Friday, April 06, 2007

Mobile phone to PC Interfacing – Twitter

I remember the early days of the National Instruments User Conference. It was actually called a User Conference in the first few years until it was renamed NI Week. I guess you have to meet for the better part of a week before you can call it that. In the first few user conferences they lasted two days and were held in a hotel with conference rooms. If you came across a user with a topic of interest to someone else at NI, all you had to do was walk down the hallway and you’d find the person you were looking for in about ten to fifteen minutes. After a few years had passed and the event moved from the hotel room to the Austin Convention Center this was no longer possible. If you didn’t setup a meeting with a person well in advance of the conference, chances were good that you would never even see that person until after the conference much less meet with them.

During the recent SxSW conference held in Austin, a new phone to web networking tool gained some notice. It’s called Twitter. It combines blogging (albeit in short form), text messaging, with social networking. Basically, it allows one to send a text message from a phone to a web-site which can provide your location and what you’re doing. I could see this as a solution to the “where are you and what are you doing right now problem?” that I face at NI Week. People who are interested in keeping up with you can add your link to their page. It certainly worked at SxSW where two large screens displayed the flow of messages at the Austin Convention Center.

Twitter was developed by Obvious Corp which created Odeo (podcasting tools) and brings the same minimalist style first used by Google. The sparse interface quickly focuses your attention on what the software does.

One gauge of an emerging technology is the variations people make from the technology. There appears to be a robust collection of mashups based on the Twitter concept. One of them is Twittervision.com which shows a map of the world and then displays in a constant feed, the comments of twitter users. While the current user based of early adopters gives a random smattering of data points, a cohesive group of users (i.e. sales/marketing/R&D of a particular) product could see a more cogent picture of what the organization is doing.

If you want to see what Twitter activity is going on in your neighborhood, try Twittermaps. To change the location type in “L:” followed by your city, street, etc.

While Twitter is another step in the social networking movement, I can see applications in Virtual Instrumentation. Instead of pushing your location and activity to a web-site, one could push measurements to the same web-site. One could implement a mobile data collection system connected to cell phones which gather data and then send the results to a map for one to monitor. It’s just a thought.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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