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.'