Monday, September 20, 2010

Smart cars to mean safer driving

As was discussed in my book with John Urry - After the Car - one side of in-car technologies will be increased 'intelligent sensors' placed into cars. As this recent post from the BBC explains,

Cars could soon be ringing the emergency services themselves if they are involved in a crash.
Sensors embedded in future vehicles could also let emergency services work out the severity of the crash and how many people were involved.

The predictions came at a symposium considering the changes ushered in by the spread of small, smart processors. The growing number of on-board computers could also spell big changes for the way people drive.

"The car is probably going to be the most compute-intensive possession that we will have," said Steve Wainwright, European manager at Freescale Semiconductor which makes many of the chips inside car control systems.

Mr Wainwright said average cars have 25-30 electronic control units onboard already and high-end cars probably carry up to 80. These tiny computers are in charge of many car systems such as stability control, power distribution, safety and many others. 

Increasingly, said Mr Wainwright, they are helping to augment a person's driving skill and that trend would only continue as technologies such as collision detection systems and radar become more commonplace.

Read more at 'Smart cars to mean safer driving'


Friday, September 17, 2010

City scares drivers with ’3D girl’ that runs into road

Good idea or a sure fire accident? The debate is on....and what would be your reaction if you 'think' you saw a young child in the road.....albeit a clever 3D drawing??

For the past week, drivers on 22nd Street in the ritzy suburb of West Vancouver, British Columbia, have come across an alarming sight: A small girl running out into the road to chase a ball.

As their hearts leap to their throats and their feet move to the brake pedal, the drivers realize it's an illusion -- a "3D" image drawn on the pavement to get drivers to slow down. The "3D girl" isn't really 3D -- it's a cartoon drawn on the pavement in a distorted fashion so as to appear three-dimensional, the culmination of a pilot project from the British Columbia Automobile Association, an affiliate of the AAA, and the city of West Vancouver.

It's an innovative idea that some critics say could cause accidents. "I think it's awful. I think it's dangerous," Sam Schwartz, a former traffic commissioner in New York City, told ABC News. "I think drivers are always scanning and suddenly they see this image up, they may very well panic."

Read original post at - 'City scares drivers with ’3D girl’ that runs into road'


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Britain's 'seven social tribes' mapped

An interesting novel way of cartography when it comes to mapping Britain's 'social tribes'...aA team of cartographers at London's City University have created a visualisation of Britain which makes 'the traditional map of the British Isles look outdated by comparison'.The Telegraph article reports that:

South of England as visualised by the Seven Social Tribes of Britain by City University London's giCentre.
The mosaic-like map beautifully visualises the "Seven Social Tribes of Britain", combining postcode information with demographic data from the Government.
This map emphasises different types of people and their concentration in different areas of the country, unlike traditional maps which highlight geography.

Each set of pixels on the map is a postcode and is coloured according to economic measures based on census data...The seven tribes of Britain visualised on the map are: Blue Collar Communities, City Living, Countryside, Prospering Suburbs, Constrained by Circumstances, Typical Traits and Multicultural.

Read more at - 'Britain's 'seven social tribes' mapped'


Monday, September 13, 2010

Virtual worlds: is this where real life is heading?

Things have been quite for a while concering virtual worlds, now that the hype around Second Life has more or less died down....anyway, this recent post from The Guardian has some useful recent overviews, such as concerning apps like Farmville:

Recently a man bought a space station for $330,000, while last month Small Planet Foods, a subsidiary of General Foods, introduced a new brand of organic blueberries. What have these two products got in common? Neither actually exist. Well, not except as pixels in the virtual worlds where they are traded. Only the money is real.

The space station was sold in the virtual world Entropia Universe, which has its own economy and currency. The buyer, who converted his $300,000 into 3.3m PED (Project Entropia dollars), is convinced that virtual shops on his virtual space station will produce virtual profits that can be converted back into real dollars. The blueberries represent a "brand extension" of a product that exists in the real world as US company General Foods aims to establish a presence in FarmVille, a game which exists as an application on Facebook and which at its peak has had nearly 80 million players. It is a classic example of a new genre.

Farmers in FarmVille buy cartoon-like virtual farm animals, which have to be regularly fed, or crops that require fertiliser (virtual, of course) to help them grow, in order to be more successful than their friends. The real-time game has its own virtual currency that makes it easier for members to trade and for the game's makers to profit. Parent company Zynga has revenues of more than $600m a year which come mainly from FarmVille, despite competition from half a dozen other farm games on Facebook. Zynga is reckoned to be worth between $4bn and $5bn, based on the value of investment stakes that have been taken in it.

To many, this seems crazy: why spend real money to buy a virtual currency to purchase food in order to stop a pig that doesn't exist from dying through lack of food? The easy answer is why not – if that's what you want to do. It is arguably a lot more "real" – whatever that means these days – than, say, sitting like a couch potato watching a soap on television.

This might still seem the stuff of fantasy but it's where real life seems to be heading: according to some analysts, we are in the midst of a virtual revolution that might one day be considered as important as the industrial revolution. Nic Mitham, founder of KZero, a Cambridge-based consultancy, says that there are 175 virtual worlds that are live or in live beta and that the number of registered users to them has risen from 880 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 1.1 billion today, a 25% increase within six months in the middle of a recession. The registered population of virtual worlds (even if this is not the same as active users) is greater than the populations of the US and Europe combined.

Read more at - 'Virtual worlds: is this where real life is heading?'


Friday, September 10, 2010

Tesco launches UK's first 'drive-thru' supermarket

True 'car mobility' now comes to grocery shopping - getting your bags without even having to leave the car. Tesco is trialling a new service that will allow customers to pick up their weekly shop via 'drive-thro': 

The supermarket will launch the trial at a store in Baldock, Hertfordshire, this week before a possible national roll-out.Under the scheme – which aims to appeal to busy mothers and shopaphobes alike – customers will order shopping online and then drive to a designated area in the store's car park to have their products loaded into their car at a pre-arranged time. Tesco said that the service has been designed for shoppers who want their goods picked and packed but who do not have the time to wait at home for delivery. 

Laura Wade-Gery, chief executive of and Tesco Direct, said: "This will be especially popular with busy mums who have the school run and children's activities to manage. It also offers a solution to parents who want to avoid the challenge of shopping in a busy store with children in tow."

Read more at - 'Tesco launches UK's first 'drive-thru' supermarket'


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

GPS Trackers Secretly Placed in Unilever Laundry Detergent Boxes

We are now seeing the shift of GPS tracking devices from larger commercial objects to marketing objects...which mirrors WalMarts move into RFID chipping its products:

The household cleaning product giant Unilever has secretly placed GPS tracker transmitters in laundry detergent boxes to track consumers to their homes. With an array of electronic sensors, team of Unilever agents can now pinpoint the exact location of the GPS trackers and walk right up to your front door. They can even remotely set off a beeper inside the box using radio electronics.

The point of all this? It's part of Unilever's new marketing campaign to convince consumers in Brazil to purchase more boxes of Omo laundry detergent.

The GPS trackers, you see, are only embedded in "prize winning" boxes of Omo detergent. If you happen to buy one of these GPS tracked boxes, you're a "winner" and Unilever agents then show up at your door with a video camera crew and a prize. This new detergent marketing contest was detailed in an Ad Age article called Is Your Detergent Stalking You? (

That article explains that Unilever "...has teams in 35 Brazilian cities ready to leap into action when a box is activated. The nearest team can reach the shopper's home 'within hours or days,' and if they're really close by, 'they may get to your house as soon as you do.'"

This creepy "Big Brother" marketing idea is apparently exactly the kind of thing the Unilever company approves of: Spying on your customers. Unilever, by the way, is the parent company that brings you brands like Lipton tea, Skippy peanut butter, Axe cologne, and the infamous Slim-Fast sugar drink that's somehow positioned as a "weight loss" product.

Read more at - 'GPS Trackers Secretly Placed in Unilever Laundry Detergent Boxes'


Monday, September 06, 2010

Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring

The Danger Room blog has more information on the 'predicted future' software that Google and Pentagon interests are investing in:

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”
The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community. 

It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

Read more at - 'Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring'


Friday, September 03, 2010

Mind-controlled app calls your friends with the power of thought

A new app for the Nokia N900’s Maemo platform has emerged that claims to be able to dial a contact using only the power of thought:

ThinkContacts is designed to allow a “Motor disabled person to make a phone call to a desired contact by himself/herself”. Requiring a special headset to read users’ brainwaves, it uses brain activity to determine which of three contacts on the screen the user wants to call.

While the app is looking quite basic at present, the project’s wiki at Forum Nokia only opened six days ago meaning this is likely to be an early-stage project. The wiki describes how the app works:
“The user controls the selection of the desired contact by controlling his/her level of meditation and attention. If the user’s level of attention is higher than 70% the software switches to the next contact in the list, if it is lower than 30% the software switches to the previous, otherwise the current contact will not be switched. If the user’s meditation level is higher than 80%, the software makes a phone call to the contact located at the center of the screen.”

Read more at - 'Mind-controlled app calls your friends with the power of thought'


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Mind-reading marketers have ways of making you buy

New Scientist has an intriguing post on the power of neuromarketing....which is coming to a magazine cover near you!

TAKE A look at the cover of this week's New Scientist magazine (right). Notice anything unusual? Thought not, but behind the scenes your brain is working overtime, focusing your attention on the words and images and cranking up your emotions and memory. How do we know? Because we tested it with a brain scanner.

In what we suspect is a world first, this week's cover was created with the help of a technique called neuromarketing, a marriage of market research and neuroscience that uses brain-imaging technology to peek into people's heads and discover what they really want. You may find that sinister. What right does anyone have to try to read your mind? Or perhaps you are sceptical and consider the idea laughable. But ...

Read more at - 'Mind-reading marketers have ways of making you buy'