Friday, August 29, 2008

Farms in the Sky

The New York Times has a provocative post that prints the question: 'what if skyscrapers grew off the grid, as verdant, self-sustaining towers where city slickers cultivated their own food?'

Dr. Despommier’s pet project is the “vertical farm,” a concept he created in 1999 with graduate students in his class on medical ecology, the study of how the environment and human health interact.

The idea, which has captured the imagination of several architects in the United States and Europe in the past several years, just caught the eye of another big city dreamer: Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president.

When Mr. Stringer heard about the concept in June, he said he immediately pictured a “food farm” addition to the New York City skyline. “Obviously we don’t have vast amounts of vacant land,” he said in a phone interview. “But the sky is the limit in Manhattan.” Mr. Stringer’s office is “sketching out what it would take to pilot a vertical farm,” and plans to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor’s office within the next couple of months, he said.

“I think we can really do this,” he added. “We could get the funding.”

Dr. Despommier estimates that it would cost $20 million to $30 million to make a prototype of a vertical farm, but hundreds of millions to build one of the 30-story towers that he suggests could feed 50,000 people.

Read more - 'Country, the City Version: Farms in the Sky Gain New Interest'


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Say goodbye to the computer mouse

Is it really time for the beloved mouse to leave us? Well, according to BBCNews there is at least one leading research company that thinks so:

A Gartner analyst predicts the demise of the computer mouse in the next three to five years.

Taking over will be so called gestural computer mechanisms like touch screens and facial recognition devices.

"The mouse works fine in the desktop environment but for home entertainment or working on a notebook it's over," declared analyst Steve Prentice.

He told BBC News that his prediction is driven by the efforts of consumer electronics firm which are making products with new interactive interfaces inspired by the world of gaming .

Read more at - 'Say goodbye to the computer mouse'


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Quarter of the planet to be online by 2012

This post predicts that one quarter of the world's population will be connected to the internet within the next four years (and still growing!):

According to the report by Jupiter Research, the total number of people online will climb to 1.8 billion by 2012, encompassing roughly 25 percent of the planet.

The company sees the highest growth rates in areas such as China, Russia, India and Brazil. Overall, the number of users online is predicted to grow by 44 percent in the time period between 2007 and 2012.

"Even though the emerging economies will have lower online penetration rates compared to the developed countries, Jupiter Research believes that they will ramp up the learning curve in adopting sophisticated online activities compared to the developing countries," said research director Vikram Sehgal.

Read original post - 'Quarter of the planet to be online by 2012'

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Real racing in the virtual world

BBCNews reports on a new gaming real-time software application that uses GPS data from racing events (a step-up from Atari!):

Sadly, the closest most of us have ever got is watching the Grand Prix on television. But that could soon change if a company from the Netherlands has its way.

"It's clear that the next trend in gaming is going to be bringing real objects into the virtual world; playing not against other gamers but people doing the real thing," said Andy Lurling, founder of iOpener Media.

The patented system his company is developing sucks in real-time GPS data from racing events and pumps it out to compatible games consoles and PCs.

The idea is that you could pit yourself against the top drivers in the world, as it happens, from the comfort of your living room.

Read more at - 'Real racing in the virtual world'

Monday, August 25, 2008

iLink in the Military

Smartmobs reports on a new social network technology that has been integrated into military online communities:

iLink, a social network analytics technology from SRI International has recently been integrated into three online communities used by the military: Platoon Leader, Company Command, and the Family Readiness Group. The iLink technology improves the way the military community members share critical information across several different interest areas - from battlefield problem solving to supporting military families. Here, we take a look at the technology the military is using and how it can impact the future of social networking.

Read original post - 'iLink in the Military'


Friday, August 22, 2008

Robot buoy to track oil spills

SOTAB robotic buoy

Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends reports on a new robotic buoy under development - to patrol the pollution in our oceans and seas!

Yesterday, Japan Today reported about a prototype of robotic buoy developed at Osaka University to fight sea pollution in the event of an environmental disaster caused by an oil spill. The current prototype, dubbed SOTAB (short for 'Spilled Oil Tracking Autonomous Buoy') is a 110-kilogram GPS-equipped robot. The cylindrical buoy has a length of 2.7 meters and a diameter of 27 centimeters. The lead researcher admits that these robots will not be really ready before at least three years. But he would like to have these buoys installed on all oil tankers to be automatically dropped in the sea in case of an accident.

Read more at - 'Robot buoy to track oil spills'


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Toyota tests Segway-like stand-up-and-ride machine

A model demonstrates Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp.s new motorized ride Winglet during a press conference in Tokyo Friday Aug. 1 2008. Toyota will start testing the stand-up-and-ride contraption that travels at up to 6 kph (3.7 mph) later this ...

Well, here's an alternative to the Sedgeway mobility vehicle being shown off by Toyota (shame there are no plans for commercial release!):

Toyota will start testing the stand-up-and-ride contraption, that travels at up to 6 kph (3.7 mph), later this year at a Japanese airport and resort complex and next year at a shopping mall to get feedback from people...

...But the "Winglet," shown Friday in Tokyo, takes some getting used to. A demonstrator was visibly worried about its safety while accompanying a reporter who cautiously tried it on a short course in a Toyota showroom...

...Still, Toyota Motor Corp. has no plans yet to turn the Winglet into a commercial product. The Japanese automaker will start testing the two-wheeler this year at an airport and resort complex and next year at a shopping mall, all in Japan, to get user feedback. Overseas test plans are undecided.

Read original article - 'Toyota tests Segway-like stand-up-and-ride machine'


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Telegraph mobile site goes free

Here's an article - from The Guardian - informing us that rival newspaper The Telegraph is offering a free mobile site for readers to access from 3G and WAP-enabled phones: is switching from a paid-for to a free mobile content offering with the launch today of a new version of its site offering news, sport and travel articles for readers to access from 3G and WAP-enabled phones.

The new mobile site will carry images alongside text stories and will be updated with breaking news automatically throughout the day as adds new content. mobile site mobile site's new mobile service will be free to access, beyond the web-surfing changes demanded by mobile operators, and is intended to complement the news, football and cricket alert services already offered by Telegraph Media Group.

The mobile website retains the distinctive gothic masthead but with a simplified navigation to make it easier to access lead stories. The launch version will not carry adverts, although they may be introduced to the site as it grows.

More at - 'Telegraph mobile site goes free'

Monday, August 18, 2008

Study revives six degrees theory

BBCNews reports on a US study of instant messaging that seems to suggest the theory that it takes only six steps to link everyone may be right:

Microsoft researchers studied the addresses of 30bn instant messages sent during a single month in 2006. Any two people on average are linked by seven or fewer acquaintances, they say.

The theory of six degrees of separation has long captured people's imagination - notably inspiring a popular 1993 film - but had recently seemed discredited.

One of the researchers on the Microsoft Messenger project, Eric Horvitz, said he had been shocked by the results.

"What we're seeing suggests there may be a social connectivity constant for humanity," he was quoted as saying by the Washington Post newspaper.

Read more at - 'Study revives six degrees theory'

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Citysense: Helping to Create Smartmobs since 2008

This post via Smartmobs discusses how a new software can help you detect - or avoid! - city crowds... downside is that it is rather limited in its city coverage (so far):

Citysense has given smart mobs another way of finding each other without sending a single message. The theory is the more people, the greater the likelihood that there is something interesting going on.

How does it work?

‘uses advanced machine learning techniques to number crunch vast amounts of data emanating from thousands of cell-phones, GPS-equipped cabs and other data devices to paint live pictures of where people are gathering.’

An application does have to be installed in order for the software to work for you and it doesn’t work with iPhones just yet. The other downside is that it seems to be only on for San Francisco so far, but Citysense is expected to add more cities soon. It’s quite a neat little service that allows you to find (or avoid) crowds.

Read original post at - 'Citysense: Helping to Create Smartmobs since 2008'

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shipping Costs Start to Crimp Globalization

This pertinent article from The New York Times discusses how shipping costs may start to impact all of us who are used to relying on cheap transport and mobility of goods:

When Tesla Motors, a pioneer in electric-powered cars, set out to make a luxury roadster for the American market, it had the global supply chain in mind. Tesla planned to manufacture 1,000-pound battery packs in Thailand, ship them to Britain for installation, then bring the mostly assembled cars back to the United States...But when it began production this spring, the company decided to make the batteries and assemble the cars near its home base in California, cutting more than 5,000 miles from the shipping bill for each vehicle...

...The world economy has become so integrated that shoppers find relatively few T-shirts and sneakers in Wal-Mart and Target carrying a “Made in the U.S.A.” label. But globalization may be losing some of the inexorable economic power it had for much of the past quarter-century, even as it faces fresh challenges as a political ideology.

Read article - 'Shipping Costs Start to Crimp Globalization'

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Human flying invention unveiled

Is this the future - Flying humans?? Perhaps.....and why not if it avoids congestion!

Harrison Martin takes a jet pack for a test flight

The Martin jet pack can, in theory, fly an average-sized pilot about 30 miles in 30 minutes on a full 5-gallon (19-litre) tank of gas.

The piano-sized contraption costs $100,000 (£50,517) and was unveiled at AirVenture, the annual aviation convention of experimental aircraft at Oshkosh in Wisconsin...The jet pack has been designed to conform to the Federal Aviation Administration's definition of an ultralight vehicle, which weighs less than 254 pounds (115 kilograms) and carries only one passenger.

Although, apparatus like this can be operated by a pilot without a licence, they can't be used over congested areas.

See more - 'Human flying invention unveiled'

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Helping drivers avoid speed traps

This post from Reuters discusses a new website where drivers can download information into their car about where speed cameras are positioned:


Drivers in most of the United States and some of the UK can find out where the police speed traps and so-called red-light cameras are on the Internet -- for free.

But, U.S. drivers can also download that information to their car's GPS system for a fee.

"We're hoping to expand the download service to London and the rest of Europe as soon as we can," said Shannon Atkinson, the 33-year-old founder of

"No one likes to get a ticket. No one likes to get hit by a red-light camera," he said, referring to the devices that snap pictures of cars running red lights.

Read more at - 'Website claims to help drivers avoid speed traps'


Monday, August 11, 2008

Google Is Watching, Perhaps Soon In Your Home

It seems that Google has been stepping on some anti-privacy toes recently. Google researchers propose gathering personal data by tracking people's activities at home through home network interactions
Undeterred by the persistent worries of privacy advocates and government officials that it knows too much, Google hungers for more data. To augment the information the company collects from its users online -- the links they click, the searches they make, and related metrics --Google (NSDQ: GOOG)'s researchers are looking beyond the Internet.

A recent paper co-authored by Google researcher Bill N. Schilit, and computer scientists Jeonghwa Yang (Georgia Tech) and David W. McDonald (University of Washington) proposes "home activity recognition," or tracking people's activities at home through home network interactions.

Read more at - 'Google Is Watching, Perhaps Soon In Your Home'

See also how:

So Googlers are driving their cars around the UK at the moment snapping pictures of every bit of every road and everyone and everything around them - and causing a bit of a privacy hoopla.

Read here - 'Driving some value into Google's Street View'


Friday, August 08, 2008

Beijing Olympics gets official YouTube channel

As the Beijing Olympics begins today it only seems fitting to report the latest on their mobile platforms. It appears that the Beijing Olympics will be 'broadcast online to more than 70 territories using a dedicated YouTube channel in a bid to help deter illegal viewing of the event on the internet':

Beijing games organiser the International Olympic Committee is to launch an online channel on YouTube to provide a package of daily sports action to 77 international territories including India, the Republic of Korea and Iraq.

The channel, which goes live on Wednesday [6th], will provide a selection of footage video-on-demand, with geo-blocking of access to limit viewing only to uers in each of the territories.

It will provide a package of coverage including highlights, news and daily clips of competitions during the 17 days of the Beijing Olympics, which start on Friday, August 8.

Read - 'Beijing Olympics gets official YouTube channel'

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Carmageddon looms

Blake Morrison in The Guardian writes that 'the car was once an icon of Modern sensibility, on the side of progress, mobility and independence'....

...Trains and buses ran to schedules, but with cars you just jumped in and off you went - poop-poop, vroom-vroom - down the open road. At a recent rally, Henry Ford's great-grandson, Edsel II, described the Model T Ford -currently celebrating its centenary - as "a product that delivered freedom". And to the millions who owned one (15m sold in 18 years of production), it was no lie. "You know, Henry," one satisfied customer wrote, "your car lifted us out of the mud. It brought joy into our lives. We loved every rattle in its bones."

Times have changed. Once a key to the future, the car is now a menace to it. Freedom has given way to gridlock, pleasure to road rage. Even the best - fastest - car journeys are a guilt trip, now we've learned what carbon emissions are doing to the planet. The credit crunch and rise in fuel prices might lie behind the plunge in car sales across the world (a 20% fall in Italy in June, 31% in Spain, while in the US Ford has recorded losses of $8.7bn over three months). But the crisis goes deeper. Carmageddon looms.

Read more at - 'It was the cathedral of modern times, but the car is now a menace'


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

One Giant Leap For Virgin Galactic

Wired's Autopia blog looks at Virgin Galactic's plan to make commercial space travel a reality:


Richard Branson calls it "one of the most beautiful and extraordinary aviation vehicles ever developed." And while this may be a little on the loquacious side, there's no doubt that today's unveiling of Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo in the Mojave desert is big news.

WhiteKnightTwo, which has been named Eve in honor of Branson's mother, is the carrier aircraft that will be be used to help carry SpaceShipTwo in orbit, and is a key part of Virgin Galactic's plan to make commercial space travel a reality. It has a maximum altitude of over 50,000 feet, driven by four very powerful Pratt & Whitney engines, and at 140 feet, WhiteKnightTwo's wingspan is the largest of any carbon composite aircraft every built. Beyond that, it just looks cool. With its graceful wings and sleek shape, it's destined to be one of the sexiest things in the sky.

Read in full - 'One Small Step for Richard Branson, One Giant Leap For Virgin Galactic'


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Italians dial up best food price

BBC News reports on how a text messaging service set up by the Italian government is helping its citizens to haggle on their high street:

The rising cost of food is a growing concern for many people across the world. There have been protests, and even riots, in countries including Mexico, India and Egypt, clear evidence of the struggle that many people are now facing.

However, if Italians feel that their local food retailer is charging unreasonable prices, they can now call on a new service to help them haggle or walk away.

Thanks to a short message service (SMS) text system set up jointly by the Italian agriculture ministry and consumer associations, shoppers can check the average price of different foods in northern, central and southern Italy.

Read at - 'Italians dial up best food price'

Monday, August 04, 2008

Beijing Olympics: a last-ditch smog effort

The Guardian has an article on how Beijing - one of the most polluted cities in the world - tries to tackle its pollution problem by banning half the 3.3m cars that use the city centre:

The roads were unusually clear but skies remained stubbornly smoggy in Beijing today at the start of an attempt to curb smog before the Olympics begin in three weeks.

The final stage of the programme, which began yesterday, saw half the city's 3.3m cars banned from the roads each day, depending on whether their number plates end in an odd or even digit.

City authorities hope the measure, which is enforced by thousands of number plate recognition cameras and the threat of a 100 yuan (£7.30) fine, will reduce vehicle emissions by more than 60%.

Traffic flow was notably better this morning, although an estimated 4 million extra commuters had to squeeze into the city's bus and underground train systems.

Read in full and see the video - 'Beijing Olympics: 1.15m cars banned from roads in last-ditch smog effort'


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Challenging Conventional Views on Mobile Telecommunications

Challenging Conventional Views on Mobile Telecommunications
Investment: Evidence from Conflict Zones

New paper at:

We question conventional views on investment climates with a study of
mobile telecommunications in three insecure states that score very
badly in the World Governance Index: Afghanistan, DRC and Somalia.
Data is limited but suggests insecurity and "bad governance" may not
be the barriers to investment that are normally supposed. Indeed, it
is possible – at least for this type of digital technology – that they
may encourage investment.


Friday, August 01, 2008

First fully electric car makes its UK show debut

The arrival on Britain’s roads of the first fully electric-powered car moves one step closer today with the UK motor show debut of the new TH!NK city electric vehicle:

Displayed at the 2008 British International Motor Show at ExCeL London by Norwegian electric vehicle pioneers Think, a company with 17 years experience in electric vehicles, the new TH!NK city will be available for UK customer orders next summer.

TH!NK city is a true, modern urban car, not a quadricycle. It is a fully environmental vehicle, emission free and 95 percent recyclable. With an energy efficiency three times that of a traditional combustion engine car, it is a vehicle that realistically meets the growing challenges of environmental protection, traffic congestion and emissions legislation.

Read more - 'First fully electric car makes its UK show debut'