Android Application Ideas

I have spent the month of June recovering from a lot of travel and catching up on work. Thus far it has been an outstanding summer filled with a lot of learning. We started a new project at work which is stretching my capabilities and providing excellent learning opportunities.

In addition to work I've spent the last six weeks in a Smartphone Application Development course. The course focused on developing applications for the Android Platform. The course was taught by Ted Selker who pushed us to come up with innovative project ideas. I had some of my own but polled my social graph for additional ideas.

The best ideas are below
Service Disabler
An application that is location aware turning off features depending on location. This would have practical use for the government as even government owned portable electronic devices have restrictions inside of limited areas. This idea could be extended to the consumer market to turn off specified features/notifications when at particular locations i.e. I am at/near my desk I don't need to be notified of Twitter mentions.
Bicycle cadence measurements
Bicycle cadence measurements. This measurement could be obtained by listening for the "swoosh" of a bicycle pedal using a Bluetooth headset or by calculating a virtual cadence using the accelerometer. In either case as a cyclist I am interested in this application because I presently have no option like it.
Photo Geo-tagging
A photo geotagging application. The application would communicate with your service of choice (Flickr, Picasa, etc.) and update previously uploaded photographs with a prior recorded geotagged location. The application would be smart enough to ignore photographs where it was not on at the time of the picture being taken. This would be useful for photographers who already carry additional devices to provide similar utility.
Grocery Food Item Locations
An application that provides the location of food items based on a specified grocery list. I.e. cereal can be found on aisle 3 and produce in this section of the store. This application would provide the details of where to go in the store to get all of the items on a list and provide suggestions for available coupons. To make this truly work would require the eventual buy in from multiple grocers as keeping store layout information up to date would be difficult.
Exposure Calculator
An exposure calculator for pinhole photography. Capturing light values and displaying flash calculations to photographers. This would be of value as photographers already carry additional devices to provide such calculations.
Advanced Phone Locker
Provide the ability to lock the phone with more than a simple pin or connect the dots unlock mechanism. This application would use multiple sensors to unlock the phone. It’d be interesting to allow for audible, location, gesture, and accelerometer based unlocking. A user could create a profile combining up to two unlocking mechanisms.
Some of these are more cute than useful. I ultimately chose to write the Service Disabler application though it morphed into Proximity Alerter.

About Me

My post What's in a Name should provide a general sense of who I am but if you are really interested read on.

My name is Andrew Steele. Andrew Steele making a silly face I am married, have two dogs and work for Sandia National Laboratories as a Programmer Analyst. Which is an overly complicated way of saying computer programmer or software engineer.

The internet is fully integrated into my daily activities. I am the epitome of a digital native. As a curious professional looking to improve I spend a lot of time participating and lurking on Stack Overflow. I get more out of my Twitter account than my Facebook account. I spend a lot of time reading about computers and technology.

I am an avid road cyclist, snowboarder, hiker, and UNM Basketball fan. Thankfully, living in the City of Albuquerque in the Land of Entrapment Enchantment (New Mexico) allows for plenty of opportunities to pursue these passions. During the summer I tend to spend enough time outdoors to cultivate a serious farmer's biker's tan.

I have been enamored with computers since I was a toddler. I became interested in programming when I figured out how to tweak the variables in the turn based artillery game Gorillas. A few years later with a friend I built my first web site which received a cool rating from Yahoo!. This happened because at the time our site was one of only a few that featured Doom 2 WADs. This was pretty awesome until my parents received a bill for the bandwidth (hard for a kid to explain in 1995). During high school and the early part of college I worked for America Online. When AOL lost its identity during the Time Warner merger and subsequent fallout from the dot-com bubble I took an internship with Sandia and have been there ever since.

After a four year hiatus I decided to return to school to earn another master's degree. With the support of my employer in the fall of 2009 I started the Master of Science in Software Engineering program at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley. The experience has been rewarding and I've enjoyed being a student again.

Spring 2010 Travel

Since the weekend of May 14th I have been traveling relentlessly. At one point I was only in Albuquerque for 16 hours before leaving again and while I enjoying traveling being gone this much has been both hectic and tiring. My travel has been for school, pleasure, work, bicycling and a wedding.

My first stop was a student gathering at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley.
I spent the Friday before the gathering in San Francisco and was lucky enough to get a great rental deal on a brand new 2011 Ford Mustang. The car only had 62 miles on it when I picked it up and added a lot of fun to the weekend. The gathering’s theme was "Innovation and Creativity" and featured a panel on creativity, a Comedy Sportz performance, a presentation on Improvisation and Creativity from Patricia Madson and various other workshops. The sessions were a lot of fun, but the highlight of the gathering was the opportunity to interact with my fellow students in the flesh. We all met last August at orientation but meeting again was nice as virtually attending class and holding group meetings only takes you so far.

While at the gathering I received a Motorola Droid to use over the summer for a smartphone development course. I was happy to have the phone as I intended to use its features to assist with my next trip.

After returning from San Francisco I was in Albuquerque for three days before leaving for a conference in Long Island, New York. Having never visited New York City I decided to play tourist and leave a bit early for the conference. A friend of mine who lives in Bronxville allowed me to stay at his place. He gave me three pieces of advice before leaving me alone on a train into midtown Manhattan:
  • Never screw up the city’s flow and never hesitate.
  • If you don’t know just ask. People in New York are generally pretty nice.
  • Don’t think about what you look like as no one is paying attention to you anyways
Armed with this advice I spent a few days taking in as much of the New York experience as I could as quickly as I could. By utilizing my Droid and BlackBerry to navigate the city I was able to get around pretty easily. In fact other than getting on the wrong subway train once I always knew where I was going. In addition to navigation I used Yelp with great success to get recommendations on good touristy and un-touristy restaurants.

The Droid also led to my coolest social networking experience to date. I took a picture of the arch in Washington Square Park and immediately published it to a Facebook album. Within moments the photo had received a comment from a friend who lived near Washington Square. We commented back and forth and were able to meet for lunch. None of this would have happened without the ability to instantly tap my social graph. By the time my co-workers arrived for the conference I was able to play tour guide taking them on a whirlwind tour of the city. I certainly did not see everything and would have liked to spend more time at particular sites but do feel like I got a taste of the Big Apple. In fact in the short time that I was there I was able to take in a Broadway show (American Idiot) and was even so lucky as to have my name drawn to attend a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman.

The vacation portion of my trip east was awesome and so was the conference. The National Laboratory Information Technology Summit (NLIT) is always great; the content is stellar and everyone there is focused on similar work which saves the usual conference pain pleasantries of trying to convey exactly what it is that my company does. At NLIT I gave two presentations Progressive Enhancement to the Rescue and Goal Directed Design Prevents Dancing Bearware. The session on Progressive Enhancement was lightly attended but I had a great turnout for Goal Driven Design. Both presentations netted some outstanding hallway conversations. I gained a lot from the presentations that I attended and look forward to next year’s conference in Colorado.

After returning from New York I spent only 16 hours in Albuquerque before heading to Durango, Colorado for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. Iron Horse is a race from Durango to Silverton over two mountain passes. It attracts 2,500 riders who attempt the trip on road bikes, beach cruisers and unicycles. The ride is hard, but a ton of fun. I did well in the ride but not as well as I would have liked. I think all of the traveling had started to catch up with me (that’s my excuse anyways).

At any rate, I have been back in Albuquerque since Sunday afternoon but am headed back to Durango Wednesday evening for a wedding Friday. I had considered attending Tech-Ed North America in New Orleans but am glad that after this weekend I am done traveling for a while.