Thursday, August 16, 2012

ulinziSMS :: Mobile SMS Encryption now available for Android smartphones and tablets

With the recent phone tapping bill passed into law in Uganda and other countries, secure communication is the only tool to protect people's freedoms in the face of paranoid governments that continue to violate our freedoms and rights to privacy.
"ulinziSMS" is a mobile security application that encrypts your message box, establishes secure sessions between communicating entities and also encrypts your messages on transmission. It utilizes the complexity of elliptic curves to deliver the highest level of cryptographic schemes available today.

ulinziSMS was designed to meet the communication needs of civil rights groups and other people with a need to communicate securely.

MobileLabs is also in advanced stages of developing a voice security solution for Android smartphones. "ulinziVoice" will go a long way in extending voice encryption technology to mobile end-users. 

For a free ulinziSMS Android installer, send me an email on ""

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Google cleared of patent infringement, embarks on a Java patent acquisition drive

A federal  jury in May found that Google did not infringe on Oracle patents in building its Android mobile operating system, following a patent infringement suit filed by by Oracle in 2010. In the lawsuit, Oracle had argued that in creating the Dalvik virtual machine (the software platform that runs Java applications on Android), the search giant knowingly lifted intellectual property involving two Java-related patents that Oracle acquired with its purchase of Sun Microsystems.

The two patents (U.S. Patents 6,061,520 and RE38,104, aka ’520 and ’104) cover ways of accelerating the software compilation process, i.e. the process of turning raw code into executable applications.

Oracle made six different claims of infringement involving the ’104 patent and two claims related to the ’520 patent, and the jury unanimously dismissed all the claims. “Today’s jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle’s patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem,” read a statement from Google.

Oracle indicated it will continue to push its case. “Oracle presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java,” read a statement from the company. “We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java’s core write once run anywhere principle and ensure it is protected for the nine million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility.”

The verdict concluded the “patent phase” of the trial. Previously, the jury returned a partial decision on Oracle’s claims of copyright infringement, deciding that Google had infringed in some cases but failing to reach a verdict on the biggest issue in the case: whether or not Google had infringed in cloning 37 Java APIs, or applications programming interfaces.

Patent ’104 — which describes a “method and apparatus for resolving data references in generated code” — was the more important of the two patents at issue. Oracle’s case revolved around the term “symbolic reference” and how Dalvik uses a piece of software called a dx tool to convert Java programming code into executable software, known as .dex files.

The patent details a means of compiling software code in which data is tagged with “symbolic references” rather than numeric memory locations. Oracle argued that in compiling code, Dalvik uses symbolic references. Google said it does not.

The ’520 patent, which received far less attention during the trial, describes a “method and system for performing static initialization.” In short, it covers a way of consolidating classes of files so that virtual machines can execute less code than they otherwise would. Oracle claimed that Google uses simulated execution with Dalvik, while Google said it doesn’t simulate but merely parses files. 

At the conclusion of the verdict, Judge Alsup thanked the jury for its time, saying this was the longest civil trial he’d seen in his 13 years on the bench. The trial started on Apr. 16. Then he dismissed the 10 remaining jurors from the case.

Though the jury has been dismissed, the core issue in the trial is still undecided. Judge William Alsup will rule himself on whether the Java APIs are subject to copyright, and he expects to do so sometime next week.


In other news, Google has embarked on a massive patent acquisition drive, the biggest acquisitions being Java language patents. These acquisitions are in line with the remarkable success that the Android operating system has delivered to the company, as well as a move to defuse Oracle’s massive Java infringement suit against Google and its Android OS.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bye bye MTN/ Airtel/ Orange/ Warid, here comes Google/ Microsoft/ Apple as your new local voice and data service providers

I know some skeptics will disagree with me on this one, but only time can prove me wrong. With the recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google, the game plan for the world’s leading technology giants seems to be taking a new twist.

It all started out with Oracle acquiring Sun Microsystems and suing Google for patent infringement over the use of Java on the Android operating system, then Google acquiring Motorola Mobility at a hefty 12.5 billion dollars because Motorola seems to have a number of mobile hardware patents under their belt, some of which are used by Apple.

Since there are claims that Apple has been backing Oracle to sue Google for using Java on the Android OS, Apple may now have to tread carefully following a recent patent infringement suit filed by Motorola Mobility against Apple’s illegal use of their patents on Apple gadgets.

With all these accusations and counter-accusations by the technology giants, we can only expect the fight for dominance to grow even further and entangle mobile network operators in the “fracas”.

With Nokia engaging in acquisition talks with Microsoft, there’s a clear indicator that mobile handset manufacturers are dying a slow death by succumbing to pressure from the world’s tech giants to either sell out or fail at innovation, as it is the case with the recent failure by smart phone manufacturers to develop mobile software to the standards of Android/ iOS/ Windows Mobile (Symbian OS has failed to keep up with the trends in mobile OS software).

As some mobile handset manufacturers sell out their hardware patents, we can surely expect the war to shift to mobile network operators. If mobile network operators fail to meet the fast changing trends in the mobile communications sector, the tech giants will again move fast to acquire them to control and spur mobile innovation. Ten years from now, am pretty certain Google/ Microsoft/ Apple will be in talks to acquire MTN, Airtel, Orange and Warid network infrastructure, and before you know it, your simcard will be registered to the Google Uganda network ! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Part 3: Future of Mobile Cloud Computing in Africa

The future of mobile cloud computing in Africa will entirely depend on the demand for more efficient methods to improve on service delivery. These methods will have to provide a more effective mechanism that can deliver services at reduced costs while providing faster and more reliable internet-based solutions.

As has been seen with mobile banking, the banking sector has remodeled its strategies to match the ever changing needs of a technology savvy clientele. Commercial banks are now embracing new technologies such as SMS information services to pass on new bank offers and promotions to their clientele, integration of mobile banking platforms with their own financial systems, to mention a few.

With this shift to mobile-based computing, several commercial services are going to integrate with mobile technology to reach nearly 300 million mobile subscribers on the African continent. A target market of 300 million people is such a big market to bolster growth of African economies. I can envision a scenario whereby travelers can buy tickets off their mobile phones, revelers can purchase concert tickets, traders can order for goods and services, or even a patient getting updates on the time they should be taking their medication. This may seem too far a goal to reach, but I must say we are bound to see a mobile technology revolution sooner than we expect.

The rapid growth of mobile broadband services will continue to promote the adoption of more capable phones that have support for web browsing. With this rapid growth however, mobile network operators will have to leverage their networks to support this unprecedented growth in mobile internet usage. If the adoption of smartphones in Africa and the world over continues to grow at the current rate, MNO's are going to face a major challenge dealing with heavy traffic on their data pipes. This will call for enormous investment in data infrastructure for MNO's if they are to stay ahead and on top of the mobile internet game.

The future of the mobile cloud, therefore, will have to involve strong partnerships between mobile network operators and mobile phone/ hardware manufacturers to strike a balance between mobile innovation in both hardware and software design, and the physical infrastructure that will support mobile cloud-hosted services. Companies like Huawei Technologies are already in close partnership with leading operators including Vodafone, T-Mobile and Telenor to deliver next generation mobile broadband solutions.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Part 2: Apps for Africa: Mobile Cloud Computing to Accelerate Innovation

Every cloud has a silver lining, a lining that emits beams of hope onto the continent it traverses. Africa's horizon has seen many clouds that have only passed on to deliver rains to the rest of the world. However, one cloud spread across the African continent, breathing a new hope of life on a part of the world that has always been referred to as a dark continent. That cloud is called the mobile cloud.

Mobile cloud computing is not a new trend in Africa, having first been introduced on the continent by the several mobile network operators. Services such as mobile banking and mobile money transfer have been around for over 3 years, operating on a private cloud computing framework that was tied to each network operator. These services have revolutionized mobile computing, delivering services that had long been a myth to many Africans. The advent of such services has had a far reaching reception pattern, creating trade links between the rural poor. In the biggest part of Africa, banking institutions are fragmented, without a reliable interconnected backbone that can facilitate trade and commercial transactions. And worse still, computer usage is very low in Africa, making it even harder to facilitate such transactions.

However, with the installation of the sea cable that had the first phase connecting the coastal countries to the global broadband infrastructure, fast internet cable is now being extended to the inland countries, providing a more reliable and faster internet link for both desktop and mobile internet users. The high penetration rate of cellular technologies will grow even faster with the adoption of fast internet on the continent. Mobile phones will therefore remain the preferred communication gadget in Africa.

The advent of fast internet will therefore leverage the existing services and provide a wider reaching cloud platform for building and deploying cloud-hosted applications. Even before the fast internet cable spreads to most of Africa, mobile application developers are already building solutions to take advantage of these new developments.

Microfinance Institutions to tap into the cloud:
RedCloud Technologies, the company behind the hugely successful M-PESA money transfer service in Kenya is already completing work on a project that will see micro-finance institutions connect to the M-PESA service, disbursing loans to their clients, improving cash flow management, helping the borrower repay the loan simply and cheaply without queuing in the bank using mobile money transfer, and getting the approved loan and money faster into the hands of the micro-entrepreneur. This project will provide support to customers with low-end phones using SMS technology, and high-end phones/ smart phones using a web-based application. The project will also provide support for loans officers that would like to use the web application option in areas with limited or no network coverage. The loans officer simply saves the loan application information and then posts it to a remote database when they move to places with network coverage.

Strategic partnerships between industry and academia:
Safaricom, Kenya's largest mobile network operator and Strathmore University, a leading private university in Nairobi partnered this year to launch an initiative dubbed the “Safaricom Academy”. The initiative aims at developing young talent to create employment through the development of mobile applications that are relevant to the local Kenyan mobile user. The main goals of the Safaricom academy are:
  • Promote local innovation in developing relevant applications for the Kenyan market.
  • Create an enabling environment for the development of relevant mobile applications.
  • Attracting companies with applications to host them within the Safaricom portal.
This initiative will see more local content and mobile applications developed and hosted on cloud-based marketplaces.

Developer bootcamps:
Many developer initiatives have sprung up in the past two years. In Kenya, iHub (Innovation Hub) seeks to link technologists, innovators and investors. In Uganda, the HiveColab is working with local developers to help them nurture their ideas through provision of workspace, hardware and developer tools. All these are initiatives that have also helped some small companies find seed funding from venture capitalists and big industry players such as Nokia. Virtual City, a Nairobi-based mobility solutions company, received a 1 million dollar award from Nokia after winning a global competition for building innovative mobile applications.

These initiatives are continuing to grow and spread across Africa, showing a positive market response to the adoption of relevant innovative mobile solutions on the continent.

In part 3, we shall focus on the future of the mobile cloud and what it holds for Africa in the next five years.

Africa and the Mobile Handset Series

Africa's mobile market is the fastest growing in the world, growing at twice the global rate. 1
A consistent market growth can be witnessed with the rapid innovation of new products and solutions for the African mobile user by mobile carriers and content developers. In this part of the series: Africa and the mobile handset, we shall delve into details of mobile subscription in Africa, mobile internet that is currently the major focus for most mobile carriers and the recent trends in mobile service(s) pricing.

Africa has over 260 million mobile subscribers, with at least 27 in every 100 people owning a mobile phone. In North Africa, 53 out of 100 people own mobile phones, while in South Africa, at least 87 out of 100 people own mobile phones. 2 Mobile subscription penetration rates are expected to exceed 40% by the end of 2010, according to an International Telecommunications Union report released last year.

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Africa are taking advantage of their IP-based data networks to extend internet services to users of internet-capable mobile phones. Partnerships between MNOs, web companies and handset manufacturers are already being created. A recent partnership was made between Huawei Telecom, Google and Kenya-based Safaricom to introduce a fairly priced Android phone for the Kenyan mobile market. The Huawei Ideos was launched this year in Nairobi and it will be retailing at approximately 100 US dollars. The launch of the Huawei Ideos followed an announcement earlier this year in Kenya at the Gkenya event to open the Android market for Kenyan developers to publish both free and paid mobile apps for the Android market. All these developments are positive indicators of a growing market that is still fairly developed but has high potential for investors.

Mobile internet usage in Africa is on the rise, and in some developed markets like South Africa, innovative products such as Mxit, an Instant Messaging application, are more popular than facebook. In Nigeria, mobile internet usage has surpassed computer internet usage with up to 7.3 million Nigerians browsing the internet using their mobile phones. The adoption of internet-capable phones in Africa is also on the rise as the prices for high-end feature phones and smart phones continue to drop globally.

While mobile internet usage in Africa continues to grow, mobile data charges have dropped drastically. These prices will even drop further as mobile network operators expand their data infrastructure across the continent, courtesy of the undersea fibre-optic cable that has now reached many African countries. The fibre-optic cable extension has also increased connectivity speeds which had greatly slowed down the adoption of internet services on the continent. In Uganda, data charges were as high as 1 dollar per MB of data. In less than one year, prices have dropped to as low as 10 dollars for a 350 MB mobile data package.

However, the major challenge with the adoption of mobile internet in Africa is that there is not a lot of content that is available online that suits the African context. African societies are fragmented, and the lack of a common language makes it very hard to develop universal content or information. It would require content and application developers to translate their products into so many languages. There's a need to develop language translation systems for African languages.

In part two of the series, we shall delve into the growth of the mobile applications market in Africa, building mobile applications and content for Africa, and how innovative mobile applications can be relevant to the African mobile user.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Smartphones and The Facebook Factor

Facebook has continued to dominate the social networking sphere, cutting across all continents, while providing a platform that meets the unique social needs of different global cultures. In Africa, Facebook has even been seen to drive the adoption of smartphones , especially among the technology savvy youth. This trend seems to fit perfectly in Africa's budding mobile data market, indicating an increasing demand for social applications as the world embraces the benefits of a digital age. Smartphones and facebook have been around for less than ten years, but the rapid influence they have on our social culture is something that cannot be ignored.

As social networking continues to dominate communication over the internet, smartphones will continue to replace the less capable low-end feature phones that don't have support for web browsing and instant messaging. Applications such as ebuddy will be favorites among today's youth. Initiatives such as facebook zero will continue to come up to tap into the rapidly growing mobile internet market. As mobile network operators prepare for a new battlefield i.e the mobile data market, smartphone prices will drop sharply. (The Huawei Ideos is a perfect example of a subsidized smartphone).

The facebook factor therefore, will remain a major driving force for smartphone sales and intuitive applications that leverage social networking in Africa and the world over.