There’s Digital Hubs and digital hubs.

There is an inevitability of a concentration on the digital knowledge economy for Northern Ireland. We have a thriving group of developers and designers in Belfast, a huge amount of ambition in the North West and a heap of activity building in the Southern and Western counties of the province.

Last week I went to the Digital Hub along with Momentum, Belfast City Council, InvestNI and representatives from DCAL and OFMDFM.

We heard the spiel about how it brought some regeneration to the area, that they still have a considerable subvention from the government after 10 years (less than €2m a year, but overall investment has been around €30m since inception and may not include transferred assets).

I also spoke to some of the guys in some of the businesses. They said they wish the Hub was one mile closer to the city centre, that the reason they use bikes and public transport is because they don’t want to bring their cars to that area of town and even the big lads feel a little concerned leaving the Hub with a laptop.

It re-iterates my belief that a city centre location for a Belfast Hub is essential. Not least because Davy Sims put together a map of Digital Media companies in Northern Ireland back in February of 2010 and discovered most were within a square mile in the city centre.

View Belfast Media Square Mile in a larger map

I don’t think we want a straight property play like the Hub in Dublin. We’re a small region with a big ambition so we have to think much more strategically about what goes where. We also need to be 100% joined up. I think I have the support of the Digital Circle steering group in my opinions and in my vision for a digital hub-type infrastructure in Northern Ireland. It’s a big plan, an ambitious plan, even an audacious plan and if it delivers, it will bring the concept to the province as a whole rather than just to a small region.

Where does he get those wonderful toys….

Further to my earlier post about CIIF, I think it’s important to point out what an amazing opportunity this is for web and mobile companies in Northern Ireland. I remember the first time I saw a CSS-based parallax scrolling background (Example) and I marvelled. And then I saw the Safari tech demo pages (Example) and I marvelled again. I just loved the falling leaves demo and I absolutely love what Paul Hayes did here.

It cannot be underestimated what the creation of toys can bring in terms of eyeballs. For a talented web developer team, they might get 100,000 hits from Hacker News but it only takes one new client (resulting from the coverage) to pay for the investment in the tech demo. The Creative Industries Innovation Fund can help a smart development team make great amazing toys.

For instance: look at this Kickstarter for A Canvas and WebGL Programmer’s Text Editor by Robey Holderith. He’s seeking $4,096 in order to “pay” him to build this. CIIF is offering up to four times that amount of money to get people to build amazing stuff.

I also look at the recent release of Kindle Cloud Reader which, although not perfect, really shows how good a web app can be (especially on iOS if you pin it to your home screen and therefore lose most of the Safari borders).

CIIF is looking for 50 great projects. Some of them will be tour guides, some of them web apps, some of them promotional videos but I’d love to see some really REALLY inspiring HTML/CSS stuff. I want developers and designers to thin hard about breaking the laws of (web) physics with this stuff. Do something that makes your peers go “wow”. Make it kick ass with WebKit and use your network to test and refine it.

And if you’ve already made some wonderful toys then please send me the link for it. We need to showcase talent when we see it. I want to rave about my colleagues and countrymen and tell everyone about their talent because while there may be appsterdam, we were doing it first with XCake.

Now, I know this isn’t always going to be possible but I am reminded of when the XCake folk have been able to stand up in front of their peers and tell them all about their latest view controllers. It’s gobbledygook for the rest of us but it shows the talent of the teams involved.

What I’m saying is: Make something awesome. Make a wonderful toy. And tell everyone.

Anyone fancy going to the Southampton Boat Show in September?

The show is on from the 16-25 September in Southampton, no less. Advance tickets are very reasonable. See here.

Just interested in seeing if other travellers would like to attend as I’d love to make the trip down maybe for one of the weekend days.

Bringing this back into the realm of the day job: I went to the London Boat Show earlier this year and I was struck by one thing: how few of the traders and chandleries in the exhibition stands were prepared for taking payments other than cash. I’d see this sort of market ripe for companies like AirPOS to provide mobile points of sale turning netbooks, tablets and even phones into a point of sale for small businesses.

The first business show that I exhibited at really drilled home the concept:

Don’t give me your business card, give me your credit card.

For smaller items, you just want to buy, for larger items you want it to be shipping to your house just after you get home (or waiting in your office). Having a connected Point of Sale with an online store can make all of the difference. It pains me that so few companies take this on board.

Wonder if iCloud will bring this…

As we know, an iPhone or iPad can only be synced (usually) to one iTunes Library. And we know that Apple can contact every iOS device using Push Notifications, FaceTime, Find My iPhone and other neat network tooks. iCloud will apparently bring the ability to send any downloads to all associated devices on an Apple ID.

So, why can the Devices section not be permanent – why is it only visible when a device is physically connected?

Why can’t I choose to drag and drop media to a device in my list no matter where it is. That’s essentially the promise of iCloud but it seems counter to the “Apple Way” to just have everything download.

Airpos Opens Office In Silicon Valley

From NewTechPost:

Airpos has announced that it is moving on from releasing beta versions of its product to making it fully available to the public and it now has a brand new portal to its site. Airpos was one of the companies showcased at the 4th Annual Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) Awards Ceremony which took place at Stanford University in April.

Marty and the guys have sweated blood over this product, ignored all of the advice from the “volauvent boys” and went with their guts. They’ve shouted at friends, infuriated officials, shot from the hip and followed their hearts. They were the “pilot” for the StartVI programme run by David Kirk and hosted by a group of passionate individuals here in Belfast.

Opening an office in Silicon Valley is a great step – getting close to the biggest market in the world.

There are predators in the water

Apple has released another advertisement for the iPad which again takes us away from the “DUAL CORE”, “1 GB RAM” or showing people skipping (?!!!??!?!)

Apple are, of course, focusing on the apps. Apps for everything. I just read a thread on a sailing forum about whether to bring a laptop or an iPad as an onboard computing tool and the overwhelming replies were about the iPad. Only one respondent recommended a laptop and only one recommended an Android tablet. It is all about the apps.

Apple has successfully managed to avoid competitor comparisons. The closest we’ve seen has been the recent “Not an iPhone” series which divides the world into two sections: iPhone and Not iPhone.

This is essentially how the tablet market will play out. Apple will continue to buy up huge amounts of components and manufacturing for their huge shipments while competitors will be competing not only for marketshare and mindshare but for components and manufacturing – and not just against Apple but against every other manufacturer. I read today of a new Indian-sourced Honeycomb tablet on the market. The competitor for that tablet is the PlayBook, the Web OS tablet offering, the other Android tablets. Those are the predators in the water.

I don’t have a good animal kingdom simile here but it’s a bit like a Great White Shark in the water with a few hundred Piranhas. The Piranhas would love to eat the Shark but they can’t. They can only eat the scraps the Shark leaves and if one of their number gets hurt or shows weakness, they eat him too.

Lest we forget, Apple’s “old” iPod has still yet to be unseated as the music player of choice. Maybe music is old hat now but you have to imagine that it’s still a money maker for the Cupertino giant. Apple wasn’t a giant in 2001 when the iPod was released and all of their hungry, predatory competitors failed to destroy them. Instead they let them build an ecosystem, an entire new OS branch, a software store and still, ten years later, nothing has managed to destroy the iPod. Except maybe the iPod touch.

So what makes the pundits think that the now, after Apple reporting unprecedented growth for umpteen quarters, they’re going to just disappear?

iOS4.3.3 to break neat location recording feature


Apple’s promised short-term iOS security update is known as iOS 4.3.3, and should arrive in two weeks or less, a source with the company says. The person notes that as expected, it should reduce the size of the location cache, and prevent the file from being backed up to iTunes. The cache should be deleted entirely when Location Services are off.

So we only have a few weeks for someone to make an app to start recording and making time-sensitive maps of our locations.

Location: it’s a feature, not a bug

Apple came under fire this week as it was revealed (by a research paper dating back to 2010) that a file is created and maintained on the iOS system which contains location data for every time you have queried location services. For me, as you can see from previous posts), it presented a way to map my movements. No big deal as you can also see, I publish my movements live on Latitude.

At no point is it true (at the moment) that this location data is sent anywhere. It is stored on your phone so if you lose your phone to a wily thief who cares where you drink coffee more than he or she cares about your contacts database, browser history, cookies and access to your email, then you may be in trouble. But it’s not stopped quite a few journalists from making the accusation that Apple knows where you’ve been and is obviously using this to beef up iAds or something even more sinister!

It turns out that Android does the same – the difference being that they only store the last 50 entries. This is entirely sensible and highlights an error in the way Apple was handling this data. It’s not clear whether this data is transmitted to Google (and with their recent history, it would not surprise me) but we should probably wait until it’s confirmed. A sceptic might suggest that Google only stores the last 50 entries on device because it uploads them to their secret Texan datacentre constantly anyway but I’ll not accuse here.

The bottom line is that Google is handling the caching of the data correctly and Apple is not. But it makes me really want desktop and mobile apps for visualising my location data over time and having this as an opt-in service or better still ‘an app’ is obviously what I want. Latitude does a half-assed job of recording and a worse job of reporting and it’s the reports that I’m interested in. I want to see where I go. At what speeds.

So where are the apps that really do Location well?

So how come my Phone has been to places I have not?

Following on from my last post which described my consolidated.db location database:

I have never been to Cancun

My guess? Wifi-positioning.

When we were on the cruise last year (on the Independence of the Seas) and connected to the WiFi on board, every time we launched maps, it would show us a location somewhere near Florida/the Caribbean. I think that’s where the WiFi access point had last been surveyed by whatever lookup was being used. So while connected, we must be where the database said we were.

As access points are now more mobile (there were hundreds of them in the WWDC keynote hall last summer), WiFi positioning is likely going to be quite accurate but have a few outliers like this as you are triangulating on a WiFi access point which was surveyed (by chance) in a different place. Normally there will be enough access points to correct for this error but not on a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Likewise, if your phone has connected to a very weak signal on a distant, elevated cell tower, it may use that for positioning rather than more local sources. It does happen, just infrequently.

Plus – this only records position when you ask it to record position. On my iPhone, that’s a constant thing. On others, it may only get accessed when launching maps. And, of course, you can turn Location Services off.

Where are the apps we’ve been waiting for?

It has been nearly a year since I first came in close contact with the original iPad. It blew my mind, and since then, it has become a daily accompaniment. I create content on my MacBook Air, but I spend a lot of time consuming content and media on the device. In fact, if I had to guess, I use my iPad as much as I use my notebook computer.

However, if iPad, the device, is more magical, the applications (apps) for the device are anything but. For nearly a year, I’ve been waiting (and waiting) for experiences befitting the device and its hardware capabilities. – OM Malik, GigaOm

I concur. I’m still waiting for the amazing experiences that we think we deserve when we tote around such amazing hardware. And if that goes for iPad, then it goes double (or maybe tenfold) for Android, WebOS and anything else out there.

We do have time, however. The mouse went from humble beginnings in academic and commercial research in the 60s to initial release with the Macintosh in 1984 and it’s still probably the major input metaphor for computers in existence. We have been poking at our computer screens with a single fingertip, the mouse cursor, for over two decades. While we all like the look of the future with multi-touch (and from the Kinect, zero-touch) interfaces, we still await the apps which will fulfil this promise to us. New touch-based methods to consume old style media ain’t a big deal.

We want mobile-optimised hyper-local-aware software, designed for touch and equipped with contextual understanding and social-network awareness so we can get the most personalised experience.

And this is the low bar.

If we can think of apps that can fill this criteria in minutes, imagine what we could do if we were in that business, if our job was to not only talk about the next big thing but be part of the team creating it.