Smartphones instantly transport everything you need from one PC onto another
Cambridge start-up Fonleap has made it possible to work on any computer as though it was your own, without relying on remote access. A normal smartphone is used to transport the whole state of a desktop from one computer to the next. You can leave one computer, and can resume on a different one, with your desktop, files and applications exactly as you left them.
Dan Greenfield, co-founder of Fonleap, says: “Fonleap will allow you to sync your computer with your phone, so you have everything from your computer available to use on any device. Your entire desktop gets transported with all your files and, crucially, all your applications. The latest version of your files are always accessible so there’s no danger of confusing different versions. You don’t need to keep your PC on – it’s all there on your phone.”
Fonleap, which will launch its first product in December 2011, was founded by Dan Greenfield and Alban Rrustemi. The pair met when studying for PhDs in Computer Science at Cambridge University.
Dan says: “I often wanted to finish off some work from my PhD on my home computer and became very frustrated by the amount of time I could waste by setting up on a different PC. For me it wasn’t as simple as transferring one document; I had to load, reconfigure applications and set up my desktop again. Logging into my work computer remotely was an alternative, but even with a good network connection it was just so slow. So we founded Fonleap to develop a better solution.”
Part of the software Fonleap has developed is SyncFS, which tracks changes made to files and rapidly synchronises the data on a computer with data on the user’s phone. Unlike other approaches, SyncFS gives instant access, even while still synchronising, so whenever you open a file you can be sure you are accessing the latest version.
Synchronising entire desktops efficiently is a big challenge due to their sheer size. A key component of Fonleap’s technology is SyncIQ, which learns and predicts what content should be synchronised immediately, so you can resume working right away. Another component is StorageIQ, which can often double the available space on a device. Most people keep files which are very similar to previous versions, so they waste storage space on identical information. Their StorageIQ intelligently de-duplicates data; it saves changes between files rather than saving the same content twice.
As well as giving users a reliable solution to a widespread problem, Dan and Alban wanted to reduce the risk of lost or stolen data. Dan says: “If technology continues to advance at its current rate, in just six years phones will have a terabyte of storage – which is more than most computers currently have. That’s a lot of data to be worried about losing. We use military grade encryption for all your files, so you can be at ease even if you have dropped your phone. Your files also remain encrypted and backed up on your PC.”
IT professionals are increasingly using ‘virtual machines’, which allow the use of multiple operating systems within a computer. Fonleap’s first product, PocketVM, builds on the technology of virtual machines by allowing them to be transported on a phone to any other computer. PocketVM is ideal for people already using virtual machines.
Fonleap plans to develop products suitable for all computer users, and is currently discussing user trials with an academic institution. Dan says: “Developing this technology has been an incredible challenge, but we believe it is a big step towards our vision of a digital life that is truly mobile and seamless.”
Written by Rachel Holdsworth