Talented developer? Got a passionate for technology and a hunger for learning?

We’re looking for varying levels of Open Source Developers to gel a new team with a real passion for Technology, working alongside our existing development teams spread across the UK, India and Bulgaria. Our focus on the latest technologies creates a buzz for pushing the boundaries in the Development of our customer-focused software. Some of the new technologies we are working with include iPhone, android, iPad, GWT and google app engine.

Quick role overview:

  • Development of new solutions using a mixture of technologies
  • Improving Open Source technologies utilised within existing solutions
  • Promoting Agile development throughout the team
  • Stretching the boundaries of existing solutions

Your drive to use exciting new technologies will help us stay at the forefront of the industry.

If you have any one of these skills, then we want to hear from you;

  • Android dev
  • iPhone dev
  • Ruby on Rails
  • Grails
  • Google Web Toolkit (GWT)
  • Google App Engine
  • PHP
  • Ajax (JS, HTML, CSS) with design flair

So if you have experience in any of those areas, then get in-touch so we can discuss how we can help you make your move to us a great one!

Google goggles with machine translation at Mobile World Congress

This evening at the Mobile Web Congress in Barcelona, Google CEO Eric Schmidt showed off a fantastic tourist tool – Google Goggles with Machine Translation.

It’s a system for taking a picture of some text and getting a near instant translation of it. Essentially the user takes a picture of something like a street-sign, restaurant menu or poster and then it uses optical character recognition (OCR) to extract the text from the image which is then submitted to Google Translate for Machine Translation.

Eric demonstrated the system on a Google Android powered phone and then went on to promote the rumoured speech-to-speech translation; “I’ve got Google translate which can translate 100 languages to 100 languages, so why can’t I just speak on the phone to someone who doesn’t speak my language? Well, we’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming soon.”

Of-course machine translation is generally far from accurate, but for casual indicative translation results it should suffice for tourists.

So if you’re one of the Android carrying tourists, your menu reading problems may be solved but there are still the expensive roaming data charges to worry about!

Mobile World Congress – operators join forces for applications alliance

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where we are currently exhibiting, 24 of the largest phone operators have today announced that they are joining forces to create an alliance, The Wholesale Applications Community, to regain control of the mobile apps space.

In the announcement they claim they are going to develop a single “open platform that delivers applications to all mobile phone users” – but this is what Java ME (Mobile Edition) is. And it’s been available on mobile devices since the dawn of mobile apps.

Certainly there were some minor implementation differences on devices, but the biggest hurdle to publishing was always the numerous levels of approval processes. Some telecoms companies had very complex publishing processes requiring a developer to submit an app to the global group for approval.  Once approved there would then by the additional approval and selection processes by the individual child-companies within the group.

For development companies, having a single platform to localise as part of the development and submission process would likely ease their ability to market in new countries and achieve a global success. And of-course simplifying the development platform is great for getting things out quickly, but having a standard development stack could stifle innovation across handsets.

This really doesn’t feel like industry standardising, if anything it feels like just another appstore. Reducing the complexity of the approval and submission’s policy may provide some benefits, but there will still be complexity due to the numerous app-stores available;

  • Apple
  • Google
  • Blackberry
  • Nokia
  • Microsoft
  • Symbian
  • Palm
  • And now this new one…

According to a Gartner report, Apple was responsible for approximately 99.4% of all mobile-app downloads. Apple truly dominates this market, but maybe the consortium doesn’t see that Apple’s dominance came from offering an innovative handset linked with free data usage, to encourage the end user to make good use of it.  Previous handsets designed for frequent data-use were accompanied with very expensive data-plans, so this was a game-changing move.

Ultimately this looks like a numbers-game. A way for the consortium to try to break Apple’s hold on the very lucrative market, potentially trying to get to the point where they are able to claim more apps than Apple’s platform – but when the apps are not designed to take advantage of any specific handset unique features, are they really going to have the same impact as app’s on the iPhone and other platforms?

 

Google translation phone. Pipe dream or possibility?

The general media has gone mad over Google’s announcement that, in a few years, they hope to be-able to translate speech instantly.

This is currently available, though in a limited way (Spoken English to Japanese or Spanish), on the iPhone using a 3rd party app.

I’d expect that if and when Google release such a thing it will also have limitations – to believe the media and think that it will support several thousand languages however is a mistake.

For specific needs there are already alternative solutions. The LAPD use a device which has thousands of pre-recorded messages relevant to their standard questions and general announcements, stored in multiple languages. And the device has also been used in Afghanistan and Iraq by American soldiers needing to communicate in other languages.

The device was developed through DARPA funding, and DARPA have been investing heavily in finding automated language solutions for years – so it will be interesting to see how quickly Google can bring a high quality technical solution to market. Alternatively if you need a professional interpreter while waiting for Google’s solution, then you can get one on your mobile phone at any time – just give us a call and we can help set you up to make use of our Instant Telephone Interpreting (ITI) system.

From a technical viewpoint, to deliver automatic speech to speech translation to a mass-market there are 3 key components that need to be perfected;

1. The system would first need to support good quality voice recognition, be able to differentiate between thousands of accents and dialects, and be able to turn the speech into a text form. Anyone who has used speech recognition over the last few years will probably agree that it’s come a long way – however it’s still a long way from where it needs to be, especially when dealing with accents and fast spoken languages.

2. The system is probably going to rely on machine translation to turn the text into its translated equivalent. Currently, there is a lot of work being done in this area using language models, statistical models or hybrid systems. Ultimately while there have been some fantastic gains over recent years, there is still a phenomenal amount of work to be done – especially when dealing with translations in a specific specialised subject area, such as medicine.

3. Finally the system is going to turn the text back into speech. This part of the system should be the easiest part to prepare. Text to speech has been around for a long time, and users would ultimately accept, maybe even expect, an accented digitised voice.

From the announcement I don’t think that Google is suggesting that it will be-able to translate every language to every other language. Nor will it impact the language services industry – unless your core business is interpreting for consumers. Google is merely highlighting the possibility.

The concept is an engineering challenge and if anyone is setup to attack these kinds of challenges, it’s Google.

Google Buzz: A threat to Facebook or just noise?

It’s interesting to see Google entering the social-networking arena with Google Buzz – facing up against the giants in what I hope is another game changing advance.

However, I’m still waiting to see Google Wave take the world by storm – it’s a wonderful technology but displaced by traditional user habits.

I do think that if Google Wave was integrated with GMail (and given the Google Buzz precedent, it’s a possibility) creating a hybrid solution in the way they have with Buzz then it’d get much more traction in the world – we want a converged place for all of our online communications and Google Mail can serve this purpose perfectly.

Google wants to usurp Facebook with "Buzz", its own social network platformHot Buzz: Will Google use its power to usurp Facebook with it’s own “Buzz” social platform?

Mashable survey suggests that of its voting audience, 60% intend to use Google Buzz.  With a primary audience of IT savvy users, this suggests that there will be a strong start with a loyal market of early adopters. Although to be fair only 10% said it would be their primary social networking tool.  I’m sure that if they’d included facebook integration then this would be much higher.

Google Buzz is a feature for Google Mail, so users need to have a Google Mail account.  If you already have a Gmail account, Google Buzz access will be added automatically.  So while I wait for my Gmail account to get Google Buzzified, all I can do is consider the feature set that has been announced.

Certainly some of the Geo-location components look very interesting but only if my friends are using Google Buzz too. One thing that strikes me as being missing from the announcement, and therefore potentially missing altogether, is Google Translate integration. In GMail this feature has been in Labs for almost a year, so I’m not hopeful of a fully integrated, stable solution with the release of Google Buzz.

Look familiar? Google's BuzzLook familiar? Google’s new Buzz social platform

I have friends in different countries and when reading status updates, and especially reading comments of friends-of-friends in different countries, the comments are not always in English. So having a very quick and simple way of getting a Google Translate version of a comment or status update would be extremely useful.

Of course if there was a good API, I’d be happy to contribute – my disappointment with Google Mail is that I can’t write plugins for it, so we can’t even do this ourselves to use the Applied Language Machine Translation system to do the instant translations.

Anyway, I’ll get back to waiting for Buzz and continuing to hope that they will include Google Translate integration, otherwise I’ll have to wait for the full developer API to see what we can do ourselves.

Speaking of translation, you can download our Free Translation Plugin for your blog.

Business Innovation

I always find it interesting when businesses think innovatively, adapting their business models to provide better services for their customers. Sometimes these innovations radically change previous perceptions, I think that two of the current mainstream radical innovations are iTunes and Sky+.

iTunes

iTunes came to market a few years ago and turned the traditional music consumer market on it’s head. Giving users the ability to rapidly purchase singles or albums at a lower price than from high-street music shops. Downloading music from the internet was a widely discussed subject due to the availability of illegal music online. When iTunes launched, it was a mainstream easy-to-use system offering a legal way to purchase mp3′s on the internet.

Sky+

Sky+ also came to market (in the UK) a few years ago. Sky turned home recording on its head – previously consumers purchased a TV, satellite receiver and a video recorder and they could record what they wanted when required, albeit only being able to record one satellite channel at once. Sky+ was introduced providing the ability to record two channels and watch a recording at once. Now the consumer purchased a more expensive new satellite receiver which had built-in recording capabilities. Interestingly consumers also now paid a monthly fee to allow them to use the recording capabilities (or be on a high-monthly package). I think that timing of this was critical, digital was becoming mainstream and consumers were investing in digital technologies.

Recently I noticed this kind of innovative thinking being applied to the home smoke-alarm market. Manufacturers selling units with built-in batteries which would last several years. When the batteries run out, the consumer simply buys a replacement unit. The manufacturer benefits by essentially creating a market of repeat purchasers, the consumer has the confidence in the unit lasting for a number of years and each time they replace their device they will get a device with the latest safety legislation built-in.

Post Editing of Machine Translation

This year we introduced Post Edit Machine Translation (PEMT) to our customers (For more information see PEMT ). This innovation is a new offering, giving customers the option to have a hybrid machine translation + human post-edit solution. This helps our corporate customers by bridging the gap between traditional translation and machine translation – finding a reasonable balance between cost, speed and quality which is suitable for some types of documents. This allows our customers to lower the cost of translation and increase turn-around where quality is not the highest priority (usually internal documents), but where the translation quality does need to be higher than machine translation.

Like other innovations, the timing of this offering was critical, meeting the new needs of customers by lowering cost during the recession and at the same time gaining the acceptance from professional translators, who have become more accepting of post-editing Machine Translated documents. The offering has been very well received and I expect the market (and quality) of this work will increase dramatically over the coming years.

Apple need to engage with potential Safari users

Last week Apple released version 9 of their iTunes software, and they have continued to include Safari as part of the regular update. The inclusion of Safari within iTunes updates was intended to help Apple gain more market share of the Windows browser market, and they’ve been including Safari since March 2009.

Missed oportunity? iTunes has over 500 million users Missing out? iTunes has over 500 million users

With their reported iTunes user base being well over 500 million, Apple should have made significant strides in the Windows browser market.

However, recent browser usage statistics have shown only a minor incline over the last 6 months – significantly behind the incline of Firefox and Chrome.

So what’s happened?

I think the stumbling block here has been a lack of user education.

Unlike your Firefox or Chrome install-base who have consciously gone out specifically to download these browsers, I imagine the Safari install-base for Windows will largely be iTunes users unaware that they have installed Safari during an update. User engagement and education is crucial aspect of software marketing.

If Apple want to capture a larger share of the Windows Browser market, they really need to engage with their install base through some high-quality user education, selling the benefits of Safari to iTunes users.