making my mobile mine:

personalising the UI
Your clothes aren’t the only thing that should change when you get home from work, says Cédric Mangaud. At the end of the day, your mobile should enjoy a little R&R, too. And we’re starting to see the emergence of the technology to allow that.
To my horror, one of my colleagues turned up for work last week with a photo of himself, his wife, and their new kitten displayed on his mobile phone screen. The idea behind building a ‘work-life balance’ is one thing, but this poor guy is now officially the laughing stock of the office.
Increasingly, our work lives and home lives are getting muddled up. Indeed, most of the text messages stored on today’s mobile phones would be not be suitable for the workplace.
But what do you do? It seems crazy to have a ‘work’ mobile and a ‘personal’ mobile (although many people do). And who can be bothered – or remember to – manually switch between different user profiles?
However, there is an answer: once again technology has come to the rescue in order to help us segment the different parts of our lives effectively.
The technology in question will cater to our split personalities perfectly.

Split personalities
For example, perhaps you’d like your mobile Web links to change from news headlines and traffic reports to online games and sports scores when you get home. Or maybe my kitten-cuddling colleague might like to replace his private photos with the company logo, or better still, a blank screen, when he arrives in the office.
This kind of customised segmentation is now possible, and is set to go far beyond setting a nice background colour for our mobile phone screens; instead, it is the first step towards providing more intuitive access to any number of mobile services.
When talking about segmentation, it makes sense to start with the User Interface (UI), as this is the first thing that users see when they switch on their mobile device. The next generation of SIM cards – the MMSIM – now feature an enormous amount of memory, which means that these cards will represent an important opportunity for mobile operators to exercise control over the UI for the first time.
Why? Because these high-capacity SIM cards will effectively enable idle screen customisation, which means that it will now be possible to transform an ordinary phone into an operator-customised phone.
In fact, mobile operators will be able to pre-arrange both the settings and the “look and feel” of a mobile, and to administer the User Interface (UI) remotely, simply by accessing the relevant data stored on the SIM card.
For the operators, the main benefit of this approach will be the ability to manage on-the-fly device customisation via a secure operator channel. Since MMSIM data is held on the card securely, the device is safe from any malicious attack or attempted hacking.
For this reason, the latest work in UI customisation and segmentation is seeing software developers getting ‘into’ the device more than ever before. Browsers and server-based applications have their place, but when it comes to customisation, MMSIM cards – with the enormous amount of information they can hold – are opening up new opportunities.
Since the MMSIM cards can store all of the information that they need for the UI, the UI management software simply has to decide what to pick up in terms of the phone’s display.
As a result, operators simply need to access a device management utility – which can reside on the phone – in order to deliver a unique user experience. The software can just run in the background continuously, ready to be activated by the operator via the device application suite installed on the device.

"Idle screen customisation means it will now be possible to transform an ordinary phone into an operator-customised phone…"
 
Creative
The result will be a number of creative uses of the phone’s idle screen. Not only will operator branding be made easier, but the phone’s display and functions can also be tailored to fit the profile of subscribers or specific groups such as youth, corporate users, or family.
Better still, simply by entering your home WiFi network, a number of these options can kick in automatically – thus signaling the break between work life and home life.
The options on offer can be something as simple (and as useful) as a very basic UI for people who just want to make calls and nothing else. Or a UI aimed at people who use their phones primarily for multimedia. And another for business users. And another for young people. And so on.
And the real beauty of all of this? At last, all of these user interfaces can be maintained on the same phone – and, better still, they can kick in automatically depending on who is using the device, and where they are, via a WiFi broadband connection.
The possibilities for this level of segmentation really are endless, and will be largely determined by customer demand and – more exciting still – the limits of their imagination.
 
Cédric Mangaud is President and CEO of Abaxia, a French software publisher specialising in mobile embedded software solutions  
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