Gsync : Sync Your SMS Messages With Your GMail

I don't like Information silo. I believe that as a user I should be able to pick any information available with me and should be able to transmit it over any medium I want . So my cellphone data should be shareable over Internet and my Internet data should be shared to cellphone network . on an application level  what it means is that if you have an information as text message  you should be able to email it your friend  and if you have some interesting email you should be able to forward it to your phone book contacts . Although its technically possible but process of doing so is very complicated . Ergo information silo prevails . For me personally biggest of all silos was the silo between my SMS Inbox and email Inbox . I want all my inbox to be unified . Moving information from SMS to Email Inbox is a pain .

Gsync from Psiloc systems addresses that need precisely and do it in a smooth elegant manner. Its a nifty app of 300KB which can be bought from Psiloc website . As of now its supported only for Series 60 3rd edition devices . Though its a paid app but Psiloc provides a 7 days free trial. Trial version can be downloaded from this page. I downloaded it on my PC and side loaded the app on my Nokia E63. Installation was a smooth 3 step process and I was ready to go. After installation user needs to provide its Gmail credentials so that application can authenticate itself . After authentication user need to configure the sync setting . Here user can decide what to sync( Inbox /Draft /Sent) , when to sync (frequency , Roaming ,Network preference ) etc . Once these settings are done you just need to go to the GSync home page and choose synchronize option . It will start pushing your SMS messages to Gmail . 
After Syncing ,your SMS/MMS messages start to appear as e-mails in your Gmail Inboxes . they are labeled as SMS/MMS. Messages and are arranged in a conversational thread format, very much like what you see for regular email messages in Gmail. Once these messages are inside Gmail you can pretty much perform any regular Gmail operation on them . Things like editing ,saving to draft or forwarding  them to your Email contacts etc . Gmail allows you to sync only 200 messages per twenty four hours so If you go over the limit of 200, you will have to wait 24 hours to be able to sync new messages. this might pose a little delay in complete sync first time around . it happened to me I had 600 ODD Messages in my SMS in box and I plan to sync them over next couple of  days.

I like the idea  behind GSync its addressing a very real need and simplicity of its implementation is very impressive too. User interface of Gsync is very menu driven with very little need of explicit user input. only constraint was that they only support Gmail but I hope that going forward they will be extending the functionality of product by adding support for more email service providers. Do try it out and let me know what you think of it .

Street Smart: Your Local Search Companion from Ask Laila

I am fascinated by the  Business of Directory Listing . I think they serve a fundamental need of modern urban life . but Its usually considered to be a boring line of work. Because much of the work in it consist of  consist of good old data collection ,distribution and syndication and ensuring that data remains up to date . but That's just one (BIG) part of it . If you look at it historically  this is one of the most resilient business , which have not only transformed itself but also capitalized on every technological shift in last couple of decade.

Back in old days this need used to be served by publications like The Whole Earth Catalogue , Sears's mail order catalog and  Your annually published local Yellow pages. with the spread of telephone we saw the emergence of telephonic directory assistance help line like Ask Me, Just dial . some players like Tell Me introduced a different spin by adding  speech recognition to the product mix . With the invent of Internet we saw migration of incumbent players on to internee.Next frontier for this business will unsubtly be Mobile phone.  I am amazed by the level of activity and innovation happening in this domain.One  testimony of diversity of innovation can be found on Lab Report itself. I have reviewed four mobile search product and none of them have same product mix. Today we are going to add one more application in this list , StreetSmart from Asklaila.
StreetSmart is a local search application developed by Four Interactive,the company behind online local search portal . This application is part of their mobile strategy and its complemented by a WAP portal and SMS Search. Streetsmart is supported for Windows Mobile,Symbian and JAVA/j2ME platform. you can download it from their web page . Its available on Ovi store too (link).It took me couple of minute to download and install it on my Nokia E63 using Ovi. After installation Streetsmart take a little time to capture your location. Your location is shown on welcome page using a map interface.You can jump to search box by pressing the right soft key. I searched for "Pasta". Result page was an overlay on top of map interface .  as shown in screen shot below .It has got separate tabs for listing,address and details. user can navigate between these tabs using the left and right arrow key. By default the focus is on the listing page . user can traverse the listings using up and down arrow key and on each listing trigger an action like Call ,Send as SMS etc using the menu options. user can also see these listing as a map overlay by pressing the right soft key .
Four Interactive uses the map data provided by Microsoft and by default all its results are  optimized for geographic vicinity . user can change that by un-checking the box on the search page . Location info is critical for providing most relevant and proximity based  result against your search query. Unlike many local search player in the market ,AskLaila is not relying solely on third party syndicated data .they are investing heavily in building their own database. I am not sure if all entries in their database  are Geo-tagged or they are using some heuristic algorithm to calculate the  location of the business listed in their database.In any case I found the location to be accurate and result were  mapped with sufficient accuracy with  respect to my location.
In addition to this you can switch off the GPS usage by application from setting menu . You can also access all your previous search key words .They are saved as history on your device.  user can go to the history page and invoke the search in case you want to use it again.I liked the idea but I would have preferred the predictive text format more than the current fixed text search agent format.In some sense User interface & work flow  of street smart is not outstanding in terms of visual appeal but its functional and intuitive . I am sure that going forward Four interactive team will work on this aspect of application. outside of that, its a great application and given the wide range of local information available in their database it is a must have app on your phone. Do try it out and let me know how you feel about it .

Trapster : Cop and Mouse Game with Speed Traps.

As a Mobile App enthusiast I try out a lot of app. I love to believe that I have seen all possible use cases of mobile phone and most of the time I am right but once in a while I come across an app which make me say "Damn ! How come I never thought of it " .Trapster is one such app . Its an perfect example of how community collaboration,location info and real time connectivity offered by Mobile phone can be used for the purpose of handling a situation we all face . 

Idea behind Trapster is straightforward .It helps you to avoid speeding tickets by detecting and warning you about traffic cops,speed sensors,red light cameras,check points and mobile police patrol units when you are driving . Some of you who drive on highway might be familiar with the practice of blinking  side light and waving hand by drivers ahead of us to warn drivers following them about an upcoming obstacle. Trapster solve this problem in more elegant and systematic manner.

Trapster call itself as a speed-trap sharing social network. its modus operand is simple: All you need to do is to  simply install Trapster app on your Nokia device (OVI link) and register. Now Let's say I am cruising along  on highway with my Trapster enabled phone. Trapster app captures my location and  shows me the speed trap along the way . These speed traps are displayed  as marker icons on a map interface. As I approach a Speed trap (say a speed camera ,red light camera or hidden traffic cop) . I get a voice alert through application .These speed traps are stored in Trapster database in a Geo tagged fashion . This data base is continuously updated by contribution of Trapster community . You can add a new Speed trap by simply taping  on touch screenof your device when you drive past it .Trapster offer you choice of category to represent the nature of trap.Once you select the icon, That place is tagged with a an icon indicating the kind of threat you may face. you can also add a speed trap by calling an IVR Line . Trpaster's analytic engine validate the input using its validation heuristic like how many of other user have spotted it and your past contribution history. You can see a video demonstration of service here.

Trapster offer an excellent UI and Granular classification of data . There are 4 types of map view,7 type of Trap category,you can set a threshold distance  on which you want to be warned about an upcoming can also define the method of alert (sound ,Visual,Vibrate). so much so that you can  also choose the sound theme (your choice include Bill Clinton ,George Bush ,NY Taxi Driver and Spanish among many other) .Best thing about Trapster is that it doesn't sacrifice ease of use for granularity . Screens are neat and well designed,Work flows are cognitively consistent.

User interface and accuracy aside , much of the success of such a product depend on the community factor. how actively the community participate in creating and maintaining the database of Speedtrap . Now one might think that it will be an Herculean task to populate such database you might need a huge base of active contributors . well not really.According to Trapster CEO  only 10 active users can effectively cover major urban roads and  40% of Trapster users actively provide trap reports and validate the reports submitted by others this creates a self feeding and self correcting loop. I was surprised to see that their database had significant marker for Delhi NCR in spite of them not having any dedicated Indian presence . that's the testimony of scalability of their model.

One might argue that Trapster is a product on slippery slope of law. You are essentially trying to help people who want to dodge law enforcement agencies.Well Your argument will have some grain of truth but you will be surprised to know that trapster has found a champion amongst most unlikely of profession . Traffic Cops.Trapster has officially partnered with traffic cops at Travis county. you can read about it here.

I like the idea of Trapster and I can see it extended to many more domains  . I would love to see something like marker for Road Accidents in urban roads  and robbery on interstate highways. As a road trip aficionado  this will help me to plan my trip better . Now that I am equipped with Trapster I will be checking continuously for next alert and on my way back from work tonight I will mark few intersection in Noida where I know that Cops are often present . That's my version of COP and mouse game :)
Do try out Trapster and let me know your thoughts .

Foreca : Your Friendly Neighbourhood Weatherman

There are many good things about living in India . One of them is the kind of diversity you got to experience here . this diversity is not only in terms of culture ,language and cuisine . its in terms of climate also. Thanks to geographical variation , India is arguably only place in world where you have sand dune ,snow peak mountains, Rivers,plateau,beaches and cold deserts in same political boundary . Flip side of this is that you got to experience a great variation in weather. As a resident of Delhi for past 7 years I have experienced this extreme weather variation first hand .Not all of that was good . Last week was  horrendously harsh. Summer was at its peak and I was anxiously waiting for rain god to smile of my city. I made it a point to glance at weather widget on google daily.Couple of days back I checked ovi to see if there is a weather forecast application available . I was pleasantly surprised to find Foreca . A Free app for Weather forecast from Finland based Foreca Ltd.

Foreca Mobile app can be downloaded from ovi store (Link) or can be side loaded to your phone after downloading it on your PC from their website(link).ForecaWeather is available in two versions, one for S60 3rd and 5th edition devices and one for Java phones. Languages supported are English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Greek and Finnish.I  Downloaded it to my Nokia E63 .Installation was a smooth 3 step process .It asks you to specify your location for showing relevant weather update  to you.You can choose from over 140.000 hand picked locations or you can retrieve forecasts for your current location using your phone's GPS. You can also use the landmarks in your phone or you can enter a new location by coordinates. Weather information is shown at a very fine granular level . you have weather details like 
  • Current conditions 
  • Detailed forecast with 6h time-steps.
  • Long 10 day forecast.
  • Temperature forecast map
  • Precipitation forecast map
  • Symbol map.
  • Wind forecast map.
  • Cloudiness forecast map.
  • Satellite images
I was impressed by the level of detail and data visualization offered by Foreca. All the functionality mentioned above are shown, not as boring numbers and tables but also as graphs , maps and some map based Geo visualization format . That makes it very intuitive and easy to comprehend .some of the screen are shown in the image below. This will give you some idea about the visual aspect of this can configure the app for preferred view .you can also set some calender alert and memo. this functionality is available on selected handsets only. 

Overall I like the foreca weather application. Its reach in functionality and appealing in visual . Its UI takes away all the cognitive stress associated with making sense of weather information presented in Tabular format. only point of slight problem was the fact that it took a lot of time to fetch weather data from server . this process was painfully slow on GSM. On WiFi it happened in a jiffy . I guess it might have something to do with the nature of problem. Meteorological data is heavy and GPRS connection are slow ( specially at peak hours when I downloaded the app) but it will be great if I can see some Improvement in data fetching aspect of app. Talking of Indian context I can foresee that this application will be of great importance to Frequent flayer ,Logistic companies and Farmers. It would be great if going forward they can offer support for Indic languages .for low end phones foreca also provide a mobile site and SMS Channel.Do try this app out and let me know your views .

As fate would have it while I was still waiting for rain in Delhi I got a call from my brother from Bangalore. He has to cancel his weekend trip due to heavy rain . I advised him that Next time onward he should check out weather Forecast on foreca mobile app before making plans :) .