Friday , 20 July 2018
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Culture shock

Culture shock

It is a revived and refreshed Informer who greets you today after a month off that included exploring the delights of France. It is a very diverse country, offering contrasting experiences such as Disneyland, camping in the Dordogne and wine-tasting in the Cotes du Rhone. But one factor remains constant throughout this beautiful and fertile land – rubbish mobile coverage.

Regardless of whether the Informer was trying to tweet photos of Sleeping Beauty Castle, find Bergerac on Google Maps or check the footie scores in Orange, an EDGE connecting was usually the best on offer. And despite the European Commission’s best efforts to take the fun out of roaming for operators, a hefty data roaming bill was still accumulated while apparently being limited to one byte per hour.

The French approach to public wifi is similarly parsimonious. Disneyland is surely missing out on zillions of dollars of free marketing by not installing thousand hotspots all around the park. If Disney is worried about them ruining the ambiance, the Informer suggests disguising them as mushrooms, or fairies, or outrageously over-priced pieces of junk food, and they should blend in nicely.

Even buying more roaming data proved troublesome. The Informer’s UK operator has set up a simple system in which you simply send a text saying “BUY 250MB” to a number and hey presto, you’re in EDGE heaven. But this apparently fool-proof system didn’t work, resulting in a presumably expensive call to a call centre in order to resolve the matter. Also, it turned out that you can’t buy more data until your previous tranche is entirely consumed, resulting in the farce of the Informer desperately trying to download ten web pages at once, with each of them taking half an hour to do so.

Maybe the slow French 3G was a consequence of being relegated to some second-tier service as a result of failing to pay a premium. The Informer can only assume EE had got involved, having launched its revolutionary Priority Answer service in the middle of August. The premise is simple: if you’re sick of waiting in a ‘customer care’ queue for ages, a simple 50p bribe charge gets you to the front of the queue ahead of all the other poor schmucks.

As a precedent this is potentially quite significant. What other opportunities might there be for us to optimise things with a cheeky micropayment. Maybe fast food chains will give you the option to not just ‘super size’ for a small premium but also to ‘make it taste like actual food’. Soon bin-men will start knocking on the door announcing their special, limited-time ‘no noise, no spillage, leave your bin near your house’ offer.

And then there’s the perverse incentive things like Priority Answer imply. If you can generate extra revenue from delivering a decent service, then why not make the normal service really suck and watch the pounds come rolling in? It’s easy to imagine EE call centre employees being berated by their manager for delivering a good service without extorting 50p for it. Following this to its natural conclusion, EE should also offer to pay its customers 50p in order to receive gratuitous abuse. Could come in handy if you’re short of minutes.

While still reeling from culture shock, the Informer was delighted to learn that SK Telecom is finally harnessing the potential of IoT to help Korean eel fishermen. It seems that the farmers can now use their smartphones to monitor sensors in the eel tanks, in real time (eel time? Sorry), to ensure they’re slithery enough, or something.

Apparently even minor changes in temperature or pH can be fatal to eels, so these sensors transmit the data to a gateway using NFC, which then passes that data on to SKT’s Mobius IoT platform, which amazingly even has a dedicated fish tank management server. Here are some happy Korean eel fishermen, reassured that their eels are being cared for by the latest tech, except the ones in the net.

Internet of eels

The Internet of eels

Take care.

The Informer

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