Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sensor rise powers life recorders

BBCNews in 'Sensor rise powers life recorders' reports that a person's entire life from birth to death could one day be recorded by a network of intelligent sensors (which sounds similar to the 'MyLifeBits' project at Microsoft). Anyway, according to a senior scientist:

By 2057, Martin Sadler of PC firm Hewlett Packard, said there could be at least 1m devices for every UK resident. Predicted advances in storage and cameras coupled with decreasing costs would allow this explosion, he said. But, he warned, the amount of personal data that could be collected would lead to difficult ethical dilemmas.

"Maybe the first time you know you are pregnant is when a targeted piece of advertising comes through on your computer screen offering you some baby clothes because somehow the smart toilet, or some other aspect of your environment, leaked that information," he said.

Well worth a read!

Choking on Growth

The New York Times is doing a series of articles and multimedia examining the human toll, global impact and political challenge of China’s epic pollution crisis - its called 'Choking on Growth'.

The latest is an interactive map showing where pollution has most affected China’s landscape and how the country’s environment and economy compare with the rest of the world - see here

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The end of TV as we know it

Web guru Vint Cerf foresees a download revolution that could, as he says, bring about the end of TV as we know it:

"85% of all video we watch is pre-recorded, so you can set your system to download it all the time," he said. "You're still going to need live television for certain things - like news, sporting events and emergencies - but increasingly it is going to be almost like the iPod, where you download content to look at later."

The arrival of internet television has long been predicted, although it has succeeded in limited ways so far. But the popularity of websites such as YouTube - the video sharing service bought by Google in 2005 for $1.65bn (£800m) - has encouraged many in the TV industry to try and use the internet more profitably. Last month the BBC launched its free iPlayer download service, and digital video recorders such as Sky Plus and Freeview Playback allow viewers to instantly pause and record live television.

Dr Cerf predicted that these developments would continue, and that we would soon be watching the majority of our television through the internet - a revolution that could herald the death of the traditional broadcast TV channel in favour of new interactive services.

Read in full - 'Vint Cerf, aka the godfather of the net, predicts the end of TV as we know it'


Sandia researchers help to make cars smarter

Roland Piquepaille reports on Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) - who are more known for their research on nuclear weapons - researching how to make our cars safer. He informs us that some SNL researchers are designing safety features for cars that can analyze human behavior:

Cars already automatically lock doors when they sense motion and turn on warning lights if they detect potential engine problems. But they are about to get smarter.

The augmented cognition research team at Sandia National Laboratories is designing cars capable of analyzing human behavior.

The car of the future they are developing may, for example, deduce from your driving that you’re become tired, or during critical situations, tell your cell phone to hold an incoming call so you won’t be distracted...

And SNL, which has recently launched its Cognitive Science and Technology Program (August 8, 2007), is really promoting its activities. "Imagine a world where a machine creates a 'virtual you' by modeling how you think and your expertise on a subject. Or one where your car's computer appreciates your driving skills and compensates for your limitations. That's the world Sandia National Laboratories has entered full throttle through its Cognitive Science and Technology Program (CS&T)."

Read the original article in full at - 'Sandia researchers help to make cars smarter'


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More on the China Eco-Cities

It seems that everything is not go so rosy for the eco-city projects in China - some glips in the initial euphoria?

Worldchanging reports that:

In 2005, green architect William McDonough and British engineering firm Arup separately announced plans to build ambitious eco-cities housing up to 500,000 inhabitants on the mainland. For a few months following these announcements, coverage was enthusiastic (we have written about these cities a number of times, with early articles here and here). Much of this coverage was deserved. Designers are, after all, devising solutions to what promises to be one of the largest rural-to-urban migrations in history.

But in recent months, journalists have begun to look at how these cities are shaping up. After publishing a glowing article on McDonough's designs for sustainable Chinese cities in 2005, Newsweek ran an article this May that reads like a retraction. Its assessment of Huangbaiyu, the model village in McDonough's program and the first in a series of seven planned eco-cities, is bleak:

The project appears to be a mess. Construction of the 400 houses is way behind schedule. The 42 that have been built still have no heat, electricity or running water. Walls are already cracking and moisture seeps through the ceilings. According to people who've worked on the project, many of the houses don't adhere to the original specifications—meaning they could never achieve the energy savings they were meant to achieve. The biomass gasification facility meant to burn animal, human and agricultural waste, doesn't work. Not surprisingly, no one in the village has volunteered to move into the new community.

Read in full - 'China Eco-Cities Update'


Flexible sensors for hydrogen vehicles

Now here is an interesting new technological development in the world of sensors and transport:

Researchers from U.S. Argonne National Laboratory have developed flexible sensors for hydrogen vehicles. These sensors will be cheaper than previously designed hydrogen sensors because they will use only palladium nanoparticles instead of pure palladium. But they will be as efficient and could be used in many applications, like in vehicles, aircraft and portable electronics. They could even be used to detect a 'leakage of hydrogen caused by tiny pinholes in the pipe of a space shuttle.

Read full article - 'Nanotechnology-based flexible hydrogen sensors'

Via Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Friday, August 24, 2007

More global epidemics

Since this is a blog about 'mobilities' then it also should cover what is perhaps the most efficient mobility-vehicle on the planet - viruses!

The Guardian has recently reported how the WHO predicts more global epidemics:

A new killer disease on a par with HIV/Aids or ebola is likely to emerge in the next few years and threaten the lives of millions of people worldwide, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today. Potentially deadly new diseases are being identified at an "unprecedented rate", with global epidemics spreading more rapidly than ever, the United Nations agency warned in its annual world health report.

At least one new disease has been identified every year since the 1970s. Today, there are 39 that were unknown just over a generation ago.

Read in full - 'WHO predicts more global epidemics'


Britain enjoying 'digital boom'

Yes, its true - it seems that Britain is enjoying a 'digital boom' with the Internet, mobile phones and MP3 players supposedly 'revolutionising' how Britons spend their time - according to Ofcom's annual report. BBCNews reports that:

It reveals that older media such as TV, radio and even DVDs are being abandoned in favour of more modern technology.

It also shows that women, in some age groups, are the dominant web users and older web users spend more time online than any group.

Among children it showed that web and mobile phone use is growing at the expense of video games.

Read in full - 'Britain enjoying 'digital boom''

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mobile phones 'eroding landlines'

BBCNews reports that according to a report by the UK communications watchdog, mobile phone use is continuing to reduce the amount of time people spend using landlines. The report states that:

For the first time, calls from mobiles now account for more than a third of time spent on phone calls, Ofcom said.

Mobile phone call minutes totalled 82 billion last year, in an overall total of 234 billion. And 9% of UK households rely solely on mobile phones, compared with 7% that only have a landline, the report added.

Read in full at - Mobile phones 'eroding landlines'


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Disaster relief and mobile phones

More here on the subject of using mobile phone networks to organise relief efforts. Smartmobs writes that:

The Economist reports on “Flood, Famine, and Mobile Phones,” a look at the way mobile telephony is changing disaster response and relief:

MY NAME is Mohammed Sokor, writing to you from Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab. Dear Sir, there is an alarming issue here. People are given too few kilograms of food. You must help.”

A crumpled note, delivered to a passing rock star-turned-philanthropist? No, Mr Sokor is a much sharper communicator than that. He texted this appeal from his own mobile phone to the mobiles of two United Nations officials, in London and Nairobi. He got the numbers by surfing at an internet café at the north Kenyan camp.

See original post ' Disaster response, relief, and mobile phones'

Via Smartmobs

Transportation Innovations from American Cities

Before recently leaving on my 'off-the-grid' treks, I put a couple of news items in my inbox to return to later. Here is one of them, from Worldchanging - a post titled 'Transportation Innovations from American Cities' that looks at some innovations in Utah, Arizone, Seattle:

I spent a morning and afternoon last week attending the American Public Transportation Association's Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop: What struck me most throughout the day was how much approaches to sustainability varied from one transit system to another. The differences, of course, are all about context: geographical, historical, and political. Some cities that were represented on the panels have well-established, heavily subsidized public transportation systems (New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority); others (such as Denver's Regional Transportation District) are just now starting to make the kind of investments they'll need to get people out of their cars and reduce global warming in the next 10, 20, and 50 years.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mobility with 'Hostile Intent'

A recent Guardian article discusses the latest in counter-terrorism plans to develop an array of advanced technologies capable of spotting would-be terrorists in a crowd. Specifically, these technologies are designed to analyse people's behaviour and physiology from afar, such as during border crossings and national entry points like airports, in the hope they may reveal clues about their mental state and even their future intentions:

Under Project Hostile Intent, scientists will aim to build devices that can pick up tell-tale signs of hostile intent or deception from people's heart rates, perspiration and tiny shifts in facial expressions...According to the timetable set out, the new devices are expected to be trialled at a handful of airports, borders and ports of entry by 2012.

The plans describe how systems based on video cameras, laserlight, infra-red, audio recordings and eye tracking technology are expected to scour crowds looking for unusual behaviour, with the aim of identifying people who should be approached and quizzed by security staff, New Scientist magazine reports.

Read full story here



Welcome and Buffet lunch at 1PM in The Institute for Advanced Studies, Lancaster University. SEMINAR to be held in A40 County South - cost £15.00
(online registration here)

1.30 welcome/introduction to the main issues from John Urry, Director of CEMORE, Lancaster University

1.45 Greg Noble, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney: 'Moored in Mobility: The ontology of automotive comfort'
3.00 tea coffee

3.15 Kingsley Dennis, CeMoRe Lancaster: 'Cities, Cars, Futures'

4.30 Tim Dant, Sociology Dept, Lancaster University to lead discussion on the 2 papers

Chaired by Monika Buscher, CEMORE/Imagination at Lancaster/Sociology, Lancaster University

5.30 drink in bar

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Your Telephone Of Tomorrow (Sep, 1956)

This great piece of 'futurism' from 1956 looks at 'Your Telephone Of Tomorrow' and exclaims that the 'Future may bring push-button dialing, videophones, direct calls anywhere on earth and pocket-size sets'. Here's the opening of the article:

ON SOME night in the future a young man walking along Market Street in San Francisco may suddenly think of a friend in Rome. Reaching into his pocket, he will pull out a watch-size disc with a set of buttons on one side. He will punch ten times. Turning the device over, he will hear his friend’s voice and see his face on a tiny screen, in color and 3-D. At the same moment his friend in Rome will see and hear him.

The disc will be a telephone, a miniature model equipped for both audio and video service. Back in 1952, Harold S. Osborne, retiring chief engineer of American Telephone & Telegraph, envisioned this tiny instrument as the ultimate shape of the phone. In the future, said Mr. Osborne, a telephone number will be given at birth to every baby in the world. It will be his for life. When he wants to call anyone, no matter where, he will merely push the buttons on his Lilliputian phone.

“If he does not see or hear him, he will know his friend is dead,” the engineer concluded.

Read the full article - 'Your Telephone Of Tomorrow'

Thanks to Soledad at Mobile-Society

Monday, August 06, 2007

Body Area Networks

The Danger Room have made reference to the US military's move towards 'Body Area Networks' ( or, in my acronym - 'BAN' it!):

So the Department of Homeland Security is asking researchers to work up a "wireless body area network."

Recent progress in the research and development of wireless body area networks might help facilitate cost effective and flexible solutions for first responders. Wireless body area network technology could provide the ability to use a less expensive array of plug and play sensors for different needs and responder requirements. A wireless body area network standard might allow responders to competitively select from various vendors with unique specialization in order to be equipped with the most appropriate sensor grouping for their job. Such a modular approach would allow for sensor and network technologies to evolve yet minimizing loss of total investment.

Read in full - 'Homeland Security Wants "Body Area Networks"'

Friday, August 03, 2007

matterealities, mobilities, innovation

matterealities, mobilities, innovation. Karen Barad @ Lancaster ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the detailed how of 'how matter comes to matter' (Barad 2003) the social is inextricably conjoined with the material. However, the very practices that join also often conceal such entanglement. In this interdisciplinary workshop we seek to explore a particular set of connections between 'matterealities', mobilities and innovation:

Matterealities: As new computing, sensor and actuator technologies become increasingly powerful and small, they converge with everyday materials, including the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, and the places we live, play and work in. Whereas research into socio-technical settings and practices has tended to look at 'the virtual' (cyberspace and life online), research must now also look towards the physical and to the 'materealization' of socio-technical reality. How can interdisciplinary insights and approaches come together productively and creatively?

Mobilities: A new 'movement-driven' social science (Urry 2007) is emerging, in which movement, potential movement and blocked movement are conceptualised as constitutive of economic, social, political, environmental and material relations.
How do mobilities depend on and, at the same time, help produce material infrastructures? How does matter move? How are material agencies mobilized? How can we mobilize interdisciplinary initiatives to investigate these questions?

Innovation: With everything in flux, viable and desirable innovation cannot be a top-down, mainly conceptual process. It has to be experimental and participatory, engaging all - material and human - agencies. Can studies of how matter comes to matter inform innovation?
Can they foster participation and bottom-up innovation?

For this workshop we invite participation from a broad field of interested parties, spanning the natural sciences, art, design, engineering, humanities, the social sciences, the public and commerical or industrial organizations.

A maximum of 40 participants can be accepted. Registration takes place on a first come first served basis.

The deadline for registration is 12 October. Registration will cost approximately £ 80.00. Details will be published on our website:

A limited number of student bursaries are available. For information about these or an expression of interest please contact m.buscher(at)

Fiona Jane Candy, UK - Irene Janze and Anton Dekker, The Netherlands, Dr. Jennifer G. Sheridan, Alice Bayliss, Dr. Nick Bryan-Kinns

Buscher, Monika, mobilities.lab, Lancaster University - Coulton, Paul, Infolab21, Lancaster University - Dennis, Kingsley, mobilities.lab, Lancaster University - Hemment, Drew, Imagination@Lancaster - Rooksby, John, Infolab21, Lancaster University - Sangiorgi, Daniela, Imagination@Lancaster -

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Laptops may damage male fertility

In yet another blow to the wi-fi and computer industry experts are now saying - again - that men who use laptop computers could be unwittingly damaging their fertility....

According to a recent BBCNews report titled 'Laptops may damage male fertility':

Balancing it on the lap increases the temperature of the scrotum which is known to have a negative effect on sperm production, researchers found.

Coupled with the rising popularity of these computers - about 150m people use them worldwide - much more research is needed say the US authors.

The State University of New York findings appear in Human Reproduction.

The moral is - be careful where you balance!


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Networks and neighbors

Smartmobs has a post on 'Networks and neighbors' that discusses, and refers to, a NY Times article on the importance of neighbours:

It seems to me that the new understanding that has emerged in our times has 3 steps: 1) realize everything is connected, 2) notice that the connecting starts with the smallest pieces, 3) know networks rule. When you have these 3 insights, it becomes clear that network rules are the same no matter what the pieces are that a network is connecting. That would mean, for example, that the same network rules are at work in MySpace, in an analog network of friends and in how intestines raise the odds against cancer happening.

Or go straight to the NY Times article here


How do you build a new internet?

This recent article from the Guardian focuses on how some researchers believe it could be time to build a successor to the internet:

How do you cut online crime, tackle child pornography, halt crippling viruses and get rid of spam? The answers could lie in a £200m successor to the internet that computer experts are already referring to as the next rendition of the virtual world.

Researchers in the US want at least $350m (£175m) to build the Global Environment for Network Innovations (Geni), touted by some as the possible replacement for today's internet. In Europe, similar projects are under way as part of the EU's Future and Internet Research (Fire) programme, which is expected to cost at least £27m.

With online crime rising and traffic increasing rapidly, some academics believe it is time to have a serious discussion about what succeeds today's internet.

Read full article - 'How do you build a new internet?'


Satellite multimedia for mobile phones

This just in from the telecommunications sector, on satellite multimedia for mobile phones:

The development of mobile video services through satellites will provide content providers and operators with alternative or complementary solutions to terrestrial based networks and will bring the benefit of the universal coverage and broadcasting that satellites can provide.

Read in full - 'Satellite multimedia for mobile phones'