Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NHS Trust introducing a new communications system

In a TimesOnline article titled 'Hospital staff in Truro who are always in touch' an NHS Trust hospital in Truro is introducing a new communications system that allows staff to contact each other instantly anywhere in the hospital through a voice-activated badge:

"The hands-free device operates on a wireless local area network, weighs less than two ounces and enables users to speak to each other by saying a person’s name or department. They are automatically connected with the appropriate person and can speak to them just as on a normal telephone.

The Royal Cornwall is the first hospital in the UK to install the “Managed Vocera” system, which is designed by BT for an environment where staff need to be contacted urgently and are often away from a desk phone."

Is this an indication of the technologies of care?

Amnesty's Campaign

The web grown into an important tool for sharing ideas and knowledge. Yet it is increasingly becoming a site for control. As Amnesty states in their new campaign:

Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information.

The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments – with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world – are cracking down on freedom of expression.

Amnesty International, with the support of The Observer, is launching the campaign to show that online or offline the human voice and human rights are impossible to repress.

The three part campaign calls for participants to:

1. sign a pledge calling on governments and IT companies to keep the Internet politically free
2. publish censored content from the Amnesty database on their own blogs and websites with a specially designed button signifying solidarity in the effort
3. Write to the Chinese authorities and Yahoo to urge the release of journalist Shi Tao, serving 10 years in prison for sending an email to a pro-democracy website.

Mobilities at the Amsterdam School for Social-science Research

There is a mobilities conference to be held at the Amsterdam School for Social-science Research (ASSR) to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

"In celebration of its 20th anniversary and in honour of its first Dean Abram de Swaan, the Amsterdam School for Social-science Research (ASSR) will hold a multi-disciplinary conference on the mobility of people, goods, technologies and money, and ideas on 24th (opening session at 4 p.m.), 25th and 26th of January 2007. This conference aims to attract scholars from across the globe who are specialists in the disciplines included pursued at the ASSR; namely history, anthropology, sociology and political science.

Throughout the past two decades, globalization has been one of the most prominent, or perhaps /notorious, concepts to be used in not only academic circles, but also in political and social life. So much so that the concept has been simultaneously employed to draw attention to both ‘ the causes’ and ‘the consequences’ of almost all contemporary social processes. There have been countless and contradictory attempts to clarify this elusive concept. It would, therefore, be a formidable task to achieve a common understanding of the concept of globalization. However, ‘the notion of increasing the mobility of almost everything’ can be easily agreed upon as one of the ‘causes’ and/or ‘consequences’ of globalization, regardless of how it is conceptualized by different disciplines or academics. It is for this reason that the ASSR has chosen to organize this conference on mobilities."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sensors that feed off energy on the move

In a CNet News post titled 'Sensors: Living off scraps of energy' it discusses how sensor power sources - long been a problem for sensor network development - is taking another step forward by sensors taking energy from momentum, and converting it into needed battery power. Very interesting - powering our own devices through our movements:

"Professor Zhong Lin Wang at the Georgia Institute of Technology has devised a sensor that can harvest mechanical energy and convert it into electricity. Embedded in the boot of a soldier, for instance, the sensor could conceivably gather energy when its wearer walks and use that energy to charge batteries for a radio or flashlight, for example. Similarly, blood flow from the heart could generate energy for an implanted medical device.

At Intel, meanwhile, researchers are looking at ways to let radio-frequency identification tags exploit energy from RFID readers to perform additional tasks. Currently, when a reader is directed at a tag, the tag typically responds by spitting out a serial number. But by inserting a capacitor or other device that can capture energy into the tag, the stored energy could be used to power a temperature sensor or an accelerometer. If someone tried to walk off with a crate, a motion sensor could send a distress signal across the network to security. It could then be periodically recharged with a quick blast."

A sense of where wireless technology is heading

Phones that get you into concerts, tell co-workers not to call now - or even display which friends are at a show. The next phase of the mobile revolution is about to begin...

According to this article via

"Want to get a sense of where wireless technology is headed? Think back to where the Internet stood at a similar point in its development - say, sometime around 1998. Back then the computer had already become a fixture in a majority of American homes, while the Web and e-mail were just beginning to reshape the way people interact, socialize, and shop.

But better things were yet to come: At a time when 98 percent of Internet households still connected to the Net via dial-up modems, the telecom industry was spending billions to make broadband access more pervasive."

A wireless future will be a result of the applications it facilitates, no?

Students get podcast instead of lecturer

A BBC NEWS article titled 'Podcast lectures for uni students' writes how a lecturer at Bradford University - UK - now delivers lectures via a podcast. Is this the academic way forward??

"Dr Bill Ashraf, a senior lecturer in microbiology at Bradford University, says the move will free up time for more small group teaching.

He told The Times Higher Education Supplement that first year biochemistry students would watch or listen to virtual lectures in their own time. Students will access the podcasts via their MP3 player, phone or computer.

Students will ask questions about lectures via text message, which will be answered in Dr Ashraf's blog.

The lecturer has also been putting his appointment times online so students can check if he is available or book a meeting without coming into the university. Dr Ashraf said the move would better suit the needs of distance learners, part-time students and those balancing studies with family and work."

Friday, May 26, 2006

London looking into automatically reducing a vehicle's speed

According to a recent BBC News article - 'TfL looks at car speed limiters' - London transport is looking into a system that would have control over the speed of vehicles:

'Transport for London (TfL) has said it is working on a system which could automatically reduce a vehicle's speed. But TfL said the Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) scheme is only being considered for public vehicles such as buses and taxis.

A spokesman said at first the scheme will alert drivers, via technology such as a satellite navigation system, that they are moving into a new speed zone.

He added ISA could help in reducing road deaths.

"We have met the government target of reducing casualties on the roads by 40% by 2012," TfL's spokesman said.'

Next wave of mobiles

The Age has an interesting article by technology writer Garry Barker, called, simply - 'The mobile phone revolution':

"The mobile phone will become your ticket on the train and tram, it will pay for your breakfast muffin and coffee and, according to Visa and MasterCard, it could even take over the functions of your credit card.

...Further into the future the computer chip and memory built into the next generation of mobile phones will begin replacing the identity cards that give access to our workplaces and hold our personal information. The mobile phone could even replace the new smart Medicare card the Government has just introduced.

...In future, instead of wearing an ID card around your neck, you may simply identify yourself to a building's security system by walking through an electronic gateway with your mobile phone. Your phone could also become the electronic key to your car and house."

Convergence of hardware and convenience - a move towards the immobilities of mobility?

Your junk mail will track you

Yep, thats right - tracked by new GPS junk mail!!

An article in Australian IT titled 'Satellite solution delivers' writes that:

'THE delivery boy had better think twice before he dumps all those catalogues in the drain at the end of the street.

Media and printing group PMP is to introduce a new GPS (global positioning system) track and trace technology that will be able to detect if the deliverer fails to insert them in the letter box. The same system will eventually be used to gather more information about households on the walker's beat so that marketing can be targeted to them.
Delivery boys, known in the industry as "walkers", will feed into the GPS satellite tracking device information about households - whether they have dogs, their homes need a coat of paint or their roofs need repairing.

This can then be fed into the system to be used by pet food, paint and roof retailers. '

Part of the Everywhere Web 2.0? Is such a 'smart environment' really going to be smart for those spammed by advertising?

Thanks to Smartmobs for the link

Carnival of the Mobilists No 29

This week's Carnival of the Mobilists is hosted over at Ajit Jaokar's Open Gardens blog - so pop over for this week's collection of best writing about mobile from around the web.

Also - the Carnival now has its own website

Monday, May 22, 2006

The height of digital culture

The Guardian's Observer newspaper ran an interesting story yesterday about the future of digital lives: captured digitally from birth - in their article 'All set for a revolution':

'Babies assigned a personal website at birth; companies that store your 'digital assets' like a bank; search engines which find your perfect holiday with undreamt-of precision. These are some of the concepts on the agenda at the 15th International World Wide Web Conference, the first to be held in Britain.

The babies of the future, for example, will have a web address instead of a National Insurance Number. Hall said: 'I have a vision that in the future when a baby is born you'll get some sort of internet ID that is effectively your digital persona, and it will grow with you. It will actually represent you in some way - what you know, what you've done, your experiences. I guess you'd call it your URI [Uniform Resource Identity]. This is the thing that always identifies you. Every time you do something on the internet, it is effectively logged, building up this profile that is with you for your life. Then you have your life's record, which can include any legal documents or photographs or videos that you might have, that you can pass on to your children. We will be able to build software that can interpret that profile to help get the answer that you need in the context that you're in.'

Britain's CCTV debate at Cannes

A BBC ONline article 'Cannes director urges CCTV debate' discusses a new film by a British film-maker that examines the height of CCTV coverage of British cities, with some astonishing results:

'The depiction of a city under almost constant and blanket surveillance surprised some non-British film critics and shocked others.

Britain reportedly has 4.2 million cameras, 20% of the world's CCTV, and one camera for every 14 people.

Changed behaviour

At a press conference for the film one reporter asked if the "Orwellian" depiction of a city under constant watch was real or not.'

Perhaps the film will help to stimulate public discussion on the way social surveillance is increasingly creeping into all aspects of our lives...

The LAPD gets a blog!

Yes... this is no LAPD Blues storyline - this is the beginning of the LAPD bloglines at

According to the USA Today:'Just a week old, the site makes the Los Angeles department the biggest police force in the United States — and one of the first worldwide — to blog.

So far, the "cesspool" post notwithstanding, Bratton's message and responses to it have largely been positive. The site's 24,000 visitors see announcements for department events and recycled press releases.

The point is to build public trust by improving communication — to create an online give-and-take, even when the taking smarts.

"We want to hear feedback," said Lt. Paul Vernon, who is helping to oversee "We welcome them, however serious or tongue-in-cheek they are."

Read full post here

A world of 'software beings'

The article 'Scientists build a world of 'software beings': Research project will study social interactions between millions of virtual human beings' describes how a new research project underway between five European universities will create a software virtual environment in order to watch artificial life grow and develop, and socialise:

'Politicians could one day determine the results of elections before they take place, thanks to a European research project that will study social interactions between millions of virtual human beings.

Five European universities are collaborating on the New Ties project, where they plan to create millions of "software beings" (human beings that live in computers) with the goal of studying how they interact and evolve.

The software beings don't have names, but they do have distinct characteristics, including gender, life expectancy, size and metabolism. Their traits will be passed on as they reproduce, but they'll also be able to learn and gain new characteristics.

Two thousand artificial beings have been created so far in a single computer, but the goal is to create a grid or cluster of computers to host potentially millions of them, said Gusz Eiben, a professor of computer science at Vrije Universiteit in the Netherlands and the project's leader.'

Perhaps this will become the new environment for social anthropology fieldwork?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Digital Planet May 15 2006

A few days after the event.....yet digital data keeps its looks very well ;-)

This week's programme takes a look at the advance of digital technology in India: "We speak to the self styled Delhi Bloggers. A group with two things in common, they live in Delhi and write weblogs. We hear their views on how blogs are breaking down cultural and social barriers. We also discuss the development of digital radio in India and look at ways in which the country's main method of mass communication - television, has been harnessed to carry digital information for education projects"

Download here

Carnival of the Mobilists 28

This week’s Carnival of the Mobilists - the 28th installment - is held at Digital Evangelist

Another great job done and overall round-up of some of the latest writing on mobility and related issues.

Virtual lawsuit

In a NewScientistTech post titled 'Game company sued over virtual land squabble' it describes how a gamer in Second Life has filed a lawsuit claiming damages for $32,000 investment he made in the virtual sphere:

"A US gamer has filed a "first-of-its-kind" lawsuit in an acrimonious dispute over the sale of virtual land within the online role-playing game Second Life.

The suit highlights the large amounts of money many gamers are now spending in the hope of reaping a profit within their chosen virtual world.

Second Life lets players buy land and build structures that can then be leased or sold on to other players, often for a profit. The game's currency, Linden dollars, can be easily exchanged for real cash."

Things are becoming serious...soon we'll need virtual judges?

'Fly-by-wireless' plane takes to the air

In a NewScientistTech post,a plane with no wires or mechanical connections between its engine, navigation system and onboard computers - only a wireless network - is being built!

Extract: "The 3-metre-long uncrewed plane "AIVA" will rely entirely upon a Bluetooth wireless network to relay messages back and forth between critical systems – a technique dubbed "fly-by-wireless".

Tests flights on a partly wireless prototype carried out in Portugal have shown that the system works well. Cristina Santos, at Minho University in Portugal, who developed the plane, says the aim is primarily to reduce weight and power requirements. "Also, if you do not have the cables then the system is much more flexible to changes," she says."

What if there was a wireless disruption??

Moral networks

Joost Van Loon - co-editor of Space & Culture - has just written an interesting post on moral networks...I'll let him continue his story....

'The journal Theory Culture & Society has published its first issue of the New Encyclopedia of Global Knowledge, and in it is an entry on networks written by me. I was asked to cut out what I thought was a nice example of how networking as a moral engagement is not something inately modern, but has a long history which can be traced, for example, to tribal societies such as the Israelites. The following is an abstract from my extended paper on networks.

Reflexive awareness of the trope of network is not an achievement of western (modern) thought. In Chinese cultures, for example, the term guanxi which in essence means the same as network, is an age old metaphor referring to a form of social capital that is embedded in the knowledge of and being known to significant others. Guanxi is partly established through common ancestry and kinship relations, but further extended through friendships, political and strategic alliances and economic exchanges (including gifts and favours). Indeed, even in western societies, networks were already existent well before they became analytical concepts. Relationships between patrons and clients in feudal systems, for example, involved a complex of exchanges, obligations, rights, duties and dependencies that often resembled those of guanxi. Of course, the Christian ethos of ‘love thy neighbour’ also shares a guanxi-type sense of obligation, which in the teachings of Jesus was being extended beyond tribal relationships, as expressed most clearly in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The first biblical book of Machabees (Chapter 8) tells the story of how the Machabees, a particular clan of the tribe of the Jews led by Judas Machabeus, entered into an alliance with the Romans. At that time (approximately 188 BC), the Jews were under continuous attacks by neighbouring tribes and they saw an alliance with the Romans as having a strategic advantage. The covenant that was struck between Judas and the Romans contained both matters of military aid as well as economic and logistical support. However, this covenant also entailed a moral obligation, embedded in the duties and responsibilities associated with friendship.
The book displays the rather complex nature of pre-Christian Judaic society through the diversity of names and the dense kinship relations within and between clans. What stands out, however, is the continuous shifting of alliances between various clans and tribes, some of which are not explained and seem to be plainly opportunistic. Others, however, reveal the zeal of the Machabees to re-establish a more radical devotion to God, through a more stringent observance of the Law of Moses and, as a consequence, a more unforgiving approach to those who blasphemed against God or desecrated the holy places of Jerusalem.'

Read more at Space & Culture

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A new trend in pods

In the New York Times today, it writes how 'In Tokyo, the New Trend Is 'Media Immersion Pods'

"In the world's most media-saturated city, people take a break by checking themselves into media immersion pods: warrens cluttered with computers, TV's, video games and every other entertainment of the electronic age.

The Bagus Gran Cyber Cafes are Tokyo's grand temples of infomania, containing row after row of anonymous cubicles. At first glance the spread looks officelike, but be warned: these places are drug dens for Internet addicts."

Are such places a help or a hindrance?

(NYT subscription required for viewing)

Sat-nav the scenic way

In an article in The Times Online titled 'Sat-nav sends ambulance on scenic route to crash' it describes how an ambulance took almost two hours to take an injured girl to hospital after it was misdirected to the scene of the accident by its satellite navigation system.

The sat-nav even directed the ambulance down a route that was too narrow for the ambulance to pass through!

Luckily, there was a happy ending...this time...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Google goes and does it again...

Want to know who is searching for what, where? Now Google has lifted the veil this week on one of its best-kept secrets: which nations search for what.

Google has now introduced Google Trends which measures how often particular phrases are searched for from computers in individual countries and cities. According to one article - " Who types in "drugs" or "sex" most frequently?No country's secrets are spared.Pakistanis look up "Danish cartoons" more avidly than anyone,according to Google.They also lead the rankings for "sex" - with their neighbor and nuclear rival India seldom far behind."In Pakistani society, sex is a taboo,"said Fatima Idrees,a project manager at the Pakistani affiliate of the Gallup International polling agency,adding that "curiosity and availability of the Internet may cause such behavior."

I did try this - I typed in World Cup football: and 1st country was England, 2nd Ireland: in terms of cities, all top 10 cities were within the United Kingdom: so there's the proof, the UK is a footballing search engine king...well, is this totally surprising?

Google Trends

Digitizing the world's libraries

Noted tech-maverick and Wired-editor Kevin Kelly has an interesting article in this week's New York Times magazine titled 'Scan this book!' about the implications of the digitization of the world's libraries' collections - an extract:

"This is a very big library. But because of digital technology, you'll be able to reach inside it from almost any device that sports a screen. From the days of Sumerian clay tablets till now, humans have "published" at least 32 million books, 750 million articles and essays, 25 million songs, 500 million images, 500,000 movies, 3 million videos, TV shows and short films and 100 billion public Web pages. All this material is currently contained in all the libraries and archives of the world. When fully digitized, the whole lot could be compressed (at current technological rates) onto 50 petabyte hard disks. Today you need a building about the size of a small-town library to house 50 petabytes. With tomorrow's technology, it will all fit onto your iPod. When that happens, the library of all libraries will ride in your purse or wallet — if it doesn't plug directly into your brain with thin white cords. Some people alive today are surely hoping that they die before such things happen, and others, mostly the young, want to know what's taking so long. (Could we get it up and running by next week? They have a history project due.)'

Well worth a read...

RFID Resources

A highly useful set of online resources on RFID - papers, presentations, and links, shared by Joe McCarthy via the interrelativity site. Thanks!

Also - if you want to watch a video scenario of a shopping mall in which RFID tags are used for real-time surveillance, then check out Chris Oakley's film, "The Catalogue", via his site.

Carnival of the Mobilists # 27

The latest Carnival of the Mobilists - a collection of this week's best writing about mobile from around the web - is hosted by Steve Jones' 3G Portal.

Check out the latest writings...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Shape-shifting car will brace for impact

In a recent NewScientistTech post titled 'Shape-shifting car will brace for impact' a new type of shape-shifting car is discussed:

'A car that can anticipate a side-on impact and subtly alter its body shape to absorb the force of the crash is being developed by researchers in Germany.

The car will use hood-mounted cameras and radar to spot a vehicle on course for a side-on collision. Once it realizes an impact is imminent, it will activate a shape-shifting metal in the door. This reinforces the bond between door and frame, which is normally a weak spot, and distributes the force of the blow more safely...

...The experimental vehicles have radar sensors installed at the front and rear and stereo cameras in the back window. These feed information to an on-board computer that calculates the chances of an impact. "It can recognise if something is going to hit the car, identify where it will hit and its velocity," Tandler says.'

BBC hires a virtual island for online virtual concerts!

Well - does this mean that virtual worlds have finally gained acceptance if the BBC has moved into the space? The BBC have now rented an island in the virtual world of Second Life to showcase concerts and as yet unsigned bands.

According to the BBC article 'BBC starts to rock online world':

'The BBC has staked a claim to a virtual tropical island where it can stage online music festivals and throw exclusive celebrity parties.

The rented island exists in online game Second Life and will hold its first event this weekend with bands including Muse, Razorlight and Gnarls Barkley.

The virtual party will mirror BBC Radio 1's real-world, One Big Weekend event, being held in Dundee from 12 May.

Radio 1 plans to use the island to debut new bands over the next year.

"What we'd like to do is use it as a place for people to put on public music events," said Daniel Heaf, interactive editor at Radio 1.

"We'd really like to use it for unsigned musicians. [But] we're open to invitations as to who wants to use it and how they want to use it."'

Well - kudos to the BBC!

New maps for a new world?

I've posted recently on digital mapping, so here's some interesting news on digital mapping being researched by cartographers Danny Dorling and Anna Barford of the University of Sheffield, UK at their Worldmapper project.

Worldmapper is a series of dramatically distorted multi-colored maps that show the world according to statistical data, largely obtained from obscure UN reports that glean little attention.

Via Worldchanging:

'Cartographers Danny Dorling and Anna Barford of the University of Sheffield, UK, have created almost one hundred maps so far, which display information on population, migration, births, freight, imports and exports, and more. As they say in the New Scientist,

No one wants to look at those figures, and it would be hard to provoke any excitement by confronting someone with spreadsheets filled with numbers. But you just can't help looking at these pictures. After all, a new view of the world, rather like the famous Earthrise photo taken by Apollo astronauts, is a compelling sight.

The map here shows the global proportion of refugees and internally displaced persons living there.

The internal movement of people explains why territories experiencing recent instability can simultaneously be a major destination of displaced people, for example Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2003 there were an estimated 15 million refugees and internally displaced persons. The Middle East and South America are the regions that provide sanctuary to most people seeking it; Pakistan, Iran and Germany are the territories that provide asylum to most people from outside their borders.'

Great stuff...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Real-Time Maps Could Help Make Cities More Livable

In a MIT TechReview post titled 'Real-Time Maps Could Help Make Cities More Livable', it discusses projects to map real-time city/urban information onto digital maps to help towards such things as urban planning + design, friend/restaurant locationing, traffic monitoring, and disaster emergency:

'Imagine you have a real-time situation of movement of traffic in the city. If everybody knew about that they could optimize their movement through the city based on overall conditions. For example, we've been invited to do a project for the Venice Biennale, probably the largest exhibition on architecture and urban studies in the world. It happens every other year in Venice, and this year it will be about cities. Our project is called Rome in Real-Time. We will be trying to overlay on the city map all the real-time information we can get today, starting from cell-phone information, but also including the position of buses and taxis, and overlay all of them on the map.'

Aerial Imaging

In a recent MIT TechReview article titled 'Aerial Imaging Is Becoming an Indispensable Tool' it discusses how multi-angle, low-flying image-taking, once used mainly by government officials, is about to become available to everyone:

'Tens of millions of the static digital pictures will become widely accessible online this summer through Microsoft Corp.'s new map site, and analysts believe Pictometry's technology -- and the high degree of resolution in its images -- translates into a distinct competitive edge.

''Think of this as a long path to a kind of telepresence, the ability to go to places without actually leaving your office or your home,'' said Rob Enderle, a technology analyst in California. ''The higher the quality of the shot, the more valuable the service is going to be.''

So far, the 6-year-old company has mapped most of the nation's big cities and 140 counties where 30 percent of Americans live. The company says urban and rural zones encompassing 80 percent of the population will be shot by the end of next year, as well as big chunks of Canada, Latin America, Europe and beyond.'

Galactic Mobility

Virgin Galactic have just announced their New Mexico Spaceport Agreement. According to the Virgin Galactic site:

'At press conferences in London and New Mexico, officials from Virgin Galactic and from the State of New Mexico announced that they had reached an historic agreement which will see the building of a $200m spaceport in the southern part of the state on a 27 square mile area of state land.

Virgin Galactic has agreed to locate its world's headquarters and Mission Control in New Mexico and strongly believes that the new spaceport will offer fledgling astronauts an experience that will be truly out of this world.

"New Mexico has worked hard to bring us to their exciting new spaceport facility," stated Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic. "The State has several factors that make it an ideal operations base: climate, free airspace, low population density, high altitude, and stunning scenery. Our team was highly impressed by the professionalism and the competitive pitch the state and its advisors developed. We look forward to working together to make the "Final Frontier" a reality for tens of thousands of pioneering space tourists. Our activities will prove the commercial viability and excellent safety technology behind private personal spaceflight and give birth to a new industry in New Mexico."'

Mission control - is this the future of travel opportunities... literally out of this world?

Mash it up

Another contribution to the mash-up debate comes from an article in the New ScientistTech called ''Mashup' websites are a hacker's dream come true'- here the article discusses the security flaws and privacy implications of th growing number of mash-ups:

'The worry is that mashups could be an accident waiting to happen, according to some delegates at the Computer-Human Interaction conference in Montreal, Canada, last month. Hart Rossman, chief security technologist for Science Applications International of Vienna, Virginia, and adviser to the US Department of Defense, warned that developers of these websites are not taking issues such as data integrity, system security and privacy seriously enough. That matters because many millions of dollars are already being invested in some mashup sites, particularly those related to the travel market, and people are beginning to depend on these sites for everyday tasks such as avoiding traffic queues on the way to work.'

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Civilising the Net

There has been much talk about the Chinese Great Firewall, yet less about the e-police that monitor online activity covertly. Now there are moves for netizens in Chine to help with the self-monitoring of netiquette.

As a post on Smartmobs recently pointed out:

"This IHT article says "to her fellow students,Hu Yingying appears to be a typical undergraduate,plain of dress, quick with a smile and perhaps possessed of a little extra spring in her step, but otherwise decidedly ordinary.And for Hu,in her second year at Shanghai Normal University,coming across as ordinary is just fine, given the parallel life she leads".Further,"part traffic cop, part informer,part discussion moderator,and all done without the knowledge of her fellow students,Hu is a small part of a huge effort in mainland China to sanitize the Internet.For years,China has had its Internet police,reportedly including as many as 50,000 state agents who are online,blocking Web sites,erasing commentary and arresting people for what is deemed anti-Party,or anti-social,speech.But Hu,one of 500 students at her university's newly bolstered,student-run Internet monitoring group,is a cog in a different kind of machine,an ostensibly voluntary one that the Chinese government is mobilizing to help it manage the monumental task of censoring the Web.In April,that effort was named "Let the Winds of a Civilized Internet Blow,"and is itself part of a broader "socialist morality" campaign started by the Chinese leadership to reinforce social and political control,known as the Eight Honors and Disgraces.Under the Civilized Internet initiative,service providers and other companies have been urged to purge their servers of offensive content,ranging from pornography to anything that smacks of overt political criticism or dissent.The Chinese authorities say that more than two million supposedly "unhealthy" images have already been deleted under this campaign by various mainland Internet service providers,and more than six hundred supposedly "unhealthy" Internet forums were shut down.These deletions are presented as voluntary acts of corporate civic virtue, but have a coercive aspect to them,because no company would likely risk being singled out as a laggard.Having started its own ambitious Internet censorship efforts, or "harmful information defense system,"long before the latest government campaign,Shanghai Normal University,where Hu monitors her fellow students,is promoting itself within the education establishment as a pioneer".

Crime levels in each street go on internet

A recent post on the Times Online titled 'Crime levels in each street go on internet' discusses how people will be able to check their local street crime as part of a new kind of digital neighbourhood watch:

"HOUSEHOLDERS will be able to go online and check crime levels in the streets around their homes using data issued yesterday.
Eventually an annual “Domesday Book” of crime across England and Wales will be available through the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics. Figures for recorded crime from 13 forces were issued in the first test of the plan.

The figures are based on a calculation known as “middle layer super output areas”, which represent groupings of about 7,000 inhabitants, worked out using postcodes, the census and police records."

Mobilities and materialities

Some very interesting papers have appeared in a new journal issue:

Environment and Planning 2006 NO 2

Theme issue: Mobilities and materialities
Guest editors: Mimi Sheller, John Urry

The new mobilities paradigm - Mimi Sheller, John Urry

Disaster in agriculture: or foot and mouth mobilities - John Law

Tending to mobility: intensities of staying at the petrol station - Daniel Normark

The impact of new transport technologies on intraurban mobility: a view from the past
- Colin Pooley, Jean Turnbull, Mags Adams

Pioneering mobilities: new patterns of movement and motility in a mobile world - Sven Kesselring

Vision in motion - Monika Büscher

Aeromobility and work - Claus Lassen

Metabolisms of obecity: flows of fat through bodies, cities, and sewers - Simon Marvin, Will Medd

When there are no pagodas on Pagoda Street: language, mapping and navigating ambiguities in colonial Singapore - Yoke Sum Wong

Mobility/stability: British Asian cultures of 'landscape and Englishness' - Divya P Tolia-Kelly

Unpacking corporeal mobilities: the global voyages of labour and leisure
- Nupur Gogia

'Watch us wander': mobile surveillance and the surveillance of mobility - Jennie Germann Molz

Mobility and war: the cosmic view of US 'air power' - Caren Kaplan

Monday, May 08, 2006

Microsoft's Plan to Map the World in Real Time

MIT Technology Review have one of the early reviews on the new Microsoft mapping software in their article 'Microsoft's Plan to Map the World in Real Time':

"Researchers at Microsoft are working on technology that they hope will someday enable people to browse online maps for up-to-the-minute information about local gas prices, traffic flows, restaurant wait times, and more. Eventually, says Suman Nath, a Microsoft researcher who works on the project, which is called SenseWeb, they would like to incorporate the technology into Windows Live Local (formerly Microsoft Virtual Earth), the company's online mapping platform.

By tracking real-life conditions, which are supplied directly by people or automated sensor equipment, and correlating that data with a searchable map, people could have a better idea of the activities going on in their local areas, says Nath, and make more informed decisions about, for instance, what driving route to take."

Mapping & Mobilities - the topology of future trends??

The RFID Hacking Underground

In this article titled 'The RFID Hacking Underground', the author looks at the uses and abuses of RFID. In particular, the way it can be used in daylight robbery!:

""I just need to bump into James and get my hand within a few inches of him," Westhues says. We're shivering in the early spring air outside the offices of Sandstorm, the Internet security company Van Bokkelen runs north of Boston. As Van Bokkelen approaches from the parking lot, Westhues brushes past him. A coil of copper wire flashes briefly in Westhues' palm, then disappears. ..

...RFID chips are everywhere - companies and labs use them as access keys, Prius owners use them to start their cars, and retail giants like Wal-Mart have deployed them as inventory tracking devices. Drug manufacturers like Pfizer rely on chips to track pharmaceuticals. The tags are also about to get a lot more personal: Next-gen US passports and credit cards will contain RFIDs, and the medical industry is exploring the use of implantable chips to manage patients. According to the RFID market analysis firm IDTechEx, the push for digital inventory tracking and personal ID systems will expand the current annual market for RFIDs from $2.7 billion to as much as $26 billion by 2016.

The tags work by broadcasting a few bits of information to specialized electronic readers. Most commercial RFID chips are passive emitters, which means they have no onboard battery: They send a signal only when a reader powers them with a squirt of electrons. Once juiced, these chips broadcast their signal indiscriminately within a certain range, usually a few inches to a few feet. Active emitter chips with internal power can send signals hundreds of feet; these are used in the automatic toll-paying devices (with names like FasTrak and E-ZPass) that sit on car dashboards, pinging tollgates as autos whiz through."

A TV series comes to the mobile

In an article in the Times Online today titled 'Now a TV series only on your mobile' it discusses the first reality series to come to mobile phones:

"THE demise of traditional broadcasting will move a step closer when the man behind Big Brother introduces the first British interactive reality series made exclusively for mobile phones.
Get Close To . . . , which begins on Friday, is a daily show starring and filmed by the pop group Sugababes. The five-week series will be available only to mobile phone users who pay 50p for each instalment.

The female trio will film a backstage video diary using their own phones, giving fans an insight into their lives as they join Robbie Williams on his world tour.

Fans will interact with the band, setting challenges that the group must complete and posting their own mobile-shot films in response to competitions set by the group. Fans will be invited to send films of dance routines that the Sugababes will incorporate into their stage act.

The series is the brainchild of Peter Bazalgette, the head of Endemol, the producer of Big Brother. A partnership between O2, Universal Music and Endemol, the series is seen as an experiment for the future delivery of music entertainment."

Since it will be filmed by the 'Sugarbabes' we don't have to be assured of its success! How sugary, urghh...

Blogging in China

According to a report in China View called 'Chinese bloggers to reach 100 million in 2007: report':

"China expects 100 million bloggers to be writing about their life, love, angst and inspirations on the country's cyberspace by 2007, according to a recent report.

The report, dubbed a "Blue Paper on Media Industry," was written by the research center of media management under Qinghua University, one of China's most prestigious universities.

The paper said there will be more than 60 million bloggers in China by the end of this year.

The word "blog" was one of the most searched words on the Internet in China last year, the report said. A survey by, a major Chinese search engine, shows that there are 36.82 million blog sites in China that are kept currently by 16 million people.

Zhang Xiaorong, strategy development director of "Bokee", one of the first blog service suppliers in China, said his company adds about 100,000 blogs a day.

"The expected 60 million bloggers would account for more than half of China's 110 million netizens," said Zhang."

China indeed is a blogging country - despite of (or because of?) the Great Firewall?

Thanks to Smartmobs for the link


One of the creators of Thinglink - Jyri Engeström - is a PhD student at Lancaster University, as well as being involved in numerous well-received social software programs. The latest is 'Thinglink' which is basically a product code, but serves as the conduit of meaning between things and people rather than things and corporations.

Here is a post about the concept behind Thinglink:

A thinglink is a free unique identifier that anybody can use for making the finding and recommendation of particular things easier in the Internet.

A thinglink identifier is based on the idea that many of the things we use in our daily life are quite particular. Perhaps we know their origin (who has made them, when and how) and something about their history or previous use (like with furniture and cars). Some things have more meaning to us than others.

Sounds great Jyri!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Robotic planes to track pollution

ZDNet has an interesting post on the development of robotic planes that will help to monitor and track pollution - part of the sensor-ing of the globe....?

"These days, drones are often associated with military surveillance missions. But autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (AUAVs) can also be used for more peaceful tasks, such as tracking pollution in South Asia. With funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Californian researchers have deployed teams of AUAVs near the Maldives, an island chain nation south of India. These drones act as teams, with three robotic planes flying behind, inside and above clouds simultaneously. Based on the success of this mission, it's possible that in five years, hundreds of lightweight AUAVs will be tracking pollution everywhere on Earth."

Read full post

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mapping the Planet

I've posted on mapping a few times now - with the previous post disucssing the 3D Second Life virtual world. With social networks, mash-ups, and environmental maps/sensors, there is a trend towards converging global information flows with visual representations.

In a post from Worldchanging:

"The new converging tools are bound to be powerful, transforming the ways we see and work in the physical world just as much as the mutate the ways we interact online.

They're also much needed. As global pressures mount, and we begin to have to take more seriously the work of managing the planet, being able to imagine the implications of both the challenges we face and the better futures we're working towards creating will prove vital."

This post refers to the Metaverse Roadmap Project - worth a look...