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How to optimize your web based software application for the mobile web August 7, 2011

Posted by HubTechInsider in Mobile Software Applications, Product Management, Project Management.
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The mobile web is where the action is in 2011.  We have all seen the polls and the statistics: people are spending more and more time accessing the web through their mobile smartphones and mobile tablet computers. The mobile Web grew 110 percent in the U.S. last year and 148 percent worldwide as measured by growth in pageviews.

Including devices such as the Kindle, the iPhone and other smartphones, web-enabled tablets, GPS systems, video games and wireless home appliances, the growth of the mobile web has been exponential — and we’re still just at the beginning of this cycle. Morgan Stanley’s analysts believe that, based on the current rate of change and adoption, the mobile web will be bigger than desktop Internet use by 2015. The proliferation of better devices and the availability of better data coverage are two trends driving growth; having better services and smaller, cheaper devices has led to a huge explosion in mobile technology that far outpaces the growth of any other computing cycle.

Global 3G penetration is expected to hit 21% this year. In Japan, where the U.S. looks to find its mobile roadmap for the future, 96% of mobile subscribers already have 3G coverage. In Western Europe, the penetration is around 54%, just slightly above 46% in the U.S. In developing and/or economically depressed areas, including the Middle East, Africa, parts of Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, 3G penetration is still in the single digits. 3G access is a key point in the success of the mobile web, providing very usable surfing speeds for mobile web usage.

In addition, mobile e-commerce is ramping up faster than online e-commerce, now making up 4% of total retail sales. In certain categories, such as computers, consumer electronics, music, movies, tickets, video games and books, online sales account for between 45% and 20% of the total retail market. Japan’s Rakuten shows how the mobile share of e-commerce is growing as well, from 10% of e-commerce in 2006 to nearly 20% now.

Video now accounts for 69% of mobile data traffic, and the overlap between mobile users and social web users continues to grow; more and more users are accessing the social web from a mobile device. Real-time technology and location-based services are expected to drive mobile retail, and a very interesting fact is that the average iPhone user only spends 45% of his on-device time making voice calls.

Some more mobile web usage statistics and facts:

  • More people have mobile phones than Internet-connected PCs (4 billion) 

  • SMS penetration ~50% and fully mainstream (82% of users <24 y.o.)

  • 82 million Americans can recall seeing advertising on their phone over last 3 mos. (approx. 30% of 270m adult phone users)

  • 25% of phone users (65 mm) are accessing the mobile web but 80% of iPhone users are

  • 40% of Twitter users use the Internet on their phones (76% if you include WiFi) (Pew)

  • Internet Advertising Bureau survey found that 62 percent of agencies, media planners and advertisers believe mobile ad spending will continue to grow and emerge in marketing budgets

  • Mobile device is increasingly becoming small, portable PC experience with an Internet browser experience similar to that of 2000/2001 (just diff’t form factor)

  • In 2007, eMarketer reports that US advertisers spent $900 million on mobile, and double in 2008 to $1.7 billion

  • 21 million iPhones + ~20 million iPod Touches = 40-45million iPod-like devices

  • 50,000 apps from iTunes App Store and Nokia, RIM, MSFT and others now w app stores; 1 billion+ app downloads to date

  • 70% of people sleep with their mobile phones (Zumobi)

  • More than 60 million mobile views per month for New York Times; one of 4 apps pre-loaded on the Palm Pre

  • Joseph Porus of Harris Interactive: “”Mobility could be recession-proof and be one of the strongest ways of effectively marketing in tough economic times”

  • 35% of mobile advertising campaigns cost less than $10,000 (Forrester)

Mobile Device Product Categories & Feature Sets

There are four primary mobile device product categories in widespread use today, and each of these four mobile device product categories is typically configured by the device manufacturers with a certain base set of features and functionality. The four mobile device product categories, listed with their typical bandwidth usage per month, are:

  1. Feature Phones:  Feature Phones such as the Motorola Razr are used primarily to make calls, and they consume little bandwidth even for web activities because they have stripped-down web browsers. Feature phones and their users tend to consume around 100 Megabytes of data downloads a month, using 4 MB of voice calls an hour, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing per hour.

  2. Smartphones: Smartphones such as Research in Motion’s popular Blackberry are used for phone calls, email, and light web browsing. Smartphones and their users tend to consume around 185 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, utilizing 4 MB per hour for voice calls, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing.

  3. Superphones: Superphones are advanced smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone and Motorola’s Droid, that make it easy for people to surf the web and watch online videos, leading to much higher bandwidth use. Superphones and their users tend to consume around 560 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 4 MB per hour for voice calls, 40 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 200 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

  4. Tablet Computers: Tablet computers such as Apple’s newly unveiled iPad are likely to send data use even higher. The iPad will chew up even more bandwidth than the iPhone because of its larger screen. Tablet computer and iPad users tend to consume 800 to 1,000 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 50 to 60 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 300 to 400 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

If your web based application or site is not optimized for the mobile web, you are falling behind and losing out on transaction revenue, sales, data, customers: you name it.

There are many methods and techniques that can be used to optimize your web based application or site for the mobile web. In this article I will describe how I optimized a commercial b2c ecommerce application for the mobile web, and then I will go into more details as to how you can use the same techniques I used on the http://www.tshirtnow.net mobile site and also how you can use different techniques to optimize your own web-based mobile application or site.

For the tshirtnow.net mobile site, I utilized a technique to present a mobile-optimized version of the tshirtnow.net web site to mobile browser users such as those surfing the web site on an iPhone, iPad, or Android mobile phone, and the regular version of the tshirtnow.net web site to users who were accessing the web-based b2c tshirtnow.net ecommerce application from regular web browsers on a desktop or laptop computer with a browser like Google Chrome or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

But using a special CSS stylesheet that is optimized for mobile browsers, along with the reglar tshirtnow.net CSS stylesheet, we are able to automatically detect what type of mobile browser platform the user is currently accessing the tshirtnow.net web site with. Using the CSS information contained in the tshirtnow.net mobile cascading style sheet (CSS), we are able to render the exact same html content which represents the different pages on the site such as product detail pages, order status pages, and the home page with different formating and styles, and even content sections, all just by using CSS.

The advantages of this technique are rather obvious. First of all, there is no need to recreate dozens or even hundreds of static html content pages, as the exact same content and pages can be cleverly re-purposed simply by providing for planned degradation of the user’s web experience according to what type of mobile device and mobile browser platform they are currently using.

Secondly, the use of CSS to provide a mobile optimized experience allows for the use of special CSS tags and techniques which can provide iPhone and iPad iOS orientation (landscape or portrait) and touch detection, intelligent web page scaling, special mobile OS (iPhone, iPad iOS or Android, Blackberry, HP WebOS) controls and rich media player capabilities, and phone/web integrated telephony. I will go into much more detail about some of these advanced CSS capabilities and I will provide more information about them as well as links to more resources on the web later in this article.

I encourage readers of this article who have not already done so, to read my previous article, a Glossary of mobile Web Terminology, for references to some of the terms I will use throughout this article. Knowing mobile web terminology will also assist you in creating wireframes and mockups for mobile web applications, and will be a great boon to your mobile application software specifications as well.

The tshirtnow.net mobile web site

For tshirtnow.net, I utilized a mobile optimized CSS style sheet. It detects which type of browser platofrm the user is accessing the tshirtnow.net web site with, and then serves that user either the regular tshirtnow.net home page, or the mobile optimized tshirtnow.net home page. Here is what most users see when they access the tshirtnow.net web site with a normal desktop computer browser:

And here is what a user accessing the same tshirtnow.net home page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

The mobile version of the tshirtnow.net home page, as seen on an Apple iPhone (iOS)

As you can see, iPhone users see a gently degraded web page, which contains many of the most important, but not nearly all, of the controls, links, graphics and content of the normal tshirtnow.net home page. This mobile-specific version of the exact same web page is presented to the user not though the use of another web page, but simply through the use of the mobile-optimized style sheet.

Here is another example of how the tshirtnow.net b2c ecommerce web application is able to detect a mobile browser user and serve up content optimized for mobile from the exact same html page. Here is what the order status page looks like to a user accessing the tshirtnow.net web site from a regular desktop computer browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox:

And here is what a user accessing the same tshirtnow.net order status page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

The mobile version of the tshirtnow.net order status page (iOS)

You can see that not only has the check order status button been dynamically resized in order to accomodate the smaller screen width of the iPhone mobile safari browser, but also that the hairline css curved corners border around the order number and email address input form fields has been resized too. All of this dynamic width modification, including the button graphic itself, which is rendered using standards-based css, happens on the fly from one set of html pages.

If you perform platform-specific css coding into your mobile stylesheet, which I will demonstrate how to do later in this article, then you can take advantage of such features as iOS iPad and iPhone orientation detection and dynamic adjustment, touch interface enhancements, and CTI, or Computer Telephony Integration features like click-to-call:

iOS platform-specific controls like this iPhone selection dial are supported natively through CSS

A typical b2b or b2c web-based ecommerce application that provides content pages that are driven by databases and displaying and presenting the results of database queries can produce thousands of individual web pages. To provide a mobile-optimized version of each of these pages is a prohibitively expensive and time-consuming endeavor that is beyond the performance envelope of most software development organizations.

The skillset needed to perform heavy CSS manipulations and platform-specific mobile optimizations may not be present on your current software development team. J2ee and other types of system and application software programmers may not have the requisite ability to manipulate and create a mobile optimized CSS stylesheet, and the necessary experience required to effectively develop and test platform-specific and progressively enhanced mobile CSS may not be present on your current team.

By utilizing a mobile CSS stylesheet to render the same content pages, you have provided a way to render those thousands of dynamic, database-driven web pages on the fly, and ready for your mobile web users. For example, here is one of the many thousands of product detail pages on the tshirtnow.net ecommerce site, as it would appear to a normal desktop web browser:

And here is what a user accessing the same srv tshirt product detail page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

A mobile version of a tshirtnow.net tshirt product page (iOS)

You can see that the mobile version of the tshirtnow.net product detail page contains less content, and the content that is displayed on the mobile version of the product detail page is in a different location than the content on the regular, desktop browser version of the tshirtnow.net product detail page. All of this is performed not through HTML manipulations or server side includes, but is instead accomplished exclusively through the use of CSS.

Product detail page features such as tags are specially presented on Apple iPhone iOS through CSS

Because of this use of CSS to render mobile versions of the same html content pages, all scenarios have been accounted for, opening up the entire tshirtnow.net web site, all products, all static html content pages, all dynamic interaction controls such as search engines and results pages, are made available to mobile web browsers using this technique.

If instead the decision had been made to create unique, static html pages for mobile browsers, then a detection mechanism such as WURL or user-agent string detection would have had to have been employed in order to serve up unique html pages. The program to create many thousands of unique pages for all of the major functions, plus a unique mobile template for all of the product detail pages, would have been extremely cost and resource intensive.

Tips for Handheld CSS Style Sheets

Handheld media stylesheets should be as small and compact as possible because of download time.

What can you do to simplify your site and make it more usable in mobiles? First, eliminate some of these problematic items from mobile display.

  • Eliminate floats and frames

  • Eliminate columns – one column with the content first is the best option

  • Eliminate scripted effects such as popups or pop out menus in favor of plain old HTML and simple text menus

  • Eliminate decorative images that slow down the loading process. Use display:none to remove anything that isn’t absolutely necessary, such as links to external resources. Remember, however, that devices that don’t understand CSS won’t do anything withdisplay: none. Any essential images need to be reworked for the small screen and the width and height attributes need to be included in the HTML.

  • Eliminate nested tables and layout tables. If you have tabular data, consider finding a way to present it in a linearized alternate display.

Once you’ve simplified through elimination, start building the rules you need to add. Consider these ideas.

  • If you’re not already using relative measures, switch to ems or percentages rather than pixels

  • Reduce margins, paddings and borders to suit the small screen

  • Use smaller font sizes for headings and paragraph text

  • If you have a long navigation list at the start of the page, add a skip to main content link, or move the links to the end of document flow. Keep the number of clicks required to get to content as minimal as humanly possible. Without a mouse or keyboard, most mobile users have to click laboriously through any top navigation.

  • Make sure your color combinations provide good contrast between foreground and background colors, particularly for devices with fewer color options.

Sample Handheld CSS Stylesheet


/* mobile styles */

@media handheld {

html, body {

font: 12px/15px sans-serif;

background: #fff;

padding: 3px;

color: #000;

margin: 0;

}

#sidebar, #footer {

display: none;

}

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 {

font-weight: normal;

}

#content img {

max-width: 250px;

}

.center {

width: 100%; !important;

text-align: center;

}

a:link, a:visited {

text-decoration: underline;

color: #0000CC;

}

a:hover, a:active {

text-decoration: underline;

color: #660066;

}

}

/* iPhone-specific styles */

@media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) {

html {

-webkit-text-size-adjust: none;

}

}

Resources for testing your mobile applications

As with any other type of Web design, testing is a big part of the process. However, testing websites for mobile devices brings additional challenges, and fortunately, there are some tools available that were created especially for these purposes:

Opera Mini Browser Simulator

http://www.opera.com/mobile/demo/

The Opera Web browser comes with a feature that is of use to QA – the Opera Small Screen Renderer.

This tool can be used to test any Web page and see how it will look in a tiny window like on a cell phone. To use it:

 Download the latest version of Opera.

    1. Go to the page you want to test.
    2. Hit Shift-F11.
      The screen will switch to a narrow version of the page.
    3. When you’re done testing, hit Shift-F11 to toggle back to normal view.

Apple iPhone Safari Debugging and Testing Tips & Instructions:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/documentation/AppleApplications/Reference/SafariWebContent/DebuggingSafarioniPhoneContent/DebuggingSafarioniPhoneContent.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP40006515-SW1

 W3C mobileOK Checker:

http://validator.w3.org/mobile/

ready.mobi mobile site automated checker & reporting tool:

Ready.mobi

 Blackberry Device Simulators:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/resources/simulators.jsp

 Nokia Mobile Phone Simulator:

http://mtld.mobi/emulator.php?emulator=nokiaN70&webaddress=mtld.mobi

OpenWave Phone Simulator:

http://developer.openwave.com/dvl/tools_and_sdk/phone_simulator/

iPhoney iPhone Simulator for OS X:

http://www.marketcircle.com/iphoney/

 How to setup desktop Safari on Windows and OS X to emulate iPad and iPhone:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

 Mobile Phone Web-based Emulator:

http://emulator.mtld.mobi/emulator.php?emulator=sonyK750&webaddress=stepforth.mobi

 BrowserCam Cross-Browser Device Screen Captures:

(Instantly see mobile pages in any browser on device operating systems)

http://www.browsercam.com/Default2.aspx

W3C Mobile Test Harness:

http://www.w3.org/2007/03/mth/harness

 Cameron Moll’s Mobile HTML & CSS Styling Test Pages:

http://cameronmoll.com/articles/mobile/mkp/

Patrick Griffith’s Handheld Media Test Page (Test to see if handheld device interprets media=”handheld”):

http://htmldog.com/test/handheld.html

 Good, General Mobile Web Testing Resources Available Here:

http://carsonified.com/blog/mobile/make-your-site-mobile-friendly/

Apple iPhone / iPad / iOS Resources

Apple iPhone Developer Center:

http://developer.apple.com/iphone/index.action

 iUI Interface Library / Framework Documentation:

http://code.google.com/p/iui/

http://www.k10design.net/articles/iui/

 iPhone Web HTML Application Home Screen Icons, Viewport Adjustments:

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/MakeYourWebsiteMobileAndIPhoneFriendlyAddHomeScreenIPhoneIconsAndAdjustTheViewPort.aspx

 Touch Interface Detection:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2607248/optimize-website-for-touch-devices

 iPad Orientation Detection CSS:

http://catharsis.tumblr.com/post/501657271/ipad-orientation-css-revised

http://www.cloudfour.com/ipad-orientation-css/

http://www.cloudfour.com/ipad-css/

 Preparing Your Web Content for iPad:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

iPad CSS How To:

http://thomasmaier.me/2010/03/howto-css-for-the-ipad/

 Building an iPhone App using jQTouch & PhoneGap, without Objective-C:

http://net.tutsplus.com/tutorials/html-css-techniques/the-easiest-way-to-build-your-first-iphone-app/

http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/01/ipad-opportunities-for-web-dev.html

http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596805784/

Blackberry Developer Zone:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/

Blackberry Browsers Stylesheet and CSS Support Information:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/11844/Feature_CSS_512751_11.jsp

How to target the Blackberry browser:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/913040/how-to-target-the-blackberry-browser

Blackberry Device Simulators:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/resources/simulators.jsp

 RIM Blackberry Developers Reference Guide: Blackberry Browser HTML, CSS and JS Information:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/subcategories/?userType=21&category=BlackBerry%20Browser

 RIM Blackberry Browser CSS Reference Guide:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/5683/CSS_Reference.pdf

RIM Blackberry Browser Content Design Guidelines:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/4305/BlackBerry_Browser-4.6.0-US.pdf

In the BlackBerry Documentation for Developers, there is a documentation for the BlackBerry Browser, including CSS Reference – BlackBerry Browser. There is no specific mention of CSS3, but that document lists supported CSS properties.

There is also a BlackBerry Widget web standards support page that states 4.7.1 and 5.0 have partial support for CSS 3 color and full support for CSS 3 marquee, CSS 3 media queries, CSS 3 namespaces and CSS 3 selectors.

Opera Mini 5 Optimization:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/opera-mini-5-beta-developers/#optimizing

Opera Mini Browser-based Simulator:

http://www.opera.com/mobile/demo/

How to serve the right content to mobile browsers:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/how-to-serve-the-right-content-to-mobile/

 W3C CCS3 Media Queries Specification:

http://www.w3.org/TR/css3-mediaqueries/

 Mobile Device Support through JavaScript & CCS Media Queries:

http://floggingenglish.com/2009/06/18/mobile-device-support-through-javascript-and-css/

 Safe Cross-Platform, Cross-Device Media Queries:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/safe-media-queries/

HTML & CSS For Mobiles:

http://www.htmldog.com/ptg/archives/000055.php

Mobile CSS is a reality:

http://www.htmldog.com/ptg/archives/000056.php

CSS Discuss: Handheld Style Sheets:

http://css-discuss.incutio.com/wiki/Handheld_Stylesheets

Mobile Style Guides:

http://patterns.design4mobile.com/index.php/Mobile_Style_Guides_-_Screen_Design,_Part_1

You can try acid3.acidtests.org and http://www.css3.info/selectors-test/test.html on the respective browsers to check some compatibility, but that may not be an exact determining factor of full compatibility. However I don’t think any of the mobile browsers currently fully support CSS3.

—————————-

Both iPhone and Android systems use WebKit as the rendering engine in their mobile browsers. I believe Blackberry are moving to Webkit as well at some point. This engine has some of the best support for parts of CSS 3 available at the moment, as well as quite a lot of proprietary extensions.

I would recommend researching what is available in WebKit, and then testing.

A great resource for support tables is http://www.quirksmode.org where PPK is doing more and more mobile browser testing to answer just these kind of questions.

http://www.russellbeattie.com/blog/css3-and-the-death-of-handheld-stylesheets

An Introduction to the Mobile Web:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/introduction-to-the-mobile-web/

The Mobile Phone Directory –  Phone Specifications, Glossary of Terms:

http://www.mobile-phone-directory.org/

Mobile Web Glossary from the BBC:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/web/glossary.shtml?d

WURFL — Wireless Universal Resource File —  (SourceForge):

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/

WURFL API Intro:

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/newapi/

WURFL Java API:

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/njava/

Wikipedia Entry – Microbrowser:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbrowser

Wikipedia Entry – Mobile Phone:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone

Cameron Moll’s Mobile Web Design Series:

Part 1: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000415.html

Part 2: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000428.html

Part 3: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000577.html

Making Small Devices Look Great:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/making-small-devices-look-great/

The Pros and Cons of Developing a Mobile Version of Your Website:

http://www.dirjournal.com/articles/mobile-search-the-pro-and-cons-of-developing-a-mobile-version-of-your-website/

Bulletproof Mobile Device Detection:

http://www.bushidodesigns.net/blog/mobile-device-detection-css-without-user-agent/

A List Apart: “Return of the Handheld Stylesheet”:

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/return-of-the-mobile-stylesheet

A List Apart: “Put Your Content in My Pocket” (iPhone information):

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/putyourcontentinmypocket/

A List Apart: “Understanding Progressive Enhancement”:

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/understandingprogressiveenhancement/

Progressive Enhancement for Mobile Media Queries:

http://www.iheni.com/progressive-enhancement-for-mobile-media-queries/

Server-Side Scripting for Bulk Mobile Site Page Re-engineering:

http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2005/07/make-your-site-mobile-friendly

Mobile Browser / Mobile Web Usage Statistics

http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_browser-ww-monthly-200903-201004

http://www.upsdell.com/BrowserNews/stat_trends.htm

http://www.webdevelopersnotes.com/articles/mobile-web-browser-usage-statistics.php

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

http://johannburkard.de/blog/www/mobile/mobile-browser-statistics-webkit-on-the-rise-opera-losing-share.html

http://moconews.net/article/419-the-top-mobile-browsers-are-not-what-you-think/


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About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. I have been working in the software engineering and ecommerce industries for over fifteen years. My interests include computers, electronics, robotics and programmable microcontrollers, and I am an avid outdoorsman and guitar player. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Quora, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m a Technical PMO Director, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of several ecommerce and web-based software startups, the latest of which are Twitterminers.com and Tshirtnow.net.

What is NFC? What is the smartphone mobile payments technology known as Near Field Communications? March 6, 2011

Posted by HubTechInsider in Ecommerce, Mobile Software Applications, Telecommunications, Wireless Applications.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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An NFC mobile phone (Nokia 6131 NFCmesso) inte...

Image via Wikipedia

It has been several years now that I have been reading and hearing about mobile phone toting consumers being able to purchase soft drinks from vending machines through the use of SMS texts to the vending machine.

The possibilities of a mobile digital wallet, a North American equivalent of European Smartcards and mobile SMS payments systems, to be used as a payments service for smartphones, certainly include the hypothetical future displacement of the cash register as the payment method of choice for consumers on the go.

NFC, or Near Field Communication, may perhaps have such a potential.

Since the middle of December, in and around Portland, Oregon, Google has been handing out hundreds of NFC kits to local businesses as part of an NFC trial they are calling “Hotpot”.

The Google Hotpot kits include special NFC-capable window decals. NFC is a low power technology that beams and receives wireless information from up to four inches away. When consumers with NFC-equipped telephones such as the latest models of Android operating system cellular phones, scan a NFC-equiped window decal, they will be presented with information on their mobile device such as business hours, reviews, and more.

The hope is that the increasingly mobile consumer will willingly engage with local merchants using this new technology, allowing merchants to interact with the generations of consumers growing up with texting and mobile smartphones in their pockets.

2011 is really shaping up to be the year of NFC, with Google considering building an NFC-based payment service in the U.S. that could make its debut later this year. The technology would let customers pay for items by passing their smartphone over a small reader. A single NFC chip would be able to hold a consumer’s bank account information, gift cards, loyalty cards, and coupons, say the two people, who requested anonymity because the plans aren’t public. Google’s NFC scheme includes an advertising component that would allow merchants to beam a coupon or other reward to customers while they are shopping.

Of course, advanced smartphone owners can already complete mobile transactions by downloading payment applications. Paypal’s iPhone iOS application, for example, lets PayPal users transmit funds to other PayPal account holders. But NFC technology could potentially streamline such transactions. Users of advanced smartphones equipped with NFC technology don’t need to launch an application; they simply wave or tap their smartphone against a small reader device and enter a PIN number on it to authenticate their purchases.

A Google NFC network offering would encounter stiff competition from the start from the likes of companies such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, the three of whom in November 2010 formed a joint commercial venture called ISIS that plans to launch an NFC-based payments service by 2012. Visa is also field testing several mobile payment technologies, including NFC, and plans a commercial rollout later this year. It is rumored that PayPal, a division of eBay, may test an NFC service in the second half of 2011 as well.

Silicon Valley is hard at work on NFC technology too, with Apple having filed a patent for a process to transmit money between cellular telephones using NFC. Apple recently hired NFC expert Benjamin Vigier away from mFoundry, a startup that helps banks build mobile payments applications. If the next iPhone does come equipped with an NFC chip, then perhaps Apple will process mobile payments through Apple’s iTunes store.

The increased competition and jockeying for position in the NFC space is undoubtedly due to the high stakes involved, as the prize for whoever wins the NFC race is a dominant position in a small but fast-growing market that could displace the cash register in time. A leading market research firm, IE Market Research, estimates that by 2014, NFC-based payment systems will account for a third of the $1.13 trillion in worldwide mobile transactions.

In mid-December, Google, whose former CEO, Eric Schmidt, has said that NFC will “eventually replace credit cards”, in December 2010 bought Zetawire, a Canadian startup with several NFC patents to its name, including a novel method for diners to split up and pay a restaurant bill using their smartphones. If Google does decide to launch an NFC payments network, they would have the built-in advantage of its very large and rapidly expanding installed user base of Android smartphone owners. Every single day, around 300,000 people activate Android telephones, and they accounted for more than 25 percent of the new smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The latest version of Google’s smartphone operating system, Android, capable of reading NFC tags is dubbed Gingerbread. Later this year, software updates to Android will let Android smartphones transmit information using NFC as well. In December 2010, Google introduced its Nexus S smartphone, based on Android Gingerbread and carrying an NFC chip onboard. In January 2011, Starbucks announced that customers would be able to start using a bar-code application on their smartphones to purchase coffee in some 6,800 of its stores.

There are obstacles to widespread consumer adoption, however. For an NFC-based payments network to really work, Google needs to convince not just Android smartphone owners but also local merchants who must install NFC readers to process mobile payments. Hotpot, which Google has been promoting heavily, introduces merchants to the NFC technology. NFC is already in heavy use in parts of Asia and Europe.


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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies,software developmentAgile project managementmanaging software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projectsecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications andsoftware development, I’m a Technical PMO Director, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of TwitterMiners.com & Tshirtnow.net.


Boston’s Apperian, a maker of mobile applications, raises $500k from CommonAngels December 17, 2010

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Boston’s Apperian, a maker of mobile applications, raises $500k from CommonAngels.

Boston’s FitnessKeeper, maker of the popular RunKeeper application, raises $1.1 Million December 9, 2010

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Boston’s FitnessKeeper, maker of the popular RunKeeper application, raises $1.1 Million from O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures.

Boston’s Mocospace, a provider of browser-based games for mobile devices, raises $3.5 Million from SoftBank Capital September 27, 2010

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Boston’s Mocospace, a provider of browser-based games, entertainment, and a social network for mobile devices, raises $3.5 Million from SoftBank Capital.

Boston’s Skyhook Wireless maps the physical meatspace world so your smartphone can know its location in a minute without slow GPS satellite fixes August 23, 2010

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Boston’s Skyhook Wireless maps the physical meatspace world so your smartphone can know its location in a minute without slow GPS satellite fixes and tap into the new wave of nascent geo-location services.


Skyhook Wireless software loads onto mobile telephones and other portable devices like netbook computers and tablet computers and in most urban city locations can pinpoint a user’s location within 60 feet, obtaining a position fix in around one to two minutes, much faster than traditional GPS, or Global Positioning Systems, are able to obtain positive location information or even connect, while inside buildings.


When a Skyhook-enabled smartphone checks on its location, it will use the Skyhook Wireless software to scan for nearby cellular towers, Wi-Fi hotspots and available GPS satellites. The smartphone then sends that data to a Skyhhok Wireless server and within seconds can get a positive position fix on where in the world that smartphone is. This three-pronged approach is superior in the field in many instances for obtaining a position as opposed to reliance on GPS alone, which can take minutes to obtain a position fix.


But Skyhook Wireless must continuously update its location database as people move and new hotspots emerge and cease. The biggest challenge is not getting the data, it is managing the chaos that surrounds the shifting database of location-fixing data.


Skyhook Wireless software is part of a thriving emerging market for location-based services. These services include mobile social networks like Facebook Places, Gowalla and Foursquare, which enable “checking in” and broadcasting your location information to friends, announcing, for example, your arrival at a neighborhood restaurant.


To make this possible, Skyhook Wireless has amassed a database of more than 50 billion scanned records of Wi-Fi, cellular tower and GPS signals. This “map” of locations captures nearly 80% of the geographic areas in which the population of the US lives and works daily. In order to gather all of this information, Skyhook Wireless, on any given day, employs 500 drivers to cruise around with laptops and wireless antennas that read Wi-Fi and other signals and correlate them with locations. The company’s ultimate goal is to obtain baseline scans of all the roads and cities across the entire globe.


Skyhook Wireless has among its customers the manufacturers of mobile phones and other consumer devices. Skyhook Wireless software is installed in tens of millions of consumer gadgets, including some netbook computers, cameras, and until very recently, every iPhone, iPad and iPod that Apple shipped. In April, Apple began using its own location data it had been collecting for this purpose over years of iPhone use. In July of this year, Skyhook Wireless inked a deal with Samsung for its smartphones and has agreements with Motorola and Dell as well.


Licensing Skyhook Wireless technology can cost as much as $2 per device. Forbes magazine estimated the company’s 2009 revenues at $25 Million. Skyhook Wireless has around 35 emplyees, was founded in 2003, and has raised around $17 Million from investors to date.


Skyhook Wireless is competing against Apple, Inc., as mentioned previously in this article, as well as giants Google and Nokia, which have both also developed and acquired similar services that use multiple locataion data inputs, like Wi-Fi hotspots for mobile location fixing. It may be significant that in April of this year, Motorola choose to license the Skyhook Wireless technology rather than use Google’s free location software.


The CEO of Skyhook Wireless is Ted Morgan, age 43, the company’s founder.

How much bandwidth does a smartphone use? How much bandwidth does an Apple iPad use? How much bandwidth does an Apple iPhone use? February 7, 2010

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How much bandwidth does a smartphone use? How much bandwidth does an Apple iPad use? How much bandwidth does an Apple iPhone use?

Wireless operators are struggling to keep up with demand as more people use their phones to check Facebook and watch videos online. Here are estimates of how much bandwidth is used per person for various activities on different phones.

One megabyte is roughly equivalent to one digital book, 45 seconds of music, or 20 seconds of medium-quality video.

Feature Phones such as the Motorola Razr are used primarily to make calls, and they consume littel bandwidth even for web activities because they have stripped-down web browsers. Feature phones and their users tend to consume around 100 Megabytes of data downloads a month, using 4 MB of voice calls an hour, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing per hour.

Smartphones such as Research in Motion’s popular Blackberry, are used for phone calls, email, and light web browsing. Smartphones and their users tend to consume around 185 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, utilizing 4 MB per hour for voice calls, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing.

Superphones are advanced smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone and Motorola’s Droid, that make it easy for people to surf the web and watch online videos, leading to much higher bandwidth use.

Superphones and their users tend to consume around 560 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 4 MB per hour for voice calls, 40 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 200 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

Tablet computers such as Apple’s newly unveiled iPad are likely to send data use even higher. Th iPad will chew up even more bandwidth than the iPone because of its larger screen. Tablet computer and iPad users tend to consume 800 to 1,000 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 50 to 60 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 300 to 400 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

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  Feature Phones Smartphones Superphones Tablet Computers
Monthly Totals
100 MB
185 MB
560 MB
800-1K MB
Voice Calls
4 MB / Hr.
4 MB / Hr.
4 MB / Hr.
 
Web Browsing
4-5 MB/Hr.
4-5 MB/Hr
40 MB/Hr.
50-60 MB/Hr
Internet Radio     60 MB/Hr.
60 MB / Hr.
YouTube Videos     200MB/Hr 3-400MB/Hr.


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Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.


About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Senior Technical Project Manager at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.


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