Magazine article Information Today

Riding the Second Wave

Magazine article Information Today

Riding the Second Wave

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It isn't always the big-picture ideas that make the largest impact. Smaller ideas that pay attention to detail and build on earlier work can be much more important in the long run. For instance, Facebook wasn't the first social network, but it became the juggernaut it is today by perfecting an existing idea. This month, we're looking at refinements and developments that are expanding the reach of already-successful services and devices.

Google Docs Goes Native

Along with Gmail, Google Docs is one of the most popular free services offered by the Mountain View, Calif.based masters of search. The cloudbased document suite was already available on the company's Android OS through a mobile browser interface, but now Google is taking things a step further with the release of Google Docs for Android, which gives users native access to text documents, spreadsheets, and images through Google Docs. The app tweaks the cloud productivity suite for use with smartphones and adds a couple of clever features that cater specifically to mobile users, such as the ability to share documents through a phone's stored contacts and easier document management.

While improved collaboration and access are likely to be the most significant aspects of the app for many users, a much flashier feature is the ability to perform OCR (optical character recognition) on physical documents using a phone's onboard camera. Google is not the first company to pair text recognition with smartphone cameras, but capturing text directly in Google Docs makes the process much simpler. I tested the feature on my phone. Although the accuracy of the captured text isn't flawless, it seems to be quite useful if you need a rough copy of a document and don't mind a little proofreading.

Cash, Credit, or Phone

Last month, we covered the potential for near field communication (NFC) to turn smartphones into credit cards, so this month, we're looking at the inverse: using smartphones as credit card readers. Co-founded by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, Square is the developer of a credit card reader dongle for iOS and Android devices, as well as an accompanying paymentprocessing system. …

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