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Digital Note Device Contradicts Accepted Wisdom of Mobile Communications with Person-to-Location Communication

December 3, 2002 – The Appliance Studio, a Bristol based innovation firm, today announced the txTboard, a new digital version of the post-it note stuck to the fridge or the front door.

The txTboard is a slim self-contained device built around a colour touch-screen that is intended to hang on the kitchen wall or communal areas in the home. It displays SMS text messages sent to it from mobile phones, enabling members of a household to keep in touch with family and friends back home from wherever they are.

txTboard, a brainchild of The Appliance Studio’s founder Bill Sharpe, came from The Appliance Studio’s innovation programme on new information appliances – things that make digital technology useful in everyday life. It was inspired by user research carried out by Professor Richard Harper, Director of User Understanding at The Appliance Studio, and arose from ongoing observational and analytical research into mobile phone usage.

Harper has identified primary user communication traits that extend the accepted wisdom of mobile communication, which emphasises person-to-person connectivity. These traits point to the need for a “virtual post-it note” SMS text messaging system in the home which would complement person to person communication with person to place – the ability to leave a message for someone to find in a particular place.


The benefits that would be realised with such a system are:

- new ways to manage the complex and chaotic flow of home life
- gifting and tendernesses between family members

Over the last two years Harper has studied how individuals interact with mobiles phones on behalf of Orange, o2, T-Mobile, Vodafone and the University of Surrey.

Harper believes that the majority of mobile operators and handset manufacturers give little thought to how users actually use their mobile phone, and have failed to recognise the potential for mobile technology beyond the traditional boundaries of raw text messaging and voice calls for person-to-person communication.

By understanding what people do with their mobiles, the values that are important can be identified and new ones developed. According to Professor Harper, there are still more values from text that can be exploited. Given the amount of business that text currently generates, he believes that such values should be examined closely rather than be ignored because of all the attention given to multi-media messaging (MMS).

According to the Mobile Data Association (MDA) mobile phone users in the UK sent an average of two million SMS messages per hour during September. The MDA reported that the total number of chargeable person-to-person text messages sent across the four UK GSM network operators during September was 1.43 billion.

“txTboard shows how the style of in-depth user understanding, typical of the work of The Appliance Studio, can produce fresh angles beyond the obvious – using a person-to-person mobile technology for person-to-place communications instead,” said Professor Richard Harper, Director of User Understanding, The Appliance Studio.

“txTboard demonstrates Appliance Studio’s approach to the innovation process, we take new user understanding and then come up with new product concepts which we can prototype very rapidly with our wide range of technology platforms” said Bill Sharpe, CEO, Appliance Studio, “the txTboard builds on our investment in smart displays that use technologies like Linux and Bluetooth to produce a wide range of new interactive applications”

txTboard took just four weeks to prototype from the initial concept; the next step will involve evaluating the values that the txTboard gives to real users.

The Appliance Studio developed the txTboard to demonstrate its innovation capabilities and open up discussions with players in the mobile communications industry interested in new services and products.

About The Appliance Studio:

The Appliance Studio is a Bristol based company that provides innovation, technology, and design services for customer facing companies. It combines in-depth understanding of user behaviour with state-of-the-art technology know-how to enable its clients to explore, define and implement new solutions.

With world class expertise in pervasive computing and communications The Appliance Studio is pioneering the emerging field of information appliances. It works in strategic partnership with clients to create business and product strategies for everyday information technology products, whatever they might be.

Its 20-strong team comprises experts in sociology, psychology, software and hardware engineering, design, and business.

The Appliance Studio was awarded a coveted US Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), sponsored by Business Week in 2002, for its work in developing of Steelcase’s RoomWizard product.


For further details, check: www.appliancestudio.com.



Stephen Waddington/Laura Sykes,
swaddington@rainierpr.co.uk,
Rainier,
+44 (0) 20 7494 6570


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