Friday, December 29, 2006

Clean travel of the future?

The picture above shows Willanius Willhelmsen's zero emissions ship:

'the E/S Orcelle (the E/S stands for Environmentally Sound). It is the ship of the future - powered by the sun, wind and waves. The futuristic vessel has no conventional engines, uses no fossil fuels and releases no harmful emissions into the atmosphere or pollution into the sea. A pentamaran shaped hull (5 parallel hulls) using aluminium and thermoplastic composites reduces weight and drag. Designed to carry 10,000 cars the 250 metre long, 50 metre wide ship may be the emissions free ship of the future.

Wallenius Wilhelmsen brought together a multidisciplinary team of naval architects, environmental experts and industrial designers under the guidance of naval architect, Per Brinchmann, to work on a visionary design for a car carrier of the future, the E/S (Environmentally sound Ship) Orcelle. A scale model of the ship that demonstrates some of the technical ideas produced by the design team has now been constructed. Intended to provide a vision of what an environmentally-friendly car and ro-ro carrier might look like in 2025, the E/S Orcelle concept vessel has been designed so that it will produce zero emissions into either the air or sea. It can use renewable energy sources, including the sun, wind and waves, as well as fuel cell technology, to meet all propulsion and onboard power requirements.'

Via Plausible Futures

School reports via mobile phones and email?

This BBCNews Report suggests that parents in England may soon be getting more frequent progress reports from their children's schools via e-mail or even mobile phones:

'Ministers want to use new technologies to improve the flow of information between schools and parents.

They say research shows parental involvement is vital to children's progress, and want to go beyond traditional parent-teacher evenings.

They might also set up chatrooms to discuss the way local schools are run. Education Minister Jim Knight has been investigating the issue. He is expected to make an announcement early in 2007.'

I wonder, can parents email or text back their comments??

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The next generation of mobility: implants

Here is a cheery thought as we enter 2007 - a future of implanted individuals? Can this really happen...? How could it come about? Well, Kevin Haggerty, associate professor of criminology at the University of Alberta has written an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star that outlines the likely social proceedures. In 'One generation is all they need' Haggerty writes that

'By the time my four-year-old son is swathed in the soft flesh of old age, he will likely find it unremarkable that he and almost everyone he knows will be permanently implanted with a microchip. Automatically tracking his location in real time, it will connect him with databases monitoring and recording his smallest behavioural traits.

The remaining holdouts will grow increasingly weary of Luddite jokes and subtle accusations that they have something to hide. Exasperated at repeatedly watching neighbours bypass them in "chipped" lines while they remain subject to the delays, inconveniences, and costs reserved for the unchipped, they too will choose the path of least resistance and get an implant.

In one generation, then, the cultural distaste many might see as an innate reaction to the prospect of having our bodies marked like those of an inmate in a concentration camp will likely fade. In the coming years some of the most powerful institutional actors in society will start to align themselves to entice, coerce, and occasionally compel the next generation to get an implant.'

A compelling read...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

John Urry on Automobility

Lancaster University Professor of Sociology John Urry can be heard on BBC Radio 4's 'Thinking Allowed' discussing the subject of Automobility

The host introduces the topic of how cars have changed from the open-air speed machines of the 1920 and 30s to today's enclosed home from homes... and how they might be about to change again.

John Urry has sent you a link to listen to a radio show using the BBC Radio Player. Click on this link to listen

To listen you will need to have RealPlayer installed on your computer.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Transport MobilityNews

Some worthy links on transport mobility news:

1. In London Provides First Street Recharging Points for Electric Vehicles: 'Westminster City Council in London has introduced two free street recharging points for electric cars—the first on-street points in the UK. Westminster already provides 48 free recharging stations, but these are located in 13 of the city’s parking garages.'

2. From BBCNews 'Tesco to run fleet on green fuel': 'Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket chain, has announced plans to run three quarters of its delivery fleet on biodiesel from January next year.'

3. From Guardian Unlimited 'Carbon trading 'credit cards' for everyone': 'Every citizen would be issued with a carbon "credit card" - to be swiped every time they bought petrol, paid an energy utility bill or booked an airline ticket - under a nationwide carbon rationing scheme that could come into operation within five years, according to a feasibility study commissioned by the environment secretary'

Friday, December 15, 2006

IBM to Open Islands in Virtual World

The virtual world of Second Life just keeps getting bigger... and has been featured here several times.

Now IBM is launching an ambitious marketing campaign in this virtual world by developing 12 "virtual islands," and most will be open to anyone with a Second Life account starting next week. However, other areas will remain private access for about 800 IBM employees - including the CEO.

Imagine those suited cyber alter-egos!

Read more here

The Peak of Blogging

BBCNews writes in 'Blogging 'set to peak next year' how analysts have calculated that the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million sometime during the middle of next year:

'The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs. Gartner has made 10 predictions, including stating that Vista will be the last major release of Windows and PCs will halve in cost by 2010.

Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer said the reason for the levelling off in blogging was due to the fact that most people who would ever start a web blog had already done so.'

Well - we're still going - and hope to continue doing so. In fact, I've been a blogger since March 2003 and have been blogging constantly since then, and now have 5 blogs... so, why not check out my other one at Between Both Worlds

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Psyops with Text Messages

In 'Blitzed by text messages' a tabloid newspaper in the UK reports how Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are being bombarded by British army text messages:

'Intelligence chiefs find out the numbers of the enemy’s mobile phones then send them waves of messages to confuse them and destroy morale...Texts range from simple abuse such as “We know who you are, give up” or “Go home, you’ll never beat us”. Others are disguised as messages from comrades to spread duff information. And attacks on Royal Marine commandos in lawless Helmand province are DOWN in the last month since the mind games began.

The text attacks are carried out by the 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group, based at the Intelligence Corps’ HQ in Chicksands, Beds.'

Via Smart Mobs

Spaces of Terrorist Prevention

Subtopia have an interesting post on Architectural Clairvoyance and the Spaces of Terrorist Prevention:

'Behind the walls of a non-descript building somewhere in a quiet Washington suburb, multiple watch-teams sift their way through an endless barrage of data viz and intelligence. For 12 to 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, they analyze over “6,000 reports [that] come through every day from satellite, electronic and human intelligence sources,” in an attempt to trace nothing less than the unfathomable patterns of a fortuitous geometry of hidden connections, that could somehow help predict the next terrorist attack.'

The geometrics of surveillance and hidden connections... media and subversion...

MobileActive’s Strategy Guide

MobileActive - who examine the use of mobile phones for civic engagement - have just released their MobileActive Strategy Guide #1: Mobile Phones in Elections and Voter Registration Campaigns:

This guide examines successful ways that organizations have used mobile phones in electoral and voter registration campaigns and shares lessons learned from these experiments.

Download here

Friday, December 08, 2006

Microsoft European Research Fellowship for New Technology

I'm happy to be able to report on important research being undertaken here at Lancaster. A Lancaster University sociologist has won a Microsoft European Research Fellowship worth a quarter of a million Euros for work which could influence the design of new technology:

'The award is one of only two Fellowships in the whole of Europe in 2006 and Lancaster is the only university in the UK to have won one.

The funding has been awarded to Dr Mark Rouncefield, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Computing based at InfoLab21, the University’s £15m information and communication technologies centre.'

Read more here

Widespread use of security cameras in Korea

OhMyNews Korea has an article on the rise of surveillance cameras in South Korea - including the plan to place cameras in each elementary school in Seoul:

'They are everywhere, most of the time they are inconspicuously placed, secretly watching our every move. Other times they are placed out in the open with signs announcing their presence in an attempt to scare us to comply with the established rules. Surveillance cameras are now a part of our everyday life.

We expect to see, or not see, these cameras in banks and other secure areas, such as airports and courthouses. Convenience stores and shopping centers have cameras scattered all throughout them in an effort to prevent shoplifting. But there are other places that perhaps we don't really expect them.'

Read full article - Big Brother Is Watching You

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Biometric trials have begun

BBCNews reports in Heathrow begins biometric trials how some passengers at Heathrow airport are being invited to sign up for a trial of what is being called the 'most advanced passenger screening equipment in the world':

'Travellers will be able to bypass long queues if they have their fingerprints biometrically scanned, while face and eye scans will be introduced soon. Those trying the miSense system have the scans at the same time as their passport is scanned at check-in. It is designed to make travelling easier, while maintaining security.

Some Cathay Pacific and Emirates flights will invite passengers to join the trial when they check in. Passengers' details are linked to their passport, so they can be fast-tracked past queues through security and boarding controls.'

As you would expect, this is being touted as helping customers fast-track themselves onto the plane: well, someone should tell these eager fast-trackers is that although they gave all their biometric info to the database, the plane still won't be taking off without the others!....

Watching The Watchmen Watching Us

Jamais Cascio has another decent talk in reference to his 'participatory panopticon' in Watching The Watchmen Watching Us:

'This November, comedian Michael Richards learned about the participatory panopticon. So did the UCLA police. And early in the month, Virginia Senator George Allen learned that it can have a political bite.

The participatory panopticon is the emerging scenario of distributed observation of the world around us, using cheap, networked tools like mobile phones and open, web-based tools like YouTube. A rapidly-growing number of us have literally at our fingertips systems of capturing and sharing what we see. Most of what we capture will be of interest only to ourselves, or to close friends and relatives; some, however, will have a far greater reach that we might suspect.'

This is well worth a read to see about how on-the-ground sousveillance can impact social relations.

Latest links from the roads

In the travel mobilities region there are a couple of interesting posts.

This one - Hydrogen storage for green cars discusses how researchers in the U.K. and Canada say they've discovered a new material which could be used to safely store hydrogen at room temperature. The material, known as a rhodium-hydrogen compound, can store and release hydrogen with a simple switch. Good news for green motorists is that the researchers hope to have an hydrogen tank prototype ready within two to three years. (Via Primidi)

Another is - GM's Plug-In Hybrid: 'Last week General Motors (GM) gave a boost to plug-in hybrid vehicles. It announced a new gas-saving technology that could transform transportation and make renewable sources of electricity, such as wind and sun, more feasible.' (Via TechReview)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Another Transport Roadmap

First the UK Government in London released their transport report (blogged previously), now the Scottish Executive have released their plans as
Scotland's National Transport Strategy (pdf):

'Road pricing to cut congestion by making city driving more expensive than rural routes and faster rail links are to form future transport policy. The Scottish Executive wants to cut emissions, improve public transport, create more car-free zones and see more short journeys made by bike or on foot.

Transport Minister Tavish Scott has set out the executive's long-term transport policy for the next 20 years. However, the Green Party said that road building was still a priority. Last week, a specially commissioned UK Government report by former British Airways chief Sir Rod Eddington recommended that motorists should be asked to pay to drive on the nation's road network.'

Read - Transport 'roadmap' for way ahead - from the BBC

Also, read George Monbiot's comments on transport networks in 'I'm all for putting more vehicles on our roads. As long as they're coaches'

It seems that road transport and automobilities are hot topics right now...

Images in Tourism

The Image Enriched Learning in Tourism (IELIT)Project is a project that aims to:

1. To develop an image database for tourism educators.
2. To suggest ways in which images could enrich learning.

The Image database consists of freely available images contributed by academics, researchers, industry and individuals with rights cleared for educational purposes. Users are able to browse within a range of tourism subject areas, or to search for images based on keywords. Images can be downloaded with informative descriptive text provided by the contributors. Please click here to download a poster.

Cosmobilities Meeting Basle 2007 - Call for Papers

More news from the Cosmobilities Network:

Mobilities, Space, and Inequality.

Cosmobilities Network Meeting in Basle, 7.-8.9.2007

'The social arrangements of space and social inequality have always formed intriguing associations, yet the dynamics introduced by modernization, globalization, migration, and social change in relation to space and inequality have not received sufficient attention in the social sciences.De velopments in communication and transport technologies are offering new possibilities of social arrangements and inequality structures in time and space. As a result, new spatial settings and functional overlappings are possible, e.g. working from home, travel time as working time, long distance relationships, etc. Accordingly, spatial mobility constitutes a number of different types of mobility. Of interest are not only the different types of mobility but also their relations to each other, as well as to social inequality structures and their dynamics more generally.'

Mobile Phone links

Here are some links currently doing the round in the mobile-society:

  • The phone of the future:From The Economist print edition: The phone has had a splendid 130-year history. What will it look like in future? Will it even be called a phone?
  • Mobile Africa: Mobile Africa is Africa's premier and most extensive resource of information about mobile communications technology, which is dedicated exclusively to Africa.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Wakey wakey to sleepy drivers!

This post titled 'Mercedes wants to wake up sleepy drivers' describes how an interdisciplinary team of engineers, computer scientists and psychologists at Mercedes-Benz is developing a system to save many lives and which should be ready in a few years:

'The phenomenon that threatens to occur in this type of situation is referred to by experts as "microsleep": a spontaneous reaction of the human organism to over-fatigue. The eyes sting, the lids blink more frequently but more slowly too, the pupils become smaller, the driver yawns and shivers -- all telltale warning signs of this phenomenon. Should the eyes remain closed for just one second longer than usual the consequences can be fatal, as in this second the car covers a whole 28 metres when travelling at a speed of 100 km/h - effectively driverless and therefore out of control.

So what are doing the Mercedes-Benz experts to fight this state? They've used a variety of methods for detecting driver fatigue as soon as it sets in.

One of these techniques is the eye-blink observation method: an infrared camera directed at the driver's head permanently monitors the eye-blink frequency, enabling microsleep to be detected the instant the eyes stay closed for a certain period of time. A warning signal sounds in the car's cockpit in response.'

Via Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

The future of transport

A Treasury-backed review of Britain's transport requirements has now been released. Sir Rod Eddington's study argues that charging motorists by the mile would raise £28 billion a year and help to cut congestion and harmful carbon emissions. He also recommends the expansion of international gateway airports such as Heathrow:

'Sir Rod, the former head of BA, was commissioned by Gordon Brown to look into the long-term future of transport. He has recommended tolls on the busiest roads, calculating they could bring in £28bn a year that could be used to improve the bus and rail systems.

He believed pricing would also put large numbers of motorists off driving altogether, reducing emissions of carbon. But he also complained that more than 28 per cent of flights at Heathrow were delayed by more than 15 minutes, one of the worst records in the EU, and called for the expansion of major airports.'

Yet it isn't reported how the motorists will be charged per mile - this will undoubtedly require car-tracking and monitoring technology - a type of function-creep to introduce this style of incoming surveillance technology.

'The future of transport: bigger airports, and motorists forced to pay by the mile'

Flashmobbers come dancing!

In 'Record-breaking flashmobbers come dancing' people met at Paddington Station in London to dance and boogie in a flash...

'Going to great lengths to congregate with strangers and carry out random acts - a craze known as flashmobbing - might not be everyone's idea of fun. But 3,500 of its followers have just proved that the phenomenon is reaching record-breaking levels.

The participants gathered on the concourse of Paddington Station in London on Thursday evening, having received instructions on the internet to bring iPods loaded with the clubbers' anthem "What You Do" by Biig Bass. At 7.18pm precisely they began dancing with as much abandon as they could muster. One commuter, Danny Clifford, said: "It was the most bizarre and surreal experience of my life. The clock hit 7.18pm and suddenly the place erupted. Everyone was plugged into their MP3 players so there was no music to be heard."'

Would love to see some pictures of the quiet mob!

Wi-Fi in Manchester

BBCNews reports in 'Manchester plans free city wi-fi' how Manchester could become the biggest free wireless internet hotspot in Europe - great news!

'The network, inspired by projects in San Francisco and Amsterdam, would cover 90% of Greater Manchester and reach up to 2.2 million people. Councillors believe the initiative could make the city a leader in driving the UK into the digital age.

An open day inviting comments on the plans is being held on 15 December.Interested businesses or individuals can contribute to the debate at the Town Hall event either openly or in confidence.The initiative is part of Manchester's bid in the government's Digital Challenge Initiative, a competition that will select a region to qualify for up to £3m in funding.'

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mobility & Future Warfare

This article by Andrew Buncombe titled The Future of War describes just how mobile and deadly - and automated - future warfare will become:

'At a recent exhibition of new military technology one independent expert stood almost agog as the prototype for a new killing machine was rolled out. It went by the acronym of URV or Unmanned Robot Vehicle - and it looked like something from the movies.

"It was frightening. The [URV] has laser radars at the front and these things were scanning up and down and from side to side," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.Org, a Washington-based military studies group. "It was the most Sixties, sci-fi thing I have ever seen."...

"More destructive capacity into the hands of ever-smaller groups of individuals"

"I think that cyberwarfare and biotechnology are particularly threatening to the West because they - along with nuclear proliferation - will put more destructive capacity into the hands of ever-smaller groups of individuals," he said. "We need to keep innovating to find potential solutions - biotechnology can provide not only killer viruses but also lifesaving antidotes."'

Warfare is becoming increasingly assyemetrical, decentered, and guerilla-like - in other words, it is becoming more mobile and networked.

Lets be friends - virtually!

BBC News reports in 'Virtual pals 'soar in importance' how many online members believe that virtual communities are as important as their real-world counterparts:

'A survey found 43% of online networkers from the US felt "as strongly" about their web community as they did about their real-world friends. It also revealed net-users had made an average of 4.6 virtual pals this year. The survey, from the US-based Center for the Digital Future, of 2,000 individuals forms part of a six-year study into attitudes to the web...

It also found 40% of net-users were using the web to stay in contact with people, and 37.7% believed the internet was enabling them to communicate more with friends and family. The survey also revealed 7.4% of those surveyed kept a blog, double the figure in 2003; and in that period, the number of people posting pictures online grew from 11% to 23.6%.'

....Are we friends??

GPS That Never Fails

TechReview claims in GPS That Never Fails that a breakthrough in vision processing has been developed that provides a highly accurate way to fill gaps in Global Positioning System availability:

'Drive down a Manhattan street, and your car's navigation system will blink in and out of service. That's because the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite signals used by car navigation systems and other technologies get blocked by buildings. GPS also doesn't work well indoors, inside tunnels and subway systems, or in caves--a problem for everyone from emergency workers to soldiers. But in a recent advance that has not yet been published, researchers at Sarnoff, in Princeton, NJ, say their prototype technology--which uses advanced processing of stereo video images to fill in GPS gaps--can maintain location accuracy to within one meter after a half-kilometer of moving through so-called GPS-denied environments.

That kind of resolution is a major advance in the field, giving GPS-like accuracy over distances relevant to intermittent service gaps that might be encountered in urban combat or downtown driving.'

Millions of Mobile Broadband Users

Cellular-News claims that there will be over 500 Million Mobile Broadband Users by 2010:

'According to a Strategy Analytics' recent report, new alternative technologies will contribute just 6 percent of the forecast 500 million mobile broadband users globally by 2010. Despite all the hype surrounding alternative technologies like WiMAX, it is iterations of existing technologies which will dominate the mobile broadband arena in the short term.

Technologies such as mobile WiMAX and UMTS TDD will lead the alternative technology camp, but enhancements to existing technologies, including HSPA and EV-DO Revision A+ will comprise the bulk of the market and are where the money lies in the short-term.'

Blogging Towards Democracy

SpiegelOnline International has a post on From China to Iran, Web Diarists Are Challenging Censors that looks at some of the dissident bloggers in China and Iran, and other similar states:

'Authoritarian states like China, Iran and Egypt are having trouble dealing with the burgeoning number of critical online diaries. These blogs, which multiply by the second, expose news about incidents that many regimes would prefer to keep hushed up. In many countries, blogs are giving people their first real taste of democracy.

The incident casts a bright light on a new form of resistance: the constantly growing online criticism of seemingly omnipotent regimes and authorities charged with upholding morals. An odd crescendo is building on the Internet, one that resembles a fast-growing series of vibrations, at times as dissonant as its many voices, but also powerful and influential when similar interests converge.'

Can resistance be fuelled by decentralised practices?

(Thanks to DB for the article)

Monday, November 27, 2006

The New World, the Rise of the New Culture of Participation

In a talk entitled 'The New World, the Rise of the New Culture of Participation' futurist thinker Jamais Cascio talks of ideas that he first outlined at Worldchanging concerning public participation and citizen culture:

'These are all ways of allowing interested, eager participation in efforts that would be too big for any single person, and too “out of control” (in Kevin Kelly’s phrase) for any traditional organization.

This list covers some of the characteristics of this emerging participatory culture.

* Collaboration
* Distribution
* Networks over hierarchies
* Transparency
* Ownership of reputation vs. ownership of property
* Ideas are catalysts for more ideas
* Technology-enabled, not technology-focused'

As ever, a thoughtful take on mobile collaboration and participation.

New fuelled mobility on the road

According to this Green Car Congress report Nissan Motor plans to put lightweight, subcompact electric cars powered by lithium-ion batteries developed in-house on the market in three years:

'Nissan will also reportedly roll-out its gasoline-electric hybrids—possibly with plug-in capability—based on its own technology by 2010. The 2007 Altima Hybrid is based on technology licensed from Toyota. Nissan is projecting a driving range for the electric vehicle of about 200 km on a single charge. Mitsubishi Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries are also developing electric cars for the mass market.

Nissan developed its first electric car in 1947. It developed a two-passenger small electric car—the Hypermini—in 2000, but the model could travel only just more than 100 km on a single charge and never made it to the mass market.'

Similarly Toyota Motor plans to increase the proportion of fuel-efficient diesel and hybrid passenger vehicles that it sells in Europe from 43% of its new car sales in 2005 to 50% in 2010, according to this report

See also this post on Serial Hybrids Are Here! - 'Just six months after Tesla Motors announced the return of a 100% battery car, the Tesla Roadster, we have another great leap forward. As reported in the Los Angeles Times in a story entitled “GM To Present A Modified Electric Car“ on November 10th, General Motors has announced a serial hybrid car. Early next year they will present a prototype of the vehicle.'

It seems there is an increasing shift in the car market away from hydrocarbons...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Digital Revolutions! SMSing Under the Dinner Table

Here are some links to 'digital revolutions':

This post SMSing Under the Dinner Table reveals how in a new T-Mobile USA survey on mobile communications during the American holiday season it showed that active use of cell phones, instant messaging and texting devices are creating new family dynamics at holiday dinners and family gatherings!! Well - is this family at 'co-presence'?

In the survey:

* Seventy percent of young adults (ages 18-22) and 56 percent of parents surveyed say they've made or answered wireless calls during a holiday gathering.
* Thirty-five percent of young adults say they've read or sent an e-mail or text message under the dinner table during a holiday family gathering.
* In addition, 67 percent of parents and young adults now agree that it is okay to use their mobile phone during holiday gatherings. Moreover, 73 percent of people surveyed agree the mobile phone can improve the holidays by keeping people in touch with those not there in person.

Also - Washington Post are running a rather interesting series called the "Digital Revolution" - such as about Internet in rural Bangladesh in Internet Extends Reach Of Bangladeshi Villagers

Thanks to mobile-society for this

Suspect Nation

Earlier in the week More4 aired a documentary on the state of Britain's surveillance - it was titled Suspect Nation .

For those who missed it, it can be viewed here as a free download on Google Video - while it lasts!

A very 'telling' exposure.

Mobiles hope to be 'smart wallet'

BBCNews discusses in Mobiles hope to be 'smart wallet' how mobiles will soon be using wireless technology similar to RFID in order to operate more like 'smart wallets' for entry and payment:

'NFC is a short-range wireless technology like RFID tags, which are used to track stock by retailers. The tags inside phones could have personal information stored in them and so could act as car keys, money, tickets and travel cards. Mobile firms representing 40% of the global mobile market back NFC.Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer of the GSM Association, which represents the mobile industry, said: "Interoperability and standardisation are the fundamental requirements for mobile market success.

"NFC opens up a wide range of possibilities and we are committed to ensuring the mobile industry works together to realise its potential."'

Surveillance cameras that listen

NewScientistTech reports in Big brother is listening to you how surveillance cameras are starting to listen for our raised, shhh:

'Revellers planning a night out in the Netherlands this weekend should keep their voices down.

To prevent fights breaking out, surveillance cameras in the city of Groningen have been adapted to listen out for voices raised in anger. Microphones attached to the cameras feed the sound signals to software that can detect voices that are aggressive in tone. "Aggressive people tend to tense their larynx, and the sound made by their vocal cords is distorted," says Peter van Hengel of developer Sound Intelligence, a spin-off of the University of Groningen. This means that high frequency vowel sounds span a broader frequency range. "A truly aggressive voice is very hard to imitate," he says.'

What senses are next, one wonders??

Monday, November 20, 2006

The way to work: Space, place and technology in 2016

Orange (the phone company, that is) has recently compiled a report - The way to work: Space, place and technology in 2016 - which examines how:

'Businesses must prioritise managing intellectual property and flexibility of work time and location to control organisational change over the next 10 years, according to the latest report from the Orange Future Enterprise coalition (OFEc). “The way to work: space, place and technology in 2016” sets out the challenges to business of the future in light of evolving social, economic, political and organisational pressures.'


'The way to work in 2016: Space, place and technology in 2016' OFEc report (1.53 Mb, pdf)

'The way to work in 2016: Space, place and technology in 2016' Podcast (6 Mb, mp3)

Hyperlinking Reality via Phones

This MIT TechReview reports how Nokia researchers are working on a system that allows physical objects to be identified and connected to the Internet through mobile-phone screens:

'A Nokia research project could one day make it easier to navigate the real world by superimposing virtual information on an image of your surroundings. The new software, called Mobile Augmented Reality Applications (MARA), is designed to identify objects viewed on the screen of a camera phone.

The Nokia research team has demonstrated a prototype phone equipped with MARA software and the appropriate hardware: a global positioning system (GPS), an accelerometer, and a compass. The souped-up phone is able to identify restaurants, hotels, and landmarks and provide Web links and basic information about these objects on the phone's screen.'

Dail and Park in Paris

A new system for drivers and mobile users is starting in Paris - Forget park and ride, try dial and park describes the system:

'A service starting in Paris next month is designed to make life somewhat easier for harried drivers by allowing them to find out, in real time, whether there are parking spaces available nearby by using their cellphones or GPS navigation devices.

The system will monitor the status of about 120 public parking garages across the French capital. From their phones, drivers will be able to find out whether a nearby garage is open and has places available.

"At certain times of day, 20 to 25 percent of vehicles are in search of a parking space. With this service, we should be able to improve the traffic flow," said François Le Vert, a representative of the Fédération Nationale des Métiers du Stationnement, an organization of French parking institutions that helped develop the system.'

Via Smartmobs

Biodiesel Fueling Location Information for Cell Phones and Mobile Devices

GreenCarCongress reports on how maps are being developed for mobile phone users to find biodiesel fueling spots... although only in the US at present:

'NearBio, operated and invented by WHDC LLC, a privately held company specializing in distributed mobile applications, has introduced a service that enables mobile phone users (and computer users) to find the nearest biodiesel fueling locations based on city, zip code, or GPS coordinates.

The national database of more than 1,000 individually verified locations is updated daily and is complete with driving directions, hours, payment options, and blend information (where available). The website’s graphical map of nationwide locations is the first of its kind, using a color-coded icon for each pump location to identify the specific blend available.'

Plain Air Dining

In this article Plain Air Dining it says that Americans love their cars— 'as chariots, mobile offices, and teenage make-out spots' yet asks - but when did they become dining tables?

'I hate parking lots. I hate their pervasiveness; I hate how, in this driver-friendly era, we’ve forgotten to relegate them behind buildings. I hate the flat, empty space they create. Recently we’ve begun landscaping them, as if we know it’s bad to cover so much ground with cement for our cars. To make amends, we build little green islands in the hard, gray seas, then anchor our cars next to them. It reminds me of the way farmers leave a wild copse in the middle of a field as a wildlife refuge. Only, in the case of the parking lot, it seems we’re both the farmer and the rabbit running from the fox. Have you noticed? The first spaces to be taken are always the ones in the shade.'

Saturday, November 18, 2006

New Fuels for new mobilities

The latest in the search for alternative fuels for transportation has a couple of interesting developments.

Firstly, there is the new BMW just showcased - a hybrid hydrogen vehicle. It is discussed in this BBC article where both the pros and cons are outlined. Of course, its both expensive and there are currently only 5 refueling stations in the world that are compatible with the BMW technology - so plan that trip carefully!

Secondly, a fascinating account from ScienceDaily called Microorganisms One Part Of The Solution To Energy Problem which says that the answer to one of the world's largest problems -- the need for clean, renewable sources of energy -- might just come from some of the world's smallest inhabitants -- bacteria!

A new report published on this - Microbial Energy Conversion - can be downloaded from here

Latest in GPS vehicle tracking

In the latest post from Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends it talks of a new truck tracking technology:

'Now, European companies in Ireland and Spain are using an integrated solution for managing produce transport fleets. So far, this integrated fleet-management system is used by about 800 trucks. And if this is an efficient way to manage trucks, even the creators call it 'a big-brother style solution.Here is how the software developed for the Cold-Trace project works according to IST Results:

Where in the past fleet managers have relied on calling drivers to find out where they are or to check if a pick-up or drop-off went ok, the Cold-Trace system gives them the information for the whole fleet on a PC screen. A 'black box' in each truck is connected to a server in the fleet manager’s office via a GPRS connection, while each driver has a standard PDA. GPS location data and information from sensors placed around the vehicle are all fed into the black box, and from there fed back to fleet headquarters.'

For more information about this project and its future applications, the business case "Cold-Trace: a Mobile-based Traceability Solution Rendering Fleet Management more Effective" (PDF format, 8 pages, 277 KB)

Mobile security in the 21st century?

I recently posted about the e-passport regulations coming into force insisting that countries/citizens wishing to enter the US are required to have. Well, thanks to a Guardian article it seems that such passports are not so secure after all:

'Six months ago, with the help of a rather scary computer expert, I deconstructed the life of an airline passenger simply by using information garnered from a boarding-pass stub he had thrown into a dustbin on the Heathrow Express. By using his British Airways frequent-flyer number and buying a ticket in his name on the airline's website, we were able to access his personal data, passport number, date of birth and nationality. Based on this information, using publicly available databases, we found out where he lived, his profession, all his academic qualifications and even how much his house was worth.

It would have been only a short hop to stealing his identity, committing fraud in his name and generally ruining his life.'

Mobile security in the 21st century?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New High Speed Train Networks

Is the future more about mass high-speed train transport than individualised motor vehicle travel? Yesterday saw the completion - finally - of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which has been renamed High Speed 1 (or HS1). This new link will 'allow Eurostar trains to accelerate to 186mph (300km/h) within minutes of leaving their new terminus at St Pancras. They will reach the Channel Tunnel 70 miles away in half an hour, shaving about 25 minutes off the journey time to Paris and Brussels. London to Paris will take 2 hours and 15 minutes'

According to The Times in Travel times slashed as London gets on the fast track to Europe :

HIGH-SPEED trains will compete with airlines between London and dozens of cities on the Continent from next year, when three missing links in Europe’s 186mph rail network will be filled.

Eurostar is joining forces with high-speed rail operators in six European countries to offer through tickets and fast connections. Journey times from London to Amsterdam, Cologne, Strasbourg and Zurich will be cut by up to two hours, making rail a fast alternative to air travel for the first time in 30 years.From November 14 next year Eurostar passengers will no longer have to spend the first 30 miles of their journey on slow, suburban lines in South London.

A Report on the Surveillance Society

A few posts ago I commented upon the recent report that had just been released that had made a study of Britain as a surveillance state.

This study had been commissioned by the Information Commissioner and was undertaken by the Surveillance Studies Network, with the principal report authors having connection to the academic organisation/journal Surveillance & Society.

This 100 page report is now available in full here.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Transology: Reinventing The Wheel

The people at MIT have done it again in terms of cool-ness... in their concept cars described in this report - Transology: Reinventing The Wheel (PDF) - they examine urban motorisation that adapts to the body of the driver/user like transparent skin with integrated displays and Building a car around the movement of the drivers...

Worth a look... especially for re-conceptualising urban mobilities

When Maps Reflected Romance of the Road

NY Times describes in a piece titled 'When Maps Reflected Romance of the Road ' how today the road map is mostly an online 'virtual' electronic image - and how this is destroying the romance of navigating a car journey by good ole paper maps that used to hide the car screen as you drove... ahh, those good old days:

'Perhaps it is the contrast with digital maps that makes old-fashioned paper road maps seem rich and wonderful again. Those colorful guides once found in every glove compartment are gaining desirability not just as collectibles but as cultural records — even in archives as august as those of the Library of Congress....

...The old road maps don’t give oral directions or find the nearest A.T.M. But their resolution, design and colors all make the digital variety pale: the screens in our cars seem like remnants of the days of the first I.B.M. PCs...In the ’20s, maps also often showed airplanes, boats and other exciting vehicles that used the fuel and oil produced by the company issuing the map.'

Thanks to Mimi!

New generation of location-based services

Information Society Technologies reports in 'Bringing combined positioning and communications technologies to market' that British police officers, Italian fire fighters and Greek taxi drivers are amongst the many users testing innovative location-based services under the LIAISON project:

'The results could mark a coming of age for converging communications and positioning technologies.

LIAISON is one of the largest current initiatives to develop and implement a new generation of location-based services (LBS) for the professional market. The project approach, based on what is called 'enhanced assisted GPS', is designed to improve the speed, accuracy and reliability of existing GPS systems, allowing a whole new range of time, cost and life-saving services to be developed.

The three-and-a-half year initiative involves more than 30 partners from 10 European countries and, after an extensive test programme commencing in November 2006, should result in several commercial systems. Some applications are likely to be on the market before the project ends in April 2008.

“We expect to be able to start commercialising within months of the different trials concluding successfully,” explains LIAISON coordinator Rémi Challamel of Alcatel Space in France.'

Monday, November 13, 2006

Running Stitch - capturing space...

Here looks like a worthwhile exhibition for 'mobility' fans -

Running Stitch is being described as '
A tapestry map, created live, using satellite navigation' by artists Jen Southern & Jen Hamilton

Friday 17th November 6-9pm

Exhibition: 18th November to 17th December 2006. Admission Free

Fabrica, 40 Duke Street, Brighton, BN1 1AG

Running Stitch is a 25sq/m tapestry map, created live in the gallery over four weeks, that charts visitors' daily journeys through the city.

"For Running Stitch, artists Jen Southern & Jen Hamilton will be re-configuring Brighton & Hove by 'capturing' its space through the movement of its inhabitants. Visitors to Fabrica will be given the opportunity to take a GPS-enabled mobile phone with them to track their journeys through the city centre. these walks around the city will result in individual GPS 'drawings' of the visitor's movements that are projected live in the gallery to disclose aspects of the city unknown to the artists. Each individual route will then be sewn into a hanging canvas to form an evolving tapestry that reveals a sense of place and interconnection.

Over the past four years Jen Hamilton (Canada) and Jen Southern (UK) have been using Satellite Navigation technology to explore urban environments. Data generated from the walking routes they invite people to take are often processed in their installations to create collaborative and personalised maps. Two recent projects: Distance Made Good: Flow Lines (Morecambe and Lancaster, 2004) and Satellite Bureau (Cardiff, 2005) each involved people in making new maps of their locality determined not by formal topographical or geopolitical conventions, but by their own choice of journey."

"Running Stitch sews together our routes to work to the sea, and our walks for exercise or shopping with the meandering and more personal journeys we might take within the fabric of the city."

at Fabrica, 40 Duke Street, Brighton, BN1 1AG
tel/fax [01273]778646
opening times
Wed Sat 11.30am - 5.30pm
Sun 2pm - 5pm. Closed Mon and Tues

The Cosmobilities Network

It's always a pleasure to announce that the Cosmobilities Network has now published their latest newsletter which can be found here (PDF).

This is a site/place always worth checking out as they have interesting links/articles on mobilities studies.

Also worth checking out is the exellcent slide show from the recent AIR TIME-SPACES: NEW METHODS FOR RESEARCHING MOBILITIES event that took place at Lancaster University, September 29-30 2006.

The photo-slideshow can be seen here

Note: the next cosmobilities meeting from September 7 - 8 in 2007 in Basle/Switzerland. The theme is 'Mobilities, Space and Inequality'.

For more information, check the newsletter, the cosmobilities website or visit the conference website

Interface for mobile-music on the Underground

Good - now the roaming has finished and I can get back to posting. Firstly, listen to this...listen to the music of the undersound...

'undersound is a new type of experience, an interface that is on your mobile phone and in the underground stations you pass through every day. It is part personal, part public and all about the tube. undersound is a way of listening to, distributing and affecting the flow of music in the underground that goes beyond just the music itself. It allows you to see your journeys, the people around you, and the tube itself in a new light. There are three key aspects of life underground that we tapped into in the design of undersound.'

undersound will be spatially distributed at individual stations and throughout the wider tube network. I can add music to the system at upload points in the ticket halls , and I can download tracks on the platforms. Architectural configuration of the stations affects my experience of contributing and downloading music as the proximal nature of the interaction with these situated points require s myself and other undersound users to congregate at certain locations within the station for the purpose of interacting with the system.

Via Smartmobs

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Robotising Military Mobilities

Although I haven't reported too often on military matters - yet! - I thought this information about the re-structuring of the South Korean military was interesting. The Korean Times discusses in High-Tech Military in Due Course how in September last year, the Army finished building the second largest training camp in the world, the Korea Combat Training Center (KCTC). This centre boasts 'state-of-the-art training capabilities, including the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES).The government spent about 280 billion won ($300 million) in develop the advanced training facility for seven years.' Also...

'The Army is pushing for a three-phase combat robot development project to build three types of robots for use in combat situations, in cooperation with the state-run Agency for Defense Development (ADD) and other private industrial counterparts, such as the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

...All information on situations on the battlefield, including the number of casualties, soldiers’ locations, kinds of weapons systems being used by enemy forces and lethality of specific weapons, are transmitted to the command-and-control center on a real-time basis through laser transmitters attached to soldiers and weapons systems.'

Where will all the soldiers go??

Britain has sleepwalked into pervasive surveillance

It's official - Britain is the most surveilled country amongst developed western nations. A recent report just out - The Surveillance Studies Network report- said there are up to 4.2m CCTV cameras - about one for every 14 people.

The report also stresses that dataveillance has increased drastically, as well as a future of targeted branding. This also includes satellite tracking of all future journeys and the introduction of individually customised payments, as well as job and school screening. This is the first report to really highlight the immediacy of this situation...and it sounds uncomfortable.

You can read separate accounts of this report from the BBC, Guardian, and The Times respectively:

Britain is 'surveillance society'

Spy planes, clothes scanners and secret cameras: Britain's surveillance future

By 2016, they'll be able to watch you everywhere

Also, of interest, is an article by Steve Wright called The ECHELON Trail: An Illegal Vision in which he describes how as an academic researcher at Lancaster University in the UK (thats us!) - he was investigating the Echelon surveillance system and was harrassed by Special Forces who came to his home and forced him to go with them to the university with the aim of confiscating his research... we researchers at Lancaster have a reputation, it seems...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


First Call for Papers


The Third International Winter Academy for Researchers and PhD students

University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland

10-12 May 2007


Lisa Adkins (Goldsmiths College, University of London)

Fuat Firat (University of Texas, Pan American)

Eeva Jokinen (University of Jyväskylä)

Claudio Minca (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Johanna Moisander (Helsinki School of Economics)

Beverley Skeggs (Goldsmiths College, London)

Anu Valtonen (University of Lapland)

Jussi Vähämäki (Chydenius-Institute)

And others…

What happens when one person’s leisure is someone else’s job? More and more people today are employed in cultural and leisure industries. They manufacture and serve leisure experiences for mobile consumers on holiday or at work. Tourism and travel industries are also among the major cultural forces of our era, since tourism differs from all other sectors of employment. It is intertwined with culture, economy, and social community life and, hence, makes an ideal subject for studies of mobilities and complexities in contemporary life where the public and the private are linked in unforeseen ways.

This meeting will contribute to interdisciplinary, cultural studies of new work and labour in tourism, travelling, and other mobile worlds. It will address the issues of tourism, travelling, hospitality, new work, and mobility through a variety of disciplines and schools of thought. New methodological insights will be emphasised for studying work in a mobile world in its concrete forms.

The meeting will build on the “sociability-friendly” concept for academic events developed in the previous two Winter Academies held in January 2003 and March 2004 at the University of Lapland (under the topics of Landscapes of Presence and Hostilities and Hospitalities). Discussions will be promoted through key note lectures and elaborated in three parallel workshops, where both senior scholars and PhD students are equally welcomed to present their work-in-progress. The invited guest speakers will also act as commentators and discussants in the workshops. The workshops are entitled:

* Landscapes of Work (geographies, regions, and taskscapes)

* Performances of Work (new work, gender, and cultural economies)

* Market-Related Work (cultural approaches in business studies)

The number of participants is restricted to around 40 to facilitate debate in joint sessions, workshops as well as during the excursions and dinners in the light nights of the North. Researchers worldwide, with their doctoral students, are warmly welcomed to join a possibility for both researcher training and meeting in one and same event. The registration fee (to cover all costs except for lodging and travel costs) will be 200 euros (early bird) and 300 euros (late bird).

Key dates for submission

Abstracts: 6 November - 22 December 2006 (one page, in MS WORD format; please, indicate which workshop you wish to participate in. The proposals will be selected according to their relevance to the topics of the conference. The accepted participants will be informed by 15 January 2007)

Early bird registrations – with or without a paper: by 31 January 2007

The registration form is available on the web page from 6 November 2006 onwards, and the registration is valid only after the payment.

Late bird registrations: by 1 March 2007.

Monday, October 30, 2006

London plans hybrid bus fleet

Ah, now that serious reports are coming out on global warming - which some politicians might listen to - there are moves being made in the transport sector. Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, wants every new bus from 2012 to run on hybrid motors that will generate 40% less carbon dioxide than their diesel-powered forebears. The Guardian reports in London plans hybrid bus fleet to cut carbon emissions:

'The aim is to put 500 hybrid buses on London's roads each year, with the aim of creating a green fleet. "We take very seriously our role in cutting CO2 emissions and tackling climate change," said Peter Hendy, London's transport commissioner. "We are sending a clear message to London and the transport industry that we are serious about this."

Hybrid buses use a battery pack, backed by a diesel engine. A trial of six hybrid buses ran into trouble in London this year when the diesel engines overheated, forcing a temporary withdrawal of the vehicles, which ran on the 360 route between Elephant and Castle and Kensington.'

Middle East May Have 1 Million Natural Gas Vehicles by 2010

We are being told now that Middle East May Have 1 Million Natural Gas Vehicles by 2010 and that 'despite being home to 65% of the world’s oil reserves, pressure to improve air quality and maximize crude oil revenues is driving Middle Eastern governments to implement alternative fuel schemes that dwarf many of those in oil-dependent nations'.

Also, that 'Government and private organizations in Egypt, Iran, United Arab Emirates and other oil-rich nations are implementing programs designed to reduce consumption of gasoline and diesel with natural gas vehicles. As many as one million natural gas-powered cars, trucks and buses could be plying Middle Eastern roads by the end of this decade, according to the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles.'

Read more here

From Green Car Congress

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mobility in the future will be biometric

It's going biometric... first the e-passports (earlier post), and now fingerprints to open your front door, to access buildings of work and leisure, and even to have the 'right of movement'....

This BBC article Firms point to biometric future discusses some of the latest innovations to be displayed at the recent Biometrics 2006 conference in London last week:

Biometric systems - which identify a person by their unique physical or behavioural features - are rapidly being designed and applied to many aspects of our everyday lives.

Facial recognition can also be used to monitor individuals remotely - whether in crowds, clubs or public gatherings. Some systems pick out faces in a crowd and compare them to a stored database.

CrossMatch's FaceCheck is being used in casinos in Europe to identify unwanted or banned customers, and even gambling addicts who want to be stopped when temptation gets the better of them.

Looks like we're heading for an era of biomobility...

The Future from the Past

This exhibition deserves a mention - and what pictures!! Although the event has passed, the website is a treasure of past visions of future transport. It includes future visions of car/plane/public rapid transport/train - and other oddities - all accompanied by great pictures!

Its called Transportation Futuristics: Visionary Designs in Transportation Engineering

Visit the picture gallerys and see how today's mobility was envisioned in the past...

‘Many utopian themes, arising in fantasy, find their way to reality’ - Frederick Polak

'Killer app' for 3G??

Tomi Ahonen thinks he has discovered the first killer app for 3G - he said recently that 'social networking on mobile is already bigger by revenues, than social networking on the web'. In a personal email he said:

'Yes, for all the hype around MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Bebo, Second Life, Worlds of Warcraft, Skype etc - we have already more revenues generated by similar social networking activity... on mobile phones of course. Led by such services as Cyworld from South Korea (in 6 countries), Mixi in Japan, Habbo Hotel from Finland (in over a dozen countries) and SeeMeTV in the UK, Italy and other 3/Hutchison markets - social networking on mobile is THE first elusive killer app for 3G !

How big? Informa tells us it is worth 3.45 billion dollars THIS YEAR. Yes, mobile digital communities are worth more than online adult entertainment, or mobile gambling or multiplayer gaming or iTunes. Like we say in our book, Communities Dominate!'

Tomi welcomes people to check out his claims at his blog

Well... killer apps come and killer apps go..... or do they??

Electronic passports are Go!

The deadline has passed for countries who have their visa-waivered to visit the US without an electronic-passport... the deadline was October 26th:

'Except for Andorra, Brunei and Liechtenstein, all of the 27 countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without a visa are now issuing "e-Passports," the department said in a statement. The passports include a radio frequency identification, or RFID, chip with the holder's information and a biometric identifier, such as a digital photograph.'

Yet there are security issues here:

The take-up of the electronic passports is bad news for privacy, said Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security. "The risk in RFID passports is surreptitious access, and the security measures different countries are taking are varied in their scope and effectiveness," he said.

For protection, holders of an electronic passport should guard it well, Schneier suggested. "If you're stuck with one of these passports, use a photocopy whenever you can and keep the real one wrapped in tin foil," he said.

Well - this doesn't make people sleep easily... perhaps this will increase tin foil sales?

Read RFID passports take off

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BT develops low-cost tsunami warning system

BT it appears has developed a low-cost sea monitoring technology that can be used to alert coastal communities of approaching floods or tsunamis:

'The "Secoas" system works by setting up a network of sensors that are attached to buoys along coastlines that monitor changes to sea levels and transmit that data back to shore by radio networks. The sensors can also be used in rivers.

The system has been designed to be cheap and easy to deploy. Traditional sea-monitoring systems cost tens of thousands of pounds to manufacture and thousands more to deploy, BT said. In contrast, each Secoas sensor should cost about £100 off the shelf, making the system accessible to poor countries.'

A type of global panopticon? Such environmental monitoring could go some way in making these issues both quick-time feedback responsive and accessible, perhaps, to a wider public through information dissemination.

Read BT develops low-cost tsunami warning system

Have SUV, will pay!

BBCNews has a piece on 'Gas guzzlers' face parking hike which says how the cost of residents' parking permits could be linked to car emissions under plans being considered in one of the country's most affluent areas:

'A Lib Dem council in London wants owners of gas-guzzling vehicles to pay more to park outside their homes. Richmond upon Thames residents with two high-emission cars could pay £750 a year, compared with £200 now, but the greenest cars would be exempt.

The council hopes other authorities will be encouraged to follow its lead. Richmond's plan follows national and local schemes targeting emissions and congestion and comes after the Lib Dem conference approved proposals to use new taxes on gas-guzzling cars and airlines to pay for income tax cuts.'

Size does matter!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Irish RFID passports

There is some controversey - or healthy debate! - over the fact that the newly arriving Irish RFID-enabled passports will not be safe from unauthorised readers. Engadget reports that:

'If you think you're at risk of identity theft and targeted assassination attempts with your new RFID-enabled passport, just think of the Irish for a moment: they started getting e-passports last week that don't even include the little mesh jacket that supposedly keeps our version safe from unauthorized readers. With Dutch and German passports based on the same ICAO guidelines having already been successfully intercepted and decrypted, people are understandably concerned that the US didn't think this policy all the way through before making it a requirement of the Visa Waiver program, and now it seems that some of the affected countries are willing to implement even shoddier security than a type that is already deemed risky. According to Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs, shielding the new documents is not necessary because they can only be detected when open and close to a reader, even though the general consensus is that the read distance of the chips they're using can be as much as several meters. Apparently the immediate fear is not so much over stolen identities (because of encryption), however, as it is about terrorists being able to use so-called RFID skimmers for targeting groups of people based on their nationality.'

Read Ireland getting naked e-passports

Less sperm in the future?

The Guardian warns that men who use mobile phones for long periods at a time may be at risk of damaging their sperm...well - according to research by American scientists:

'Samples taken from men attending a fertility clinic revealed that their sperm declined steadily in number, quality and ability to swim as mobile phone usage increased. Where men used their mobiles for more than four hours a day, researchers found a 30% drop in sperm motility or movement and viability when compared with men who did not use a mobile phone.

Scientists believe the study is too preliminary to prove an unequivocal link between mobile phones and falling sperm counts, but the work received a cautious welcome from other scientists who called for further studies to rule out other factors known to influence sperm quality, such as age, weight, smoking, stress and whether people had sedentary jobs. Ashok Agarwal, who presented his findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans, stressed the study did not prove mobile phones were damaging male fertility, but urged scientists to investigate the possibility'

Read in full at Warning to male mobile phone users: chatting too long may cut sperm count

Sensor the River Ribble, in the Yorkshire Dales...

NewScientistTech in Intelligent sensors watch for impending floods describes how a grid of smart river sensors will monitor water depth and flow and be used to predict impending flooding on a Yorkshire river:

'By producing more accurate and concise data than existing monitoring systems, the network could give locals and government decision-makers earlier warning of rising trouble. Two of thirteen sensor nodes have so far been installed along a kilometre stretch of the River Ribble, in the Yorkshire Dales, and the rest of the network should be in place by the end of the year. "The river floods regularly after Christmas every year," says Danny Hughes, a computer and environmental scientist at Lancaster University, UK, who is working on the project.

The final network will contain three kinds of sensor node. Eleven will measure pressure from below the waterline in order to determine depth. The other two will monitor the speed of river flow – one using ultrasound underwater, and the other using webcams to track objects and ripples moving along the surface, from the riverbank.

Each node is smaller than a human fist and powered by batteries and solar panels. Each is also accompanied by a computer unit about the size of a packet of chewing gum, which contains a processor about as powerful those found in a modern cellphone.'

Via Smartmobs

Train firm to issue phone tickets

BBCNews reports that train passengers will soon be able to buy tickets on their mobile phone: 'Chiltern Railways, which operates from London through Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire to the West Midlands, plans to deliver tickets to mobile phones. The new technology sends a barcode to a mobile phone via a text message, which passengers can then scan at the station ticket barrier.

Its hoped the method will make buying tickets easier for passengers and help reduce queues at stations. Neil Micklethwaite, commercial director for Chiltern Railways, said: "Mobile ticketing will mean easy purchases, anywhere, any time.'

Read at Train firm to issue phone tickets

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wi: Journal of the Mobile Digital Commons Network

Wi: Journal of the Mobile Digital Commons Network - is a new journal of the Mobile Digital Commons Network (MDCN) and publishes the latest in Canadian mobilities research, encompassing disciplines such as design, engineering, computer science, communications and media studies:

'Currently focusing on the research work of MDCN projects, wi aims to expand its purview in the coming months to include other national and international scholarship, artistic productions and design research on mobility, wireless technologies, and digital media.

Our focus is broad, from the use of digital technologies in research to the definitions of mobile gaming in the commercial sphere. '

Mobile Society

There is a new website called Mobile Society which states itself to be an academic research website 'focusing on social aspects of the mobile phones' .

It has contributions from the likes of Rich Ling and Nicola Green, with a growing bibliography - something to keep an eye on!

Thanks to

UK-wide CCTV to beat rogue drivers

Another look at the rise of camera surveillance on British roads: in UK-wide CCTV to beat rogue drivers the Independent writes:

'Cameras aimed at cracking down on drivers who block box junctions or ignore road signs could be introduced country-wide.

The Government is considering rolling out the CCTV system, currently in use in London. Every council in Britain could have the cameras in less than a year. Drivers in London are fined up to £100 for stopping in a box junction or ignoring no-right-turn signs.'

More money for the coffers...

Friday, October 20, 2006

UK Motorway congestion charging

The Times reports how motorists will face congestion charges on some of Britain’s busiest motorways under government plans to reduce queues by charging by the mile at peak times:

'Douglas Alexander, the Transport Secretary, has asked the Highways Agency to identify a suitable section of the 4,800-mile strategic road network for a congestion-charging trial. The M25, London’s orbital motorway, is likely to be considered as it has the worst congestion and traffic is continuing to grow rapidly. A fourth lane is being added to the remaining three-lane sections and one option would be to charge for access to the new lane at peak times.

The trial would be a forerunner to a national charging scheme covering all roads, which the Government has said could be introduced around 2015. Congestion on motorways and A-roads would reduce by 34 per cent if charges of up to £1.34 a mile were introduced, according to a study published by the Department for Transport in 2004.'

I expect this pay-as-you-drive system will be a consequence of the Galileo satellite positioning system that EU is currently putting into place.

Read Congestion charging spreads to motorways

Tokens with the phone

The Guardian in Now you can go shopping with your mobile phone talks about a pilot project in Manchester to enter football games with only a phone:

'Manchester City fans are at the forefront of this predicted development: 200 season ticket holders are trialling a system through which they "show" their Nokia 3320 handset to an automatic reader to get into a game, instead of handing a card to a gate attendant. Within 12 to 18 months, claim handset makers, this Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which allows the handsets to buy and store low value electronic tokens (such as sport and transport tickets), will start being standard on new handsets. The Nokia 3320, used in the football trial, is already available and like the company's more rugged 5140i is NFC-capable - once a shell containing the necessary chips and mini-transmitter is fitted to the handset. Such capabilities will be shipped inside mobile phones from next year, Nokia predicts.'

Also in The Guardian - Why isn't there a text message version of 999? :

'Emergency 999 calls have become a feature of life in the UK since being introduced in 1937, but there is not yet a standard equivalent for texters. Some police forces do operate limited emergency SMS services, aimed at preregistered users with hearing and speech impairments. While it undoubtedly helps those individuals, such bureaucratic systems are not necessarily that useful in a tight spot.

And there are other problems with SMS, say those with experience. A spokesman for West Yorkshire police, which operates a text service, pointed out that messages cannot be prioritised by the mobile networks - thus raising the possibility that emergency communications may not arrive for several hours.'