I’d love to see a ‘trusted context network’ for my phone

Well then it’s just gone 4am and I’m in the taxi on the way to RIM’s highly anticipated BlackBerry World event in Orlando. It’s sure to be an exciting one. There’s bound to be some interesting and exciting news.

However this morning I’d like to raise a very basic problem I still have with my phone. And I’d like to propose an ultra basic solution for your review and comment.

Here’s the issue:

Reduced down to the basic consumer layer, my primary phone (BlackBerry Bold, as it happens) functions as a device to make and receive calls.

That’s all good.

Anyone can phone me.

This is also good, generally — with quite a few exceptions, but — fundamentally — my device can make and receive calls to any number.

I’ve got an address book on the phone that is synchronised wirelessly with Google. The address book has two functions:

1. When I want to call someone, I don’t have to remember their ‘digits’, instead I just find their entry and choose a number (home, work, mobile, mobile 2).

2. When someone I know calls me, instead of displaying a telephone number, the address book enables my phone to say ‘Ed calling’.

It’s this second point I want to discuss.

‘Ed calling’ is a billion times more useful to me than seeing, ‘07277 271883’ on the display.

That’s where the innovation stopped, though.

Or, more accurately, the ability to see who’s calling (“Caller Display”) was where it all stopped.

At their inception mobile operators copied their fixed-lined big brothers and dutifully implemented the feature into their service.

This was fantastically useful at first.

In today’s hyper-connected environment, the limitations of the feature are an embarrassment.

Here’s why:

This morning at 3:55am, my phone rang. I reasoned that it was probably the taxi driver calling to announce his arrival.

I looked at the display.

And for the first time, I actually thought to myself, ‘What the fck is this?’

I suppose it’s the strange lucidity you sometimes get at odd times in the morning.

‘Why,’ I thought to myself as I stared at the BlackBerry’s screen, ‘am I putting up with this rubbish?’

I was pretty sure it was the taxi driver calling.

But why couldn’t my mobile operator tell me this?

I don’t need to know the phone number. Oh, it’s useful if I want to phone back. But really, I need to know the context of what’s happening.

‘Taxi Driver for Heathrow’ would make a ton more sense to me.

And surely there’s a way of easily plugging this stuff all together? The fact that I approved the call? The fact that the taxi firm HAVE my mobile details — couldn’t they be ‘approved’ to be able to display status and context to my phone, rather than the default number?

Is a call even necessary? Couldn’t the phone just turn green? Or flash red? Especially if the device knows I’m awake and operational, I certainly don’t need an interruption beyond ‘your taxi is here’. Like a growl update.

And if you do need to interrupt, do it with some kind of contextual information rather than a phone number.

Alas, I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like this from the mobile operator — despite the operator playing the role as the ultimate trusted party in the value chain.

Unfortunately, the operator continues to surrender almost everything beyond the mobile nuts and bolts. The job of fixing this kind of issue is strictly limited — for an array of silly reasons — to the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple.

Imagine the possibilities. The operators could implement this, jointly. Given the amount of handsets they retail, it would be relatively easy for them to require every new handset to be ‘mobile operator context aware’.

And for £0.59 per month, I’d pay for the privilege. So would millions and millions of others.

Now then, how would you plug it into the taxi driver? Well, whenever he’s calling an approved number (i.e. me, as a customer), his device should be enabled and approved to be able to send more than just 11 digits to me during a call.

I like the idea and application of trust in this stuation.

The rather shocking reality is that, given I was expecting the possibility of a call this morning, if ANYONE had phoned me around 4am and said, ‘Your taxi is outside, Sir’, I’d have — I’m rather embarrassed to admit — assumed it was the taxi firm calling. The telephonic equivalent of being socially engineered?

What do you think? Totally ridiculous or something you’d like to see?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

4 replies on “I’d love to see a ‘trusted context network’ for my phone”

Very interesting article but as you say there are a lot of obstacles in the way, the main one being OFCOM and the approval process and perhaps telecoms signalling standards too.

Working for a bank, I can see some issues with this though, as contextual info would not be allowed (‘XYZ Bank re your overdraft’) would not be allowed for example.

Still, for the example you mentioned it would work, although some companies use SMS for this ie breakdown service sending the van registration number so you know it’s the right one.

Sahajesh, agreed — however it would be rather cool to know that ‘Bill
Somebody, Lloyds TSB’ is calling instead of ‘Withheld’!

An app and/or mod to Android or similar could easily do this. When the incoming call comes in, and assuming the number isn’t withheld, the device could quickly use its 3G/wi-fi connection to look it up using a licensed copy of (or whatever) and display something relevant. Might be a little slow and obviously wouldn’t work all the time, but would at least be a workaround for the lack of network innovation as you say.

Interestingly, when you get SMS alerts from certain companies, their name (or whatever they like) can be sent instead of simply the number, as I’m sure you know Ewan 🙂

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