The Sharing Economy

Your house, yesterday. Probably.
Your house, yesterday. Probably.

The ‘Sharing Economy’ is disrupting established industries and sending huge, powerful incumbents into a tizzy. Uber and AirBnB have shaken the taxi and hotel sectors, shifting power, control and profits from the RadioCabs and Hiltons of this world and into the hands of ordinary citizens armed with nothing more than a smartphone and a mobile data plan.

The question on everyone’s lips is: which industry will be disrupted by the Sharing Economy next?

A couple of years ago, I was in Portland, Oregon, for meetings with some colleagues. One lunchtime, our discussion diverged from work topics to an issue plaguing our home-lives, an issue common to both the US and UK: the reduction in bin-pickup frequency.

It’s a hot topic.

Dude, Where’s My Trash?

We tossed around some ideas to solve our overflowing bins issues, to solve the problems caused by local authorities switching from weekly to two-weekly pick-ups, and to solve that awkward situation we have all faced: that middle-of-the-night walk of shame, bin-bag over shoulder, roaming the streets like a crazed, ferral cat to find a neighbour’s bin with a bit of space left in it to deposit last night’s curry leftovers and beer bottles.

What does this have to do with the Sharing Economy?

A lightbulb lit: why not create a location-aware, social app to help out? Share My Trashcan was born, $5 per bag, with a $1 kick-back to us, it scales and is simple. But then one of our team mentally cycled through a Lean Startup build-measure-learn cycle and developed the concept, discovering that communities can come together to buy a shared dumpster, which would provide even more space (some of which could be shared with other communities!) and would also be picked up weekly.

Share My Trashcan was dead, long live Share My Dumpster!

Later in the day (after doing some actual work) we revisited the idea and the real, Lean, magic happened: we pivoted.  Continue Reading “The Sharing Economy”

Why I’m Leaving Orange

The future’s not bright. The future’s appalling customer service, possible insurance fraud and accidental double-charging without any kind of apology or acknowledgement of their incompetence. Bitter? And then some.

I’ve been with them since my very first phone in 1998, a Bosch 509e. Yep, Bosch used to make phones! In 2005 I spent three months working for them at their North Tyneside call centre while I was in between jobs. But now, after a spate of serious customer service failures, here’s why I’m leaving Orange.


Insurance Flawed

When I joined Orange as an employee I learned about their insurance plan on phones. It was very comprehensive. I got to know about the loopholes and ins and outs and, you know what? It was a really good deal. The value the customer got for £5/month was incredible, especially as, in 2005, smartphones were emerging and the actual price paid for handsets was shooting up. The cost to replace some phones was upwards of £400.

So, I added it to my personal contract.

Over the next few years I got my use out of the insurance plan as various phones broke or got damaged. I certainly got my £60 per year back!

Fast forward to August 2012. Just a couple of days before flying off to Greece for a summer holiday my phone stopped reading the SIM card. I called Orange and expected to be immediately told that I’d get a replacement the following morning. Job done, right? Nope. I was told that the insurance had been removed from my account.  Continue Reading “Why I’m Leaving Orange”

Mozilla Launches Firefox OS 1.0 Simulator

Ironically, the in-built browser appears to be borked.

I’ve spoken of my excitement for Firefox OS before, but now Mozilla have released version 1.0 of the operating system simulator into the wild. An entirely-web-based operating system poses an enticing, compelling experience for the user; an experience known as “continuous client” because it follows you across your devices as if you were using the same system.

This is the future. In fact, the “web-based operating system” is something I am working on myself. Maybe I won’t be able to take on the might of, but I think my focus is sufficiently different as to allow for them to coincide and even compete. But enough self-promotion… (for now, I’ll publish some info in January 2013)…


Firefox OS

Firefox OS is an operating system based on the Gecko rendering engine that powers the Firefox browser, hence the original working name of “Boot to Gecko”.  Continue Reading “Mozilla Launches Firefox OS 1.0 Simulator”

Coming Soon to a Smartphone Near You: Indoor Positioning System (IPS)

IPS means no more lost car keys. But makes Hide and Seek a bitch.

Once the domain of only military pilots and smartbombs, the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system has now proliferated its way into every facet of our modern lives. From Facebook statuses, sat nav in car dashboards to geo-tagged photos taken with your digital camera you probably use GPS at least once a day even if you aren’t fully aware of it. But as accurate and ubiquitous as GPS is, there are some serious drawbacks to its use: it can’t be used indoors, it can’t be used as a precision measuring tool and it is unidirectional. So let’s talk about Indoor Positioning Systems.


Indoor Positioning Systems work in a similar way to GPS – IPS devices need to be able to “see” at least three IPS transmitters of known locale in order to accurately pinpoint their position, but once triangulated, your position can be detected far more reliably than the GPS (capable of accuracy of between 10m-25m). As IPS technology improves, it isn’t outlandish to consider losing your car keys, and simply asking your house to detect your IPS-enabled key fob and guide you straight to it via your smartphone.

Google (who are back in my good books again after finally sorting out my year-long AdSense nightmare) are already hard at work mapping all sorts of places across the globe. For UK readers, you might be happy to hear that London City, London Stansted, London Luton, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Birmingham Airports are all mapped inside for use with Google Indoor Maps. Besides the airports, you can find many other department stores, theaters, museums and railway stations are also mapped. There’s a full list here.


The difference between hybrid-triangulation and indoor positioning system.

Continue Reading “Coming Soon to a Smartphone Near You: Indoor Positioning System (IPS)”

Firefox OS

Holographic, world-hugging fox thing is for illustration purposes only and may not ship with v1.0.

As many expected, the Mozilla “Boot to Gecko” project has become “Firefox OS”. Gecko is the software behind the scenes of the Firefox web browser that reads the HTML, style sheets, etc. code and converts it into a webpage. Boot-to-Gecko is Mozilla’s plan to make a mobile phone platform based entirely on The Web.



Essentially, Mozilla will provide the user of the phone with default Web Applications which handle your telephony, settings, etc. Some of which you can replace with different software, but some will undoubtedly be fixed. You wouldn’t want some untrusted Web App taking over you security settings for example!

But there is one massive reason why the mobile web (and, in fact, the web in general) feels like the “little brother” of native applications: The Web/Device Barrier.

Historically, websites have not been able to get access to your webcam, or the camera on your phone, or your joystick, GPS, bluetooth, USB port, gyroscope, digital compass, etc. etc. Mozilla are attacking this problem head-on with a set of exciting new APIs, called Web API. Continue Reading “Firefox OS”