I was at the conference on behalf of Palm, demo-ing products and meeting what I thought were useful contacts along the way. Half of the attendees already had Palm devices so half the time instead of exchanging cards there was a curious ritual akin to courtship displays you would see on a wildlife programme where two people would hold their devices in front of each other and move them closer or apart until their contact details had been exchanged.
This was all done over IrDA. A specification designed to allow the transfer of data over an infra-red beam similar to a TV remote control.
This was the high point of Palm’s position of power in devices. The Compaq IPAQ did a little to combat Palm’s position but the big problem was that the world moved on. Flawed smartphones based on the Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems replaced the PDA as the personal information management weapon-of-choice.
Despite the rise of common standards like the vCard, SyncML and Bluetooth exchanging contacts between devices was like the different tongues created at the fall of Babel. Throw in the flakey address book application in Symbian which takes out the operating system when you go over a 1,000 contacts and corrupted address databases which inevitably came out of syncing with an Exchange server.
Exchanging contact details regressed with ‘let’s connect on LinkedIn’ or ‘Facebook me’, easy when you are Ged Carroll. Not so easy when you are John Smith or Jane Lee.
Bump apparently negotiates a similar data transfer based on data sent through about the collision of phones, once the devices are ‘bumped’ into each other like two glasses of whiskey. The collisions are time stamps and have complementary forces and directions. A combination of this data provides pretty secure authentication. Secure enough for mobile payments as well as exchanging contact details.
But what I find most interesting the potential cultural and sociological aspects that might come out of Bump Technologies technology. The ‘chink’ of phones may user in a new ritual just as important as the way we give and receive business cards now. Will this ritual be adapted for local cultures in the same way that may Asian cultures give and receive business cards with both hands?