Monday, 5 October 2015

Thing 22: Mobile Things



We have come a long way. From the days when a mobile computer looked like this, and when a phone only did one thing (remember actually calling people to talk?), to a time when we don't even consider it to be ground-breaking anymore to have an internet enabled, wireless mini-computer in our hand. Like most technologies, mobile devices have become smaller, more clever, and importantly, more affordable. In this Thing, I will share my thoughts on what I consider to be very useful tools for your mobile device, whether that is a smartphone or a tablet.

The Office of Communications (OFCOM) recently described the United Kingdom as a "smartphone society", where smartphones are now the most popular devices for going online, overtaking laptops which had been the most popular means up until 2014.

90% of people aged between 16 and 24 years  and 50% of people aged between 55 and 64 years own and use smartphones in the UK today. 


So with all of this technology not just being "out there", but actually being used, it makes sense to look at how we can use and tap into this technology in libraries. The good news here is that a lot of the tools that you have seen so far in Rudai23 already have mobile counterparts. You might wonder then, if you already know about these tools, why look at the mobile device versions? Why not just stick to using the versions you can get on your laptop/desktop? Well it comes down to one simple reason: convenience.

Your mobile device is probably something that you have to hand most of the time. Got a few spare minutes, or are a bit bored at yet another meeting? Whip out your smartphone and check out the latest tweets from @Rudai23. Far more discreet that bringing your desktop computer with you to the meeting. Found an interesting early edition of a rare book? Take a quick snap of it with the camera that is built into your device and let everyone know about it by sharing on instagram/facebook/twitter/flickr, or even all four of them at the same time. Far more convenient that taking out your digital camera, grabbing the snap, digging out the download cable, transferring the photo file to your computer and then uploading it to the various services. The end result is the same, but your mobile device will get you there more efficiently and conveniently.

Right now I'm going to cut a corner: If you own a smartphone or other mobile device, to go to the application store for your device (either the App Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore, Windows Phone Store, BlackBerry World.....or others depending on what device you own) and have a look to see if you can find an application for some of the tools you found useful in Rudai23. For example, you might look for some or all of the Google Apps (e.g. Blogger, email, calendar, Google Drive, Google Slides, Hangouts, etc.), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Prezi, LinkedIn......and there are many more. The chances are that if you think some tool is interesting enough that it should have a mobile app, then someone has already thought of that and made one. Have a good browse, and come back when you're ready.....


When you checked out your app store, you probably noticed the scale of the number of apps available. There are hundreds of thousands of apps out there, in varying degrees of quality, of course. For that reason, I am not going to attempt some kind of mega-review here. The best way to find apps that are useful to you is to simply download a few and try them out. However, I will take this opportunity to tell you about one new app and one piece of mobile hardware that you might find interesting.

Gumit


The app I'd like to share with you is called "Gum". The app performs a very simple core function:  it allows users to scan a barcode (it can be any barcode on any product), add a comment to the scan, and then share the scan back to the Gum database. This means that anyone who has the app and scans the barcode will see your comment. The website for Gum can be found at this link, and it is a great place to look if you want to know more. To read about how this could be used in the context of a library, have a look at this blog post by The Library Voice. I think you will find it interesting reading.


One thing to consider with this app is that it does not seem to be curated or edited in any way by the developer. Nobody seems to be monitoring the comments, so for example there is potential for age inappropriate comments to get published. 

Gum is available for free from the Apple App Store. We have been in touch with the developers, and we were told that an Android version is in the pipeline but that they are focusing on iOS until the app has become well established.

Beacons 


Imagine you are a library user and as you walk into the children's library you get a notification to your smartphone informing you about the events that are on in the library that day. Story time is at 11:30am, then there is a music workshop at 12:30pm, and the local Coder Dojo are doing a demonstration at 3pm. All of that arrives with a (hopefully quiet) beep and a notification flashing up on your phone. How cool would that be? Well, the good news is, the technology is already out there to do just that.
Essentially the hardware is a small bluetooth transmitter called a beacon which transmits messages to any device that is enabled to recieve bluetooth messages from beacon devices.  Library's can use it to send messages about overdue books, requests or library events and borrower gets the notification via bluetooth to their phone. 

It is almost effortless on the part of the library (the notifications do have to be entered into the transmission details) and completely effortless on the part of the borrower. There is, however, a cost associated with purchasing the transmitters. A basic set up with 5 or 6 transmitters would cost about €150, so they are probably not something that you personally will want to go out and buy. However, they have some very strong use-cases in libraries, as you can read in this article in the Library Journal. If you can see potential in this technology, maybe it is something you ask for the next time budgets are up for discussion.

Your task for this Thing


Option 1: If you own an iPhone or iPad. Download the Gum app and give it a trial run.  Scan the barcode of the book you are reading at the moment, or the last book you read, and leave a mini-review for others to read. If you have a copy of The Fault in our Stars by John Green (ISBN 978-0-141-34565-9) or Game of Thrones  by George R.R Martin (ISBN 978-0-00-754823-1) try scanning the barcode and see what happens.

Option 2: Write a review for any mobile app that you like, although it should be an app that you have not already written about on Rudai23. If you are already using the app for work, let us know how and why you are using it. If you are not yet actively using the app, maybe explain why you think it has potential and how you might use it in the future.

Option 3: If you don't own a smartphone or tablet. You might be interested to know that there is another online course similar to Rudai23 which focuses entirely on mobile Things. It is called "23 Mobile Things", and you can find out more about it at this website. Take a look at the course and some of the blog posts.

Write a reflective blog post on your experience with one of these three options. How do you feel about using your mobile phone for work purposes? Do you have a beacon in your library or do you think it is too much like marketing and an invasion of privacy? Would you find the 23 Mobile Things course useful?


Thing 21: Mobile Things was written by Wayne Gibbons, Lecturer in Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway, Ireland. 


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