that's an offence under RIPA too). The 'authorities' covers a wide range of organisations and can be the normal suspects such as the Police or Government angencies and also your local council and other angencies (for example may be investigation benefit fraud). There are other oddities in the Act so if your sending encrypted Emails, you can be asked to surrender the encryption keys and it's an offence not to hand them over and you can languish in jail until you do. The DCDB extends these powers so that ISPs will have to monitor more services and store more information about users. This includes things like emails (who sent an email to who and at what time) and what websites are being visited, it may also extend to VoIP calls (which might originate from say a VoIP phone used by the customer but the service used it not run by the ISP). Most ISPs don't monitor these things and don't actually have the equipment to do so and the Government is proposing to put 'black boxes' into the ISPs' network and they will do the snooping. Currently the Government will pay for the boxes. This sounds reasonably fair but as with everything there are potential issues. There are very companies that have the technology to do this, but there are a few so it's likely that the Government will just use them. This means that they are known systems and they'll be the target of every hacker as they'll be storing a wealth of useful information that will be valuable to someone. Most ISPs are using fast internal networks running at 1 Gigabit per second (Gb/s), some are using 10 Gb/s networks and some even 40 Gb/s networks (and in future networking technologies will increase to 100 Gb/s). The black boxes will work at a specified speed (say currently at 1 GB/s) so if an ISP increases the network speeds, more black boxes will have to be installed in order to keep up with the increased network traffic. Who then pays for more boxes? The Government may try and restrict the ISPs from increasing the network speeds so they don't have to install faster or more boxes. This already happens in countries where their Governments have resticted policies on what customers can view etc. The Government may also want to snoop on web traffic, that's pretty easy when it's normal HTTP traffic as you'd use to visit say The Next Web as the ISP can just put a web proxy and force all web traffic through the proxy and log whatever's been requested and send the request on the the actual site that's been requested by the customer. It may be slightly slower, but the customer wouldn't know that the traffic has been intercepted. However sites also use HTTPS or encrypted HTTP. This is where it gets very nasty as putting a proxy in the middle doesn't work. The web traffic is forced to the proxy and it establishes the encryption protocols to the proxy and the proxy then starts it's own encryption to the desired site. Except that the browser 'knows' that it's not really the remote site as the encryption certificate wont match what the browser's expecting and thus the little padlock that shows that the connection is secure wont be locked and the customer knows the connection has been intercepted. It is possible to fake the secure connection (by installing a Government security certificate) on all the UK browsers, which is difficult but not impossible. This then would match all certificates issued by anyone and thus the proxy could pretend to be whatever site it wanted to and all UK browsers would believe it. However that's a HUGE security risk and anyone managing to break into the proxy could steal huge amounts of valuable data including secure connections to on-line banking and other services. Anyone stealing the Government certificate would also also be able to emulate any secure site they wanted to too. So if the DCDB does become the Communications Data Act, then ISPs may be forced to stiffle technology advances to ensure the Government can keep up with the snooping as well as making the UK a massive target for terrorists attacking the snooping systems themselves.

09/07/2012

Candy Labs the new acquisition from Mindy Candy

Mind Candy the parent company of Moshi Monsters has acquired Origami Blue which will become Candy Labs their new R&D division. Origami Blue are a games studio based in Brighton formed by ex-Disney Blackrock studios creatives Edd Smith, Mark Knowles-Lee and James Ovnik to create world-class character animation and innovative experiences. Candy Labs will develop new intellectual property (IP) to allow Mindy Candy to bring out new entertainment in the digital and non-digital arenas. Though Moshi Monsters is huge (and still growing), there are more and more competitors emerging and this will allow Mindy Candy to expand its portfolio and keep themselves in the forefront of entertainment.

28/06/2012

MediaTek wants the smartphone market

MediaTek has released a new chip the MT6577 which combines an ARM Cortex-A9 dual CPU with their 3G/HSPA modem and a graphics subsystem based on Imagination Technologies' PowerVR Series5 SGX. This will allow 1080p encoding and playback at 15 or 30 frames per second (using a 1080 by 720 display) and supports an 8MP camera and can support a stereo camera too. The 40nm process silicon is being produced by TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited) and MediaTek are already in talks with vendors and devices should be available by Q3 this year. MediaTek are already the largest supply of baseband units, but it's a high volume low margin business. This should add value, however this will enable smart phones to be produced in the $150 - $200 range while existing smart phones with similar specifications cost around the $500 mark. This puts MediaTek directly against Qualcomm and their Snapdragon cores.

27/06/2012

Everything Everywhere 4G LTE trial in Cumbria

Everything Everywhere (the combined Orange and T-Mobile mobile network operators) has been running a trial in Cumbria using LTE in it's existing 1800MHz spectrum. The trialists were made up of users from local businesses and they either used dongles or mobile routers. Speeds of up to 20Mb/s (download) were achieved, though this depended on the number of users per mast and distance from the mast. The area isn't well serviced by fixed line broadband which meant high speed mobile via mobile was a boon to users. EE have applied to Ofcom for a license variation to allow them to utilise LTE on their existing 1800MHz spectrum nationally and Ofcom have opened a consultation on whether to allow this. The other MNOs are objecting, though EE have to return some of that spectrum as part of their merger conditions.

Ofcom Telecom Complaints Q1 2012

Ofcom the Super regulator that covers telecoms, broadcasting, spectrum, media and the postal system has released details about Telecoms complaints in the period January through March 2012. This covers fixed line telephone, fixed broadband, mobile telephony and Pay TV services. Ofcom itself receives around 300 complaints per day, usually when a consumer can not resolve an issue with the relevant supplier. These reports are logged, while there are many more issues reported to the suppliers themselves that Ofcom never gets to hear of. Fixed line telephony: BT Retail, Sky, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media of which TalkTalk had the highest number of complaints with Virgin Media receiving the least number of complaints. Most complaints related to billing and customer service issues. Fixed broadband: BT Retail, Sky, TalkTalk Group, Virgin Media and Orange Home. Again TalkTalk had the most complaints and Sky the least mainly about line faults and other service issues. Mobile telephony: 3UK, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile with Three getting most complaints and O2 least relating mainly to disputed charges and customer service issues. Pay TV services: Sky, BT Vision, and Virgin Media with Sky getting the least complaints and BT Vision the most mainly relating to their sales processes and problems with billing. The Ofcom summary can be found here.

19/06/2012

Llustre becomes uk.fab.com

Fab launched in June 2011 and to celebrate it's first birthday it is now launching uk.fab.com with the acquisition of Llustre. Fab has grown to over 5m people in 20 countries and has relationships with over 5,000 designers. Sales of items ranged from $1 to $20,000 and it has sold over 1.8m products. Llustre started life in October 2011 and launched in April 2012 and has grown rapidly to become a destination site for interior design flash sales in the UK and has already gained more than 500 design partners. Maria Molland (ex Thomson Reuters) will take on the role of Chief European Officer, while Tracy Doree (CoFounder of Llustre) will work for Maria as Managing Director of Fab UK and head of UK Merchandising and Vivianne Bearman (C-Founder Llustre) will lead the UK Product & Operations. Fab and Llustre have both grown phenomenally and the combined company can only do better.

18/06/2012

Motorola buys Psion

Motorola Solutions (the bit of Motorola that wasn't acquired by Google that was the remnant after selling the other bits to Nokia Siemens Networks in 2011) has purchased Psion the UK handheld terminal manufacturer. Psion originally made organisers and designed Symbian (which was sold to Nokia) and have recently moved into the ruggedised terminal market. Motorola Solutions specialises in industrial-grade devices and business verticals, as well as public-safety networks in the United States and other markets so purchase should complement their existing services.

15/06/2012

New great day of talks for founders raising cash

There's a great new conference being put on by General Assembly called A Founder's guide to fund-raising which should be good for any start-ups out there. You can see more on the event http://assembledcapitallondon.eventbrite.com/ and sign-up below. Do sign-up, it costs £200 but it's a great day of talks.

Blackberry 10 Jam

Yesterday 14th June 2012 Research in Motion held their UK Blackberry 10 Jam event in Vinapolis near London Bridge. The day was full of information about how to build native or HTML5 applications on the new Blackberry 10 operating system. RIM also gave away an Alpha dev 10 phone, which looks pretty similar to an iPhone, but without any buttons (apart form the power button). The unit also has a micro USB connector, an HDMI connector and a tray and slot for a micro SIM. After setting up the device (using your Blackberry ID), you get to the home screen, which gives you 2 apps, the camera and a browser (and of course settings which is part of the OS). Anything else you have to write yourself. In the US, the devices were given out with SIM cards and they are meant to be fully operational as phones (and allegedly there's even a dialler within RIM somewhere). It is possible to pair the device with a Bluetooth headset and then receive calls by answering through the headset. Also in the US developers were promised free upgrades to official Blackberry 10 devices when they are released. This may be the dying spasms of an organisation trying to attract developers with gifts, but Blackberry's OS 10 is actually rather good.

13/06/2012

ICANN release applicants for new top level domains

ICANN or as it's properly known The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has released the list of applicants and the top level domains (TLDs) they've applied for [1]. Many of the names are expected, with big brands applying for their names such as car manufacturers and such like. Other large companies have also applied to register names of their services (such as Microsoft LIVE, but there's multiple applicants for that TLD). Amazon have also applied for a variety of TLDs (77 in fact) including AMAZON, APP, AUDIBLE, AUTHOR, AWS, BOOK, BOT, BOX (many of these will have multiple applicants). If there are multiple applicants for the same domain, ICANN will hold an auction and the highest bidder will get it. There are 40 applications from the UK (though there's a slight weirdness there as the ISO country code is actually GB so they're actually listed under that, why the UK chose UK over GB is a historical peculiarity) including LONDON which London and Partners applied for (the PR agency for London etc) and WALES applied for by Nominet who run the gTLD .uk Nicely ICANN have also published the corresponding applicants emails, which are (it can be assumed) now nicely being harvested by SPAM bots.

12/06/2012

Spotify nows Plays on Android

Spotify has now released their app on to Google Play (formerly Android Marketplace). The app has been available from Spotify's site in beta for a while. The new features are
  • Totally new app with full support for Android 4.0
  • All-new slide-out navigation
  • Crossfade/gapless playback settings
  • Widget - control Spotify from the home screen
  • Playlist folder support
  • Even more social - check out friends’ profile pages and playlists on the go
  • Artist imagery in high resolution
  • Related artist view - available for the first time on mobile
  • ‘Extreme’ sound quality setting for 320kbps listening
  • Play queue
  • Last.fm scrobbling
  • Speed increases
In order to use the mobile version users need a Spotify Premium subscription. Spotify now gives access to over 18 million songs and is available in 15 countries including USA, UK, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. there are now over 10 million active users with over 3 million paying subscribers.

31/05/2012

GoCardless release PayLinks

GoCardless the company that is revolutionising on-line payments has just released its Paylinks system. This allows anyone with a UK bank account to receive payments through a website. It is a very simple sign-up process that asks for an email/password and then a driving license or passport number and address/date of birth etc. Then back account details. You get a confirmation email and that it everything is done. The PayLinks site then prompts for an amount, whether it's a single payment or recurring (weekly, monthly, annually) and then it generates a unique URL that can be added to a site. Anyone clicking on the link will be prompted for their details and that's it a payment is made to the GoCardless user's account. GoCardless will hold payments for 7 days to ensure that nothing dubious is going on (probably earning interest for them too). GoCardless only charge 1% of the transaction or £2.00 whichever is less. GoCardless already offer what amounts to direct debit payments for merchants (i.e. no credit cards requited, just bank details) and this will just add to their disruptiveness and other payment providers must be quaking in their boots.

30/05/2012

Plessey release consumer EPIC chip

Plessey Semiconductor have announced the release of an ultra low-cost version of their EPIC sensor for consumer applications (the PS25451). The chip is being aimed at consumer devices such as interactive toys, computer games, TVs, monitors and such like. The chips detect variance in the electronic potential in vicinity of the sensor and can detect the presence (or disappearance) of people. Thus can be used to automatically switch on lights or even detect multiple people for computer games. The original EPIC sensor used titanium dioxide electrodes which are expensive, but can be used in medical applications. These have been replaced by a novel cheaper electrode for the consumer device. It will cost under $1 in 50,000 units.

Apple isn't flattered by Flattr

Apple forces all iOS developers to use Apple's payment systems inside any iOS app and disallow the use any other method for in-app purchases. If Apple finds apps using 3rd party payment systems they will reject the app or remove it from the app store if it's already there. This has recently happened to app developer Vemedio who's Instacast app (an iOS podcasting aggregator) added Flattr support in Feb 2012 and auto-Flattr later allowing users to automatically donate to podcasts after they were playing and the update was rejected. On May 24th Apple forced Vemedio to remove Flattr support completely. The only way for apps to use 3rd party payment systems is to direct them to a website via Safari where payments can be made. Apple acknowledge that this may not provide the easiest flow for the user (as they have to leave the app, do whatever they need to do on a website, then return to the app), but it's the only way to ensure compliance. Flattr are in discussion with Apple to see if there is a solution that will satisfy Apple.

29/05/2012

LG introduces HD 5 inch display

On Monday 28th May 2012 LG announced its new 5 inch display that will handle full HD at 1080p (1920 x 1080) at 440 pixels per inch (ppi). This improves on the iPhone's display which is 326ppi. The panel uses a technology known as Advanced Hi Performance In-Plane SwitchinG (AH-IPS) that is meant to support a wide viewing angle, lower power consumption and brighter light transmission which means it can be used outside. This just means that Apple's competitors can now provide great display s on their devices, though other technologies are sure to come out further increasing ppi, further decreasing power consumption and increasing brightness.

23/05/2012

Mind Candy release iOS app

Mind Candy have developed its first in-house iOS app called Moshi Monsters: Moshlings. It's available on iTunes and costs £0.69 and works on both iPhone and iPad devices. It features; -
  • Over 60 Moshlings
  • Essential Moshling info – read about their personalities, habitats and much more
  • Moshling secret codes – so you can catch ‘em at MoshiMonsters.com
  • 100 stickers to customise your Moshlings
  • Bring out your inner artist by scaling and rotating stickers
  • Save your artwork at the touch of a button
  • Create fangtastic wallpapers for your mobile gizmo
  • More Moshlings on the way
Mindy Candy are on a roll

Moshi Monsters goes Mobile

Mind Candy, the parent company behind Moshi Monsters, has partnered with GREE to bring Moshi Monsters to the world of mobile phones. The partnership gives Moshi Monster's 60m registered users visibility and access to GREE mobile gaming platform, while GREE's 230m users are given access to Moshi Monsters. The mobile game is expected to be available by Q4 2012 and will be available in multiple languages including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and more. As well as having a range of best selling toys, the No1 selling children's magazine and the best selling Nintendo DS game, now Moshi Monsters is set to dominate the mobile gaming space too. Mind Candy is building an in-house team to continue mobile partnerships and development of mobile games. Moshi Monsters returned over $100m in 2011 and can only be expected to grow, they're on-track to be a £1bn company.

21/05/2012

Plessey release new EPIC sensor for cars

Plessey Semiconductor have released a version of their EPIC sensor (PS25203) for automotive applications. This has a higher input impedance and lower gain which means it can be used for health monitoring in close proximity to to the driver by mounting electrodes in the rear of the seat. EPIC measures changes in the electric potential in the air which is distorted by other electric fields or objects and can detect the heart rate of a human without actually making direct contact with them. The sensor can also detect respiration and/or just presence (to check for occupancy of seats). The EPIC sensor is already in production for measuring ECG for ambulance use and also for remote detection of people. The new chip has had the digital signal processor addicted to work within the automotive environment. The detection of ECG and respiration in cars can be used to detect driver consciousness (i.e. to see if they are getting drowsy). The sensor will be launched at Chicago Sensor Expo 2012 will cost around $1-2 in volume and comes in a 4 pin PCB hybrid package measuring 10.5mm x 10.5mm x 3.45mm.

17/05/2012

USPS won't ship devices with Lithium batteries

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has banned the mailing of any devices containing a lithium or lithium ion battery, whether in the device, in the same package or just the battery itself outside of the United States including to American Forces offices and Diplomatic offices. This is in-line with compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization and Universal Postal Union standards. Within the US, batteries can be posted but limits based on the watt-hour rating of the battery instead of the lithium content will be used. This means that devices such as mobile phones, tablets etc can no longer be shipped using USPS and other international carriers will have to be used such as UPS or Fedex as they have fire suppression systems on their planes which can cope with lithium fires but this may increase the shipping costs. Companies who have employees outside the US will now have to issue phones directly and have them carried as hand-luggage. It may also affect sites such as Ebay where electronics devices are regularly sold.

16/05/2012

EU limits data and roaming charges

The EU is putting into effect changes to limit the amount operators can charge for datum calls sent and received and text messages (SMS). The new caps come into force on 1st July 2012 and replace any existing regulations that expire on 30th June 2012.
Current1 July 20121 July 20131 July 2014
Data (per MB)Uncapped70 cents45 cents20 cents
Phone calls made (per minute)35 cents29 cents24 cents19 cents
Phone calls received (per minute)11 cents8 cents7 cents5 cents
Text Message (per SMS)11 cents9 cents8 cents6 cents

Operator wholesale charges will be

Current1 July 20121 July 20131 July 2014
Data (per megabyte)50 cents25 cents15 cents5 cents
Phone calls (per minute)18 cents14 cents10 cents5 cents
Text Message (per SMS)4 cents3 cents2 cents2 cents
So operators will still make large profits as data and message volumes are still on the increase, they just get less per unit.

Peratech creates an Electronic Nose

Peratech has created a fast-acting electronic nose suitable for detecting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This is achieved by utilising a Quantum Tunnelling Composite (QTC) Material which change their resistance when a force is applied (which occurs in the presence of VOCs). The QTC material is able to detect VOCs at around 10-100ppm and can recover (i.e. when they are no longer present) in a couple of seconds. The material was developed in conduction with the University of Durham and Peratech is now looking for companies to license the technology and develop products suitable for the market.

15/05/2012

Date via Spotify

On Thursday 10th May, Spotify launched two apps that allow users to find suitable dates based on their musical taste. The apps are Tastebuds and Fellody.
  • Tastebuds: The app will match you with a potential partner based on the artists you’ve listened to most on Spotify and your collection of playlists. Filter matches by gender, age and location, and message matches in real-time and share playlists with them directly. Add your Songkick details to your profile to share gigs that you are going to on your profile – the perfect setting for an offline meet up!
  • Fellody: Simply drag and drop Spotify playlists into the app to find friends and potential love interests with the highest match rate. Instantly send a ‘flirt’ or browse your matches’ tastes to discover new music. Check out the top artists to see the most popular artists amongst the Fellody community.
Tastebuds (based in the UK out of Cambridge) has acquired around 50,000 users, mainly in the US, UK and Brasil. They have been though the Springboard incubator program. Fellody are Swiss. Today Spotify also announced that it is arranging a 'house party' that anyone using Spotify can join in with. On June 1st 2012 DJ's Sebastian Ingrosso from Swedish House Mafia and Alesso will set-up a special room using the Spotify app Soundrop and they will share their tunes 'live'. Users will be able to vote on what the DJ's play next and chat to them.

O'Reilly Strata conference comes to London

The topic on everyone's mind (well the mind of geeks) is BIG DATA. Recently Big Data Week was held and events took place all over the world including London and San Francisco. Now O'Reilly Media (known for its technology books) is bringing its Strata conference to London this fall (October 1st and 2nd). Registrations will open in June. There's still a couple of days left to submit a proposal for the conference here, though the closing date is May 17th. Strata will be chaired by Kaitlin Thaney and Edd Dumbill and the conference will cover: -
  • Data: Hadoop ecosystem, real-time data processing and analytics, crowdsourcing, data acquisition and cleaning, data distribution and markets, data science best practice, predictive analytics, machine learning, and data security.
  • Business: From research to product, data protection, privacy and policy, becoming a data-driven organization, training, recruitment, management for data, and the changing role of business intelligence.
  • Interfaces: Visualization and design principles, mobile strategy, applications & futures, augmented reality and immersive interfaces, dashboards, sensors, mobile & wireless, physical interfaces, and robotics.
The UK has some pioneering big data companies such as Datasift and it should be a good conference.

Ofcom changes 3G license conditions

On the 9th May 2012 Ofcom the super regulator changed the conditions for 3G license holders and the new conditions must be met by 20th June 2013. The changes are that the licensee must provide an electronic communications networks: - - That is capable of providing mobile telecommunications services to an area within which at least 90% of the population of the UK lives (this has been increased from the previous 80% population coverage obligation). - with a 90% probability that users in outdoor locations within that area can receive the service with a sustained downlink speed of not less than 768 kbps in a lightly loaded cell. Ofcom has worked with the operators on how these obligations can be measured and the methodology is available on-line as a PDF. This will benefit consumers as coverage will be increased.

Apple to intro new MBPs

Apple is expected to bring out new MacBook Pros (MBPs) at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) being held in San Francisco from Jun 11th through 15th. The MBPs will use Intel's new Ivy Bridge range of CPUs and are rumoured to use new 'retina' high resolution displays (which may have some substance as Apple's MacOS X 10.7.3 contained HiDPI UI assets and the latest release MacOS 10.7.4 doubles the icon resolution). The cases will also be thinner to bring them more in-line with the MacBook AIR versions, but they may lose their optical drives (which are becoming less useful anyway with the advent of high capacity USB memory and even external solid state disks (SSDs).

03/05/2012

Tizen bubbles out the bottle

Tizen, the open source operating system that came out of LiMO and MeeGo, has been released. It's available for Intel Atom N2800 and N2600 CPUs and ARM CPUs. Who will adopt Tizen is still up for debate, though Intel are still supporting it as they supported the previous incarnations of MeeGo and prior to that Moblin (which was combined with Nokia's Maemo to form MeeGo). Samsung are also expected to support it too. Nokia which was a major supporter of Maemo/MeeGo has put its efforts into Windows Phone and seems to have dropped support for the Linux'ish based operating systems. The industry as a whole also has generally adopted Android form Google (which was also based on a Linux core). However there still could be a market for Tizen in various connected devices such as automotive (where MeeGo was making inroads). The v1.0 release of the code, known as Larkspur, is available for download from the Tizen Technical Steering Group (TTSG) along with development tools.

Vodafone to speed-up 3G uploads

Vodafone is upgrading base-station software in 3 of its markets (UK, Spain and Italy) that should see uplink speeds increase by around 40%. The upgrades use software from InToTally which solves outer loop power control problems of CDMA and UMTS/HSPA networks. This is due to the way the base-station and terminals continually change their transmit powers to cope with varying network conditions which may not be optimal and the InToTally software changes the algorithms so the system works better. The software only improves the up-link speeds as it's the base-station that's being improved, for handsets to get improvements the InToTally software would need to be installed in them too, though InToTally say that mobile chipsets will incorporate their software within a year and Vodafone has enough clout to persuade handset vendors to adopt the software. Vodafone is also making an undisclosed investment into InToTally.

MyCityWayLondon24 live in time for Jubilee and London Olympics 2012

Argent the largest independent regional media group known for it's London24 website has launched MyCityWayLondon24 in partnership with MyCityWay who are known for their city guides. The app which is available now uses the user's location to find out what's going on around them including live traffic feeds from London's busiest roads or just where to get a coffee. Users can also find out what's playing at a local cinema, find out if there are any local concerts or special events. There's also social aspects so users can connect or leave tips about places. Though the app is free, it will be used to deliver highly localised advertising, coupons and deals. Though the app is initially available on Apple's iOS devices an Android version is due to be released shortly.

02/05/2012

Spotify launches on iPad

Spotify has released a new version of their app for iPad which now supports features of the iPad3 such as the high resolution retina display. It's also easier to explore and browse songs (out of the 18m catalogue), when a song is playing the album art is now available in full-screen mode in HD. Playback has also been improved and the app now supports gapless playback and crossfade and there's Airplay integration too as well as social improvements to see what your friends are playing. Spotify for iPad is available immediately from iTunes.

Brand Embassy launches

Brand Embassy is a new tool allowing brands to identify disenchanted users and also influential users and engage with them. Thus negative users can be made positive, while users who support the brand can be further assisted so they support the brand even further. There's a free, fully functional 14 day trial available here. Some big name customers such as O2, Diageo, Johnson & Johnson are using Brand Embassy already.

01/05/2012

RIM announced Blackberry 10

Research in Motion (RIM) have released its new operating system (OS) 10 which is based on QNX the multi-tasking microkernel system that's currently used on the Blackberry Playbook. QNX has been around for a long time and is the a very robust real-time OS, which has many similarities to UNIX/Linux in terms of development. RIM is now trying to tempt developers to embrace the new OS and is giving away developer Blackberry 10 phones to all that attend their developer conference in Orlando. The new device is keyboard less, though RIM's virtual keyboard (in the same layout as their existing keyboards) should give users a similar experience - so it looks like the new generation of Apple iPhones or Samsung Galaxy S's. However RIM is keen to point out that this is a developer version and not all the final Blackberry 10 features are in the phones and that consumer devices may be significantly different. RIM have released Blackberry 10 Native SDK which includes Cascades, their Qt based toolkit and also their HTML5 based webworks toolkit. There are still a lot of Blackberry users in the wild (RIM say 77m), but their market share has been dropping. Maybe Blackberry 10 and a focus back into secure enterprise markets will get them more users back again.

27/04/2012

Moshi Monsters wins on Nintendo DS

Moshi Monsters the children's on-line game created by Mindy Candy has now taken over the video games market as their Nintendo DS game Moshling Zoo has taken over the No 1 spot, beating the previous holder Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training. Moshling Zoo has been No 1 for a record braking 15 consecutive weeks. This matches their music prowess as Moshi Monsters: Music Rox! reached number one in the download charts ahead of artists such as Madonna. The on-line game also has 60m users from around the world and in the UK around 1 in 3 children has a Moshi Monster. Michael Acton-Smith the CEO of Mind Candy is rising from strength to strength and everyone's waiting to know what's coming out next from the Mind Candy stable, rumours are that it's another on-line game, but aimed at all the family.

25/04/2012

Adobe CS6 for hire

Adobe is allowing users of it's Creative Suite v6 (CS6) to 'rent' the software for $49 per month instead of purchasing it outright. A user can download a single copy for both Mac and Windows (currently this generally requires 2 licenses) and both are included in the rental price. If the user is upgrading from an earlier version (from v3 to v5.5) then the rental price is only $29.99 per month. Of course it's still possible to purchase the full suite for $2,600 which is around 5 years rental (by which time there's bound to be an upgrade). This also links into Adobe's Creative Cloud which offers tools like Photoshop Touch (the on-line version of Photoshop) and allows sharing of content.

23/04/2012

Vodafone offers £1.04bn CW

Vodafone has made an offer of £1.04bn ($1.7bn) in cash for C&W (Cable and Wireless Worldwide). This works out at 38p per share which is considerably higher than the original expected offer of £700m. Vodafone is seeing vastly increased mobile data traffic and this may be a defensive move to lessen it's reliance on BT who provide most of their backhaul. Vodafone also wholesales several BT business services, which they'll now be able to offer in-house. C&W also run a broadband LLU service for other providers and again this could be directly used to sell broadband to Vodafone's consumer base. Vodafone replaced all their DSL connections at cell sites with fibre from BT, these can also all be taken in-house using the significant assets of C&W's fiber network that covers much of the UK and in places like Scotland they have better coverage than BT (due to the historical acquisition of THUS Plc which was originally Scottish Telecom prior to the acquisition of Demon Internet). There's sure to be many problems integrating the two companies, though in the long term they gain access to a enterprise and consumer solutions and should deliver long term costs savings

16/04/2012

Mundio seeks an injunction against EE

Mundio Mobile is a pan European Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that operates using the T-Mobile Mobile Network Operator (MNO) network. Mundio operates the MVNO under the Vectone brand in the UK. T-Mobile combined with Orange in the UK to form Everything Everywhere (EE) in 2011 and after the merger they decided to consolidate operations and remove excess network infrastructure (such as radio masts) which should give them savings of around £3.5 billion by 2014. Mundio Mobile gained a low power GSM license in the UK through it's acquisition of Mapesbury Communications several years ago, which gave them a full GSM license (and entry into the GSMA). Now Mundio is seeking an injunction against EE to stop the consolidation ahead of a full trial next March to determine who is liable for any service disruption, and whether EE will be held to “specific performance” guarantees the court could impose. Mundio say the consolidation has caused it's users to receive poor or no coverage. EE wouldn't comment as the case is a current 'legal matter'.

10/04/2012

Intel introduces NAND SSDs

Intel has introduced it's 313 series solid state drives (SSDs) based on their single cell NAND design (which are longer lasting and more reliable than existing multi-cell SSDs. The drives are only available in 20GB and 24GB variants and are designed to complement existing hard drives for faster boot up or hibernation. The 20GB drive can sustain 220Mb/s while reading and 100MB/s for writes, while the 24GB drive supports 160MB/s and 115MB/s with pricing of $109 and $139 respectively. Though SSDs are cropping up everywhere they do have long term issues (most consumer SSDs will only support around 5,000 write cycles per cell, but the disks are optimised to minimise writes and cells are switched between blocks as to minimise actual writes per cell) whereas hard drives last for much longer, so hybrid drives may be the optimal solution. here Intel have just removed the SSD cache into a separate disk.

03/04/2012

Ofcom extends deadline to EE consultation

Ofcom has extended the deadline for stakeholders to respond to the consultation on whether to allow the variance on Everything Everywhere's (EE) 1800MHz license to allow WiMAX and LTE technologies. EE already have to give back some of the 1800MHz spectrum as part of the merger between T-Mobile and Orange and this could be used by another licensee for LTE/WiMAX services. There have been vocal complaints from other Mobile Network Operators (MNO) that this would give EE an unfair advantage by them being able to launch LTE services ahead of all the other UK MNOs. The deadline for respondents has been extended to May 8th 2012 and can be seen here.

19/03/2012

Intel promotes new Ultrabooks

Intel is running a campaign called 'Temptations' to promote the new Ultrabooks. Some of the videos are quite humorous, though the actual events only seemed to take place in the Asia Pacific region, hopefully they'll come over here. The set of videos can be seen here.

14/03/2012

ARM introduces new 32bit CPU

ARM is known for it's big processors that are licensed to all and sundry for inclusion in products like the newly announced Apple iPad3 which uses an A5X CPU (dual core CPU cores running at 1GHz with a 4 core GPU) and many other licensees including Qualcomm for their Snapdragon range etc. ARM are also big into micro controllers that sit in the myriad of deices that require some form of control (toys, white goods, dumb phones etc), these also tend to be very low power devices. ARM's latest version is the Cortex-M0+ or Flycatcher which uses 9uA/MHz on a very cheap to fabricate 90nm process (Intel's latest CPUs are all on 22nm substrates) and use around 1/3 of the power required by existing 8 and 16bit CPU architectures. The Cortex-M0+ is software backwards compatible with the older Cortex-M0 range of processors so all existing software can be used. This is a potentially huge market and Ericcson estimate that there will be 50bn units with these types of processor in them by 2020 - which will make up the internet of things. ARM will also offer low power Bluetooth and other connectivity products which can be paired with the processors.

13/03/2012

Ofcom proposes to vary Everything Everywhere's 1800MHz license

Ofcom the regulator covering media, broadcasting, telecoms, radio and postal services has announced a consultation on the proposal to amend Everything Everywhere's (EE) 1800MHz licenses to allow the use of LTE and WiMAX technologies. The original license only allowed 2G (GSM, GPRS, EDGE) and then 3G services (UMTS). If this variation is granted, it's likely that EE will be the first mobile network operator to offer LTE national services in the UK and this may distort the market, though Ofcom do not believe this to be true. The consultation closes on 17 April 2012 and stakeholders can respond on-line.

08/03/2012

Ofcom consults on GPS repeaters

Ofcom is holding a consultation on the use of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) repeaters which operate in the following band 1164-1215 MHz, 1215-1300 MHz and 1559-1610 MHz. These cover both the US Global Positioning System and EU Galileo GNSS. A repeater system consists on an external aerial, a transmitter and an internal aerial which would allow GNSS reception indoors where normally there would be no reception. Ofcom is proposing a light licensing regime whereby users of GNSS repeaters would have to register their location with Ofcom. This is to quell concerns from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who believe there could be aircraft interference. This proposal is in-line with CEPT and EU recommendations. This does not cover any kind of mobile repeater use (unless operated by a licensed Mobile Network Operator) or any other technology which could cause interference and any such use would still be a criminal offence under the Wireless Telegraphy Act (WTA) 2006. The consultation (available here) closes 16th April 2012.

06/03/2012

INTRO the networking app for professionals

he number of apps being developed to find friends or even stangers around you are growing rapidly and The Next Web have reported Hightlight and Glancee recently that will make life easier for South by SouthWest. Many of these apps are based on social features while a new app INTRO uses social but in a business context. It allows the user to specify the business types of people they are looking for and will notify them when the matches are in the vacinity. It uses the user's social graphs from Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Foursquare, so as well as showing you who's nearby who meets your criteria it also shows you why they are relevant. The matching algorithms are intellegent so you can be specific e.g. you’re looking for an app developer, co-founder, or investor or you'd just like to meet people in the London tech scene. As the app uses location data (but only ambient data, so it's not doing GPS lookups all the time) it's always looking out for those useful people around you. Recently INTRO has added a teleport feature so now you don't even have to attend SXSW you just teleport there through the app and it will then suggest useful business contacts who are there. So rather than spending huge amounts of money on tickets, planes and hotels - you just use INFO and still meet the the relevant people. INTRO is available from the iTunes store now