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Try Yelling for a Pizza

It's over a year since we saw the start of a series of bizarre 118 advertisements featuring two David Bedford look-alikes. This was a part of a campaign to capture a market valued at £300 million and the memories of a population that had spent much of their lives knowing, that 192 was the only number for directory enquiries. However, in August last year, thanks to the telecoms regulator, 192 ceased to exist and mass confusion reigned among subscribers, leading me to warn at the time, "The deregulation of any industry is invariably expressed in terms of opportunity but in this case, it is more likely to be defined by its failures than its successes."

With business calls to directory enquiry services (DQ) accounting for over 50% of the UK market, I had been carrying out research for Unisys among the new 118 DQ providers, attempting to identify the type of "Value-add"proposition they planned to introduce for business and which ranged from absolutely nothing, to wildly imaginative location-based services, that would tell you where the nearest WiFi-enabled Starbucks to your phone was. Posted by Hello


Fish and chips third left.

In fact, very little has happened of practical interest, capable of showing-off the very latest mobile phone technology, until last week, when I found myself on the concourse of Victoria station opposite a Yell.com booth. Pretty girls in bright yellow t-shirts were handing-out leaflets to busy commuters and I was eventually cornered opposite platform 4.

This turned-out to be a promotion for Yell's new service for mobile phones. Send the text "mobile" to 80248 and a Java program, the Yell agent, will be sent to you handset. As the one-time publisher of Java Vision Magazine, I was interested, sent the message and waited a few seconds for the reply, which arrived with an attachment that I had to install on my Sony Ericsson P900. The result, in summary, was the Yell.com service attached to the menu of my phone, immediately allowing me to search for a plumber within easy reach of the station, where I could find a set of new tyres and the location of the nearest fish and chip shop on a small handset map.

Now this is really quiet clever and very practical, leveraging Java and taking the link between mobile telephony and DQ services into the future that was imagined for it a year ago. There is however one small problem, nothing to do with Yell, I add, that threatens this kind of useful innovation in the mobile phone space.

A series of newly discovered vulnerabilities by security researcher, Adam Gowdiak, in Sun's Java Virtual Machine have been shown to allow all kinds of mischief on phones using mobile Java (J2ME).

These days, I have Bluetooth on my own phone turned firmly-off but Java and the kind of application from Yell.com that is now sitting on it, offers the expandability that consumers now expect. The trouble is that as PCs become harder to exploit, the hackers will turn their attention to the next weakest link in the technology chain, millions upon millions of easily exploitable smart phones that use Java to manage their clever new mobile services.

Isn't progress a wonderful thing?

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