Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lasers to speed airport checks

This article from The Telegraph, UK, discusses the new technology being introduced to UK airports as an aim to 'improve safety and efficiency', or so the tagline goes. The article goes on to say that:

Trials are under way of new security screening measures that could dramatically enhance safety and reduce queues at airports. A number of companies are developing "nanotechnology-based" scanners that improve the detection of explosives.

One of the new techniques, which is expected to become commercially available later this year, can screen one person per second, according to Erwan Normand, of Stirling-based Cascade Technologies, which has developed the technology. Mr Normand said the technology works by using an infra-red laser light to seek out the chemical fingerprint of specific molecules of gases that are linked to explosives.

The screening equipment is easy to operate and has the support of the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. It would sit alongside conventional security items, such as X-ray machines or metal detectors.

Read in full - 'Lasers to speed airport checks'

Virtual world could aid diagnosis of schizophrenia

NewScientisttech reports in 'Virtual world could aid diagnosis of schizophrenia' that at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference in Long Beach, California, next week

computer scientist Daphna Weinshall of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel will describe a VR experiment in which volunteers wearing a head-mounted display navigated through simulated streets, shopping malls and a market. They were asked to flag up "incoherencies" such as objects that were the wrong colour or in the wrong position - a street sign at ground level, for instance - or making the wrong noise.

(Subscription required for access)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

'Coercion' plan to force ID cards on first time drivers

The Register writes that in the UK "Various forms of coercion" could be used to accelerate the rollout of ID cards:

the idea being that ID cards will remain 'voluntary' for as long as possible, while not having an ID card will become more and more uncomfortable. This, precisely what the government has intended to do all along, is stated baldly in an Identity & Passport Service leak cited by the Sunday People.

The IPS gives designation of a document under the ID Cards Act as an example of "coercion", and suggests driving licence applications as an area where this approach could be used. Effectively, this would mean that new applicants for licences would be forced to get an ID card. "There are advantages to designation of documents associated with particular target groups, e.g. young people who may be applying for their first driving licence" says the document. But "universal compulsion should not be used unless absolutely necessary."

Read in full - ''Coercion' plan to force ID cards on first time drivers'

Gadgets That Listen and Obey

The NYTimes has an article that discusses how a new wave of gadgets are coming that will offer the latest in speech recognition technology:

Now, devices that incorporate speech recognition are starting to hit the mass market, thanks to entrepreneurs like Mr. Phillips. He is the chief technology officer and a co-founder of the Vlingo Corporation, an 18-month-old start-up in Cambridge, Mass., that is selling services to cellular carriers and other software companies that want to give their customers the ability to let their mouths do the walking — and the searching...

Microsoft is a significant potential competitor, thanks in part to its purchase of TellMe Networks last March. TellMe offers a speech-driven search application for cellphones that is available to customers of AT&T — only those who were part of Cingular before the merger — and Sprint. TellMe’s system is built-in on the new Mysto phone from Helio, a mobile phone operator started by Earthlink and SK Telecom, and is the engine for 1800call411, a free directory information service.

Over all, speech recognition was a $1.6 billion market in 2007, according to Opus Research, which predicts an annual growth rate of 14.5 percent over the next three years.

Read full article - 'The Coming Wave of Gadgets That Listen and Obey'

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Middle-class smartmobbing in China

SmartMobs has a post called 'Middle-class smartmobbing in China' which refers to another article which examines the rise of middle-class smartmobbing in China:

Washington Post reports (video available on Washington Post site) on protests, organized among primarily middle-class citizens, using text messaging, blogs, and BBSs to organize and spread the word:

Thousands of Shanghai homeowners protest against a proposed extension of the high-speed magnetic levitation train on Jan. 12. The proposed extension has angered thousands of residents who fear noise, vibration, radiation and wind from the train. They are shouting ” Reject the Maglev” and “Protect Our Homes.” These unofficial protests, which often start as short text mobile phone messages, are the latest chapter in a quiet middle class battle against local government officials who fail to give adequate public notice for ill-concieved projects often designed to promote GDP growth at the expense of the environment. The video was taken by an anonymous protester.


My Other Car is a Bright Green City

Alex Steffen from Worldchanging has written a good post on why he believes building compact communities should be one of America's highest environmental priorities. he also asks 'why, in fact, our obsession with building greener cars may be obscuring some fundamental aspects of the problem and some of the benefits of using land-use change as a primary sustainability solution':

Some people make the argument that the built environment is much harder to change than the design of cars -- after all, don't we buy a new car every few years and a new home at most a few times in our lives? But the reality is not so clear.

Generally, we think of cars as things which are quickly replaced in our society, and buildings as things which rarely change. But that will not be the case over the next few decades. Because of population growth, the on-going development churn in cities (buildings remodeled or replaced, etc.), infrastructure projects and changing tastes, we'll be rebuilding half our built environment between now and 2030. Done right, that new construction could enable a complete overhaul of the American city.

This is especially true since we don't need to change every home to transform a neighborhood. Many inner-ring suburban neighborhoods, for instance, can become terrific places simply by allowing infill and converting strip-mall arterials to walkable mixed-use streets. This transition can happen in a few years.

In comparison, I've been told that it takes at least 16 years to replace 90% of our automotive fleet, and since it takes years to move a design from prototype to production, it looks likely that the cars most people in the US have available to them to drive in 2030 will not be all that different from the more efficient cars today
Read full post - 'My Other Car is a Bright Green City'

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rapid Watch - sensing the Gulf Stream

The Guardian has written about 'Rapid Watch' -an armada of robot submarines and marine sensors are to be deployed across the Atlantic, from Florida to the Canary Islands, to provide early warning that the Gulf Stream might be failing, an event that would trigger cataclysmic freezing in Britain for decades:

The £16m system, called Rapid Watch, will use the latest underwater monitoring techniques to check whether cold water pouring south from melting Arctic ice sheets is diverting the current's warm waters away from Britain.
Without the Gulf Stream, the UK would be as cold as Canada in winter. Ports could freeze over and snowstorms and blizzards would paralyse the country...

...But in 2004, Dr Srokosz - with his Southampton colleagues Professor Harry Bryden and Dr Stuart Cunningham - set up Rapid, a temporary array of sensors fixed to the seabed that provided daily measurements of the Gulf Stream for the first time. The first results, which were published last year, revealed that the Gulf Stream fluctuates in a highly unpredictable fashion.

Will Israel will have 100,000 electric cars in 2 years?

In this startling announcement, the Autobloggreen site writes that the newspaper Globes is reporting that

Shai Agassi, Project Better Place CEO, said Israel will have 100,000 electric cars by 2010. Shai said this at an annual Ministry of Finance budget department meeting speech where he talked about the benefits of electric cars like improved quality of life. Here is Agassi on realizing the potential of electric cars

However, the Globes article has been removed and Shai has posted an entry to his blog denying this rumor.

Read post - 'Israel will have 100,000 electric cars in 2 years'

Welcome to the 'Mind-reading' car

NewScientistTech reports in ''Mind-reading' car keeps drivers focused' that a team from the Technical University of Berlin found they could improve reaction times in real driving conditions by monitoring drivers' brains and reducing distractions during periods of high brain activity:

They were able to speed up driver's reactions by as much as 100 milliseconds. It might not sound much, but this is enough to reduce breaking distance by nearly 3 metres when travelling at 100 kilometres per hour, says team leader Klaus-Robert Müller.

"In a real life situation this could be enough to prevent an accident or stop someone being injured, or worse," he says. "We now have the brain-interface technology to make this a reality." The researchers used electroencephalograms (EEGs) to measure drivers' brain activity.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cell phone sensors

I have discussed before on this blog about the use of mobile phones to act as sensors, for such things as radiation and bio-terror. This article from discusses how researchers at Purdue University are developing a system that would use a network of mobile phones to detect and track radiation to help prevent terrorist attacks with radiological "dirty bombs" and nuclear weapons:

Such a system could blanket the nation with millions of cell phones equipped with radiation sensors able to detect even light residues of radioactive material. Because cell phones already contain global positioning locators, the network of phones would serve as a tracking system, said physics professor Ephraim Fischbach...

..."It's the ubiquitous nature of cell phones and other portable electronic devices that give this system its power," Fischbach said. "It's meant to be small, cheap and eventually built into laptops, personal digital assistants and cell phones."

Read in full - 'Cell phone sensors detect radiation to thwart nuclear terrorism'

Facebook 'friends' desert French rogue trader

Where are your friends when you need them? Well, not on Facebook it seems...The Guardian writes that:

When Jerome Kerviel in Facebook's Banque Société Générale group was named in the media as the man who has cost French bank €4.9bn (£3.7bn) he still had 11 friends.

One hour after his name was published on news sites, four friends had already deserted the 31-year-old.

At the time of writing, the list has shrunk further to just four friends - providing more fodder to the Facebook refuseniks who question whether someone linked to a social networking page is really worthy of the name "friend".

Read - 'Facebook 'friends' desert French rogue trader'

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Second episode of Rheingold's video blogs

Howard Rheingold, writing on Smartmobs, states that:

I just published in my new vlog the second episode in the series about how I spend my time online. This one is about RSS in my life. Actually, I’ll have to do another episode or two about more to do with RSS. Production quality will improve, and it looks like my continuing examination of my life online will only be one flavor of episode.

I just published in my new vlog the second episode in the series about how I spend my time online. This one is about RSS in my life. Actually, I’ll have to do another episode or two about more to do with RSS. Production quality will improve, and it looks like my continuing examination […]

Watch 2nd vlog here

UK homes to get super-fast fibre

BBCNews reports in 'UK homes to get super-fast fibre' how the UK's first "fibre town" could go online in the autumn, delivering speeds of about 100Mbps. About time!!

Fibre firm H20 offers super-fast broadband via the sewers and either Bournemouth, Northampton or Dundee will be offered the service first...

...While other countries' plans for next generation broadband - offering speeds of up to 100Mbps - are well advanced, the UK has slipped down the speed league tables.

For consumers, super-fast net connections could create a range of new applications including on-demand high definition (HD) TV, DVD quality film downloads in minutes, online video messaging, CCTV home surveillance and HD gaming services.

The Medical Panopticon

Jamais Cascio in Open the Future writes on web-enabled personal medical information technologies which 'have been a standard item in the futurist's scrapbook for a few years now':

So it comes as little surprise to see this post in Medgadget, describing the HealthPoint Home Telemetry system. The only thing it's missing are smart implants doing direct somatic monitoring:

The recommended starter kit for the IL service includes the Home HealthPoint, three motion detectors, and an emergency pendant. The motion detectors are strategically placed around the home during the professional installation in the bedroom, at the entrance to the primary bathroom, and in the main trafficked area such as a foyer or living room. Additional sensor devices such as additional motion detectors, access contacts on the refrigerator or doors, a smart pillbox, or IP cameras can be utilized to supplement the monitoring data sets being produced within the home. Safety, comfort, and energy saving devices for the senior can be added such as a networked thermostat, safety lighting in or outside the home, appliance and lighting control accessories, gas leak detectors, air quality & fire detectors, or an IP-based intercom system.

Read in full - 'The Medical Panopticon'

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Floating prisons

Subtopia has an excellent feature on the vast subject of floating prisons which he rightly says is worth at least a book. The above image was taken from the post which states that:

A BBC article a few weeks ago took a peak inside them, when at full capacity are capable of holding as many as 576 captured migrants each. Boasting an urban flexibility, officials say, in some ways they are more ideal than traditionally built ground-based prisons or detention facilities because they are now –- if need be –- fully mobile and fully transportable...

...structurally, the prison, we are told, “sits on two concrete platforms, each in turn moored to large steel pilings.” Adjoining them to dry land are “two white domes” specially designed by a Dutch artist (surprisingly enough) “made of a lattice-work of metal” where “the inmates play sports like football or basketball.” The prison boats are entered through small bridges and inside are “corridors of cells” and “communal areas with table football, table-tennis and payphones.” The BBC say the cells each hold two people “with bunk beds, a desk, fridge, TV, even a coffee machine”, while a shared bathroom provides a toilet and shower. Another article says, “While detainees await their expulsion they are subjected to a fairly mild prison regime with the cell doors opened during the day. There is television in every cell and a communal fitness room, a recreation room, a library, a room for religious services, a film room and an arts and crafts room.”

A very interesting read...and much more material than I have posted...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mobile phones - from disturbed sleep to revolution

Two recent reports on mobile phone usage: one that suggests using a mobile phone before going to bed could stop you getting a decent night's sleep; and a second that suggests mobile phones have the power to revolutionise access to information across the developing world:

- Mobiles linked to disturbed sleep

The study, funded by mobile phone companies, suggests radiation from the handset can cause insomnia, headaches and confusion. It may also cut our amount of deep sleep - interfering with the body's ability to refresh itself...

...Some were exposed to radiation equivalent to that received when using a mobile phone, others were placed in the same conditions, but given only "sham" exposure.

Those exposed to radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest one.

- The invisible computer revolution

Because those of us based in the developed world are always thinking of computers as things with 15-inch or 17-inch or 24-inch screens, it can be hard to see the potential of something much smaller, even if it's right in our pocket.

I was talking with a software developer friend of mine recently and going on as I do about the potential for cell phone software to revolutionise education, literacy, and public health in the developing world.

Crash Warning System Monitors Nearby Traffic

ScienceDaily has an article on how a group of European researchers have demonstrated in the lab a collision warning system for cars that could alert the driver several seconds in advance of an imminent impact:

The device could save thousands of lives and usher in the first steps towards the ‘connected car’. It knows its location, can talk to other cars and can tell the future. Are we entering the era of truly automated cars? The Collision Warning System (CWS) is the brainchild of the Reposit project, and they recently fired up a fully working prototype of their system.

The prototype can find its position using GPS, and find the position, speed and trajectory of neighbouring and oncoming traffic using an emerging car communication protocol called Vehicle2Vehicle (V2V). It can use that information to calculate the relative position of other cars, and then extrapolate where they will be in a few seconds’ time. If the data predicts a collision, it warns the driver.

Read article - 'Crash Warning System Monitors Nearby Traffic'

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Revolution in Motoring?

I previously blogged about the new Tata cheap car and how it would put many more drivers on the road in India. The Guardian has followed this story up by talking about how environmentalists fear city smog nightmare if millions of Tata's Nanos hit the road:

It has no radio, no boot, no airbag, no passenger-side mirror and just one long windscreen wiper. And if you want air-conditioning to deal with India's summer heat you'll have to buy the deluxe version. India's Tata Group yesterday pulled the covers off the world's cheapest car, the Nano, which goes on sale later this year with a price tag of 100,000 rupees - £1,260 - to bring motoring to the country's billion-strong masses.

For 70-year-old Ratan Tata, the group's chairman, the launch of the Nano is a landmark in transport comparable to the first powered flight by the Wright brothers, or the first moonshot. But environmentalists say the new car heralds a "nightmare" of choking pollution and clogged roads.

Read article - 'India gears up for mass motoring revolution with £1,260 car'

Other motoring news, GM plans to use an inexpensive computer chip and an antenna to link vehicles equipped with driverless technologies:

The first use likely would be on highways; people would have the option to choose a driverless mode while they still would control the vehicle on local streets, Burns said. He said the company plans to test driverless car technology by 2015 and have cars on the road around 2018.

Read - 'GM Envisions Driverless Cars on Horizon'

FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics

The WashingtonPost has an extensive article on how the FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics - 'a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad'. The article states that:

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law...

...The Department of Homeland Security has been using iris scans at some airports to verify the identity of travelers who have passed background checks and who want to move through lines quickly. The department is also looking to apply iris- and face-recognition techniques to other programs. The DHS already has a database of millions of sets of fingerprints, which includes records collected from U.S. and foreign travelers stopped at borders for criminal violations, from U.S. citizens adopting children overseas, and from visa applicants abroad. There could be multiple records of one person's prints.

Well worth a read.... Read article - 'FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics'

Thursday, January 17, 2008


GuardianUnlimited reports on researchers from the University of California, LA, are working on a wireless communication network that will allow cars to talk to each other, 'simultaneously downloading information in the shape of road safety warnings, entertainment content and navigational tools':

The UCLA Engineering's Network Research Lab team, led by Mario Gerla and Giovanni Pau, hit upon the idea in 2004, when peer-to-peer networking took off fuelled by applications such as BitTorrent. "We had the idea from BitTorrent, and decided to extend BitTorrent to cars under the name of CarTorrent. One of our dreams had always been to apply the technology to civilian applications," says Gerla. "Imagine you're driving to a beach resort and want to find out what the best beaches are. You could stop at a gas station and download several video clips from an internet access point, but that's not very convenient."

Gerla and his team instead propose to connect cars to one another using the wireless networking platform they're developing, which could be up and running by as early as 2012. The wireless network would allow moving vehicles within 100 metres and 300 metres of each other to connect and create a network with a wide range. The network would then allow drivers to download information from internet access points simply by driving by, and then share that information with other cars on the road.

Read - 'Peer-to-peer network invites drivers to get connected'

British roads 'unfit for purpose'

BBCNews writes on a recent report which has stated that British roads are 'unfit for purpose':

Britain's transport infrastructure is "not fit for purpose", according to the Policy Exchange think tank.

It said Britain has the most congested roads, the fewest motorways and "some of the worst public transport" among leading industrialised countries. But in a report, it said "relatively small" road charging on congestion hotspots would soon fund improvements.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the government was making record investments in transport. The future cost of congestion is likely to exceed the current £20bn a year and the problem is now endemic, affecting not just large cities but also motorways and small towns, Policy Exchange said.

This sounds like just the excuse needed to begin rolling-out extra road charging...

Read article - 'British roads 'unfit for purpose''

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ready for The Air Car?

TechReview has a piece on a French-designed car that's propelled by compressed air and claims speeds of more than 60 miles per hour. This air car is expected to go into commercial production as early as this summer:

Using compressed air, they argue, may mean zero tailpipe emissions, but it's unlikely to provide enough range or speed to appeal to the masses, particularly in North America. "Compressed air does not contain much energy--that's the killer," says Larry Rinek, senior research analyst for automotive technologies at consultancy Frost & Sullivan. "This is more a nice garage project for a Popular Science subscriber."

But the dream lives on. Motor Development International (MDI), based near Nice, France, has developed several prototypes of its Compressed Air Technology (CAT) car since its first engine was created 14 years ago. Now company founder Guy Negre, an aeronautics engineer who developed a high-performance racing engine for Formula 1 in the late 1980s, is counting on India's largest carmaker, Tata Motors, to bring his highly anticipated Air Car to market later this year.

Read in full - 'The Air Car Preps for Market'

Japan to create world's fastest train

Japan's rail system is often credited to be one of the best in the world and now they are investing $45 billion in the world's fastest train:

The trains ill be maglev, which mean they'll levitate over the tracks thanks to magnetic energy. The frictionless system will help to propel the train at nearly 600mph, getting you across the small island country in a couple of hours or less. Of course, such an ambitious project won't be completed anytime soon, with plans in place to have it up and running by 2025.

Link to - 'Japan to create world's fastest train for $45 billion'

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bus tickets go mobile has an article on a leading north of England bus company called Go North East which claims to be the first in the UK to offer customers the ability to buy tickets using their mobile phones:

By texting "txt2go" to the number 60060, a passenger can receive a digital ticket on their mobile phone minutes later. The phone screen displaying the ticket information is then shown to the driver when boarding the bus.

The new system will be "competitive with any ticket system", a spokesperson for Go North East said on Monday. As "an initial offer", an all-day ticket will cost "about £4, instead of around £5, depending on exactly what kind of ticket [is purchased]", a spokesperson for the company added.

The system was developed by Go North East in partnership with IT services company Atos Origin and mobile-ticketing specialist Swiftpass. Tickets received digitally remove the need to carry cash, making it safer for passengers and improving security on buses by reducing the amount of money carried by the driver, Go North East suggested in a statement on Monday.

Read article - 'Bus tickets go mobile'

Istanbul Gets Bus Rapid Transit

As someone who lived in Istanbul for five years, and still visits, this development is of particular interest to me. I know from experience that the traffic in Istanbul can be horrendous, and that the only way to really move around is on public transport - and the ONLY WAY to cross the Bosphorus is on one of the fantastic ferry boats (forget the car-over-the-bridge option). In this post from TheCityFix called 'Istanbul Gets Bus Rapid Transit' they mention that Istanbul is creating 6 new bus rapid transit lines:

The director of Istanbul Electric Tram and Funicular Company (IETT), Mehmet Ozdemir, announced that the city will build 6 bus rapid transit (BRT) lines (including one already underway) and that construction should be finished by the end of 2008.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a cost-effective rapid transit solution that acts like an above ground subway but with extra long articulated “accordion” buses instead of rail cars and physically separated lanes so that the buses don’t have to compete with traffic. Passengers pay at the station before they get on and the buses come frequently, just like in a subway.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Border controls shake-up set out

It seems that the UK border controls are set to become a lot more stringent on people visiting the UK on visas. BBCNews reports that all visitors to Britain requiring a visa are now 'having their fingerprints taken in a bid to control illegal immigration':

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said the new system, completed three months ahead of schedule, has already spotted 500 cases of identity swapping.

In a wide-ranging speech, he outlined 10 key changes to the UK's border controls to be implemented in 2008.

They provide a "compassionate" way of getting "stronger borders", he said.

Compassion eh?

Read in full - 'Border controls shake-up set out'


Worldchanging has a post called 'TheCityFix' that discusses sustainable transport and urbanization and a new blog on this callled TheCityFix - which I've looked at and have now linked to from this blog on the links list:

Over half the world’s population now lives in cities, with more and more people moving to them every day. Urbanization is not a new issue – a search on Worldchanging for “transportation” in the “cities” topic area alone returns 277 articles. Yet, despite all that has been written about urbanization, smart planning, and bright green technology, there’s still much more to be documented.

This is especially true when you get into the intersection of policy, technology, environmental science and urban planning. At least, until now. Yesterday, EMBARQ, World Resources Institute’s Center for Sustainable Transport, launched TheCityFix, a blog dedicated to exploring these overlapping issues. (Note: I work at WRI.)

EMBARQ is not a PR firm. It’s a robust, research-oriented organization with centers and partners around the world; it has worked and continues to work in places like Istanbul, Bangalore, Curitiba, Mexico City, Mumbai, Porto Alegre, Shanghai, and Pune. EMBARQ’s staff includes urban planners, transport engineers, policy experts, environmental scientists, geographers and sociologists. TheCityFix is this accomplished group’s effort to weigh in on the issues affecting our cities.


French Navy Uses Second Life to Recruit

Looks like Second Life is taking on the old roll of the 'press-gangs' - rolling people into life on the sea. This article from Aviation Week describes how the French Navy is using virtual world Second Life to recruit would be sailors:

In the old days naval recruiters used to get young men drunk in bars, make them scrawl their signature on a bit of paper and next thing the young men knew they woke up not only with a hangover but aboard a ship.

blog post photo

Young men (and women) today spend less time in bars drinking and a lot of time in internet cafes and 11 million of them are pretending to be somebody else on Second Life. So, that's where the French Navy recruitment drive decided to go and get them, well, a few anyway. It's the first time a French armed force has used this kind of method to recruit: some say it's a world first but I couldn't guarantee that.

Read original article - 'French Navy Uses Second Life to Recruit'


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Howard Rheingold's Video Blog

Media pundit, guru and spokesman Howard Rheingold has now started a video blog to discuss life online.

The first of these video blogs is

A (re)slice of life online, part one: Introduction

Twenty years ago, I wrote “A Slice of Life in My Virtual Community”. When I thought about updating it, I realized that video is better than text for showing how I spend time online. This is the first in a series of short videos documenting my use of social media in my professional and personal life.

This is a short 4.5 minute video that talks about the evolution of participatory media and many-to-many interaction. Well worth tracking!

Watch - Howard Rheingold's Video Blog

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cyclists' cellphones help monitor air pollution

NewScientistTech reports that mobile phones used by bicycle couriers are monitoring air pollution in Cambridge, UK, and beaming the data back to a research lab:

The technique is made possible by small wireless pollution sensors and custom software that allows the phones to report levels of air pollutants wherever they happen to be around town.

"Mobiles are everywhere, and now have a lot of computing power," says Eiman Kanjo, the computer scientist at Cambridge University, UK, leading technical development of the project. "They can provide an alternative to expensive custom hardware and report from places that otherwise aren't monitored."

Kanjo and colleagues gave local cycle couriers air-pollution sensors and GPS units that connect to their cellphones via Bluetooth. Custom software lets the phone constantly report the current air quality and location to servers back in the lab.

"They cycle around the city as usual and we receive the data over the cellphone network," says Kanjo. "We can find out what pollutants people are exposed to and where."

Read in full - 'Cyclists' cellphones help monitor air pollution'

Airports as a Brake on Global City Growth

The Future of Cities is blogging on airports as a "Brake on Global City Growth" citing that global cities across the world are "running up against an unforeseen brake on their future growth - airport and airspace congestion":

Last Thursday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - a quasi-governmental body that operates, among other things, the three urban disasters we call Newark, LaGuardia and JFK Airports - announced a number of measures to relieve congestion.( Read the full report) Alone, these three airports account for one-third of the nation's flight delays. According to the New York Times, which quotes the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, the economic hit to the region is on the order of $7.4 billion annually.

Heathrow officially launched its bid to add a third runway last month. Here's what The Economist has to say about flying through Heathrow: "The experience is so miserable it even has its own name: the “Heathrow hassle”.

Read original post - 'Airports as a Brake on Global City Growth'

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Taser Shock - the new mobile

A US company has now unleashed a new 'shocking' mobile gadget - the Taser that plays MP3s - and uses fashion and music to sell stun gun. At present the public can buy the device in most American states... and soon it is planned for European shelves. The Guardian writes that the iTaser - as it has been dubbed - combines a Taser stun gun ( used by 12,000 law enforcement and security forces, including the Metropolitan police) with an MP3 player and earphones:

As to which tracks anyone toting such a device might download on to the 1GB player that is integrated into the gun's holster, anything by Sparks or Frank Zappa must be fairly high on the list.

Arizona-based Taser International sells the handheld stun guns under the rather hyperbolic banner of "Changing the World and Protecting Lives". It maintains that the iTaser "allows for both personal protection and personal music for people on the go".

According to Rick Smith, founder of the company, "personal protection can be both fashionable and functionable". The company says the new device is particularly aimed at women - with red, pink and even leopard print designs intended to make carrying a stun gun fashionable.

Read in full - 'The Taser that plays MP3s'

Your new best friend??

Ultra-mobile future beckons for PCs

BBCNews reports in 'Ultra-mobile future beckons for PCs' how the the desktop PC's days of dominance could be numbered as laptops and ultra-mobile PCs begin to reap the benefit of ever greater, and more efficient, computing power:

"We want to be mobile and not tethered to our desks anymore - we can take our computing power with us," said Mooly Eden, general manager of the mobile platform group at Intel.

"Today's laptops have more processing power than all the computers that took the Apollo rocket to the moon," he added.

Laptop sales are expected to overtake desktop sales around the world by 2009 as the shift to an untethered computer experience accelerates.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Cheapest car on earth

India have gone and done it again - used resources and technology to leapfrog current industry. The IHT reports in 'India offers cheapest car on earth' how Tata have broken the mould:

Every now and again in business history, a disruption comes along that breaks the conventional wisdom about cost, tweaking and paring features once thought untouchable.

Likewise, the $2,500 car, scheduled for introduction Thursday by the Indian company Tata, swims against the current, with a rear-mounted engine, a trunk that fits little more than a briefcase, and plastics and adhesives replacing metal and bolts in certain nooks. (Some analysts expect the car to be priced closer to $3,000, still making it the cheapest on earth.)...

...The car is thus a triumph, not of one great invention but of a new engineering philosophy rising out of the developing world, with potential to change how cars everywhere are made, industry experts say.

More cars on India's roads me thinks....?


News from the world's largest consumer electronics show

The Popular Science blog has news from the world's largest consumer electronics show on all the latest gadgets, photos, videos and analysis of the latest technologies - such as the 'Hot Hydrogen-powered Cadillac' and 'A Cellphone Watch to Make James Bond Proud'

Read the full analysis and pictures at Popular Science blog


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Collaborating in virtual environments

Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends has a recent post on how engineers have been using collaborating tools in virtual reality environments for almost 20 years:

Now, South Korean and Japanese researchers have tried to compare different experiences of users working together using the Virtual Dollhouse application where two people working together have to build a virtual dollhouse using virtual building blocks, a hammer, and nails. Some of them were in 'traditional' collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) using haptic technologies. Others were working over the Internet as well as over a local area network. They've concluded that users could still work together effectively over a network...

...This application has been developed by Qonita Shahab, Yong-Moo Kwon, Heedong Ko and Maria Mayangsari, of the Imaging Media Research Center at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Seoul, Korea. The other authors of the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) are Shoko Yamasaki and Hiroaki Nishino, of the Department of Computer Science and Intelligent Systems at Oita University (Japanese page and English snippets.

Read original post - 'Collaborating in virtual environments'

Monday, January 07, 2008

Age of digital senses

The way people interact with computers is going to dramatically change in the next five years - according to Bill Gates.

A BBC News article states that Gates

predicted that the keyboard and mouse would gradually give way to more intuitive and natural technologies.

In particular, he said, touch, vision and speech interfaces would become increasingly important. Mr Gates made his comments whilst answering questions from BBC News website readers. "This whole idea of what I call natural user interface is really redefining the experience," he said.

"We're adding the ability to touch and directly manipulate, we're adding vision so the computer can see what you're doing, we're adding the pen, we're adding speech," he told BBC News.

During the interview Mr Gates showed off the Microsoft Surface computer, a large table like machine with a multi-touch interface.

Read in full - ' Gates hails age of digital senses'


Watching the Watchers: Why Surveillance Is a Two-Way Street

An article from Popular Mechanics looks at how the recent boom in video monitoring—by both the state and businesses—means we're all being watched. Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes that:

It's like something out of George Orwell's 1984. Except that, unlike Orwell's protagonist Winston Smith, we can watch back—and plenty of people are doing just that. Which makes a difference.

The widespread installation of recording devices is not all bad: ATM cameras helped prove that Duke students accused of rape couldn't have committed the crime. And we all sympathize with the goals of preventing terrorism and crime, though it is not proven that security cameras accomplish this.

Nonetheless, the trend toward constant surveillance is troubling. And even if the public became concerned enough to pass laws limiting the practice, it's not clear how well those laws would work. Government officials and private companies too often ignore privacy laws. (In a notorious recent case, Hewlett-Packard executives were caught spying on the phone records of reporters covering the company.) Besides, the technology of surveillance is becoming so advanced—biologists are now attaching tiny cameras to crows' tail feathers to observe the birds' tool use in the wild—that in reality there's not much we can do to ensure privacy anyway. Maybe that doesn't matter. Privacy is a recent phenom­enon. For most of human history, people lived in small tribes or villages where everyone knew everyone else's business. Ubiquitous surveillance may be just a case of the past as prologue.

Read in full - 'Watching the Watchers: Why Surveillance Is a Two-Way Street'

Five Innovations that Will Change Our Lives

IBM has revealed what they consider to be 'Five Innovations that Will Change Our Lives' including the connectivity of drivers:

The way you drive will be completely different: In the next five years, a coming wave of connectivity between cars and the road is going to change the way you drive, help keep you safe, and even keep you out of traffic jams. Technology is poised to keep traffic moving, cut pollution, curb accidents, and make it easier for you to get from point A to B, without the stress. The cities you live in will find a cure for congestion using intelligent traffic systems that can make real-time adjustments to traffic lights and divert traffic to alternate routes with ease. Your car will have driver-assist technologies that will make it possible for automobiles to communicate with each other and with sensors along the road -- allowing them to behave as if they have 'reflexes' so they can take preventive actions under dangerous conditions. Your car will automatically tell you where traffic is jammed up and find you an alternative route to take.

Read - 'IBM Reveals Five Innovations that Will Change Our Lives Over the Next Five Years'

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Soon New Year may be celebrated in Space

Perhaps in a few years time New Year could be celebrated in Space, if you had a spare £100,000... as flights launched in Arctic will be first to take people inside the northern lights.

This article from GuardianUnlimited talks of Richard Branson's 'Virgin Galactic' plans to fly passengers into the aurora borealis - the northern lights - something that no human has done before:

The operations room of the Esrange space centre near Kiruna in the far north of Sweden is one of a handful of places in the world that perform space launches. The facility, 200 kilometres north of the Arctic circle, is used by the European Space Agency and others to launch rockets and balloons for studying the upper atmosphere and the effects of microgravity. It also serves as a monitoring station for numerous satellites that orbit between the north and south poles.

In three years, if all goes to plan, Esrange will act as mission control for the European outpost of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

The company hopes to begin commercial space flights from a purpose-built spaceport in New Mexico in 2010, but flights from Kiruna should follow soon afterwards. Once they are up and running, Virgin Galactic expects to be flying about 5,000 passengers a year.

Now thats a new type of tourism...!

Read in full here