Open Mobile Camp, NYC

A group from the HFOSS Project (Antonio Alcorn, Chris Fei 2010, Prasanna Gautam 2011, Trishan de Lanerolle, Ralph Walde and I)  attended a Mobile Tech for Social Change BarCamp at the UNICEF building at the United Nations Plaza in New York City.  The meeting was organized by Katrin Verclas,  co-founder and editor of and co-sponsored by HFOSS and the Open Mobile Consortium.

This was our first BarCamp, a participatory workshop whose content is determined by the participants.  As Katrin put it in the invitation “There are no tourists at this Open Mobile Camp.

The meeting started with a keynote by Robert Kirkpatrick, Chair of the Open Mobile Consortium, and former CIO of INSTEDD.  Robert talked about the importance of cooperation and mentioned, as examples, some of the technologies that have emerged in the open mobile domain, including RapidSMS, JavaRosa, Mesh4X,  and RapidAndroid.   He contrasted these cooperative efforts with competitive approaches, which frequently lead to information silos and all the inefficiencies that they imply.   He singled out the OpenMRS project as a model.  Because of the complexities of electronic medical records systems, it is important that they be designed around open standards and open source software.  The OpenMRS approach is revolutionary in this regard and, as a result, it has been enormously successful in Africa, where it may be soon be adopted by something like 40 countries on the continent.

The keynote was followed by a breakout session.  I attended a session on Improving Security for Mobil Apps (my notes here) that was led by Nathan Freitas,  founder of the Guardian project for the Android phone.  Nathan is an experienced Android developer and later on during the day he helped Chris Fei figure out an easy way to incorporate POSIT’s RWG code, written in C, directly into POSIT, a task he’s working on for his current Android project.

Just after lunch there was a speed geek, an impromptu demo session.  The HFOSS students demoed POSIT.  Nathan demoed his implementation of  Tor on the Android phone.  One of the coolest demos was EpiCollect, a data-gathering epidemiology Android tool, developed by a group at Imperial College, London.   This was a highly polished system that has been used to gather, record, and analyze infectious disease data.  It features a customizable form-based user interface that can easily be downloaded into the phone.  And it uses Google’s cloud to host both the application and the data.  (Here’s a link to videos about both POSIT and EpiCollect taken at the BarCamp).

In the 3 PM slot, the HFOSS team lead a session on Ad-hoc Networking (notes here).  We described our POSIT application and got some really useful feedback from the participants.  Robert Kirkpatrick was very encouraging of the POSIT project and suggested that we try to participate in the Camp Roberts field exercise that will be held in November as a way to do more field testing of POSIT.

After the meeting we relaxed with beers and had a nice dinner.

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