Category Archives: Mobile Computing

Google Glass Review

I guess I am a curious geek, I had to checkout Google Glass the same way I had to have an Apple II in 1979 and an iPhone when they came out. Of course I justified the $1500 Glass price tag because many at the university were itching to get their hands on them as well. I have been exploring Glass for 4 days now and I have concluded that this wearable technology is going to be Big. Not Big because of efficiency or usefulness. Big because they are just really cool.

First to catch everyone up on what Google Glass is – checkout this ABC Technology Video by Joanna Stern.

Unlike the Cyborg like appearance Google Glass generated for her wearing them in the city, I have yet to be asked about them after numerous encounters with strangers in Rolla, MO. However, it has been 6 months since Joanna first shocked people with them. The other side of that coin is that I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they feel fairly normal and do not interfere with your normal vision. You can easily forget you have them on until you want to take photo or ask Google for information.

Google Glass is definitely in Beta testing mode. If you are expecting lot’s of administrative instructions forget it. Your greatest source for answers is the heavily trafficked user forums or as Google refers to them as Explorers Community. A real downside right now is the lack of an IOS app to allow you to connect with your iPhone or iPad but that battle will be waged later when Glass goes public. Since I can’t tether my Glass to an Android Phone I walk around with my AT&T MiFi to provide Internet access, what a geek.

My first intentional public display of Glass came last night for our IT Christmas party, which by the way was great. Santa couldn’t make it but Mrs Claus and an Elf showed up to pass out gifts to the children. So I had a captured audience of IT folks and their families. First observation was that my older staff were more reluctant to checkout the Glass then the younger ones. The kids were the most interesting. It seemed like the teenagers were interested but it did not click for them as quickly as it did for the preteens.

Kids First Exposure to Google Glass

Kids First Exposure to Google Glass

Kids from say 6-12 immediately got it and you could see their minds race with imagination. Notice photo of brother waiting on his sister for a try. He quickly figured out how to ask Google about “Hunger Games”. I was told that the boy never stopped talking about the Glass the rest of the evening and he couldn’t wait to tell his teacher the next day.

I will continue to play with Glass through the Holiday’s but will then start loaning them out to the growing list of Geek volunteers. The bottom line is that there will be new battles over control of wearable technology but market share of mobile devices will be important. Get ready for an Apple Google clash over Glasses.

HTML5 – Most Important Technology for 2012

The most important technology for higher education to watch in 2012 will be the utilization of HTML5. Not because HTML5 offers the most efficient way to handle multimedia, graphic layout or utilization of local resources. No, it is about the adoption of a Web presentation foundation that will stimulate mobile and e-book proliferation to usher in a new era of computing. For mobile it simplifies the playing field and for e-books it allows for the enhancements that have always been expected.

HTML5 has origins back to 2004 and is only now at W3C Candidate Recommendation. The significance of this selection is not specifically about HTML5, instead it is about how HTML5 is influencing the standardization of web development and e-book publishing. HTML5 along with CSS3 and Java have no proprietary agenda and they deliver what this new era of computing requires, access to and presentation of vast amounts of information. We are just now experiencing the explosion of digital content consumption devices. Support of mobile phones to pad type e-readers by IT in higher education is puzzling but will be less complicated thanks to the rallying around the HTML5 standard.

PC World agrees with the 2012 significance of HTML5

Another good article on importance of HTML5 but also on the effort it will take. HTML5 Will Replace Native Apps–But It Will Take Longer Than You Think

Hewlett-Packard Could Still be Great

I was skeptical about HP trying to break into the mobile computing game last summer with WebOS and the TouchPad but I was also pulling for them. They had a chance to be great and they sold out. Now they procrastinate about what should be their next step with WebOS and their PC business. So how close were they? With a real leader they would have been real close. I do believe they were on to something with a line of products that blended the traditional PC which they manufacture with a serious mobile OS strategy. Sure they needed to work out the kinks but the idea was solid. They needed to invest in an app distribution Cloud strategy which would have been challenging but the roadmap was right there in front of them.

Will Hewlett-Packard find the will to be great again or will they just fade away as one of the once great technology companies. This can be asked about a few other the once great technology companies; Microsoft, IBM or Dell who still have a chance, unlike the many others who no longer exist. But it is the leadership component that answers this question and leaders aren’t hired they emerge. Come on HP, you are not dead yet, you can do it, let someone lead you to greatness again.

Bragging about our Mobile Portal

iGFU Main Menu

We were one of the earliest institutions to release a mobile app, iGFU, back when the iPhone was initially released. And we had high aspirations for doing much more with mobile development mostly because I had a talented developer who wrote the original version of the geocaching mobile app for Geocaching.com (see previous post). Well, shortly there after we started implementing PeopleSoft and there was no time to think about mobile apps any more. However, now that we are making great progress in utilizing our PeopleSoft portal we found that it was extremely easy to use that as a foundation for a new and improved iGFU mobile app.

iGFU is similar to all the other university mobile apps or portals, but I do have to say that ours offers exceptional content and value, even though I would be prejudiced. The reason I believe this is because I feel that it leverages the critical needs for a customized portal and we produced it essentially for free thanks to my developer squeezing it in to task list and the acquisition of icons from a recent graphic arts alum. The key is that we provide information that is useful to a mobile university user such as news, course catalog, food menus, campus events, mapping, etc. But the kicker is the access to our PeopleSoft ERP data as this student view shows.

MyGFU access from iGFU

Now for some details: this is just a web app written in PHP with the different functions called from PeopleSoft. The functions are setup pretty much as you would for the PeopleSoft Portal. Presentation manager creates the structure drawing from an oracle table holding the specified data. And then it is called and presented by the PHP code. Since it is all controlled under PeopleSoft we can easily toggle a function on/off and designate the security access roles. When lists are involved like for a professor to see their class roster, that is also an easy call. Because we auto-create our course identifier in Moodle we can also grab whatever we want out of our LMS for students and faculty. The most interesting function may be the survey tool that allows a professor to easily solicite response from class with results displayed live. This is all made available because we are working with an advanced ERP solution built upon today’s web principles.

Responseware for Class

I’m not trying to promote iGFU as the greatest mobile portal but I do think it is important to put development of a mobile portal into proper perspective. It should be a web app so that it runs on all devices and can be centrally managed. Keep it simple, what is not accessed from institutional data sources, should be easily maintained by content owners such as with a shared document. We use a simple spreadsheet layout to allow conferences to build their schedules out.

iGFU is a very young service and we are quickly becoming aware of the desires for enhancements and content placement. So now the real work begins in deciding just how we want to manage this service. Probably best to let everyone assume that modifications are difficult. Maybe that is the real advantage of an commercial version.

We will offer the iPad as a choice for our laptop program

If you have followed my blog or George Fox University you know about our laptop program where in recent years we have given out an Apple MacBook to all incoming freshman. The purpose for the program was for marketing, standardization and convenience. The issue for us is the changing landscape of educational computing and the value dilution of a laptop for a traditional undergraduate. George Fox University happens to find itself at the crossroads for both of these issues.

We had been hoping that the iPad would be the perfect transition technology, but I address some of the shortcomings of the iPad that prevented us from offering the iPad in place of the MacBook next year. However, in looking for a way to offer an option to the MacBook we have decided to offer the iPad as an alternative choice. I think this will be a very interesting opportunity that will first be marked by the percentage who select the iPad and second by the success we find in utilizing and supporting it. Now we will make sure the iPad offering is as complete as possible and we won’t be able to give any guarantees that the iPad equally replaces the MacBook. In fact the smarter value choice would be for the MacBook, but what will the students choose?

There will be many reasons why students may choose an iPad and it will typically break down into those who already have their laptop of choice or those who actually believe that the iPad is the more functional computing device for them to be a successful student. How the numbers work out will be interesting, but no matter what I think we will see many iPads, iPhones and iTouches throughout the undergraduate population. We will be deliberate in tying to integrate these mobile devices into our Teaching & Learning strategies, but in most cases we will just be observing whether the iPad satisfies the technology needs for undergraduate higher education. Of course the rapid availability and our adoption of E-Textbooks will strongly influence the value of the iPad. Stay tuned.

We did – Press Release

Could our Mobile Device be the Key to our Privacy?

I was contemplating the possibilities for how our mobile computing devices could serve as forms of identity. It is an electronic device that we control, that could offer personal validation; it could provide proximity authorization via various transmission modes; it is a repository that can be used to provide any type of information about us, etc, etc. So what are some possibilities for managing our identity information on our mobile device? There are some personal health record apps for the iPhone and of course numerous personal financial apps. What about our ultimate personal identity?

What if our personal mobile computing device served as an access control key to our genetic map, our personal genome? I bring this up because back in 2003 when I was finishing up my MS in Bioinformatics I designed the schema for a National Health Database. The concept worked from a National ID as a starting point for accessing or referencing all data that would be important for a personal health record. The ultimate challenge that I did not have a real answer for was the access control needed for the highest security, our personal genetic map, our DNA code. The design was based on this data being encrypted from inception with access based on a personal digital key that could be used to activate de-encryption when used in conjunction with an authorized medical professional’s digital key. At the time I could only imagine some sort of smartcard or embedded chip, but I was hung up on communication. I kind of saw it as 2 people with keys needed to launch a nuclear missile. But now I think it may be possible to design a scheme that works from a mobile computing device that might allow us to build this National Health Database. The mobile device is key for its ability to allow the patient to authorize access to their medical information with remote flexibility. Biometrics will probably be involved, but could a mobile device provide a privacy solution?

By the way, my thesis was titled “Security of Our Personal Genome”.

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