Kipochi Hopes to Ignite a Bitcoin Revolution in Kenya

Across the African continent there is incredible innovation and ingenuity with regard to how technology is used creatively. Kenya in particular is a technology hotbed, as well as a leader when it comes to mobile innovation. Specifically mobile payments in Kenya have taken off in a massive way:

Ever since Safaricom, Kenya's largest mobile-network operator, launched the mobile-payment system M-Pesa in 2007, some two-thirds of Kenya's adult population have subscribed, and an astonishing 31% of the country's GDP is now spent through mobile phones.

The Agenda with Steve Paikin: BlackBerry's Odd Future

I returned to The Agenda with Steve Paikin to discuss the pivot that BlackBerry hopes to make with the release of their new BB10 operating system. We touched upon the new operating system, the Z10 device, and the challenges BlackBerry faces moving forward.

I enjoy going on The Agenda and talking with Steve as there are no commercials and the long conversational format allows for a smarter and deeper discussion. For example we were able to get into the mythology that technology companies tend to foster and the impact this has upon their success.

Radioactive Smart Phones?

Smart phones and mobile devices such as tablets are normalizing the idea that we can have considerable technical power in our hands that can be used for all sorts of good things (and bad).

Star Trek is a precursor and inspiration for much of our modern technology, though the tricorder, an all-in-one handheld medical diagnostic device, remains like the transporter, something unlikely to appear in our lifetime. Or maybe not.

The smart phone is rapidly evolving into a sophisticated medical device (in the right hands and with the right apps), and new technology may allow for small amounts of low powered radiation to be available in mobile form and thus allow for the elusive tricorder.

You Can Build Your Own SixthSense

Next week one of the columns I'll be offering via CBC Radio morning shows looks at the impending release of the Leap Motion controller. It is a new interface that allows one to control a laptop or PC by moving your hands and fingers.

Leap Motion is similar to the Microsoft Kinect, only the device focuses on a smaller area in which to detect objects and motion, and can therefore be more precise in say recognizing very fine movements.

Hardware manufacturer Asus has just announced that they will be shipping the Leap Motion device with select new PCs and laptops. The size of a usb key, the device has some impressive potential as demonstrated in their video:

Raising Foreign Ownership Limits for Telecom in Canada

In their recent speech from the throne, the Canadian Government indicated their intention to raise foreign ownership limits with regard to the telecom industry. This is a decision long overdue, although one that requires balance and diplomacy when it comes to achieving the desired goal, something that the ruling Conservative Party has not been able to accomplish.

On the one hand they want to increase competition so as to lower consumer's monthly bills, yet on the other hand they also want to spur innovation by allowing existing companies access to foreign capital investment.

The demand for Internet and mobile networks is growing far faster than companies had anticipated and they will need to continually invest and expand their infrastructure which requires a lot of capital. The fear is that without foreign investment there would be further consolidation so as to pay for ongoing upgrades.

Technology Trends for 2010

As another year comes to a close I thought I'd share some brief thoughts on what I anticipate for the world of technology in 2010:

The Might of Mobile

Mobile technology will continue to be a dominant trend as smart phones go from being tools for professionals, to devices that just about everyone has or wants.

A lot of the growth in the mobile sector is driven by applications. A related platform that I think will thrive in 2010 is Augmented Reality (o/k/a AR).

Augmented Reality is an effort to bring the qualities of the web to the physical world by literally adding a layer of hypertext on top of our material reality. Often described and associated with the concept of the "Internet of Things", the idea is to unlock web-based information associated with each object or location.

As a concept AR has been receiving a considerable amount of attention and investment. The recent announcement of advertising in AR will have a powerful and also normative effect.

In this regard, "hyper-local" advertising will be a big trend in 2010, and it will be driven by mobile and AR applications. This will be a way that Twitter starts to cash in, for example, bu having localized ads that target people in particular cities or neighbourhoods. If you don't want to be exposed to these ads, you'll be able to pay a premium and get Twitter with spam filters.

Tablet Computing

I'm kind of excited about the (re)arrival of tablet computers. Apple has one coming out in the spring, Google is rumoured to have one out in early summer, and I've been playing with Nokia's N900, which calls itself a tablet.

What excites me is the combination of mobility with traditional computational power and abilities. On the one hand, it will further drive the development of mobile applications, with the tablets marketed and treated like mobile devices. On the other, they enable a truly rich multimedia experience with their expanded touch screens and user interfaces.

One of their impacts will be to continue to accelerate the rate of technological change as evolution happens faster and companies push out new products and upgrades to keep up.

Rockin the Revolutionary Nokia N900

After many weeks of anticipation I was finally able to obtain a Nokia N900, the new Maemo Linux-powered tablet computer. This is the device I wanted fifteen years ago, when the web was just taking off. While it resembles the smart phones that currently dominate the mobile marketplace, the N900 is more like a mobile computer because it runs on an open source operating system that potentially enables it to evolve faster than others.

When buying any new technology an important evaluation metric to is the health of the supporting community, including user groups, developers and the companies around it. This logic is even more important when it comes to open source projects, as community health and dynamics are explicitly tied to their usability and the direction of future development.

Rogers & Android: When the Carrier is the Bottleneck

A few months ago I was fortunate to get my hands on a Google/HTC Android Dev Phone. I got this device by registering as an Android developer and buying an unlocked phone. I always buy phones independent of any carrier as I often find that unlocked versions have far more features than branded devices you'd get from a mobile carrier like Rogers.

What fascinates me about Android is that it's open source, and from an innovation perspective has the potential for speedy evolution, as apps and improvements are contributed from diverse development communities. Unlike the iPhone, Android is open, and therefore easier for developers to contribute and make it a better platform with better applications.

Last Mile Mobile Solutions: Tracking Crisis Response

I do a lot of work with World Vision Canada and have this week met with some great people working on an innovative project that could have significant impact above and beyond their initiative. It's called "Last Mile Mobile Solutions" and it's a partnership with FieldWorker Mobile Technology Solutions to produce mobile units that speed up, and digitize, the process of food distribution in poverty and crisis relief programs. Here's a video that illustrates the technology and its potential:

Here Comes Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is kind of a hybrid between material reality and virtual reality in that it combines the power of hyperlinks and interconnected media with the geography and architecture of the physical world.

For a long time everyone assumed that virtual reality would be the basis of "cyberspace" and that it's arrival was imminent, however while it has been around from a technical perspective for well over a decade, very few regular folk have adopted it, outside of the gaming world of course.

So augmented reality is appearing as a kind of compromise that brings the benefits and promise of virtual reality to the real world that we all find so comfortable.

As well the rate of technological change is so rapid these days that while this may be the first time you've heard of augmented reality, I anticipate that you'll hear a lot more real soon, and by the end of the year it could be a regular part of the popular culture.