Realtime Data to the Mobile Handset

I’ve been pushing realtime relentlessly here, but I haven’t made the connection to mobile as often as I should have. Let me be clear: Most of the more interesting realtime apps going forward will bring realtime’s immediacy to mobile.

I could give you myriad examples from two stealthy projects with which I’m involved, but I’ll settle for pointing you to a news release from the New York Board of Trade. Its NYbotLive service is now mobile, with live commodity and option price data being streamed to subscribers using a Blackberry or equivalent.

Welcome to the next generation crackberry. It’s not going to be just email anymore.


  1. Paul,
    You’ve probably seen Google Maps Mobile (or is it Google Mobile Maps?).
    I use it every day during my commute. It shows traffic congestion in real time. You just point your mobile phone’s Web browser to the above URL and it’ll figure out what type of handset you have and download the client app.
    – Joe

  2. Paul– I almost commented about this the first time I saw this post, but I decided to read that metcalfe thing instead (obviously I’m not getting a whole lot done at the end of this friday). Anyway, Bob brings up, more than once, the issue he calls FOCACA:

    My silver bullet is FOCACA, an acronym short for Freedom Of Choice Among Competing Alternatives. If it’s progress you want, rely on FOCACA — in politics, where it’s called democracy, in economics, where it’s called free markets, in culture, in religion, and in the technological innovation of clusters. I learned this watching the Internet evolve and proliferate.

    This really gets to the heart of why I think the pace of real innovation in mobile will continue to be glacially slow, at least in the US. Right now, the huge-carrier gateways supply so much resistance to FOCACA that it’s impossible for the Shawn Fannings or Dan Bricklins or John Carmacks to really get crazy. It plays out in strange ways. The carriers keep market pressure off the handsets towards any reasonable type of standardization (they actually frustrate it substantially). Carmack said that the mobile partner he worked with to build his Doom Mobile compiled separate binaries for each handset they deployed to, nevermind they were all theoretically running Java and implementing whatever this week’s flavor of MIDP is.
    I realize this might sound like a detail-level thing, focusing on something like incompatibility between vendors’ JVM’s seems small compared to the obvious boon that realtime data to your pocket would provide, but at this point, I’m really convinced that until something gives, until some real change is made, all the cool stuff will be limited to Blackberry-scale innovations. Not small, obviously, but not world-changing, and highly, highly capital-intensive.
    Maybe it’ll be those Tuxphone guys, maybe it’ll be something else, but I’ve lost hope for advanced mobile technology before then. Unless you can run it strictly over standardized services like text or voice (C.F. google and dodgeball), it’s way too hard to build.
    I think it’d be interesting to see a contemporary analysis of all the Gartner/Forrester/etc papers of 5+ years ago about WAP, 3G, mobile gaming, and other US mobile technology adoption and square it with the reality.

  3. One of my favorite uses is the DC Metro’s real-time subway information. Not an app per se, but I can bookmark the pages of the stations I care about and quickly find out when the next train is.

  4. Jeb makes a good point about the carriers and their oligopoly. Case in point: location information. Somehow the carriers are deluded into thinking that I’m going to pay $5-$10 a month for multiple applications so that each can access location data. Location is important, it’s a convenience, but I’m not going to pay over and over for it.
    I understand there’s an expense they need to recover. Charge me $3-$5 a month just for location information and then let every app developer use it. The Metro site I described above would be much more useful if I could just go to a page that would show me the nearest trains from where I’m at instead of having to navigate through menus.
    Making location information more readily accessible would stimulate usage of wireless data as apps become much more compelling.

  5. After all, it is the North American telcos (Cingular, Rogers in Canada) that are pushing the Nokia E62, a blackberry for the masses, instead of its E61 counterpart, simply because the E62 does not allow its users to connect to WiFi networks.
    Metcalfe’s characterization of “old boy networks” is spot on.