Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tracking tech predicted to boom in Europe

CNetNews has described how technology for wirelessly tracking vehicles and people is predicted to take off in Western Europe throughout the next five years:

Business needs and personal security concerns will generate $4.85 billion in spending on the technology by 2012, according to a Juniper Research report. The business sector will be the main area where it will take off, but there also is potential in the consumer sector for child- and pet-tracking systems, which are gradually gaining acceptance.

Juniper Research analyst and report author Bruce Gibson said this kind of technology has been used by transportation and distribution companies for a number of years and will soon extend to other industries. The systems already available from mobile service providers use mobile ID location and GPS. Vehicle tracking is expected by Juniper Research to generate $4.11 billion in revenue by 2012, with around 15 million vehicles being tracked by businesses wanting to monitor and route their vehicles more efficiently.

Read full article - 'Tracking tech predicted to boom in Europe'

UK's first eco-village

The UK's Guardian reports on how Britain's biggest housebuilder - Barratt Homes - is to build England's first eco-village (according to the housing and planning minister). The article states that:

Barratt has won the bid to create a new community at the site of the former Hanham Hall hospital near Bristol, which has been commissioned by the government's national regeneration agency, English Partnerships.

The village is expected to be built in three years' time, ahead of the government's 2016 target, when it wants all new homes to be zero carbon. The onsite biomass combined heat and power (CHP) plant will deliver energy to all 200 homes.

The village also aims to create eco-friendly lifestyles. It will capture rainwater and include sustainable drainage, farmers' shops, a car club and bicycle storage. Hanham Hall will be the first site to be built under the under the Carbon Challenge initiative, run by English Partnerships as part of the government's commitment to tackle climate change.

What about BedZed - isn't that a UK zero carbon community??

Read article - 'Barratt contracted to build UK's first eco-village'

Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers

Wired has a piece on 'Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers From Original Blogger Jorn Barger' from - yes - one of the original bloggers Mr. Jorn Barger... Here it goes:

1. A true weblog is a log of all the URLs you want to save or share. (So is actually better for blogging than

2. You can certainly include links to your original thoughts, posted elsewhere … but if you have more original posts than links, you probably need to learn some humility.

3. If you spend a little time searching before you post, you can probably find your idea well articulated elsewhere already.

For more, go to original article...


Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish all 'New Mobilities' readers a very Merry Christmas wherever you are - I hope you will find happiness and peace over the festive season. Mobility On!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The 'Mobile City'

Here is a conference I thought worthy of mention, especially as it deals with many topics near to this blog, and has some interesting speakers too - it's called 'The Mobile City' conference on the 27 & 28 February 2008 at
NAi (Netherlands Architecture Institute) Rotterdam, The Netherlands

See -

"The Mobile City" is a two-day conference about locative & mobile technologies, urban culture and identity. The Mobile City brings academics, architects, urban professionals and media designers together to address the question: what happens to urban culture when physical and digital spaces merge? Keynote speakers are Stephen Graham, Tim Cresswell, Malcolm McCullough and Christian Nold.

The physical, geographical city with its piazza’s, its neighbourhoods and crossings intersects with the ‘virtual space’ of electronic communication-, information- and observation-networks of GSM, GPS, CCTV, UMTS, WIFI, RFID, etc. At the same time, the domain of digital space is increasingly becoming physical, an “internet of things” is emerging. Another example is the rise of 'pervasive games', digital games with a physical component in urban space. Is it still useful or even possible to talk about the city as being only physical? Or about the digital world as purely ‘virtual’ (in the sense of 'not real' or immaterial)? The physical city and the spaces of digital technologies merge into a new “hybrid space”.

Conference questions
Locative and mobile media can be understood as interfaces between the digital domain and the city, as bridges between the social processes that formerly took place in more separated domains (digital or physical) but now are spilling over into each other. The Mobile City will ask the following questions:

• From a theoretical point of view, what are useful concepts to talk about the blurring/merging of physical and digital spaces?

• From a critical perspective, what does the emergence of locative and mobile media mean for urban culture, citizenship, and identities?

• From a professional point of view, what does all this mean for the work of urban professionals (architects, designers, planners), media designers, and academics?

The full program text is available at our website,

There is both a 'Call for Participation - Workshops' & a 'Call for Participation - Project Presentations'

* Stephen Graham - Professor of Human Geography, Durham University
* Tim Cresswell - Professor of Geography, University of London
* Malcolm McCullough - Associate Professor University of Michigan
* Christian Nold - Independent artist and lecturer based in London

More info, call for participants, and registration:
The conference fee is € 25,-

Conference organizers: Martijn de Waal (RUG), Michiel de Lange (EUR), Oene Dijk (NAi).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Meet the moofers: the office is so last century

The TimesOnline has an article describing the new generation of 'Moofers' - supposedly a new generation of young entrepreneurs who are using technology to break free from desks and work on the move:

It may boast all the recognisable trappings of a swanky London gentlemen’s club, but One Alfred Place is not your average private members’ hangout. Among the period features, bespoke furniture and contemporary art, the club provides the mod cons of a 21st-century office.

When they join in February, new members will be given their own club telephone number, with an 0207 London prefix, a personal e-mail address and access to the club’s free wi-fi network. There are meeting rooms, and the waitresses double as PAs, delivering reports, printing documents and offering IT support in between mixing margaritas. Even the sofas have been designed to be comfy while you are using a laptop.

Welcome to the brave new world of the moofer – or mobile out-of-office worker. Look around: you’ll see them conducting deals, holding meetings or finding inspiration at a coffee shop, hotel lobby, airport lounge or park bench near you. This new generation of young, tech-savvy workers live their business lives in nomadic fashion, wherever they can find a wi-fi connection – and they don’t believe in the traditional nine to five.

Read in full - 'Meet the moofers: the office is so last century'

Satellite radar mapping in Morecambe Bay

Here is something of relevance for us at Lancaster University, since it deals with Morecambe Bay which is just a few miles from us. TimesOnline reports how a new system of satellite radar mapping has been introduced to help search-and-rescue operations on the stretch of quicksand in Morecambe Bay where 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned:

The initiative, sponsored by the University of Manchester, will offer emergency services a frequently updated electronic map of the bay’s constantly changing gulleys and channels. It is expected to lessen the dangers faced by rescuers and save lives on Britain’s largest expanse of inter-tidal mudflats. If the pilot scheme is successful, the system may be adopted by coastal rescue services around the world...

...Under the initiative, scientists will offer maps generated by satellite images to the Bay Search and Rescue, which operates from its base in Flookburgh, near Grange-Over-Sands, in Cumbria. Data beamed by the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite to stations in Scotland, Sweden and Italy will be interpreted by a team at the national data centre at the University of Manchester.

Read full article - 'Rescuers will use satellite maps in bay where cockle pickers died'


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Are driverless pods the future?

The BBCNews reports on the UK's first personal rapid transport system (PRT) which has no drivers, no rails, no timetables and no emissions, and is set to run at the new Heathrow terminal when it opens:

But while these low-energy, driverless pod-shaped vehicles may look like something from sci-fi epic Bladerunner, they are about to become British transport reality.

In less than two years' time, after the opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5 in March 2008, a network of 18 of these four-seater capsules will be ferrying passengers to and from a business car park to the new terminal building.

Already under construction, the first phase of the airport's £25m PRT will use 3.8km (2.4 miles) of guideway - designated ground-level or raised path - to move people from car to check-in in just four minutes.

However, notice how it states that it is only for 'ferrying passengers to and from a business car park' - what about non-business passengers? Is this just another example of spending millions to create a 'mobility divide'? Like the new CrossRail project set to put a direct train link across London which is mainly to ferry passengers from the airport to Canary Wharf (isn't that another business centre?)...

Read in full - 'Are driverless pods the future?'

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Unique Elly Clarke Mobile Phone Photo not yet taken in India, Jan-Feb 2008

Here is another worthwhile venture and project from Elly Clarke, friend of New Mobilities - please read and see if you would like to participate:

Elly Clarke is a visual artist based in London, UK. For 10 days only she is selling Unique Elly Clarke Mobile Phone Photo not yet taken in India, Jan-Feb 2008 via to fund her next art project. Entitled Four Films and a Documentary, it is a series of short films she wants to make next year in collaboration with The Russ Foundation , a charity based inMadurai in Tamil Nadu, India, which Elly Clarke visited and worked with for 2 months in 1994, aged 18.

In 1994, the Russ Foundation existed as a children's home. Since then it has expanded to support three additional groups: female sex workers; people living with HIV and AIDS and rural communities that are supported by a medical outreach program. (See more about it here: .)

Four Films will be 3-5 minutes in length each, made in collaboration with individuals from each of these four communities. Every aspect of the creation and production of the films – from storyline development to casting, performance, music, direction and the final edit – will be worked out collaboratively.

Elly Clarke needs to raise £20,000 to make these films. At this stage, however, by taking one photo a day on her mobile phone, at a time requested by the buyers , which she will deliver to the buyer immediately by MMS, she hopes to raise enough to fund a research trip she has planned for January-February 2008.

The buyer can text Elly Clarke at any time (during daylight hours) on the day that s/he has purchased to let her know when to take the picture. If she is out of mobile range that day, she'll take the photograph at 5pm and send it whenever she next has reception.

At the end of the month, Elly Clarke will produce unique, one-off, single edition, signed prints of all photographs send them to buyers in the post, from India. In short winning bidders will receive the following:

A confirmation email stating the day(s) purchased and the mobile phone number to text at the desired time. (There will also be the option to pre-arrange the time of the photograph if easier)
The mobile phone photograph texted to you on the day (or as soon as possible afterwards if not in mobile phone range) . A hard-copy, one-off, signed print posted to you from India in mid February 2008. The option to purchase a limited edition poster that features all photographs taken in this manner, at the pre-production fixed price of £25. A total of 50 of these posters will be made. Only ebay purchasers will be eligible for this offer. Money raised will cover all expenses related to this 6 week stay in India. Any additional money raised beyond this will go towards the films.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Scanning video images of city streets

Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends over at SmartMobs has picked up on a story about how IBM's Smart Surveillance System will scan video images of Beijing and New York, seeking terrorist activity and other security risks:

When the 2008 Olympic Games kick off in Beijing next year, organizers will be using a sophisticated computer system to scan video images of city streets looking for everything from troublemakers to terrorists.

The IBM system, called the Smart Surveillance System, or S3, uses analytic tools to index digital video recordings and then issue real-time alerts when certain patterns are detected. It can be used to warn security guards when someone has entered a secure area or keep track of cars coming in and out of a parking lot. Beijing's S3 network is already being rolled out and is expected to be operational by the time the Games begin in August 2008, said Julie Donahue, vice president of security and privacy services with IBM.

Read full story - 'IBM System to Scan Streets in Beijing, New York'

Keeping your shoes on for the new airport metal detector

CNet News reports in 'New airport metal detector is a shoe-in' how Nairobi joins Madrid, Prague, and Budapest in deploying the MagShoe, a "high-speed, shoes-on, portable footwear weapons detection system," at their respective airports. U.K. and U.S. airports may be next:

The MagShoe is a metal detector designed to test shoes and ankles in the ongoing fight against foot-borne threats. A passenger simply steps on what looks like a twin mud scraper/shoe buffer, and within an average of 1.2 seconds an audio-visual signal either alerts the operator to concealed metal or gives the all-clear.

Development of the device was initiated by the technical branch of the Israeli Security Agency in response to 9/11 and the Richard Reid "shoe bomber" incident, according to the manufacturer, IDO Security. In both cases the weapons were smuggled in shoes, and in both cases the terrorists went through an Arch Metal Detector (Magnetometer Gates) without being detected.


The carbon footprint of the British IT industry

Now here's an interesting intervention on the carbon debate - and it involves computers! IFTF's Future Now has a post called 'Servers and SUVs' that discusses how the global IT sector is responsible for about 2% of human carbon dioxide emissions each year:

British environmental group Global Action Plan has released a study [pdf] of the carbon footprint of the British IT industry. They argue that "servers are at least as great a threat to the climate as SUVs or the global aviation industry:"

"Computers are seen as quite benign things sitting on your desk," says Trewin Restorick, director of the group. "But, for instance, in our charity we have one server. That server has same carbon footprint as your average SUV doing 15 miles to the gallon. Yet, whereas the SUV is seen as a villain from the environmental perspective, the server is not."

The report, An Inefficient Truth [actually, "The Inefficient Truth"-- ed.] states that with more than 1 billion computers on the planet, the global IT sector is responsible for about 2% of human carbon dioxide emissions each year – a similar figure to the global airline industry.

Also - from Smartmobs - how 'A web-based service uses GPS phones to track the modes of travel and deduce carbon emissions of the phone owner, then transmits the carbon footprint to the device’s owner'


Thursday, December 13, 2007

‘Exodus’ to virtual worlds predicted

SmartMobs has a post on Second Life called '‘Exodus’ to virtual worlds predicted' that looks at the appeal of such virtual worlds to drag people away from everyday reality:

The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to “disappear from reality,” an expert on large-scale online games has said.

Virtual worlds have seen huge growth since they became mainstream in the early years of this decade, developing out of Massive Multiplayer Role-Playing Games.

And the online economies in some match those of real world countries.

Their draw is such that they could have a profound effect on some parts of society, Edward Castronova, Associate Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, told the BBC.

The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to “disappear from reality,” an expert on large-scale online games has said.
Virtual worlds have seen huge growth since they became mainstream in the early years of this decade, developing out of Massive Multiplayer Role-Playing […]


Who has mobile phones?

Rich Ling at Mobile-Society has sent in a link describing how the Center for Disease Control in the US has taken interest in access to mobile telephony: 'They are active in gathering information on who has mobile (cell) phones and which households have both landline and mobile phones etc. A link to their report is below. In addition there is the lead in to the AP story on the report along with a link to the rest of the story'

Link to their report -

Young, Poor Prefer Cell Phones

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than one in eight households have cell phones but lack traditional landline telephones, according to a federal study released Monday that tracks the country's growing dependence on wireless phones.

The data, reported twice a year, suggested that the number of households relying solely on cell phones may be growing more slowly than it had in the past. But the researchers said the slowdown might be due to changes in their survey, including altering the order of some questions and some of the wording.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hi-tech helps world's 'invisible'

BBCNews has an article called 'Hi-tech helps world's 'invisible'' that says how handheld computers could help give a voice to the huge numbers of people that do not officially exist:

The gadgets are being used to gather data about the estimated one billion people who live in shanty towns. The Mobile Metrix project aims to determine how big these communities are and discover what their lives are like. The up-to-date data will be given to governments and aid workers to help fine tune projects trying to help these communities.

"We count the uncounted," said Melanie Edwards, head of the Mobile Metrix project at Stanford University. Ms Edwards said many of the people who lived in the world's shanty towns did not feature on government records, and because of that estimates about the size of these communities and the quality of their lives was often old or wildly inaccurate.


Pay-as-you-drive rates in the UK

CNet News takes up the thread on the UK insurer Norwich Union's pay-as-you-drive scheme currently in operation:

As far back as 2003, word got out that U.K. insurer Norwich Union was working on a pay-as-you-drive, in-car "black box" device. Early suppliers emerged, including IBM and Orange, for the telematics software and network coverage, respectively, and Intec--a company better known for writing billing software for telecommunications companies--also came onboard.

However, with in-car devices and customers now numbering more than 100,000, the kind of serious number crunching that needs to be done is based on software from data warehousing stalwart Teradata, an independently NYSE-listed company since the start of October...

...a trial using GPS-based IVUs (in-vehicle units) provided by Trafficmaster began in November 2003 and finished 11 months later. It involved 5,000 devices, 8 million journeys, and 15 billion journey points. The journey points were represented as dots on a map when a vehicle checks in with NU's central computers--in this case a mainframe--every few seconds...The U.K. government is eyeing plans for a pay-as-you-drive system to replace standard road tax discs.

Read more - 'U.K. insurer computes pay-as-you-drive rates'


Monday, December 10, 2007

Facebook blocked in Syria

Smartmobs reports in 'Facebook blocked in Syria' how since November 18th, "no one has access to Facebook in Syria. Trying to get to its homepage will result in a blank page. Lebanon’s daily As-Safir mentioned that the reason would be to prevent Israelis infiltration in Syria-based groups". An article in the New York Times goes on to say:

Residents of Damascus said that they have not been able to enter Facebook for more than two weeks. An Associated Press reporter got a blank page when he tried to open Facebook's home page Friday from the Syrian capital.

Syrian officials were not available for comment Friday because of the Muslim weekend, but some reports have suggested that the ban was intended to prevent Israeli users from infiltrating Syrian social networks. Lebanon's daily As-Safir reported that Facebook was blocked on Nov. 18. It said the authorities took the step because Israelis have been entering Syria-based groups.

Read also the NY Times story - 'Syria Blocks Access to Facebook'

Life in 2030

'The World in 2030' is a report that was produced independently following a year-long study. Surprisingly, the report was commissioned by PlasticsEurope, an association of plastics manufacturers, to help the industry address future challenges, including climate change and the looming energy crisis. Some of the changes the report states are:

People will be wirelessly tagged for their own protection. Humans will transmit their location constantly, and data about health will be collected and transmitted so that help can be summoned automatically in the event of sudden illness. This will be facilitated by a "revolution" in medicine. Personal DNA mapping, powerful new gene-therapy drugs and stem cell research will prevent illness and extend life...

...The weather in 2030 is likely to be extreme, but the solution to the energy crisis will be to harness natural, clean energy sources, such as solar, hydro, wind and geothermal. The internet will have developed into a "super combined web" which is always on and always connected. People, pets and trillions of inanimate objects will communicate wirelessly every second of the day, delivering 3D holographic experiences, tactile simulations, odours and tastes.

Read article - 'Futurologist predicts life in 2030'


The future of futurology

Robert Cottrell, deputy editor of, has written an article on 'the future' that urges futurists to 'Think small, think short' instead of going for the grand cosmic style of predictions... a kind of more localised futurism:

Small wonder that futurology as we knew it 30 or 40 years ago—the heyday of Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock”, the most popular work of prophecy since Nostradamus—is all but dead. The word “futurologist” has more or less disappeared from the business and academic world, and with it the implication that there might be some established discipline called “futurology”. Futurologists prefer to call themselves “futurists”, and they have stopped claiming to predict what “will” happen. They say that they “tell stories” about what might happen...

...A third piece of advice: say you don’t know. Uncertainty looks smarter than ever before. Even politicians are seeing the use of it: governments that signed the Kyoto protocol on climate change said, in effect: “We don’t know for sure, but best to be on the safe side”—and they have come to look a lot smarter than countries such as America and Australia which claimed to understand climate change well enough to see no need for action.

Read full article - 'The future of futurology'


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Property marketing by SMS

The EngineerOnline mentions how in the UK a companay calling itself 'Textboards'has developed a innovative approach to property marketing in the UK using SMS Technology:

In use, prospective home buyers enquire about properties by text message from outside a property and instantly receive that properties details via text message, no matter what the time of day it is.

Textboards works by assigning each property a unique code name which the prospective buyer can then text to a five digit number. The enquiry is immediately and automatically responded to by a text message that outlines the property details such as value, number of bedrooms, size of garden, type of heating, energy rating, council band and Estate Agent contact details.

Read more - 'High-tech property marketing'


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wearing a computer at work

Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends discusses a European Union funded project that is related to wearable technology:

This project, named WearIT@work will end in one year and was funded with 14.3 million euros of EU money, even if the total project cost is expected to exceed 23 million euros. For mobile workers, the goal is to replace traditional interfaces, such as screen, keyboard or computer unit, by speech control or gesture control, without modifying the applications. This wearable system is currently being tested in four different fields including aircraft maintenance, emergency response, car production and healthcare.

Read original post - 'Wearing a computer at work'


Online library gives readers access to 1.5 million books

This just deserves to be blogged about as its such a worthy venture. It concerns 'The Million Book Project' which is an international venture led by Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, Zhejiang University in China, the Indian Institute of Science in India and the Library at Alexandria in Egypt. The project has now completed the digitization of more than 1.5 million books, which are now available online:

For the first time since the project was initiated in 2002, all of the books, which range from Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” to “The Analects of Confucius,” are available through a single Web portal of the Universal Library (, said Gloriana St. Clair, Carnegie Mellon’s dean of libraries.

“Anyone who can get on the Internet now has access to a collection of books the size of a large university library,” said Raj Reddy, professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon.

Read more - 'Online library gives readers access to 1.5 million books'

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

CCTV to track branded suspects

BBCNews has an interesting article that talks about how new tracking software could be used to track 'brands' on people's clothes!! Now its really getting personal:

Brands on the clothes of suspects caught on CCTV cameras could be used to help police track them down. The Metropolitan Police is looking into technology which can automatically identify branded logos on clothing. Police believe that tracking suspects by their distinctive clothes will help cut down on the manual scanning of hundreds of hours of video footage.

The technology is already used to automatically identify company logos in TV broadcasts of sporting events. The concept is being considered by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville of Operation Javelin, who project manages the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office roll-out programme: a pioneering effort to turn the analysis of CCTV into a forensic discipline like fingerprint or DNA analysis...

...The software would allow officers to quickly analyse hours of CCTV footage, in which the suspect may have appeared, for images containing the distinctive clothing, in the hope of finding pictures that would enable police to make an identification.

Read the article - 'CCTV could track branded suspects'


Passengers' Recycled Cooking Oil to Fuel UK's First Bio-Buses

EarthTrends has a welcome post on how bus passengers in Kilmarnock, Scotland will soon be able to pay their fare with used cooking oil instead of cash:

Eight buses carrying over 15,000 passengers a week will run on 100% biodiesel generated from recycled cooking oil and tallow, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by an anticipated 82% and virtually eliminating air-polluting sulfur emissions. As an added incentive to boost the program during its six-month trial period, free containers will be provided to those who want to take their used cooking oil to a nearby recycling plant in exchange for discounted bus fare.

Read in full - 'Passengers' Recycled Cooking Oil to Fuel UK's First Bio-Buses'


Monday, December 03, 2007

Busy bodies

The EngineerOnline has a post titled 'Busy bodies' that describes how researchers at Glasgow University and the Nokia Research Centre in Helsinki are hoping to develop new ways for people on the go to get the most from their mobile phones and PDAs:

The Gestural and Audio Interactions for Mobile Environments (GAIME) project is looking at how subtle bodily gestures or actions could enable someone to interact with mobile devices while their hands are busy...

...'People can talk on the phone when walking in the street, dodging people — and it works well,' explained Prof Stephen Brewster, principal investigator of GAIME. 'But if they are texting they often walk slower, bump into people or just stop. We want to make interactions more like talking and less like texting.'

Army Social Scientists

This Wired article discusses the controversial U.S. Army program to embed social scientists into combat units - so called the 'Human Terrain Team'(HTT). This is, apparently, the military's effort to give battlefield commanders a set of cultural advisers:

The idea behind HTTs is to take what a brigade already knows about the local population and combine it with social-science research, to produce a sense of how the society around them really works. The Army has set aside $41 million for the effort, which aims to deploy 150 social scientists, software geeks, and experts on local culture, split up and embedded with 26 different military units in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year. Six HTTs are already on the ground.

Social scientists beware of the new press gangs!

Read post - 'Army Social Scientists Calm Afghanistan, Make Enemies at Home'

The 'Facebook' claims & anti-claims

There is so much Net-talk going on about the claims and anti-claims around Facebook, such as its privacy intrusions, the Beacon tracking software, the Microsoft share-buy, claims over who founded Facebook, etc.....

So I decided to show this link to an array of articles - pages of them - that have been published in The New York Times.. something for browsing, afternoon reading:

Read 'News about Facebook, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times'

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Conference Call - The Social

Futuresonic 2008
Urban Festival of Art, Music & Ideas
1-4 May, Manchester, UK
The Futuresonic international conference and the Social Technologies Summit invite proposals for talks, presentations, workshops and session themes. Submissions of innovative formats for social interaction are encouraged.
The conference theme is The Social - Online, Mobile and Unplugged Social Networking.
The Futuresonic conference is a place where important international discussions take place. The conference will bring together leading figures to unpick the hype around the latest technological zeitgeist, broaden the debate, and propose and explore a critical understanding of social technologies.
Deadline for conference submissions -- 5pm 18th December 2007
See also -- A GBP 5000 commission plus many other opportunities are available
in the Futuresonic 2008 Art, Music & EVNTS calls for submissions.
Futuresonic brings 500 opinion formers, futurologists, artists, technologists and scientists from the digital culture, music and art communities to Manchester for four days of seminars, workshops and events.
At the heart of the festival is the internationally-acclaimed Futuresonic conference, and its focal point the Social Technologies Summit.

The 2008 conference will explore the theme of The Social - Online, Mobile and Unplugged Social Networking. The conference will bring together leading figures to broaden the debate, and propose and explore a critical understanding of social technologies.
Submissions are invited that explore the new social spaces and the social implications of technologies for the many different kinds of people who make, use and are affected by them.
Computers have become social interfaces for sharing digital media and collaborating to build online communities and folksonomies. Social technologies create an extension of social space, and new ways for people to find the stuff that interests them, link up with others, and share. They include tools and applications that enable people to connect, share and interact, such as blogs, instant messenger, social software such as Flickr, FaceBook and Jaiku, and even the internet itself. 'Social technologies' can also refer to technologies created and maintained by social networks, such as communities of developers and users working collaboratively with open source tools.
What distinguishes social technologies is that they are bottom up and many-to-many instead of one-to-one or one-to-many. They can be seen as a part of a major cultural and social shift. And yet at the same time we also see how electronic communication can isolate us, as more and more people drown in a deluge of email that generates stress, even reducing IQ - puncturing the rose-tinted view that life is simply 'more social.' Additionally, 'online communities' are based upon an artificial equivalence between 'users' which obscures power relationships and issues of ownership.
Futuresonic now invites submissions to the Futuresonic conference and the Social Technologies Summit.
Proposals for talks, presentations and workshops plus also session themes are invited. Submissions of innovative formats for social interaction are encouraged.
Deadline for conference submissions -- 5pm 18th December 2007
For details on submitting to the conference visit

SatLav service

The Guardian reports on a new text service that tells users where the nearest public toilet is!:

Getting caught short in the centre of London is no fun. Trying to persuade a sympathetic restaurant manager into letting you use his conveniences will often result in the short shrift: "Toilets are for paying customers only."

So a new text service, which promises to tell you where the nearest public toilet is in the City of Westminster, should be well received. The council's authority covers 8.5 square miles and encompasses nearly every popular shopping and socialising district of the capital.

So whether you're drinking after work in Soho, or splashing the Christmas cash in Knightsbridge, a quick text message to 80097 with the word 'toilet' will prompt a quick-response text back with details of the nearest facilities and their opening times. The only problem is that you have to spend more than a penny to make use of the service.

The 'SatLav' mobile phone service costs 25p for each text, with Westminster city council paying a further 9p to cover the cost. The service locates the sender of the text message and automatically finds the nearest public toilets to them.

Read - 'SatLav service finds nearest public toilet'

Friday, November 30, 2007

Super scooters & Morphing handcycles

The EngineerOnline has a couple of interesting posts on new mobility devices; a super scooter and a morphing lets begin with the handcycle.

i) the morphing handcycle:
In a stretched-out low-rider position, it’s a traditional bicycle - but when "morphed" into high-rider position, it has a wheelchair’s agility for navigating doorways and aisles. It also puts the user at eye level with standing persons.

The morphing handcycle involves no electronics. To morph into high-riding position, the rider sets the brake and rolls the rear wheels forward, as with a wheelchair. The 24-speed cycle employs twin mechanical gas shocks, specified for the rider’s weight, that assist in the lift, enabling the user to switch to high-riding mode with single-hand force. Other components are standard bike parts.

ii) the super scooter:

Prof William J. Mitchell and several of his students at MIT have developed a new electric scooter that folds up when not in use....Motor scooters are a very popular form of transportation in Asian and European cities, Mitchell said, because they provide convenient, inexpensive transportation. But conventional scooters, using inefficient two-stroke petrol engines, are also a source of local air pollution.

The non-polluting electric design, which eliminates the powertrain by putting motors directly inside each of the two wheels, made it possible to design the scooter so that it could be folded up to about half its size, making it easy to store in crowded urban environments.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Google Mobile Finds You, No Satellite Required

Google has announced version 2.0 of Google Maps for mobile, featuring a beta version of its new "My Location" service that serves as an alternative to GPS technology, which is not widely available on mobile phones.

It uses phone-tower ID information to provide users with their approximate location, helping them determine where they are, what's around them and how to get there:

For users who do have GPS cell phones, My Location can actually complement it, Google said. "My Location kicks in faster than GPS in most cases, so you can access your location even faster on the map," wrote Mike Chu, software engineer on the Google mobile team, on the team blog. "It also works reliably indoors (unlike GPS) and doesn't drain your phone battery at the rate that GPS does."

Read in full - 'Google Mobile Finds You, No Satellite Required'


FBI increasingly tracking people by phones

Although this is nothing new, the escalation factor needs to be noticed. This post from SmartMobs writes that

The American FBI is increasingly asking courts to authorize surveillance by mobile phones, according to the Washington Post. Specifically, what the agency requests is permission to locate a suspect, either by identifying nearest cell phone tower or, more precisely yet, through the E911 channel. One danger:

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

Read more - 'FBI increasingly tracking people by cell phones'

A phone that tells you what to do

Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends reports on how researchers from the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) have developed a software code-named Magitti that when installed on your GPS-enabled mobile phone,

Magitti starts to suggest you what to do in your area. You don't need to start a Web search for a restaurant or a movie. Magitti will immediately give you some recommendations based on the time of the day and you past behavior. A deployment is scheduled next year in Japan. But it's unclear if this software will be sold in Europe or in the U.S...

...Here is how Magitti will work according to Technology Review. "When a person first opens a phone that has Magitti software, she will instantly see a list of recommendations. If it's noon, the software might suggest local restaurants. If it's 3 P.M., it might recommend a nearby boutique for shopping. If it's 9 P.M., a list of pubs might appear. Over time, these recommendations will change as Magitti learns more about the user's behaviors and preferences. The software employs artificial-intelligence algorithms that have traditionally been used in research to make tailored recommendations. If, for instance, a person prefers to eat inexpensive lunches and more-expensive dinners, Magitti will pick up on this (by comparing the GPS location of the restaurant with a database of establishments) and offer up corresponding recommendations."

A useful piece of kit or is this just a phone-nanny??

Read in full - 'A phone that tells you what to do'


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cheap sensors could capture your every move

NewScientistTech reports that small, cheap sensors for tracking the movement of a person's entire body could lead to "whole-body interfaces" for controlling computers or playing games:

Conventionally, motion capture makes use of reflective dots or small LEDs attached at key points on a person's torso, limbs and head. Capturing the movements of these points using an array of cameras allows animators to create a computerized skeleton, which can then guide the movements of an animated character, for example.

Several sensors measuring about 2.5 centimetres on each side are attached to a person's legs and arms. The sensors detect movement in two different ways: accelerometers and gyroscopes measure motion, but ultrasonic beeps are also emitted.

Tiny microphones mounted on the torso pick up these beeps, allowing a laptop computer, carried in a backpack, to calculate the distance to the sensor. The system is similar to, albeit much simpler than, bats' ultrasonic echolocation, and together with the motion sensors provides a more accurate overall picture of body movement.

Read in full - 'Cheap sensors could capture your every move'

Improving Fuel Cells for Cars

TechReview has a post that examines automotive fuel cells that could replace hydrogen:

a new method for making materials just a few atoms thick could pave the way to automotive fuel cells that use readily available fuels instead of hydrogen, which is difficult to produce and store. The new fuel cells would be smaller, lower-temperature versions of solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), which were originally developed for use in stationary applications such as power plants. Startup Sienergy Systems, based in Quincy, MA, was founded to bring the fuel cells to market. Last week the company announced half a million dollars in early-stage funding.

The synthesis method, developed by Harvard professor of materials science Shriram Ramanathan, produces high-quality solid-oxide electrolytes that are about 25 nanometers thick--about a thousandth the thickness of the electrolytes used in conventional SOFCs. The thinner electrolyte allows the fuel cells to run at about 300 ºC--much cooler than the 800 to 1,000 degrees typical for SOFCs. The lower temperatures could lead to lower costs and make it much easier to package the fuel cells for use in vehicles and portable generators.

Read in full - 'Improving Fuel Cells for Cars'

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Emergence of a 'poor man's broadband' ?

NewScientistTech has an article on how students in Pakistan will soon be able to download big files faster by avoiding the internet:

Instead of using expensive broadband or slow, unreliable dial-up connections, students at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) will try out a new system, dubbed "poor man's broadband" (PMB). It allows computers to link to each other directly for faster downloads, and it works as long as at least one computer running the trial software has already downloaded the desired file from the internet. The system should also reduce the university's risk of overloading the bandwidth supplied by its internet service providers (ISPs).

Read ''Poor man's broadband' has a turn of speed' (subscription required)


Telecommuting is good for us, apparently...

Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends writes that, according to researchers in management, telecommuting is good both for workers and their employers:

The two psychologists looked at 20 years of research on flexible work arrangements, covering 46 previous studies of telecommuting involving more than 12,000 employees. And they found that 'telecommuting is a win-win for employees and employers, resulting in higher morale and job satisfaction and lower employee stress and turnover.' One of the major factors in employee satisfaction is autonomy, and telecommuting brings that to individuals. This large meta-study also reveals that people who often work at home think their careers don't suffer from telecommuting.

But read 'Telecommuting is good for all of us'


Hydrogen test for spy plane

Here's a more novel look at hydrogen use - from the heavily militaristic corporate sector!

Boeing has successfully tested the hydrogen propulsion system of its High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned spy aircraft using an engine developed by Ford. During the test, the engine ran for nearly four days in a control chamber at Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, Virginia, and for three days in simulated conditions at 65,000ft....

...The Boeing HALE aircraft, which can carry payloads of up to 910kg, is designed to maintain a persistent presence over ground locations from stratospheric altitudes in seven-day sorties. It promises battlefield intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, border observation, port security and telecommunications. Production versions of the aircraft will be propeller-driven, lightweight and have a high-aspect ratio wing.

Read in full - Hydrogen test for spy plane

Monday, November 26, 2007

Phone-swipe Oyster scheme

The Guardian writes about the new scheme to let people pay for London transport by swiping their phone:

London Underground is ready to launch a system which allows people to pay for train journeys using their mobile phones. Officials from Transport for London, mobile maker Nokia and phone network O2 are understood to be preparing final details of a handset with a built-in Oyster card.

It is believed that the scheme will allow tube travellers to pay for their journeys simply by swiping a compatible mobile phone across the ticket-reading machine. The system could also be used for bus journeys, trams and some overland train journeys around the capital.

The launch would mark a significant expansion of the Oyster card scheme already used by London Underground, which allows travellers to pay for all their journeys using a single swipe card.

Read in full - 'Tube to launch phone-swipe Oyster scheme'

Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends describes new research rinto a self-organized control system for traffic lights that is said to 'improve vehicular traffic flow by up to 95 percent':

As traffic flows account for about one-third of global energy consumption, better control systems for traffic lights could reduce harmful CO2 emissions. Now, German researchers have developed a self-organized control system for traffic lights that could improve vehicular traffic flow by up to 95 percent. They even patented their combination of two strategies leading to this better control system for traffic lights...

...The main reason to develop such a system is that "heavy investments in traffic light systems were made in the 1960s and 70s rendering most systems today, due to use, age and technological advancement, antiquated." Even today, most of the control systems are "programmed offline, regardless of the realities of the road."

Read full post - 'Cruising in our cities'

Friday, November 23, 2007

Satellite monitoring/surveillance for the health of the planet

Jamais Cascio has written a short piece called 'I Spy With My Orbital Eye…' on his site Open the Future that address the use of satellite monitoring for surveying the health of the planet, both human and ecological. He refers to two recent articles on this subject:

The first (via James Hughes) comes from a report at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene conference in Philadelphia: NASA satellites help health policy experts around the world watch for and respond to disease outbreaks, and can potentially help head off a pandemic.

The second (via Ethan Zuckerman) is even more directly Bright Green: the use of satellite imagery to detect natural gas “flaring,” in order to track its impact on the environment.

I happen to think there is some mileage in these ideas... beyond the usual military appropriations.


Pay as you go motoring

The Guardian has another recent discussion on car-hiring schemes in the UK and various urban car clubs - worth reading for those considering shifting from an urban individualised car system to one of sharing:

In cities across Britain, car clubs such as Streetcar, Whizzgo and City Car Club are gaining in popularity as a viable alternative to car ownership.

The clubs claim to offer members all the benefits of owning a car without the associated expense and hassle. Not having your own car is definitely a greener option, but can it actually save you money as well?

Car clubs allow members to book online from a fleet of cars. They then find a conveniently located car and reserve it for their chosen time, whether that's 30 minutes to nip to the shops or two weeks for a family holiday.

Read in full - 'Pay as you go motoring'

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New airship era takes off... Helium mobilities!

The Guardian writes how the world's biggest airship will make its first commercial flight over Tokyo later this week, '70 years after the Hindenburg disaster brought the golden age of the dirigible to a fiery end':

The new helium-filled Zeppelin NT is 75 metres (246ft) long and will take passengers between 300-600 metres above Tokyo at speeds of up to 50 miles an hour. Built by the German firm Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, the Zeppelin will offer regular weekend and holiday flights over Tokyo from this Friday, including a night flight on Christmas Day and a sunrise excursion on New Year's Day.

Tickets for the 90-minute trips, the first commercial airship flights in Japan, will cost 126,000 yen (£550) for daytime flights and 168,000 yen for those at night, says its owner, Nippon Airship.

"We will fly much lower than an airplane at a leisurely pace," said the firm's president, Hiroyuki Watanabe.

Is the future??

Read in full - 'New airship era takes off in Tokyo'


Wireless network for airport RFID tracking

The Engineer Online discusses the need for airoort tracking security to introduce a wireless network capable of dealing with the information:

As airports begin to integrate new security measures such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to track people and luggage, they will need a wireless network capable of dealing with vast amounts of information. Such a system is set to be installed and trialled at Heathrow's terminal five, where an 'intelligent gate' will demonstrate, among other things, accurate passenger position estimation through active and passive RFID and radio over fibre (RoF) where the RFID is part of the boarding pass and/or passport.

Predictions suggest a terminal-wide network would have to support 10 million sources of information, from individual tracking units for passengers and staff to technology such as biometric gates. It is believed the system will have to deal with a peak data rate of 100Gbit/s as it tracks people, luggage, aircraft and all the information generated by those sources.

Read in full - 'Travel Tracker'

Hydrogen car hits the streets

The Engineer Online has this post on a hydrogen-powered car project at Birmingham University, UK:

A zero-emission, hydrogen-powered car has arrived on Birmingham University campus as part of the Science City Hydrogen energy project to discover how hydrogen powered cars might replace diesel and petrol vehicles.

The hydrogen car will be part of a fleet of five cars which will replace some of the university's own fleet of vehicles so that engineering researchers can learn more about their efficiency and cost effectiveness.

New technologies such as this often face uncertainties at the commercialisation stage and they can also have a higher initial cost. Until they become more competitive on cost, it is difficult to put these new technologies into production on a larger scale.

Read in full - 'Hydrogen car hits the streets'


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


TravelHacker has an interesting post on what it calls 'Eco-Tripping' which says that 'Whether you’re concerned about treading lightly or you just want to immerse yourself in authentic culture, eco tripping is something you should look into. It offers a myriad of opportunities, from trekking mountains to supporting local communities halfway around the world'.

They then give a list of 25 'top' destinations (which are debatable!) - eg's being: .

1. Alonissos: Alonissos’ National Marine Park is home to the endangered monk seal and lots of other interesting species of wildlife. It’s environmentally protected and has status as one of The European Community’s six “ECO Islands.” A number of Alonissos rentals are electricity-free.

2. The Lodge at Chaa Creek: This 330-acre ecoresort is located in western Belize on the banks of the Macal River. Resort activities are focused around the environment, culture, and archaeology of Belize. You’ll be able to explore the river, hike, watch birds, go mountain biking, and more. This resort has won the Conde Nast Traveler’s Ecotourism Award.

3. Maho Bay: One of the world’s first ecoresorts, Maho Bay Camp is built on 14 acres of gorgeous land. This simple inn by the water uses boardwalks to preserve trees and brush and other strategies for treading lightly. Because of this, the 100 units that make up the camp are nearly invisible.

Read in full - 'EcoTripping: 25 Vacations for Green Travelers'

License plates for private cars in Shanghai reach record high

According to People's Daily Online the average bid for private car license plates in Shanghai hit a record high:

54,000 yuan (7,267 U.S. dollars) in November, the second consecutive month prices surpassed 50,000 yuan. At a monthly auction on Saturday, the average bid for the 7,500license plates on offer was 54,317 yuan, a 6.5 percent increase from the 51,000 yuan average in October, according to an auction source.

Read - 'License plates for private cars in Shanghai reach record high'

Monday, November 19, 2007

Web Site Maps CO2 Emissions

EarthTrends discusses a new website that mashes global CO2 emissions from power plants, as shown in the image above:

Do you know where your power comes from? You can find out in a few clicks, thanks to new website, a database which includes 50,000 power plants worldwide--and the CO2 pollution each of them produces.

CARMA, which stands for Carbon Monitoring for Action, is the latest in a growing trend of environmental mashups--that is, applications that combine data from multiple sources to create a new tool, intuitively presenting large amounts of data.

Read in full - 'Web Site Maps CO2 Emissions from Power Plants Worldwide'

The Politics of Proximity: Mobility/Immobility in Practice

The Politics of Proximity: Mobility/Immobility in Practice
Session Convener: Giuseppina Pellegrino, University of Calabria (Italy) - Department of Sociology and Political Science

Conference website -

Intersections, overlaps and relations between globality and locality can be framed through the encompassing concept of mobility, which fosters both a powerful discourse in multiple settings and a renewed perspective in looking at socio-political transformations in the 21st century. Following John Urry and others, the sociology of mobility can be conceived as the study of mixtures and hybridations of people, objects, artefacts, information. Mobility (and immobility as its opposite, complementary side) involves multiple encounters and new inclusions and exclusions: proximity, closeness and togetherness increasingly depends on how mobility is articulated through the ever-present influence of infrastructures.

This raises some important questions:
- What does it mean to be mobile/immobile?
- Is mobility a resource or a boundary?
- How is ‘being on the move’ accomplished?
- How is the sense of time, space, global and local shaped through mobile practices?
- practices and settings where ‘being mobile’ is a ‘must’;
- mobilities and information distribution;
- mobilities and communicational practices;
- face-to-face/mediated proximity.

Abstracts of papers should be sent by 15th January to both the emails:,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The World's Most Bicycle-Friendly Cities?

The Wired Blog asks Where Are The World's Most Bicycle-Friendly Cities? and links to Virgin who have 'put together a list of the top 11 friendliest cities for bikes in the world, based on criteria advanced by the League of American Bicyclists. And what would those criteria be? Why, they're enshrined in the Five Es':

1. Engineering (bike parking, designated lanes, etc.)

2. Encouragement (events and campaigns)

3. Evaluation and Planning (ongoing political bodies that make changes to existing laws and plan for the future)

4. Education (bike maps and awareness campaigns)

5. Enforcement (making motorists heel)

And the 11 most bike friendly cities?

1. Amsterdam

2. Portland, Oregon

3. Copenhagen

4. Boulder, Colorado

5. Davis, California

6. Sandnes, Norway

7. Tronheim, Norway

8. San Francisco, California

9. Berlin

10. Barcelona

11. Basel, Switzerland

Any disagreements??

More Cars or More Transportation Alternatives?

Tata Motors, one of Asia's leading automakers, is gearing up to tap into India's middle-class market by releasing the "world's cheapest car" in 2008. According to Worldchanging:

Tata plans to sell its "affordable" four-door vehicle at a sticker price of $2,500, or half the cost of the cheapest new car available in India today. As disposable incomes rise nationwide, the vehicle may lead India's 1.1 billion people closer to Western patterns of car consumption--and bring similar environmental and traffic problems, according to critics. In 2004, India had 145.9 persons per passenger car, and the United States had 2.2 persons per car.

"Can you imagine if even half of the 1.1 billion Indians owned a car?" Mahesh Mehta, an environmental lawyer based in New Delhi, noted in a recent Washington Post article. "We should not be following the Western model of car ownership. I think this will be disastrous in India." As an alternative to more cars, Mehta supports better public transportation to improve the Indian quality of life.

Read more in - More Cars or More Transportation Alternatives: What Will the World Choose?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pentagon Future Forecasts...?

This sounds eerily similar to the US Homeland Security's failed and botched attempt to set up a future forecasting and derivatives project for potential future 'terrorist' attacks. Now the Pentagon is paying Lockheed Martin to try to predict insurgencies and civil unrest like the weather - 'It's part of a larger military effort to blend forecasting software with social science that has some counterinsurgency experts cringing' says the Danger Room Blog:

Lockheed recently won a $1.3 million, 15-month contract from the Defense Department to help develop the "Integrated Crises Early Warning System, or ICEWS. The program will "let military commanders anticipate and respond to worldwide political crises and predict events of interest and stability of countries of interest with greater than 80 percent accuracy," the company claims. "Rebellions, insurgencies, ethnic/religious violence, civil war, and major economic crises" will all be predictable. So will "combinations of strategies, tactics, and resources to mitigate [against those] instabilities."

DARPA, the Pentagon's bleeding-edge research arm, laid out the case for ICEWS this summer at its conference, held outside of Disneyworld. "Commanders will always need to have an accurate picture of enemy positions, as well as friendly units and allies," David Honey, who heads the agency’s Strategic Technology Office, told confab-goers in Anaheim, California. "But increasingly it’s social, cultural, political and economic information, foreign language capabilities and other clues – that are proving essential."

Read in full - 'Pentagon Forecast: Cloudy, 80% Chance of Riots'


A Carbon-Free, Stackable Rental Car?

TechReview in their post 'A Carbon-Free, Stackable Rental Car' writes that:

The Smart Cities group at the MIT Media Lab is working on two low-cost electric vehicles that it hopes will revolutionize mass transit and help alleviate pollution. Next week, the group will unveil a prototype of its foldable electric scooter at the EICMA Motorcycle Show, in Milan. A prototype for the team's foldable electric car, called the City Car, is slated to follow next year.

The MIT group sees the vehicles as the linchpin in a strategy that aims to mitigate pollution with electric power, expand limited public space by folding and stacking vehicles like shopping carts, and alleviate congestion by letting people rent and return the vehicles to racks located near transportation hubs, such as train stations, airports, and bus depots.

Pics on the post will help to illustrate their point.

Monday, November 12, 2007

'Chatty' Indians and the mobile phone

The Economist magazine has an interesting article on mobile phones in India and how 'chatty' Indians have embraced the use of the mobile phone:

The average owner of a mobile handset spends 471 minutes (almost eight hours) on the phone each month, and sends 39 text messages. Those numbers do not capture other, more ingenious, uses for the device. For example, autorickshaw drivers will tell passengers to “hit me with a missed” (ie, call my mobile and hang up before I answer) when they want to be picked up for the journey home. Such tactics dent the phone companies' revenues. They now earn under 300 rupees ($7.50) a month on average per subscriber.

Not so long ago most Indians had to confine their arguments to those within earshot. By the early 1990s the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) and the state's two operators had installed only 8m lines. Some 2.5m people were on the waiting list, where some had languished for seven years.

Read in full - 'Chatty Indians have embraced the mobile phone, but many still shrug at the PC'

Thanks to Mobile-Society (and RL)

'Semantic' website promises to organise your life

NewScientistTech reports in ''Semantic' website promises to organise your life' how making sense of an ever-increasing number of emails, web pages, feeds, and social networking contacts is 'a tough job for even the most organised person' - But now a new website can organise your life like a personal assistant... (so say its developers!):

Radar Networks, a company based in San Francisco, US, is betting it can make sense of your information, by getting its website to learn to tell the difference between people, places, companies, and more.

Its website called Twine, which is currently in beta testing, harnesses the philosophy at the core of a discipline called the "semantic web".

The semantic web is an extension of the current web, but where information is stored in a machine-readable format. It should allow computers to handle information in more useful ways, by processing the meanings within documents instead of simply the documents themselves. To an extent, some web tools, such as tags, already tap into this philosophy.

New Mappings - bringing hyper-local information to its users

A new startup called YourStreet is bringing hyper-local information to its users by collecting news stories and placing them on its map-based interface:

While there have been many companies that combine information and maps, YourStreet is novel in its focus on classifying news by location...

...When a user opens the site, it detects her location and shows a map of that area, stuck with pins that represent the locations of news stories, user-generated content called conversations, and people who have added themselves to the map. The user can zoom in or out of the map or look at another location by entering a place name or zip code into a search bar. CEO and founder James Nicholson says that what sets YourStreet apart is its extensive news service: the site collects 30,000 to 40,000 articles a day from more than 10,000 RSS feeds, mostly from community newspapers and blogs.

Read full article from TechReview - 'Mapping News'

Friday, November 09, 2007

101 gadgets that changed the world

The Belfast Telegram has developed a list of 101 “gadgets” that have changed the world. The mobile phone and SMS are among them, alongside aspirin, barbed wire, bras, easers, fire, toilet flushing, microchips, floppy disks, light bulbs, laptops and iPods.... an interesting menagerie!

For example, No 33. Floppy disk, 1971: did you know that the first floppies, invented in 1971 by IBM geek Alan Shugart, held just 100 kilobytes; modern disks can store 1.44 megabytes. Today, the largest iPod can store the same amount of data as 113,778 floppy disks, which in a stack, would match the height of London's BT Tower. Factoid!

Read more in '101 gadgets that changed the world'

Thanks to Mobile-Society


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Broadband Internet access for high-speed trains

To follow-up from one of my earlier posts on Internet access for trains from Wednesday, October 10, 2007 where I discussed access for 2008, I now post some further developments.

A UK high-tech company that specialises in broadband Internet access on board high speed trains is to deliver the first ever true broadband Internet access to passengers travelling between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne.

21Net, as part of a consortium lead by Nokia Siemens Networks, will combine satellite, mobile phone technologies (GPRS and UMTS) with wireless networks similar to Wi-Fi Hotspots to provide a continuous Internet connection on board trains travelling at the speed of 300 km/h. The service is expected to be in full operation by 2008. According to a press release:

Next generation: jet-fighter technology enabling to equip any high speed trains

The 21Net system combines low-profile tracking antennas on the train with two-way “Ku-band” satellite transmission to deliver high bandwidth (2Mbit/s by 512kbit/s) connectivity to a master server on the train.

This unique system puts 21Net in an entirely different class to existing competitor systems, which rely on narrowband (56kbit/s) GPRS connections which are then shared between the simultaneous users on the train.

This high bandwidth can be shared by simultaneous users. On the train, WiFi (wireless LAN) connections are used between the master server and customers with WiFi enabled laptops and PDAs.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Post-PC Era?

Are we heading towards a Post-PC Era? Apparently the PC’s role in Japanese homes is diminishing, and being superceded by gadgets such as smart phones, advanced Internet-connected game consoles, and digital video recorders. Smart Mobs writes that:

The Associated Press reports:

Japan’s PC market is shrinking, leading analysts to wonder whether Japan will become the first major market to see a decline in personal computer use some 25 years after it revolutionized household electronics — and whether this could be the picture of things to come in other countries.

“Consumers aren’t impressed anymore with bigger hard drives or faster processors. That’s not as exciting as a bigger TV,” Masahiro Katayama, research group head at market survey firm IDC said. “And in Japan, kids now grow up using mobile phones, not PCs. The future of PCs isn’t bright.”

Third Chinese Bloggers Conference

The Third Chinese Bloggers Conference was held in Beijing on Saturday, Nov, 3. According to the Virtual China site:

The Third Chinese Bloggers Conference was held in Beijing yesterday, Nov, 3. Around 200 people took part in the first day event. In the two-day conference, they are going to discuss and share different opinions about various topics, such as: SNS and the First Life; Wiki in Mainland China; The Chinese Bloggesphere in western scholars' eyes and why they are wrong; Art 1.5, etc. There are many other interesting topics, which can be found here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Champion Robot Car

So the verdict is in! Carnegie Mellon's computer-laden Chevy Tahoe wins the Urban Challenge and takes home the $2 million prize:

Boss successfully drove around an urban environment, avoiding other cars, and covering 60 miles (85km) in less than six hours, all without any human control.

The modified Chevrolet Tahoe was one of six cars that crossed the finish line, from a pack of 11 robotic vehicles which set off at dawn. The others had to pull out after crashes or other problems...

...Boss navigated around a simulated town, created on a disused US Air Force base in Victorville, in the Californian desert.

It had to deal with single and dual carriageway roads, junctions, buildings and car parks. As well as the 10 other driverless cars, Boss shared the road with more than 30 professional human drivers to simulate busy traffic.


- Robot cars race around California - BBC

- Champion Robot Car Declared - TechReview

E-patients' going online

This article 'Doctors more accepting of e-patients' going online' points towards a study released this month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project which confirmed what most doctors already know: The number of e-patients is growing:

About 51 percent of those living with a disability or chronic disease go online, compared with 74 percent of the rest of the population, according to the study. But once those with illnesses get online, they become some of the most avid Internet users.

Three-fourths of e-patients say information they found on the Web affected decisions about their treatment, according to the study. Nearly 69 percent said something they found on the Internet led them to ask their doctors new questions or get a second opinion.

The health-care industry, which once discouraged people from doing Internet research, is beginning to take notice of the e- patients' rise, said Susannah Fox, associate director of the Pew project, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

Via Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #187

The Semantic Web - a smarter way to find information?

Another piece from TechReview, this time looking at how a company - Radar Networks - is releasing a free Web-based tool, called Twine, that it hopes will change the way people organize their information:

Twine is a website where people can dump information that's important to them, from strings of e-mails to YouTube videos. Or, if a user prefers, Twine can automatically collect all the Web pages she visited, e-mails she sent and received, and so on. Once Twine has some information, it starts to analyze it and automatically sort it into categories that include the people involved, concepts discussed, and places, organizations, and companies. This way, when a user is searching for something, she can have quick access to related information about it. Twine also uses elements of social networking so that a user has access to information collected by others in her network. All this creates a sort of "collective intelligence," says Nova Spivack, CEO and founder of Radar Networks.

Read in full - The Semantic Web Goes Mainstream


Friday, November 02, 2007

Zipcar and Flexcar to Merge

GreenCarCongress has picked up the merger between the two big US car-share companies Zipcar and Flexcar:

Car-sharing providers Zipcar and Flexcar will merge. The combined company will operate under the Zipcar brand and be headquartered in Cambridge, MA, led by Zipcar Chairman and CEO, Scott Griffith.

Zipcar and Flexcar currently operate car sharing programs, providing members with on-demand access to a diverse fleet of vehicles located throughout major metropolitan areas. To use the service, members reserve a vehicle online or via a mobile device, use a smartcard to open the doors, take their trip, and then return the car at the end of the reservation. An hourly or daily fee covers gas, insurance, maintenance, parking and 24-7 emergency service.

The merger comes at a time when car sharing is increasingly acknowledged as a smart urban lifestyle choice and transportation alternative. With growing competition within the industry, and more than 30 independent car sharing companies operating in the US alone, the combined Zipcar will have a stronger base from which to compete—particularly against leading car rental firms’ product introductions targeted at the car-sharing industry.

Read - Zipcar and Flexcar to Merge

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Apartment Building Social Networks

Smartmobs has a discussion on 'Apartment Building Social Networks' that engages in the debate elsewhere on the web:

Fact of the matter, Apartment Building Social Networks like are also good for local search marketing - because they create contextually relevant local real estate content to advertise on. In fact, I predicted the rise of local social networks will call for most local businesses, that still don’t have websites, will want to once they have places nearby to advertise on.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tracking the California Fires

TechReview has been discussing how the National Interagency Fire Center has called on NASA to use its unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with a new thermal-imaging sensor to help track the fires:

The sensor is much more sensitive in the thermal range than are the line scanners that are normally used to map fires. The new sensor can also track a fire with greater accuracy, says Everett Hinkley, the National Remote Sensing Program manager at the U.S. Forest Service and a principal investigator...

...Capturing the images in real time is a major advance. Previously, images captured by a sensor had to be put on a "thumb drive" and dropped out of the aircraft through a tube as it flew near a command station, or the aircraft had to land so that the data could be given to a colleague to perform the analysis.

Read - Tracking the California Fires


Generation Mesh: Working at Wi-Fi Hotspots

The blog over at Institute for the Future mentions Laura Forlano's new published piece in Vodafone's Receiver, which provides a view on her ongoing dissertation research into how public Wi-Fi is reshaping work and collaboration:

Here are some excerpts:

For Generation Mesh, Starbucks – as well as independent cafés, parks and other public spaces where it is possible to access the wireless internet – is a vital site for social interaction, professional support, collaboration and, even, community. I use this term in reference to mesh networks, sometimes called ad hoc networks, which are decentralized wireless networks in which every node can both send and receive information. They are dynamic, flexible and self-organizing.....

Seeking to create an officelike atmosphere – in contrast to the prospect of working at home in their pajamas – pioneers have founded collaborative office spaces... In essence, these new, ad hoc organizational forms that rely on clustering, in a "smart mob"-like fashion, around WiFi hotspots are simulating the office environment that they lack as remote workers, telecommuters, freelancers or self-employed workers.....

Read full article at - Vodafone Receiver » #19 | Generation Mesh

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Green Mobility Futures

Jamais Cascio over at Open the Future takes a look at a green future full of photovoltaic clothes and smart walls:

What does a future world of photovoltaic material look like? How do smart walls, "Watt Torrent" power-sharing networks, and electric hyperbikes sound to you? In Metropolis' latest issue, these scenario fragments come to life -- or, at least, show up in a 2017 version of Craig's List. I wrote the piece a few months ago, and it was easily the most fun I've had building a scenario in quite some time...

I went with the Craig's List conceit because it gave me a chance to play with some different manifestations of this future, and to hint at some of what it might include. Not just in terms of solar power and materials, but little bits of plausible surreality, like carbon quota checks in apartment applications.

Read more at Green Leap Forward

Greener travel

Two posts here from Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends worth mentioning:

1) Toward greener jet fuels:

Researchers at Princeton University are currently working on two projects to reduce jet travel's role in global warming. The first one, a major project funded by the U.S. Air Force with $7.5 million, is focused on developing computational models that accurately simulate the burning of jet fuel, a complex process not well understood today. The second one, funded by NetJets, a company providing business jets, will help to develop new jet fuels with near-zero net greenhouse gas emissions.

2) The world's biodiesel potential:

Two researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M) have ranked 226 countries according to their potential to make large volumes of biodiesel at low cost. Their evaluation of the world's potential to produce biodiesel shows that Malaysia, Thailand, Colombia, Uruguay and Ghana are the developing nations most likely to attract biodiesel investment for several reasons including agricultural and political factors. The researchers have estimated that 'a grand total of 51 billion liters of biodiesel could be produced annually -- enough to meet roughly 4-5 percent of the world's existing demand for petroleum diesel.'


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Biometrics testing at Gatwick Airport

Gatwick airport is the latest UK airport to trial biometric fingerprinting technology to boost immigration security:

The BioDev pilot has been running in the airport's North Terminal since 18 September and is due to end in April next year. At present only arrivals from Sierra Leone who have been issued with biometric visas in the capital Freetown will be included in the trial....

A Home Office spokeswoman explained that Sierra Leone was chosen because the main flight into Gatwick from the country arrives at a quiet time with a low number of passengers. This makes it logistically easier for immigration staff to trial the tech.

Read full story - 'Biometrics wing their way into Gatwick' - via Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #184


Google Earth used to target Israel

The Guardian reports in 'Google Earth used to target Israel' how Palestinian militants are using Google Earth to help plan their attacks on the Israeli military and other targets:

Members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group aligned with the Fatah political party, say they use the popular internet mapping tool to help determine their targets for rocket strikes.

"We obtain the details from Google Earth and check them against our maps of the city centre and sensitive areas," Khaled Jaabari, the group's commander in Gaza who is known as Abu Walid, told the Guardian.

Abu Walid showed the Guardian an aerial image of the Israeli town of Sderot on his computer to demonstrate how his group searches for targets.

Another indication of the blurring between digital and physical worlds, a type of augmented reality...