Last week's column looked at using web-enabled mobile phones outdoors as mobile interpretation centres as we explore built environments - they could provide complementary additions to future Pevsners. The same approach could also be brought indoors, and once indoors other opportunities open up. With the population moving toward majority ownership of mobile phones, Internet information services promise a realistic complement to existing inbuilding ones. Reception quality can be improved by phones incorporating the Bluetooth standard for short range radio transmission.
Wayfinding for visitors springs to mind, leading you through the bureaucratic labyrinth of city hall or district general hospital or the commercial maze of out-of-town shopping. Posing a query to the system could let it direct you to a particular hospital ward or shop. The potential to include promotional messages would not be lost on shopowners.
Implementation of such interactive wayfinding could become part of a building contract, integrated with signage and other information services.
Web-phone information is a step toward responsive environments, building spaces that recognise our presence, and set up the environment and other facilities automatically or respond to instructions. Before this era of communicating through chips-in-everything - moving on from today's AVsystems or hotel doors - the phone as a local radio link provides the potential for communicating with building management systems. The phone becomes the zapper for heat, light, and ventilation.
Such personalised technical tools don't circumvent space politics - some like it hot, some not. But whether the web-phone message is individual or consensual, there is the potential for architects and engineers to create buildings that respond dynamically to more of the people more of the time.