NHS Innovation Fund announced

The E-Health Insider reports on a new fund for NHS Innovation

Health minister Lord Darzi has unveiled a package of measures to encourage and spread innovation in the NHS.

The Department of Health is creating a £20m prize fund to encourage people working inside and outside the NHS to combat “the key health issues facing the nation.”

It is also creating a £220m fund to distribute money to strategic health authorities to encourage the spread of innovation over the next five years.

DH information says: “The funds will focus largely on promoting innovation in healthcare delivery, health improvement and patient engagement rather than the development of new medicines or devices, for which funds are already available.”

While this is very unlikely to result in amazing innovations, there is hope for ‘open standards, open data’ reforms for the NHS. Referring to “Information Technology” and the NHS in the same sentence is a poor joke for UK taxpayers. Projects have uniformly been failures – partially due to lack of experience of massive scale deployments of technology and a dependence on certain proprietary technologies which have scalability issues. Part of the reasons for the failings seem to be the precious need for security of our medical data.

One of the things bothering me about the “security” of NHS data is that it always seems stored in one central location (which is then burned to DVD and left in a taxi somewhere). Pardon me but I’d like to keep my own medical records on a USB dongle on my set of keys so that if something happens to me, it’s easily viewable. It would be an easy and cheap way of storing records. Add a bit of digital rights management (rather than trying to lock away our MP3s) and you’ve got a solution that will please most of the people most of the time. If I lose it, it’s just my records not mine and those of a thousand others. And this solution is used in other countries in Europe. Why are we so scared of it?

This solution isn’t innovative, it’s just sense. It’s not going to need hundreds of millions to implement.

TextHelp for Mac released next month

( Link from IrishDev.com )

TextHelp, one of Northern Ireland’s leading “Learning” companies, is about to release it’s latest assistive product, Read&Write 3 Gold for Mac.

The software will assist students with their reading abilities, accuracy of written work and improve their research and revision techniques.

New features of the software include high quality voices designed specifically for Education, a Fact Mapper to help generate ideas, an online Translator, and the software takes the form of a Floating toolbar that integrates with MS Word 2008 and the Safari browser.

Chris Sellars, Dyslexia Technology Consultant states “When working with dyslexic students or explaining how technology can help dyslexics, Texthelp Read&Write has always been well received as its many features give dyslexics a valuable toolbox to help them succeed.”

CEO, Mark McCusker, states “The latest version of Read&Write 3 Gold for Mac brings the popular features of our award-winning software to Apple Mac users. The software is the most user-friendly, yet comprehensive toolbar available to students in the marketplace. We continue to enhance the functionality of our software to provide a greater user experience.”

Hostel Hero – shout out for a great little app!

Jason Morris, an ex-colleague of mine from $BIG_COMPANY, has released his latest app to the iTunes App Store. It’s called Hostel Hero – and pretty much delivers everything I would have wanted for budget accommodation when travelling.

For those of us attending WWDC in June this year, it may prove to be very cost effective as well as useful for the traveller. It works on iPhone and iPod touch and caches data for thousands of hotels and hostels across the world and integrates it with Phone, Email and Google Maps. The caching of the data means it works great for offline viewing – pretty essential for backpackers and travellers not wishing to pay up to £6 a megabyte for data (and I’ve griped about roaming charges before!). You can also book your room from within the app as well as view photos of the accommodation.

Did I mention it’s free?

The app has had some excellent reviews already and has recently joined my arsenal of apps on my iPhone due to my current increase in travel plans. You can view the Press Release, a guided tour and the demo video at the Hostel Hero web site.

Jason is also the man behind PlayTripper – another essential app for the frequent traveller or long-term backpacker. I’m guessing he’s passionate about the subject matter, had the skills and intent and developed something he would use. Perfect formula for a great app.

Over 3G, the downloads are a little slow due to the amount of data involved so it’s clever to use WiFi for those bits – and the download progress bar is misleading – it finished before hitting 1% even on 3G. The UI is also a little plain – using Apple’s standard widgets and it could do with a bit of colour and design I think. The main subject of DevDays last week was the application of design to software where it crosses with User Experience. The table views are also very long due to the amount of countries, cities involved and a side-picker like the Address Book would be a big advantage here. There are no luxury hotels listed – no Marriots or Hiltons – and that I’ll take as a negative rather than a positive – it’s great for the cash-conscious traveller but this could appeal to a wider audience with a bit of buy-in from the big names too. The app is consciously designed for the budget traveller so I guess I’m being picky – it’s still a hundred times better than hitting Google for budget accommodation.

I’d be much more inclined to use this for myself (work travel) rather than use it to book a getaway for me and the wife (leisure travel) – that’s the only caveat I would add. I’d also like a bit more information, maybe some filters, for locations that might be kid-friendly. I know that’s a little bit of an oxymoron for budget travel but when I travel it’s more likely to be with kids. Even just for finding hotels and hostels around Ireland and Northern Ireland – it’s already proved it’s worth to me.

GameDevelopers.ie: Irish Game Development 2.0

www.gamedevelopers.ie is partnering the IDA Ireland to organize the event, Irish Game Development 2.0, on Friday the 15th of May from 6.00pm in the Trinity Science Gallery on Pearse Street in Dublin.

This event will see speakers from PlayFirst and PopCap talking about both the technical and business side of developing casual games for PC and iPhone.

Speaking on the night will be Barry O’Moore, Senior Producer of PlayFirst International Inc (www.playfirst.com), a recent startup in the Guinness Enterprise Centre and a branch of a highly successful US based casual games company. He will be followed by Viktorya Hollings, Senior Director of Mobile Games, and Cathy Orr, European PR Director, of PopCap Games International Ltd (www.popcap.com), the well known and regarded casual games company with offices in Dublin.

The industry speakers will be followed by a ‘show n’ tell’ event where indie, company and individual developers show current projects. This will be accompanied by finger food, wine and soft drinks.

Current confirmed demonstrations:
1. “Porting PlayFirst’s games to iPhone” by Chris Gregan.
2. “Coretex: An indie iPhone game made for under 500 euro” by David Kelly
3. “A demo of Digital Sideburns first iPhone game” by Alan Taylor & David Sims

Sadly the event is already sold out. The event was only posted on the 24th April (Friday) and today is Monday. It sold out in 24 hours. Considering the number of no-shows for DevDays Dublin (400 pre-reg, 170 showed up) I reckon there will be a lot of no-shows on the day.

Colour me frustrated.

iPhone now #1 in mobile browsers


Frankly it’s getting boring.

These ‘names’ in mobile dissing the iPhone because it didn’t have Cut and Paste and On-Device Search? So what – 37 million iPhone and iPod touch devices and no-one seemed too bothered about Cut and Paste or Search. Yes, they’re a nice addition. I’ve used Search more often than Cut and Paste but yes, it may be convenient when I need it – but does it matter.

I mean – it’s late April 2009. The iPhone was released nearly two years ago and this is all the Dvoraks of this world have in their arsenal?

I’m not being a complete fanboi here – the iPhone is not perfect – not by far – but at least it’s showing progress. Having had more than enough exposure to the Blackberry over the last few days, I can confidently say that the device is not popular due to consumer desires (RIM has 25 million subscribers after 10 years. Apple beats it after two) but due to IT department ‘control’ requirements. And Nokia – don’t get me started on Nokia, they’re two years late for a fad. And where’s the rest? SonyEricsson are almost gone from the mindshare, Motorola are gone and the new and shinies are coming from HTC (boring) and LG (Please buy our shit because we put an OLED screen into it.). Wired said in their July 2008 review of the Nokia E71 that it was the legit iPhone killer. Yeah. Didn’t happen.

According to AdMob, iPhone now has 38% of all smartphone traffic. This beats out Nokia with 36%, Blackberry with 11%, Windows Mobile with 6%, Android with 3% and Palm OS with 3%.

And their responses to the iPhone? App Stores. Have you SEEN the Blackberry App World store? It’s embarrassing. Apple’s celebrating their billionth download. The iPhone world is torn between multiple beautiful twitter-apps. On the other hand, the Blackberry offerings look like ass and their App Store is amazingly bereft of content.

Where’s the interest and how many companies are going to get Zuned once Microsoft follows through on THEIR iPhone killer.

But when the only weapon the mainstream mobile media has is:

LOLZ Cut’n’Paste and SEARCH ZOMG!!! LOLZ

These guys are relics. Mobile is a new and vibrant market and these guys are still counting features on a checklist. Where did we see that before? Oh, yes, the PC market. What happened there? All the PC companies died.

Stop counting features. Pay attention to the consumers. The Alpha Geeks have already spoken and you weren’t invited to the party. Smartphones have finally crossed the chasm and you need to sign up or shut up.

DevDays – initial thoughts.

DevDays is now over and I’m left tired and glad. The theme of the two days, one in Dublin and one in Belfast, was definitely ‘where design meets software’. Whether the talk was about your first app, or different interfaces for iPhone apps or even the vast opportunities in some vertical markets for well designed applications – there was a definite undercurrent of the importance of design. Which is entirely appropriate – the days were originally supported by Digital Circle, a sub-group of Momentum – and it’s to the credit of other organisations like IntertradeIreland, Create Ireland and the Digital Media Forum that we managed to pull it off. I would definitely think that a Software UI/UX/Ix track at the 2010 InvestNI Design Conference would be essential.

As for the Hack Track – it didn’t happen. Next time we’ll have some workshop leaders to distract the attendees from watching tracks all day. We had the room but the talks were too good and, frankly, there weren’t enough hours in the day.

We’ll be posting links to all content at XCake.org

iPhone coming to Vodafone

Mere days after I was passed a tidbit that iPhone in the UK was coming to the Orange and 3 networks, I spotted this.


which is taken directly from portal.beta.vodafone.com.

Note the wording:

“Available to all iPhone users including non-Vodafone customers.”

There might be more to think about this summer than just when to pick up the third generation iPhone. There’s also the network to consider.

AT&T likes the iPhone

“AT&T continues to note that iPhone owners tend to spend an average of about 1.6 times more per month than other subscription users and are less likely to defect, with many customers actively switching for the device. About 40 percent of those buying iPhones are new to AT&T, the company says.”

Electronista highlights AT&T’s first calendar quarter results:
“AT&T also credits the iPhone for preventing a slide in the company’s wireless operating income margin, which has been kept high at 40.9 percent, and for more than doubling the number of smartphones on the network in the past year: about 31.7 percent of the 61 million subscription phones are in the smartphone class.”

I would reckon that proportional figures are likely for O2 as well. iPhone, despite being “old hat” for some, is still an object of desire for many who find themselves holding onto older phones so they can wait out their tiresome contract.

Useless statistics


DevDays is a two day conference that I’ve organised with the help of some stalwarts and funding from IntertradeIreland and the Digital Circle. To make things more difficult, the first day is in one city, the second in another.

We have about 354 unique registrations.
About two thirds of the registrations are for Dublin.
17 people are attending both Dublin and Belfast. This number does include me.
30 attendees describe themselves as “experienced” with iPhone development.
Nearly a third of registered folk use Google’s gmail as their main email account.

So, yes, useless statistics (but then you have to wonder about a bloke who organises two conferences in two cities on consecutive days and is yapping about the statistics of registrations at 1 am on a Friday night).

I’m off to bed.