articles tagged with: technology
As most of us know, local authorities throughout the UK face making decisions that will affect the way they provide services and interact with stakeholders and citizens. Whilst budgets may be changing, legislation and statutory requirements remain.
One of the areas we at Focus have been working closely with local authorities since 2004 is making information available online - from promoting positive activities and events for young people through to information about service providers for families. In fact 1 Big Database, which has been developed on behalf of Bristol City, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire Councils, is now the leading online resource for parents, carers and families throughout the West of England.
1 Big Database is a successful example of three local authorities joining forces to provide a relevant, up to date - and crucially local - directory of family information, supplemented by an events diary that lists hundreds of one off or regular activites taking place in the region. The partnership project has helped the council's save money and resource (such as administration) whilst maintaining control of the directory and keeping data within it in their hands.
March saw us launch a new version of the framework behind 1 Big Database - which included a number of new features and enhancements to existing functionality. The main development is a new dedicated section for managing and publishing Childcare data - and we've already hooked it up for automatic integration with Capita's ECD management software.
And because we understand the pressures that local authorities face with capital expenditure, we're making the directory and it's family of additional modules available under a 'software as a service' model - that is it's paid for on an ongoing basis as it's used. There's no up front development costs, just a regular affordable monthly amount that is paid for as long as the software is used - with no limits on numbers of records in the database or users administering it.
The team at Focus are happy to talk you through it if you've got any questions.
Created on Monday April 11 2011 03:24 PM
If you follow us on Twitter you may have seen our tweet stream go a little crazy last week. I was at Future of Web Apps - a 2 day conference for web developers (that’s me) featuring talks from the people behind some of the biggest companies on the web (Google, Opera, Mozilla, Flickr & TweetMeMe to name a few).
As the title implies, it’s all about web apps - web sites that deliver a product or service online and where the technologies behind them are going.
Here are a few highlights of the day.
The Future of HTML5, SVG and CSS3 (Brad Neuberg)
This talk was all about of future technologies of the web. I’ll try not to go all techie on this one, but basically the core technologies used to build websites are evolving. These progressions are allowing developers to build sites than run faster, look better and are more accessible. More features can be handled be your web browser without having to relay on third-party plugins (like flash). These features can include watching online video, easier to understand web pages for people using assistive technologies and amazing interactive animations in your web pages.
The 37signals way: A look into the design process of 37signals (Ryan Singer)
My favourite talk of the day, Ryan Singer is a product manager at 37 signals (the people behind Basecamp). This talk challenged the traditional wireframe, photoshop, code approach to the design process by almost turning whole thing on it’s head! The key points to take away were to focus on the business logic at the center first and get something running in the browser. Team members spend less time waiting on each other and your end design fits the content (rather than the other way round).
Location, Location, Location (Joe Stump)
There’s no doubt the future of web is mobile. The iPhone started the smart-phone revolution in 2007 and in the next couple of years mobile web browsing is expected to surpass browsing from the desktop. Whereas with the desktop web content was king, with the mobile web context is the new king. This is because the amount of data we’re producing is growing exponentially (side note: Joe claimed that every two days 2.6 million terabytes of data - which is the same amount we produced up until 2003). Without providing context to all the data we’re producing it’s useless.
The title is a little cryptic, but this talk introduced a very powerful tool for developing the latest generation of mobile web apps. The jQueryMobile project aims to provide a set of tools for creating great looking user interfaces across a plethora of mobile devices. The idea being developers can spend more time focused on implementing great features and less time debugging different devices. The ‘alpha’ release is due next week with the finished ‘1.0’ release in January.
Created on Monday October 18 2010 10:00 AM
So... it’s all over again for another year... no more turkey, mince pies or mulled wine for another 12 months. We’re all agreed here that this is not entirely a bad thing! With Christmas over and done with, it’s time to look forward to the New Year!
Things we’re looking forward to in 2010:
- Google’s Nexus One Phone. Launching today – likely to well and truly divide the camp here. So long iPhone? The jury’s out as yet.
- Celebrity Big Brother. Or the backlash anyway. At the very least, we can be pleased that it’s the last one. EVER.
- Real – time search taking off. Still not sure whether I need to know everybody on Twitter’s opinion on my desired search term, but could be a giggle to start with.
- Onwards and upwards for Focus. We’ve had a great 2009, with a bit of a team reshuffle, and we’re looking forward to a cracking 2010.
Created on Tuesday January 05 2010 01:00 PM
Rather impressed by the Google Wave demo, launched just before the weekend. The product promises to revolutionise communication, and it very well may prove to do just that!
Elements we like:
- Real-time typing, together with the contextual spellcheck. No more enigmatic pen shuffling nonsense - participants will see the message appear in the wave as soon as it is created.
- Drag and drop features - where anything on your desktop, file or previous wave can be dragged into a new one, and edited by anyone connected to the wave.
- The potential for collaboration. This just takes Google Docs to an entirely different level!
- Playback allows you to catch up on how the wave developed, following sequential additions from the whole group, or individual participants. This also facilitates accountability as each wave can be audited (inspired by version control).
Wave looks like a gigantic leap forward in terms of web development, with the race to create the first apps already well under way.
Created on Monday June 01 2009 07:06 AM
Twitter was something we avoided as a company for quite a while for two main reasons:
1. Time and productivity can very easily get sucked away by hours of endless tweeting.
2. No one's really interested in the minutiae of our working days (let's face it - we're not as important as this guy).
Thankfully, we finally overcame our reservations a while back and now use Twitter both as a quick way to link through to useful finds on the web and to update followers on our latest news and blog posts. We're finding it most useful as a neat RSS feed for industry news.
Created on Sunday May 31 2009 08:03 PM
Even though a European directive has required us to recycle electronic waste since early 2007, the UK is still lagging desperately behind the rest of Europe, the BBC unveils today. Apparently fewer than half of us recycle our electronic equipment, compared to 80% of Germans.
While this is an embarrassing statistic, I think the lack of kerbside collection and inner city recycling facilities for this type of waste could be to blame. A quick postcode search for places designed to take this sort of rubbish reveals a disparate picture of sites well outside main conurbations. With households containing:
"an average of 2.4 TVs, 1.6 computers, 2.4 games consoles, 3 mobile phones, and 2.2 MP3 players,"
the case for providing more urban recycling points and kerbside collections looks very strong.
Created on Tuesday May 26 2009 01:28 PM
We've all been impressed by a new website launched by the British Red Cross this week. Its main aim is to provide parents with free, simple, trustworthy advice on emergency first aid that could one day help to save their child or baby's life.
What struck us was the level of accessibility incorporated into such a media rich site. As well as including well-known text-resizing functionality, they have also added subtitles to videos and sensible title tags on navigational links.
It's clear that they have thought about the whole range of potential site visitors, from the visually impaired to dyslexic and hard of hearing users.
What's slightly disappointing is that they fail to meet the basic validation requirements set out by w3c. Hopefully this is just a 'work in progress' glitch - it is after all mentioned on their main website that accessibility is something they are constantly trying to improve.
At a time when all web developers should be getting to grips with the new WCAG 2.0 guidelines, this site is a lovely example of user inclusivity.
Created on Wednesday May 20 2009 04:32 PM
Microsoft reported last week that the internet will soon become the most popular medium for home entertainment in Europe, surpassing the TV by June 2010.
This certainly seems to ring true at Focus! A quick straw poll found that everyone here uses the internet to view video and TV content to some degree, ranging from YouTube clips of parrots dancing to full feature films from 4OD. Some don't even own a TV set, preferring to watch programmes provided online instead.
Apart from new media geeks, it's generally young people between 18 - 24 years old who will most likely eschew the TV screen in favour of their computer monitor, preferring on-demand video to live TV programmes.
Microsoft and New Media Age both agree that the web will be accessed more frequently via mobile phones. Games consoles such as the X-Box and PlayStation will also play a part in the decline of television use.
The real challenge will be how to effectively integrate all these different devices. Web developers will need to ensure their web applications are compatible across mobile, console and computer platforms.
Created on Monday May 11 2009 03:41 PM
A message from the Queen - if you've ever been lucky enough to receive one - would traditionally be in the form of posted letter. High quality paper, HRH watermark, the Royal seal encrusting the envelope, all that jazz. The kind of thing you'd frame, or put away for grandchildren to admire.
Now you can receive emails from the Queen! Fully embracing modern culture, our beloved HRH has recently sent a bunch of adoring fans a response to their various posts on the Royal website... electronically!
I suppose this makes sense. A number of them live in the farthest flung corners of the Commonwealth possible, making postal deliveries rather difficult. A 12-year old girl living in the Australian Outback received her email after inviting Queen Elizabeth to swap Buckingham Palace for a life on a remote cattle farm 200km from the nearest town. I'm sure Lizzy managed to deal with this offer with the greatest aplomb - having a lifetime's worth of polite engagements to attend you would rather hope so!
I like the idea of our Queen embracing modern technology, although the day we see her sitting at her Mac, tapping Her Royal Feet to iPod 'choons' and emailing Philip using txt speak is still very far away!
Created on Wednesday April 29 2009 11:20 AM
I wasn't overly surprised at seeing today's leading article on the BBC Technology page. Google's Streetview project has precipitated much debate on topics ranging from personal privacy to crime since its official launch two weeks ago. In this instance, residents of a small town in Buckinghamshire physically blocked the passage of a Google streetview car, insisting angrily that the invasion of their privacy was too much to bear.
I empathise, having felt a deep uneasiness at seeing my front garden two clicks into a Google search. We are all well aware of increased surveillance and presence of cameras within city centres, but for me this goes a bit too far.
There are benefits to the service though, that I shall no doubt take advantage of. It will make visits to unknown destinations much easier for a start, as you will literally be able to trace a virtual journey from your start point to destination.
The biggest question I have is what the real purpose of Streetview is. How do Google propose to monetise this new feature? I'm guessing a merge between Google Adwords and Local Business Centre (once they sort through their algorithm problems) will allow businesses to advertise their products and services from a virtual shop front, but surely this has already been done more effectively by Second Life?
With Microsoft's plans to launch a rival service later this year on beta, my head shakes with Luddite pensiveness. This new technology could either take off and thrive in a social networking fashion, or wither away under a backlash of suspicion. I'm not entirely convinced either way but will be interested to see what the general consensus will be once the launch hype has died down and people start experimenting with both Streetview and GeoSynth.
Created on Friday April 03 2009 01:53 PM
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