Archive for November 8th, 2006

Google Calendar syncing

A third party company, Toffa, has stepped in providing free syncing functionality between Google’s Calendar and phones/PDAs, called GooSync. If your cellphone supports SyncML, you are all set, you just need to point your SyncML’s preferences to Goosync’s server URL. If you are using either Windows Mobile or PalmOS (which don’t support SyncML), you will need to download and install GooSync’s native respective applications that add this functionality. This is a very nice service, given the fact that Google only provides SMS-based notifications for mobile users and not full syncing. Only downside is that you will have to enter your Google login/password during your GooSync registration in order for their server to carry out the syncing of your private data but the company seems legitimate (they have developed some real serious software).

How to make TV ads useful

There is a way to actually make TV commercials useful rather than intrusive. My idea (patentable in the “easy” US, btw ;-) ), is this:

You introduce TVs that support Bluetooth with a brand new profile, let’s call it ADIP (”ADvertisement Information Profile”). Then, in the digital TV networks you introduce a line of text towards the end of each commercial in the “caption” data stream. In it, there is a URL included along with some identifier strings (e.g. #**http://www.osnews.com**#). When the Bluetooth-enabled TV reads that caption URL line (identified via the #** characters), then it automatically sends the URL to a nearby paired Bluetooth-enabled computer. A notification window pops up with the URL in it. The user (who presumably watches TV and has his/her laptop ON at the same time — something that I usually do) can choose to ignore the notification window, or click the link and load the default browser to learn more about the product that was just advertised on TV. Bluetooth on both the TV and computer can be easily turned OFF to avoid notification messages if needed.

Back in the late ’90s, a similar idea was the CueCat. That was a portable scanner that would read barcodes on printed ads on magazines and then it would offer more info about the product advertised. My idea is similar, but more convenient and more high-tech.

The downside of my idea though is that deaf people who don’t have a Bluetooth-enabled TV will still be shown the URL on their screen and they might not like this (supported TVs won’t display that particular URL line as it is supposed to be utilized by the Bluetooth module only). Another downside is that both Bluetooth stacks and TVs must support this new profile, and convincing so many different manufacturing, OS and Bluetooth-stack (e.g. Broadcomm) companies to write such code is a daunting task. Even if creating the BT profile might be easy (code-wise), getting them to do it is very difficult — which is why the Bluetooth Consortium must be part of it to exercise some “power” over its implementation.

Anyways, this idea can prove a good way to make these commercials actually useful. While I personally don’t pay much attention to them, there are a few products that I would be interested in if I had more information about them immediately (before the TV show starts again and I forget about it). During the time I was on my diet for example, one night I saw a commercial about a sprinkling salad dressing that only had 3 calories per sprinkle. I did not catch immediately the name of the product and so finding it via Google was very difficult. If such a BT profile existed, I would have had the info I needed in seconds. I believe that my idea is mutually beneficiary to both the viewer and the advertiser.