Environmental Innovation Meets Augmented Reality

I came across the video above on the Innovation Daily recently. But I was less interested in the bicycle than how it tied in with comments made by Dermot Daly (@dermdaly) and Keith Maycock (@keithmaycock) of at the Dotconf recently.

Daly, of Tapadoo, talked of how the mobile web has arrived (video here). An early adopter of mobile web technology, he spoke of his frustrations 10 years ago dealing with tiny telephone displays and carriers who charged by the minute. In one great example, he told of how he wrote an app — before they were really called that — to let people book cinema tickets online.

This was a big deal back in the year 2000. It was the world’s first, WAP-based, cinema-ticketing application. The app was shown off at the largest international cinema expo, frame relay was run in to Cork and Dublin cinemas to handle bookings. Eircell (since acquired by Vodafone) partnered and splashed the details of the new service over its website.  Launch night, with lots of publicity, was at an advance screening of Charlie’s Angels.

Daly said someone asked him if they should put it on the web, too. He said “no way, that’s so last century, everything’s going mobile.” But, “luckily they overruled me,” he said.

Four years later, the company was acquired. During the due diligence phase, Daly looked at the database to see how many tickets were bought over mobile phones. “It was a very fast query because it came back with 20,” he said to laughter. “I had to run a separate query because some of them were staff,” he noted. In all, 16 tickets were sold, but since most people would have bought two tickets at a time, there were probably eight sales in all, Daly said.

Now that smart phones with large, attractive displays, GPS and other features are becoming the norm, mobile web applications have exploded in popularity. Daly said there are three main categories of apps: entertainment, micro-tasking and searches for local information.

Keith Maycock, course director for the MSc in Web Technologies at the National College of Ireland, also took up the theme when he spoke of current trends in computing. Noting the convergence of ubiquitous computing and the mobile web, Maycock displayed a slide of a cityscape to show how these innovations can be of use.

Dubbed augmented reality, this is where a user could capture a street scene and see it populated with a list of apartments for rent, sales in shops, offices to let, the location of parking meters, and even how close your friends are if they have GPS-enabled devices.

The Copenhagen Wheel developed at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., has put these and other innovations together. It has an easily assembled device to generate and store electricity to help you up those hills. But it also has a dock for an iPhone. In addition to “enhancing your experience of the city,” the iPhone has an app that acts as a personal trainer. It records your exercise level, how many calories you burn, etc.

On the city level, the device tells you about traffic, road conditions and pollution levels. It also keeps a total of how many miles/kilometers you cycle for the next time you get in to some macho, environmental chest-thumping with your pals.

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