Saturday, May 31, 2008

A 13th century social network

Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends has an interesting post on a team of French researchers who have used medieval documents to create the oldest detailed social network ever constructed:

The mathematicians and computer scientists looked through thousands of records of land transactions dating back as far as 1260 in a Southwest part of France. The result of their study shows 'how medieval peasants and lords were connected.' Even if the title of the Nature News article is somewhat ironic -- 'Researchers give a French province the 'Facebook' treatment' --, this mathematical study is pretty serious. And its title is more enigmatic: 'Batch kernel SOM and related Laplacian methods for social network analysis' (SOM meaning 'self-organizing map'). But read more...

A French medieval social network

You can see above "a representation of the medieval social network with force directed algorithm." (Credit: Romain Boulet et al.) This figure has been made by using the open source graph drawing Tulip software.

See original post - 'A 13th century social network'

Friday, May 30, 2008

The "Neighborhood Electric Vehicle"

Short post here just to mention how the US Federal law includes a new vehicle category, the "Neighborhood Electric Vehicle", to encourage the use of zero-emission vehicles for inner-city use:

Smaller than traditional cars, they are still required to have automotive grade headlights, seatbelts, windshields, brakes and other safety equipment. With a top speed of 25 MPH, the cars can only be used on streets with a posted 35 MPH speed limit. Check out the section on “Commute Cars”. Given the price of gasoline, having a stable of different vehicles for different uses sounds more and more reasonable.

Read more here

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cell Phone Spying: Is Your Life Being Monitored?

This post from Geeks are Sexy (!?) is about the post-privacy world of the new mobile phones! It writes that they 'connect you to the world, but your cell phone could also be giving anyone from your boss to your wife a window into your every move. The same technology that lets you stay in touch on-the-go can now let others tap into your private world — without you ever even suspecting something is awry':

Long gone are the days of simple wiretapping, when the worst your phone could do was let someone listen in to your conversations. The new generation of cell phone spying tools provides a lot more power.

Eavesdropping is easy. All it takes is a two-minute software install and someone can record your calls and monitor your text messages. They can even set up systems to be automatically alerted when you dial a certain number, then instantly patched into your conversation. Anyone who can perform a basic internet search can find the tools and figure out how to do it in no time.

Read original post - 'Cell Phone Spying: Is Your Life Being Monitored?'

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Private jet sharing: is it really green?

The Guardian in the UK has this article on a scheme that has been set up which claims to allow travellers the chance to cut their carbon emissions without compromising on the luxury and sheer convenience such flights offer! Read on...

Jet-sharing, based on the kind of car-sharing scheme popular with the eco-conscious, is the latest concept to emerge from Britain's booming market in private jet hire.

Launched by Private Jet Club, a jet brokerage company based in the City of London, the service encourages members to avoid the expense and environmental impact of hiring an entire aircraft by sharing it with like-minded individuals. Members are assured they will travel in an "economically and environmentally responsible manner".

"A lot of people like to have a stab at the super-rich," said Alex Hunter, director of the Private Jet Club. "They see jet travel as unnecessary expenditure and unnecessary carbon emissions. But it is necessary for people whose itinerary cannot be dictated by commercial airlines."

Sincere or a poking gesture?

Read in full - 'Private jet sharing: it may assuage guilt, but is it really green?'

Hydrogen Cars Won't Make a Difference for 40 Years

Wired has a piece on how experts say it 'will be 40 years or more before hydrogen has any meaningful impact on gasoline consumption or global warming, and we can't afford to wait that long. In the meantime, fuel cells are diverting resources from more immediate solutions':

"As a climate strategy, it's not very good," said Dr. Joseph Romm, executive director of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions and author of The Hype About Hydrogen: Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate. "We don't have the time."

Climate experts and alternative-fuel researchers, including some hydrogen proponents, agree that hydrogen is at best a long-term solution. In the short and medium term, however, other technologies offer far greater benefit at far less cost: Cleaner internal combustion engines, hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

Some worry that these near-term solutions are being short-changed. But hydrogen advocates counter that the answer isn't cutting hydrogen funding, but increasing funding for research into a wide variety of alternatives to oil.

"The few million we're spending to change our energy policy is like sending one platoon to Normandy," said Paul Williamson, director of the Hydrogen and Alternative Energy Research and Development program at the University of Montana. "It's just not going to happen."

Read in full - 'Hydrogen Cars Won't Make a Difference for 40 Years'

Monday, May 26, 2008

From Borders to Green Belts

This is an excellent post from Subtopia that I just felt needed to be blogged - and in a way it does deal with 'mobility' as the topic is of the 'border'. Here is discussed the transition from border to green belt.

[Image: Former 'Inner German Border' Provides Haven for Wildlife, Spiegel, May 13, 2008.]

While the "inner German border” that once divided East and West Germany decades ago, stretching 879 miles from the Baltic Sea to the Czech Republic, was a tangled jungle of barbed wire, landmines, booby traps and soldier patrols, it was also, much like the Korean DMZ, a kind of sanctuary for considerable wildlife.

When the Berlin Wall fell German environmentalists fought to protect the long line of no-man’s-land as a Green Belt, connecting it with Europe’s larger green belt that has followed the path of the Iron Curtain from the north of Finland south to the Adriatic Sea.

[Image: Former 'Inner German Border' Provides Haven for Wildlife, Spiegel, May 13, 2008.]

Up until now the German Green Belt has had very little legal protection, and while it still has a long ways to go, Spiegel reports that the groundwork for a new agreement between the federal Government and the local German states which directly assume responsibility for the Green Belt have reached some form of legal outlines for its protection. Currently, only a third of the natural corridor is designated a nature conservation area, but that could soon be increased. The Green Belt itself though is of great interest.

Read original post here

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Student 'Twitters' His Way out of Egyptian Jail

This is a story about a young guy named James Karl Buck who helped free himself from an Egyptian jail with a one-word blog post from his mobile phone:

Buck, a graduate student from the University of California-Berkeley, was in Mahalla, Egypt, covering an anti-government protest when he and his translator, Mohammed Maree, were arrested April 10.On his way to the police station, Buck took out his cell phone and sent a message to his friends and contacts using the micro-blogging site Twitter.

The message only had one word. "Arrested."

Within seconds, colleagues in the United States and his blogger-friends in Egypt -- the same ones who had taught him the tool only a week earlier -- were alerted that he was being held...

But Buck was able to send updates every couple of hours saying he was still detained, he had spoken to the prosecutor, he still had not been charged, and he was worried about Maree.

Read in full - 'Student 'Twitters' His Way out of Egyptian Jail'

Saving through Second Life

Here is a brief post about the University of Southern California’s Network Culture Project which is hosting a community challenge titled Second Life and the Public Good:

Led by Doug Thomas, principal investigator at the USC Annenberg School of Communication, the USC Network Culture Project invites the residents of Second Life to imagine new ways that virtual worlds can be used to make a contribution to the public good.

"We really wanted to put out a challenge to the various communities that make up Second Life to find ways to use a virtual world to make a difference in the physical world," says Thomas. Proposals from groups, organizations or individuals should show how Second Life can enhance, develop, or sustain the public good. Submissions will be selected based on how well participants demonstrate the significance of virtual worlds for making an impact on society or culture. Projects could address any social need and may include conservation, human rights and international justice, global peace and security, reproductive health, digital media and learning, or juvenile justice.

Read original post - 'Saving through Second Life'

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mobile phones more important than wallets

Reuters has a short article that writes that 'more than one-third of workers would choose their mobile phone over their wallet, keys, laptop or digital music player if they had to leave the house for 24 hours and could take only one item, a new survey has found':

The survey, conducted by market research firm IDC and sponsored by Nortel Networks Corp, found that while more than 38 percent of the 2,367 people polled chose their mobile phones, less than 30 percent chose their wallets first.

Through the survey, Nortel -- North America's biggest maker of telephone gear -- was looking to find out how many workers around the world can be defined as "hyperconnected," or as those who have fully embraced multiple devices like cellphones and laptops, as well as applications like e-mail or social networking sites like Facebook.

The answer: 16 percent, and growing.

The survey classified the hyperconnected worker as someone who uses at least seven devices for work and personal access, in addition to at least nine applications like instant messaging, text messaging or web conferencing.

The country with the highest percentage of hyperconnected respondents in the study was China. Canada and the United Arab Emirates had the fewest number among the 17 countries covered in the survey.

Is the the new term we have to 'live' with for the future of work - the "hyperconnected worker"?

Read in full - 'Mobile phones more important than wallets'

“The Future of the Internet” is Coming

SmartMobs has a post that comments on a review of Jonathan Zittrain’s book “The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It”:

Waters details a few good points from the book from how personal computing will change in the next few years and what to expect if it does, according to Zittrain anyway.

Closed systems are also instruments of control: They can be used to limit the information their users can access and to restrict what can be done with that information, and they make it easier to monitor the behavior of people who are connected to the network.

So why would we end up in this state of technological and social lockdown? Because the PC and the Internet, according to Zittrain, are about to suffer an implosion that is common to all open technologies.

Waters is poses that seeing the future is both “inspiring and depressing”. Hoping that the our society is smart enough to recognize that social adjustments are needed otherwise the internet will need regulating by the government. Can we change our social habits and stop abusing the freedom the internet grants us? The future of the internet awaits with the answer.

Read more at '“The Future of the Internet” is Coming.'

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Automatic cars 'slash journey times'

BBC News online has an interesting post about the future of cars - with developments in cars that are fully automatic. A new "self-driving car" has been developed in America which has the ability to drastically cut traffic jams by increasing the flow of traffic up to three times:

The car, which features revolutionary "drive-by-wire" systems which means the wheels are no longer connected to the steering wheel, was built by the University of California, Riverside's College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (Ce-Cert) and Dotmobil, a French company.

Matt Barth, from Ce-Cert, told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme that the "human factor" is the primary cause of delays on road networks - and so his automatic car can promise vastly quicker journeys.

"We have a slow reaction time - a couple of seconds - and we have aggressive behaviour, which causes the stop-and-go action that we often come across," he said. "But if vehicles can talk to each other through wireless communication - and you have these control systems that can react more quickly than a human can - then you can smooth out traffic, and potentially get three times the amount of flow compared to a highway with manual drivers."

Read in full - 'Automatic cars 'slash journey times''

Quake breaks China's Firewall

Wired blog has a post that looks at how the recent China earthquake has led to a flurry of news and opinions being spread around the country in a way that was suppressed in 'normal' times. It reads that:

"Why were most of those killed in the earthquake children?" one post asked Thursday on FanFou, a microblogging site.

"How many donations will really reach the disaster area? This is doubtful," read another.

China is now home to the world's largest number of Internet and mobile phone users, and their hunger for quake news is forcing the government to let information flow in ways it hasn't before.

A fast-moving network of text messages, instant messages and blogs has been a powerful source of firsthand accounts of the disaster, as well as pleas for help and even passionate criticism of rescue efforts.

"I don't want to use the word transparent, but it's less censored, an almost free flow of discussion," said Xiao Qiang, a journalism professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the China Internet Project, which monitors and translates Chinese Web sites.

China is well known for controlling the flow of information.

"We didn't know that hundreds of thousands of lives passed away during the Tangshan earthquake in 1976 until many years after the disaster took place," sociologist Zheng Yefu said in a commentary last week in the Southern Metropolis News.

But word about Monday's magnitude 7.9 quake spread quickly on Web sites and microblogging services, in which users share short bursts of information through text and instant messages. The services also publish the messages online.

Read article - 'China allows bloggers, others to spread quake news'

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

China's All-Seeing Eye

Here's a worthwhile article from Naomi Klein recently published in Rolling Stone called 'China's All-Seeing Eye'. It is about the development of extensive, and intensive, surveillance programs being built in Chinese cities/locations with the help of U.S. defense contractors. This is a step towards China building the prototype for a high-tech police state:

Now, as China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of this vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as "Golden Shield." The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald's Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world's attention at Tiananmen Square.

Read in full - 'China's All-Seeing Eye'

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Climate Change Could Force 1 Billion from Their Homes by 2050

The UK's Independent is running a post/article about how as many as one billion people could lose their homes by 2050 because of the devastating impact of global warming. Also, how steady rise in temperatures across the planet could trigger mass migration on unprecedented levels. Consider how this will affect mass migrations? A rise in environmental refugees?

Hundreds of millions could be forced to go on the move because of water shortages and crop failures in most of Africa, as well as in central and southern Asia and South America, the conference in London will be told. There could also be an effect on levels of starvation and on food prices as agriculture struggles to cope with growing demand in increasingly arid conditions.

Rising sea levels could also cause havoc, with coastal communities in southern Asia, the Far East, the south Pacific islands and the Caribbean seeing their homes submerged.

North and west Africans could head towards Europe, while the southern border of the United States could come under renewed pressure from Central America.

The conference will hear a warning from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that the developed world should start preparing for a huge movement of people caused by climate change.

The event, which is being organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), will also be addressed by a Kenyan farmer and a United Nations worker based in Sudan. They will give first-hand accounts of previously fertile land that has already become parched in recent years as the desert spreads.

Read post - 'Climate Change Could Force 1 Billion from Their Homes by 2050'

The Car of the Future Will Know You Can't Drive

Wired's Autopia blog has an article on technology that could one day allow your car to be able to tell you about an oncoming vehicle in your lane on a blind curve or even calm you down on a harried commute. may also tell your insurance company how often you drive over the speed limit or alert advertisers to target you - not such a good thing?S

Stanford professor Clifford Nass and his colleagues at the university's CarLab are figuring how to make vehicles collect information on where you drive, how fast you go, your preferences and how you react when some jerk cuts you off. The technology could make you a better driver and even save you time and money - but it also could let insurers keep tabs on you and help advertisers reach right into your car.

Nass, who's being funded in part by automakers, is not the only guy working on this. Microsoft wants to bring Google-style advertising to your dashboard.

"From the point of view of advertisers, the driver is a great captive audience," Nass says. "You have the ability of knowing where the person is, so you can have very location-specific advertising."

Read article in full - 'The Car of the Future Will Know You Can't Drive'

Monday, May 19, 2008

Phones replace Paper

Reuters has an article about how young, tech-savvy South Koreans are making coupon clipping a thing of the past and turning to their mobile phones instead:

Some of the fastest-growing mobile phone services in the country let retailers send discount coupons and users send gift certificates for anything from lattes to movie tickets through their handsets.

The merchandise vouchers have a barcode embedded in the message. Users show the coupon on the screen and retailers scan the barcode to apply the discount.

"People can actually receive products from places just by showing their phones," Ryu Mina, a spokeswoman with mobile service provider SK Telecom. She said people may forget their coupons but always carry their cell phones.

SK Telecom rolled out a service a little more than a year ago called a "gifticon" that allows users to send gift vouchers for items such as convenience store merchandise and pizzas via mobile phones. The sender is billed for the cost of the goods.

Read article - 'Paper is passe for tech-savvy South Koreans'

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Full in-car Internet access


Another post from Wired's Autopia blog. This time about putting Internet into the car as the next step in driver interface:

BMW's iDrive has taken it on the nose from critics and customers alike. But give the luxury brand credit for recognizing that the goo-gaws and gizmos car makers keep adding to their vehicles are making the driver interface impossibly confusing. Designers can barely find enough space within reach of the driver to stash all the new buttons and control knobs that make high-priced cars sell.

Trouble is, BMW is using its streamlined iDrive to add even more driver distraction. iDrive will soon incorporate full onboard Internet access, allowing drivers to copy maps and other information directly to their navigation systems. It will work through an EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) mobile connection, currently the fastest universal mobile connection available.

Drivers will surf the Web with a small joystick mouse. Maps and driving directions can be transferred to the navigation system with the press of a button. For safety reasons, drivers can only surf when the car is traveling at speeds of less than 3 mph.

Read in full - 'BMW Adds Full Internet Access to Its iDrive'

Saturday, May 17, 2008

'Telepresence' Is Taking Hold


The WSJ has a post about the rise in video-conferencing:

Thus far, standard videoconferencing systems remain a much bigger business. Despite these efforts, only about 1,000 of the 176,000 videoconferencing systems sold world-wide in 2007 were telepresence systems, estimates market researcher TeleSpan Publishing Corp. But unit sales of the high-end systems were up five-fold from the 200 sold in 2006, and the number should triple to 3,000 in 2008.

Read original post - ''Telepresence' Is Taking Hold'

Friday, May 16, 2008

Virtual Iraq

The program uses sights, sounds, even smells to evoke, and subdue, painful memories.

The New Yorker has an interesting post about the US militaryusing simulation to treat a new generation of traumatized veterans - 'The program uses sights, sounds, even smells to evoke, and subdue, painful memories':

Strictly speaking, using virtual reality to treat combat-related P.T.S.D. is not new. In 1997, more than twenty years after the Vietnam War ended, researchers in Atlanta unveiled Virtual Vietnam. It dropped viewers into one of two scenarios: a jungle clearing with a “hot” landing zone, or a Huey helicopter, its rotors whirring, its body casting a running shadow over rice paddies, a dense tropical forest, and a river. The graphics were fairly crude, and the therapist had a limited number of sights and sounds to manipulate, but Virtual Vietnam had the effect of putting old soldiers back in the thick of war. Ten combat veterans with long-term P.T.S.D. who had not responded to multiple interventions participated in a clinical trial of Virtual Vietnam, typically lasting a month or two. All of them showed significant signs of improvement, both directly after treatment and in a follow-up half a year later. (P.T.S.D. is assessed on a number of scales, some subjective and others based on the observation of the clinician.) As successful as it was, though, Virtual Vietnam didn’t catch on. It was an experiment, and when the experiment was over the researchers moved on.

Read original post - 'Virtual Iraq'

Pentagon Wants Cyberwar Range to 'Replicate Human Behavior and Frailties'

The Danger Room blog over at Wired is reporting the latest 'project', 'scheme' (or 'scam'?) coming from the Pentagon to utilise cyberwar strategies and technologies:

The Pentagon's way-out researchers don't just want to build an Internet simulator, to test out cyberwar tactics. They want the range's operators to "realistically replicate human behavior and frailties," too.

Congress has ordered the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, to put together a National Cyber Range, as part of a massive (and massively secret) $30 billion, government-wide effort better prep for battle online. The project is now considered a top priority for the Agency. And to make sure the facility is as true-to-life as possible, Darpa wants the contractors running the Range to be able to "replicate realistic human behavior on nodes," a request for proposals, released today, reveals.

Specifically, the Agency wants to have its contractors:

• Provide robust technologies to emulate human behavior on all nodes of the range for testing all aspects of range behavior.
• Replicants will produce realistic chain of events between many users without explicit scripting behavior.
• Replicants must be capable of implementing multiple user roles similar to roles found on operational networks.
• Replicant behavior will change as the network environment changes, as the replicated “outside environment” (i.e. DoD DefCon, InfoCon, execution of war plans, etc) changes, and as network activity changes (detected attacks, degradation of services, etc).
• Replicants will simulate physical interaction with device peripherals, such as keyboard and mice.
• Replicants will drive all common applications on a desktop environments.
• Replicants will interact with authenticate systems, including but not limited to DoD authentication systems (common access cards – CAC), identity tokens.

Read more at - 'Pentagon Wants Cyberwar Range to 'Replicate Human Behavior and Frailties''

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Robot Sailing

The Times Online has this feature about an unmanned boat that is undergoing final preparations before setting sail in the hope of becoming the first robot to cross an ocean using the power of wind - 'By sailing non-stop and unassisted for an estimated three months it will prove the potential for robotic craft to undertake vital research in roles in dangerous and far-off waters':

Pinta has been designed by scientists at Aberystwyth University and will join seven other robotic craft in October in a race across the Atlantic. The race is intended to test the endurance and reliability of robots away from battery chargers and the predictable environment of a laboratory.

The boat is a smaller, cheaper version of a more elaborate robot sailing boat, Beagle B, and is being used to prove that the onboard technology works. If it manages to cross from the Portuguese coast to the Caribbean the scientists who built it hope to risk Beagle B, which cost £40,000, on a long-distance journey.

Beagle B will make its own history during the summer when it becomes the first robotic sailing boat to undertake a dolphin count in Cardigan Bay, West Wales.

Read in full - 'Pinta the robot sailing boat takes on Atlantic challenge'

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Heading skyward to beat gridlock

BBCNews has an interesting post on how a plane-car hybrid might just be the solution to gridlock on our overcrowded roads:

electric powered glider

This vision of the future twenty years hence was revealed at the 2008 Electric Aircraft Symposium held a stone's throw from San Francisco airport in California.

Plotting the next frontier in green technology was Richard Jones, a technical fellow at Boeing Phantom Works.

He said "Today I am talking about making aviation available to everyone as a daily means of transportation. Transportation changes society."

"When they dumped the horse and cart people took over two continents. 150 years ago steam turned America into a nation. Today 50 per cent of the world lives in urban areas thanks to the car. And in the last 50 years, the aviation industry has made one world thanks to the airplane."

...Boeing's research group is designing a hybrid aimed at travelling up to 300 miles at a time. It will use precision navigation systems that would allow the average 'driver cum pilot' to fly without special training thanks to a computerised 'flight instructor' built into the cockpit.

This Mr Jones believes could make the compact plane easier to drive than a car. "People will probably be reading a newspaper rather than flying the vehicles." He said that they will be powered using electricity and /or batteries making them the "cleanest transportation of the future."

Read in full - 'Heading skyward to beat gridlock'

English village to be invaded in spybot competition

NewScientistTech reports about a village in south-west England that will shortly be swarming with robots competing to show off their surveillance skills:

The event is the UK Ministry of Defence's (MoD) answer to the US DARPA Grand Challenge that set robotic cars against one another to encourage advances in autonomous vehicles.The MoD Grand Challenge is instead designed to boost development of teams of small robots able to scout out hidden dangers in hostile urban areas.

Over 10 days in August, 11 teams of robots will compete to locate and identify four different threats hidden around a mock East German village used for urban warfare training, at Copehill Down, Wiltshire.

The robots must find snipers, armed vehicles, armed foot soldiers, and improvised explosive devices hidden around the village, and relay a real-time picture of what is happening back to a command post.

Read in full - 'English village to be invaded in spybot competition'

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Report on Wireless Technology for Social Change

Smartmobs has a post about a new report on wireless technology for social change:

Check out this new Report: “Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use”. It’s a really good overview, with great examples, of how mobile technology is transforming the way advocacy, development and relief organizations accomplish their institutional missions. And the authors are folks who really know what they are talking about.

“The global survey found that 86% of non-governmental organization (NGO) employees use mobile technology in their work, and 25% believe it has revolutionized the way their organization or project works. While the most common uses of mobile technology by NGO workers are voice calls (90%) and text messaging (83%), more sophisticated uses, such as mapping (10%), data analysis (8%) and inventory management (8%) also were reported.”

Read link via Smartmobs at - 'New Report on Wireless Technology for Social Change'

Now GPS Can Tell You Where the Cops Are

Wired's Autopia blog has an article on how Web 2.0 is being used to navigate - and circumvent - the dreaded speed cameras:

But now the wonders of Web 2.0 and portable navigation systems can use motorists' tips and Microsoft Virtual Earth to help keep you from appearing on your local police department's version of candid camera. It's a lot more effective than relying on a bleating radar detector.

Shannon Atkinson launched as a place for gearheads to shoot the breeze about anything and everything auto-related. It wasn't long before he sensed a theme in the posts. “One of the biggest topics on the site became speed traps and cameras,” Atkinson told us. "People want to know about those whether they’re a truck driver, a road warrior or just someone who wants to drive without worrying about it.”

So Atkinson added Speedtrap, a feature that combines drivers' tips with Microsoft Virtual Earth to identify speed traps - either a real, live cop with a radar gun or one of those damned cameras - throughout the U.S. There's even a few foreign cities, such as London, Toronto and Rome.

Read article - 'Now GPS Can Tell You Where the Cops Are'

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Public Bike Programs Surging

Worldwatch has a short article on some of the bike rental schemes currently operating in various cities:

A surge in public bicycle rental programs is giving cycling a shot in the arm in a growing number of cities around the world. Copenhagen, Berlin, and other municipalities in Europe have offered public bikes for several years, but Paris took the concept to a new level last year when it made 20,000 bikes available in its inaugural effort. Some 100,000 Parisians are now subscribers.

Barcelona and Lyon have also started programs in the last two years, with thousands of bikes each, and major new initiatives are planned for Rome and London. Smaller efforts have been started in Cordoba, Seville, Vienna, and other cities.

Similar to car-sharing programs, these schemes make bikes available to subscribers at strategic locations citywide. Patrons access a bike with an electronic card, use it as needed, and return it to the same or another parking rack when finished. Charges to riders are often free for the first half hour and increase thereafter. The bulk of the program expense is usually borne by businesses in return for advertising space on city billboards.

Read post at 'Public Bike Programs Surging'

Friday, May 09, 2008

Building the Zero-Emissions City

TechReview has also been looking into the new zero-emissions city construction over at Abu Dhabi:

smaller text tool iconmedium text tool iconlarger text tool icon
Electronic chauffer: Driverless transports will provide door-to-door service for occupants of a new city being built in Abu Dhabi (top). A typical street will be sheltered from most direct sunlight. Solar panels overhead and built into the walls of buildings will provide power. (Credit: Foster + Partners and the Masdar Initiative)

Last week, in the harsh desert climate of Abu Dhabi, construction started on a city that will house 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses but use extremely little energy, and what it does use will come from renewable sources. The initial building is a new research institute that the founders hope will be the seed for the equivalent of a Silicon Valley of the Middle East, only one centered not on information technology but on renewable energy.

The city, which is expected to cost $22 billion, will implement an array of technologies, including thin-film solar panels that serve as the facades and roofing materials for buildings, ubiquitous sensors for monitoring energy use, and driverless vehicles powered by batteries that make cars unnecessary. Indeed, the city's founders hope that it will serve as a test bed for a myriad of new technologies being proposed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The new zero-emissions city, which is being built near the city of Abu Dhabi in the center of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is part of the Masdar Initiative, a $15 billion government-funded investment program designed in part to ensure that the UAE's prosperity won't be linked exclusively to its oil. Its leaders say that the project will give the country a leadership position in renewable energy. If it's successful, says Sultan al Jaber, Masdar's CEO, "we'll be sitting on top of the world."

Read article - 'Building the Zero-Emissions City'

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Shift Happens

This is an interesting 6-minute video that asks questions over the global information age - and the speed of progress, as well as the growth in non-western populations more attuned to such changes. It is about the Shift...


RFID-Based Robots Come to the Rescue

The RFID Journal reports that German researchers have 'developed a system enabling robots and humans to use passive RFID tags to map out a disaster area and send information to a command center':

As teams of rescue workers moved throughout New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck that area in August 2005, they frequently wrote codes on buildings to inform groups arriving behind them of important information, or to help those disoriented by the rubble realize they had already been to a particular site. For instance, the codes revealed whether a building was dangerous, or safe or contained rubble.

Researchers in Germany's Black Forest region have developed an RFID extension of this coding system. Their RFID-supported urban search-and-rescue concept features robots and humans working together in disaster zones to map an affected area and transmit information to a command center.

Read original article - 'RFID-Based Robots Come to the Rescue'

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A New Vision for Second Life

Popular and well-known virtual world Second Life (which I have often blogged about here) has announced that a new CEO - Mark Kingdon - will be taking over in mid-May. Here are extracts from a recent interview with TechReview:

Mark Kingdon: I'm spending a lot more time in-world now. I'm still in that place where I'm surveying the landscape, because it's pretty vast, and I'm collecting experiences that are amazing. It's just mind-blowing that this is all user-generated content. I haven't yet created anything myself other than clothing, but I think that's the next step for me because I like to make things.

TR: Creating things seems like a Second Life rite of passage.

MK: That's definitely the story of Second Life. Once you cross that magical "Aha!" place, it becomes very compelling.

TR: A lot of new users seem to have trouble getting to that place. They get confused by the controls, and aren't sure what to do inside the world. Do you have any thoughts about how to make it easier to get started?

MK: I've got a lot of background in the kind of user-centered design work that's going to be important for Second Life, especially as you look at the first-hour experience. I haven't come to any specific conclusions yet, but I think it starts with understanding what the resident needs in order to make a powerful experience, and looking at the kinds of people that you want to attract and bring in-world. The answers will emerge very clearly from that.

Read full article & interview - 'A New Vision for Second Life'

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Europe launches sat-nav tester

BBCNews writes on the latest developments to Europe's proposed Galileo satellite navigation system, which has just launched from Kazakhstan:

The Giove-B satellite was taken into space atop a Soyuz rocket which left Earth at 2216 GMT, Saturday. The demonstrator will test the key technologies which will eventually be built into the 30 operational platforms that form the Galileo network.

These include the atomic clocks which provide the precise timing that underpins all sat-nav applications.

Giove-B - a half-tonne, 2.4x1x1m box assembled by EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space - is the second demonstrator satellite to go into orbit following the launch of Giove-A in 2005. The first mission met international obligations to claim the frequencies Galileo will use to transmit its signals to receivers on the ground.

This second mission flies a spacecraft which is, to a large degree, a template for the 30 operational platforms that will follow.

Read article in full - 'Europe launches sat-nav tester'

Monday, May 05, 2008

Galactic Spaceport in Europe

The town Kiruna in Northern Sweden has been chosen to be the future European base for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic passenger space program:

Officials there are busy whipping the town into shape for Virgin's arrival -- evaluating their infrastructure, researching weather issues, and working out potential regulatory hurdles with Sweden and the European Union. Kiruna will join Spaceport America in New Mexico as a Virgin Galactic operating base, and hopes to see flights begin in 2010 or 2011...

...One of the town's major selling points is its stunning views of the Aurora Borealis, which could be viewed up close by passengers on board a spacecraft such as Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.

Read more at 'Swedish City Gears Up For Virgin Galactic Spaceport'

City road networks grow like biological systems

NewScientistTech has an interesting article discussing the similarity of road networks to biological networks:

French Atomic Energy Commission and Indiana University scientists have developed a simple mathematical model that can recreate the characteristic leaf-like patterns in city roads.

They say the patterns evolve thanks to similar local efforts, as people try to connect houses, businesses and other infrastructures to existing roads.

Likewise, evolution has ensured that local efficiency also drives the growth of transport networks in biology -- for example, in plant leaf veins and circulatory systems.

The approach could help city planners to better predict how some street networks will evolve and to plan accordingly.

Read original article here

Friday, May 02, 2008

Blogging as the digital-era sweatshop

Now here's a subject I can sympathise with - the over-worked blogger! I mean, the digital 'always-on' environment has created a new work schedule, hasn't it??

There is a story about bloggers today in the New York Times in which part of the lede is the heart attack deaths in recent months of two bloggers. A main theme of the story is the pressure bloggers experience. Not everyone who blogs is under excessive pressure, but those are who fit this description of the blogger types the article covers:

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

There is a story about bloggers today in the New York Times in which part of the lede is the heart attack deaths in recent months of two bloggers. A main theme of the story is the pressure bloggers experience. Not everyone who blogs is under excessive pressure, but those are who fit this description

Read more via - 'A view of blogging as the digital-era sweatshop'


Connecting with the Dead

Here's a new one - and another inventive use of technology from the Japanese:

A Japanese tombstone maker, Ishinokoe, has started putting the little square, black and white barcodes behind small, lockable doors on gravestones, allowing relatives of the deceased to access information and pictures about them, and even upload their own contributions. It will supposedly give people a way of staying “in touch” with the dead. Like a sort of gravestone based, family fueled, wiki of the dead.

The bar codes are not new in Japan, in fact, they’re regularly used to upload road maps to mobile phones, printed on the back of business cards, and even on restaurant brochures. But Ishinokoe wants to honour the dead by making their graves not just dreary, sad places containing the deceased’s remains, but a place where families can access good memories from when their loved one was alive.

Friends and relatives can use their mobiles to upload holiday snaps, poems, anecdotes and a whole host of information, that will then be accessible to others with authority to access the code.
The dead cool barcoded stones will be on sale from next month, but they don’t come cheap...

Read more at 'Barcodes on tombs to connect with the dead'

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The City is the Solution: The EcoCity World Summit

Worldchanging has some feedback from one of its representatives from the EcoCity World Summit:

The conference’s co-convener, Richard Register, President of EcoCity Builders, explains that cities are "directly connected to the state of the planet’s environment as well as to local problems and solutions, both ecological and economic."...

...Inspiration, energy, and a renewed sense of hope are running high as some of the world’s foremost leaders in the transformation toward sustainable urban development share their success stories, strategies, and insights. Richard Register framed the dialogue by asserting that cities could run on a fraction of the energy – and generate a fraction of the ecological impact – that they currently do if they were really well-designed, lean, and efficient. For Register, an essential question in fulfilling this mission is, "Where do innovative ideas come from?"

Last night’s keynote address was given by Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, which is widely renowned as one of the most successful models for sustainable urban design and planning. For Lerner, innovation is simply starting.

Read more at 'The City is the Solution: The EcoCity World Summit'