CXO

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Close encounters of the mobile kind

Getting an earful from the sex ranch

Written on BA2192 flying Dallas Fort Worth to London Gatwick Airport and dispatched to silicon.com via my home wi-fi connection the next day

Mobile phone users never cease to amaze, frustrate and entertain me. Here I am at DFW airport in Texas, stranded in the BA lounge by a dust storm and high winds that have grounded everything. In the lounge are four work desks behind an open screen (where I am sitting) and in the middle a similar section called the library with a door to ensure apparent isolation.

A casually dressed young man enters the lounge and makes his way to the library and closes the door. Unfortunately for him he fails to look up. The frosted glass panes that constitute the enclosure are not floor to ceiling, nor are the gaps between the panes sealed, and his assumption that he will not be heard quickly proves incorrect.

Within seconds he is on a call to a friend and clearly excited about his weekend at a ranch. He is very loud and nagging at my concentration as I try and use these moments to think and work. But it quickly emerges that he has not been to a conventional ranch to ride horses and he starts to describe his exploits at a more famous establishment.

You got it! This is about a sexual adventure and he goes on with a very descriptive narrative. I can only say that I admire his claimed athleticism and as I walk around the lounge it has gone very quiet as everyone listens with interest. Eventually he emerges totally oblivious to the fact we have all shared in his revelations. No one says anything. Conversations resume.

Over the years I have learnt so much about companies, markets, government and individuals by this same mechanism. But I have to say that this was one of the more entertaining and edifying sessions.

When will mobile phone users learn? Better still, when will mobile phone users provide the side-tone facility that we enjoy on fixed-line phones that automatically deters us from shouting? It is easy. Just a small percentage of the sound energy from the microphone fed to the earphone removes that dead, block of wood feel that all mobiles have, which automatically induces us to shout.

The mobile phone industry talks and makes a great play about the future of convergence and getting into the provision of entertainment services - but I think they have already been doing it very effectively for years.

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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