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Friday, June 29, 2012

Smartphones and Teenagers

A few years ago I posted excitedly about ordering my very first iPhone and praying that it would not result in my children being left to fend for themselves as I horribly neglected them in favor of staring at the small screen all day long. They have grown quite a lot since then, and whether my iPhone addiction has done them any long lasting psychological damage will of course be fodder for the psychologists of their future. 

Soooooo, you are asking yourselves, what about the kids?!?!  Should they be allowed to have smartphones?  Obviously I'm a tech expert and not a child psychologist, but being a mother with a pention for mobile technologies it's certainly a topic to which I've given thought.

First off, let's remember that a smartphone is as much a computer as it is a phone.  Many experts have recommended that computers be kept in the public areas of the house, and not in children's bedrooms.  So if you give your child a smartphone then you are essentially allowing a computer and everything accessible on it into your child's room. 

In short, your child's bedroom becomes a gateway to the world ...

and a way to escape the Wicked Witch of Home .... Mom!

"Do your homework!  Clean up the mess in the kitchen! Get your dirty socks out of the livingroom!" 

Monday, April 7, 2008

iPhone Detrimental to Children

Is Apple's iPhone healthy for children? I would say no, but not for the reason you would expect. The iPhone has an incredibly cool interface that is based almost solely on a touch screen, which difffers significantly from existing touch screen devices in that it does not require a stylus at all!

Does this endager children's health or cause anti-social behavior? I doubt it, but it sure does cause serious addiction in parents who have a streak of "gadget geak" in them!

Yes folks, ever since my husband decided that an iPhone is what I should have for my birthday the kids have been totally neglected. They are walking around in the snow naked with severe malnutrition because I have been too busy reading everything there is to be read on the internet about the iphone. My few conversations with them have been brainwashing sessions in which I hypnotize them and make them repeat incessantly the following. "I will not be jealous when Mom gets here iPhone. I will not be jealous when Mom gets her iPhone. I will not throw any tantrums, nor will I beg for an iPhone for myself."

Many of you are probably thinking to yourselves, "so just go buy the #%@%# thing already!" So I did. Due to the shortage in the stores of the 16GB model, I ordered it online via the Apple store after which I spent days tracking it as it made its way to its final destination in Florida. Actually, I was quite surprised at the route it took.

Shenhen CN (which I originally thought must be some small town in Connecticut with an Apple warehouse) was it origin - wow, straight from the factory in China! From there it went ...Anchorage, Alaska -> Indiana -> Tennessee -> Florida.

Because I have been travelling a lot I have not yet actually touched my Birthday present, but I will soon. Perhaps after a few days of iPhone mania I will succeed in coming back down to earth and reclaiming my children ... either that or the snow will thaw and they will be able to forage on their own more easily. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cellphones - The Modern Leash - Part 2

In November I published a post discussing some of the educational/parenting issues around the use of mobile phones. Yesterday I came across an interesting post by Ed Hawco called "Is safer necessarily better?" relating to this same topic. I find myself agreeing very much with his message, which was basically that we need to emphasize parenting and not only rely on "parental control" technology where the use of mobile devices by children is concerned.

In general, I find that many parents address raising children as an exercise in protecting children from the real world. They do their utmost to prevent their children from experiencing failure and do not require them to take responsibility. The parents are constantly stepping in to resolve issues for children of all ages. Ed points to a Psychology Today article entitled "A Nation of Whimps", by Hara Estroff Marano which I enjoyed very much. Below is an excerpt from the article which is very relevant to our discussion.

It's bad enough that today's children are raised in a psychological hothouse where they are overmonitored and oversheltered. But that hothouse no longer has geographical or temporal boundaries. For that you can thank the cell phone. Even in college, or perhaps especially at college, students are typically in contact with their parents several times a day, reporting every flicker of experience. One long-distance call overheard on a recent cross-campus walk: "Hi, Mom. I just got an ice-cream cone; can you believe they put sprinkles on the bottom as well as on top?"

"Kids are constantly talking to parents," laments Cornell student Kramer, which makes them perpetually homesick. Of course, they're not telling the folks everything, notes Portmann. "They're not calling their parents to say, 'I really went wild last Friday at the frat house and now I might have chlamydia. Should I go to the student health center?'"

The perpetual access to parents infantilizes the young, keeping them in a permanent state of dependency. Whenever the slightest difficulty arises, "they're constantly referring to their parents for guidance," reports Kramer. They're not learning how to manage for themselves.

Think of the cell phone as the eternal umbilicus. One of the ways we grow up is by internalizing an image of Mom and Dad and the values and advice they imparted over the early years. Then, whenever we find ourselves faced with uncertainty or difficulty, we call on that internalized image. We become, in a way, all the wise adults we've had the privilege to know. " But cell phones keep kids from figuring out what to do," says Anderegg. "They've never internalized any images; all they've internalized is 'call Mom or Dad.'"

Some psychologists think we have yet to recognize the full impact of the cell phone on child development, because its use is so new. Although there are far too many variables to establish clear causes and effects, Indiana's Carducci believes that reliance on cell phones undermines the young by destroying the ability to plan ahead. "The first thing students do when they walk out the door of my classroom is flip open the cell phone. Ninety-five percent of the conversations go like this: 'I just got out of class; I'll see you in the library in five minutes.' Absent the phone, you'd have to make arrangements ahead of time; you'd have to think ahead."

While this article sounds quite bleak, I believe that mobile phones are a positive development even for children. It is a matter though of using it in a positive way. A screw driver can be a lethal weapon or a tool for development and innovation depending on how you use it.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Instant SMS

Last week I discovered a new technology being introduced by Comverse. They are calling it Instant SMS and they introduced it at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. The basic idea is to implement the instant messaging experience using the existing SMS technology. You can see the press release at

Instant SMS provides capabilities such as presence, multi-media, and other features we are used to using in instant messaging on the PC, on the mobile device without requiring the provider to move to advanced network architectures such as IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem). From what I understand the presence functionality is quite limited, but I think this is a service that will catch on very quickly.

Apple's iPhone has a nice interface for SMS/MMS messages that groups them into a dialog-type view. This makes it much easier to see and manage the message based interactions you have had with specific people, much as you can with email on your desktop. However, Comverse is taking this one step further and making it more robust combining multi-media, presence, emotion icons, and other such functionality.
For those of you not familiar with them, Comverse provides systems to Telecommunication Providers. They have two separate product lines - billing and value added services such as voice mail and messaging.

NTT Docomo - Innovative Phones

While at 3GSM in Barcelona I had the opportunity to visit the NTT Docomo booth, where they were showing some interesting innovation in mobile devices. One unique feature of the phones they were showing is that they are waterproof. Yup, no fears if your 2 year old throws your phone in the bathtub, or your teenager insists that he doesn't need a coat in the rain.

One model of the phone also has the equivalent of a panic button. You put on a string and an alarm goes off, and "help" flashes on the phone.

And finally, if your child forgets the phone another alarm goes off. This is implemented by attaching a band to the wrist or clothing of the child. The phone then identifies if the child is too far from it.

NTT also showed a prototype of a phone that will help you or your kids keep physically fit. It has features such as a workout music player, pedometer, heart rate monitor, and even a haliotosis (bad breath) monitor!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

IBM Delivers Telco Innovations to Improve Customer Experience

When I left for Barcelona a few days ago I looked forward to introducing the things that my colleagues and I have been working on because I was interested in hearing feedback from various kinds of people in the industry. I certainly didn't expect to read about the projects on CNN. However, they and many others have picked up the IBM press release about what we are showing at Mobile World Congress.

IBM Research demonstrated how mobile phones and "presence" technology combined with health records can provide a potential "good samaritan" with information on how to aid people in critical medical situations. This combination of IBM Research capabilities and IBM WebSphere Presence Server exemplifies IBM's ability to create enhanced mobile applications for everyday life.

Another project in which I was very involved was also mentioned. I did not mention it previously in this blog because it was confidential, but Vodafone has now agreed to publicize it so it is also mentioned in the article.

IBM collaborated with its client, leading global service provider Vodafone, to extend social networks to any mobile device by taking advantage of communication enablers such as IBM WebSphere Presence Server. Demonstrated for the first time at Mobile World Congress, consumers can communicate with their social network friends regardless of where they are with voice and SMS from either a PC or a mobile phone.

"Working together with IBM, Vodafone developed 'BuddyComm,' an integrated communication service for social network users," said Mike Walker, director of Vodafone Group Research & Development. "This project was a unique opportunity for Vodafone and IBM to bring together research and innovation capability from both sides to achieve goals which neither company could reach by itself, providing real benefit to customers who are active on social networks."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Off to World Mobile Congress

Next week the Mobile World Congress (formerly known as 3GSM) will be held in Barcelona. This is the largest conference of the year for the Telecommunications industry.

In the IBM booth the Research lab in which I work will be showing several demos.

One is a service creation tool specifically for telecommunications providers. It helps the providers create new services more quickly by providing them with graphical modeling tools, drastically decreasing the need for the developer to know all of the complex protocols such as SIP, diameter, etc. I know this doesn't sound very sexy if you are an end user, but believe me you will be very happy if the Telco providing your phone service could cut down the development time of new offerings from the typical 18 months to a couple of weeks. It will happen. It's just a matter of time, since the Google and Yahoos of the world have changed the way services are rolled out.

Another is called .... Good Samaritan: Telco + Health + Presence 2.0.

This demo shows how mobile phones, Presence 2.0 technology, and integration with health records can provide a Good Samaritan with information to aid people in critical situations. A motorcycle goes off the road into a ditch. Cars driving by have no idea that there is someone in need of assistance. A man falls on the sidewalk. Strangers approach to help but have no idea that his fall was caused by weakness and dizziness due to a decrease in his blood sugar level. With the Good Samaritan technology, patients receive immediate and more effective assistance from both bystanders and trained medical personal who arrive on the scene. The system automatically identifies people in the area who are available and willing to help, and provides them with a) the location information and instructions on how to reach the person in need b) The relevant patient history at the level of information and instruction appropriate to their level of training (if any). This is enabled by a dispatcher who has an electronic unified patient record. With a click of a button the dispatcher indicates the level of training (bystander, simple first aid, medic, paramedic, doctor) and current issue and the appropriate information is sent to the mobile device of the person providing assistance.

In addition to working in the booth and meeting with customers and ISVs, I also plan to scout out the latest technologies aimed at our children .... so stay tuned for more updates!