News – Comment: Blame David Beckham and Vodafone. Or buy a PMG

By: Kewney Posted

From: newswireless

If you wanted an example of just how thoroughly Vodafone has corrupted the public perception of what “3G” means, reflect on the warning that “third generation (3G) mobile phones will make it easier for workers to harass each other.” You might well say: “Eh?”- but read on…

The warning comes from a consulting firm, Croner, which specialises in human relations and industrial disputes (amongst other things) which is convinced it is warning the European Union about the dangers of 3G mobiles.

What it has it hold of – it seems! – is the concept of a camera phone. And what it needs to be educated about, is the concept of the Personal Mobile Gateway.

A camera can be used to take pictures of your colleagues. Phones with built-in cameras can be used to take pictures of your colleagues. And, as Business Europe succinctly put it recently: “the new technology will encourage workers to infringe confidentiality rules by secretly photographing or filming colleagues and sending the pictures to friends and workmates.”

Harassment, in short. And to cure it, Croner suggests banning camera phones from the office.

You might legitimately dismiss this as alarmist. After all, it would be no less logical to suggest that women should be banned from wearing garments which provoke harassment, or that staff should be prohibited from using the phone at all, since it makes it possible to phone your harassable colleagues and make indecent suggestions to them; or perhaps that all inter-employee email should be forbidden because it’s a vehicle for off-colour humour.

All that, and more, is by the way; what matters is the fact that Croner has completely fallen for the “Vodafone Live” advertising. With the help of that football star and media icon – and arch-manipulator of gullible Editors – David Beckham of Manchester United and England, Vodafone has persuaded the public in its advertising catchment area that it is selling 3G phones.

Of course, a camera phone is a camera. It isn’t a 3G phone, though some 3G phones will be camera phones. And admittedly, a camera phone – even a 3G phone – is not much of a camera, but it will take pictures.

This year, Croner is utterly absurd to suggest that “confidentiality” would be breached by such pictures; the quality is simply too poor to be sure that what you are seeing is a secret document or cardboard box with “Domino’s Pizza” written on it. You can imagine the spy saying to his master: “There’s a picture of the new secret network hub!” and the sceptical spy chief saying, “next to the big spider?” and the spy having to admit that the “big spider” actually is the network hub.

But times change, and hardware becomes more powerful. In a short time, technology will improve, and you will be able to photocopy blueprints with your phone. And at that point, any company which has a policy banning cameras from its shops or offices or factory floor or labs, will have to make it clear that if you have a mobile phone, it must not be photo-enabled.

At that point, I think, people will suddenly understand the brilliance of the concept of the Personal Mobile Gateway.

The PMG showed up at the Bluetooth Congress this week, with a few new bells, tweaks and whistles. It’s the brainchild of IXI Mobile, a software startup which designed a complete family of devices around a Bluetooth hub.

That, surely, has to be the way to go.

Instead of having a camera which is a phone, or a phone which is a camera. you have a bluetooth hub. If you need a camera, it talks to the Internet through the Personal Mobile Gateway. If you need a phone, it talks to the phone service through the PMG. If you want to play games, you pull your special “sleek” GameChild (R) out and it, too, can connect to GPRS to download new games via the PMG. And if you need to send text, you use a little sleek mini-computer design, which goes through the PMG.

That way, you can take your 3G phone into the office, even if there’s a ban on office cameras. And if you do need to harass your colleagues, why! – you can use a high-tech digital camera with telephoto lens for the job, without having to compromise on half-VGA resolution.

Of course, if you get caught, you’ll have your camera confiscated, but as Croner points out, office managers do have a legal right to request that 3G phones are not brought into work in the first place.

Why anybody would want to bring a 3G phone into work, is, of course, quite another question…

Comments? Feedback? Call me on +44 20 8809 0492 in the UK

All company names mentioned are trademarks of their respective owners.