Saturday, November 29, 2008

iPod and Bluetooth Taking Over New Cars

The Autopia blog has a nice post on how the automotive industry has woken up to people's love of gadgets and connectivity whilst driving - so get ready for in-car entertainment as standard!


Manufacturers of aftermarket iPod adapters and cigarette-lighter speakerphones take note: Your days are numbered. Automakers have finally figured out that people love gadgets, and just about every 2009 model will have iPod and Bluetooth connectivity.

With the auto industry in a tailspin, automakers are scrambling to make their vehicles as attractive as possible. One way to do that is offer the connectivity consumers crave. iPod and Bluetooth integration, once the domain of luxury vehicles, has grown increasingly common and the 2009 model year marks the first time more than half of all new cars will be gadget-ready. The tech analysts at iSuppli say 58 percent of all cars sold in 2009 will offer iPod connectivity, while Bluetooth technology will be offered in 82 percent of all vehicles. What's more, one-third of all cars will feature USB ports — up from just 16 percent this year.

Read more at - 'iPod and Bluetooth Taking Over New Cars'


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Homeland Security's Space-Based Spying Goes Live

Following on from the UK data laws, the US are close to implementing a controversial satellite-surveillance program:

While America's attention has shifted to the economic meltdown and the presidential race between corporate favorites John McCain and Barack Obama, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) National Applications Office (NAO) "will proceed with the first phase of a controversial satellite-surveillance program, even though an independent review found the department hasn't yet ensured the program will comply with privacy laws...

It will provide federal, state and local officials "with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery--but no eavesdropping--to assist with emergency response and other domestic-security needs, such as identifying where ports or border areas are vulnerable to terrorism," the Wall Street Journal reported.

Read more at - 'Homeland Security's Space-Based Spying Goes Live'


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

UK trails überdatabase plans

The UK authorities are at it again - increasing dataveillance (and losing data at the same time!). The Home Secretary has recently warned that the government 'will legislate to collect more data on internet communications because it believes it will help fight serious crime and terrorism':

Jacqui Smith trailed the forthcoming Commmunications Data Bill in a speech this morning to the Institute for Public Policy Research. MI6 and GCHQ have pushed hard for the Bill to mandate a huge central database to retain details of who contacted whom online, where and when.

Currently the major telcos have arrangements in place to provide intelligence and law enforcement with call data on request. It's been argued at Whitehall that the rise of IP-based communications services such as VoIP, chat, email and the web are eroding authorities' ability to monitor and investigate crime. New laws are needed to "maintain capability", hawks insist.

"That is not a government policy that is somehow optional. It is a reality to which the government must respond," Smith said tody, referring to the growth of internet services.

Read more at - 'Jacqui Smith trails überdatabase plans'


Monday, November 24, 2008

Personal Pod Transport Coming Soon

Wired has a post on personal rapid transport (PRT) - the subject that inspires and never seems to go away... yet hasn't fully delivered yet either. Although take a look at Heathrow's Ultra below:


Stuck in rush hour traffic one night about ten years ago, my friend Andre turned to me and predicted that someday people would zip around above traffic in their own personal pods. I told him it was one of the dumbest things I had ever heard.

But it looks like Andre was on to something. For years transportation types have been debating the viability of what is known as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), and now several projects are underway that indicate the age of the pod may be upon us.

PRTs are systems of independent vehicles that provide private, on-demand, nonstop travel for people or small freight, riding on small, overhead guideways. The cars run above existing roads and are powered entirely by electricity. Advocates of pod transport say it offers the convenience and personal experience of an auto without the gasoline, insurance, pollution, accidents, or congestion.

Read original post - 'Personal Pod Transport Coming Soon to a City Near You'


Friday, November 21, 2008

MI6 pokes Facebook for new spy recruits

Well, it's nothing new but it is still good to see it being confirmed - how Facebook is fast becoming a head-hunting domain:

Britain's overseas security service, MI6, has turned to social networking website Facebook to help recruit new agents...

..."The open recruitment campaign continues to target wide pools of talent representative of British society today," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

"A number of channels are used to promote job opportunities in the organisation. Facebook is a recent example."

MI6 launched Facebook job advertisements a few weeks ago to try and reach a larger variety of people, she added.

Read more here - 'MI6 pokes Facebook for new spy recruits'


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Google Funds Startup to Bring Cheap Satellite Internet to 3 Billion People

Google is fundingO3B, a company that plans to bring the Internet to those people so far outside of coverage:

Now a new company is seeking to change that. The company, O3B, draws its name from the phrase "other 3 billion" to describe the world's population with no internet coverage. The company, located in U.K.'s Channel Islands, is building 16 satellites thanks to $65M USD in funding from HSBC Principal Investments, a private equity provider; Liberty Global, a service provider for phone and Internet access in 15 countries; and Google. Greg Wyler, O3B's founder and CEO states, "Usage is growing and the demand is growing, but there isn't the infrastructure to support the demand."

Wireless operators spend up to 40 percent of their costs in developing networks, according to O3B. This is evident when problems play out, such as AT&Ts recent insufficient 3G coverage to meet bug-exacerbated demand from iPhones.

O3B's unique plan is to launch medium-earth orbit (MEO) satellites, which orbit at 5,000 miles and only have 120 millisecond latency and are less expensive compared to geosatellites which orbit at 22,500 miles, have a latency of up to 600 milliseconds, and cost more. The new satellites are predicted to cut costs down to around $500 USD per megabit per month, much more affordable.

Read more at - 'Google Funds Startup to Bring Cheap Satellite Internet to 3 Billion People'


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sci-Fi Show Future of Travel

Now here's an interesting post - a website that shows how science-fiction has influenced artists' impressions of future travel:

Future worlds described by science fiction visionaries like Philip K. Dick, William Gibson and Robert Heinlein often included wildly inventive methods of transportation to other planets, galaxies and dimensions.

These brief glimpses into the possible future of travel were left largely to the readers' imaginations, but a flourishing group of dreamers, designers and illustrators are bringing those creations to life -- at least online.

The website run by Igo Tkac showcases these artists' renditions of spaceships and other fantastical creations. From retro-futuristic aerial attack machines to automated deep-sea treasure hunters, here are some of the coolest.

Read original post - 'Sci-Fi-Inspired Concept Ships Show Future of Travel'


Monday, November 17, 2008

A Face-Finding Search Engine

TechReview has a post on new developments in face-recognition software: in other words, how to identify a person's face in a low-resolution video:

Today there are more low-quality video cameras--surveillance and traffic cameras, cell-phone cameras and webcams--than ever before. But modern search engines can't identify objects very reliably in clear, static pictures, much less in grainy YouTube clips. A new software approach from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University could make it easier to identify a person's face in a low-resolution video. The researchers say that the software could be used to identify criminals or missing persons, or it could be integrated into next-generation video search engines.

Today's face-recognition systems actually work quite well, says Pablo Hennings-Yeomans, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon who developed the system--when, that is, researchers can control the lighting, angle of the face, and type of camera used. "The new science of face recognition is dealing with unconstrained environments," he says. "Our work, in particular, focuses on the problem of resolution."

Read more at - 'A Face-Finding Search Engine'


Friday, November 14, 2008

GM Builds a Plug-In Hybrid ... in 1969

Now here's a blast from the past: Autopia blog has a piece on how GM experimented with a plug-in hybrid... in 1969! Looks like an old Vauxhall Viva to me....


Toyota and General Motors are neck-and-neck in the race to put a plug-in hybrid in your driveway, but they're recycling an idea GM explored almost 40 years ago and tossed aside like a depleted battery.

The concept car with the cumbersome designation XP-883 was nothing more than an experiment relegated to history, but it worked a lot like the Toyota Prius and Saturn Vue plug-in hybrids the two companies are working on today. It was sufficiently ahead of its time for Popular Science to call it "radical" and ask, "wouldn't it be great to have a car that changed from electric drive for use around town to gasoline power for highway driving?"

"It makes so much sense," the magazine wrote in July, 1969, "that we feel they're missing a bet if they don't put it in production."

The XP-883 looked like an Avanti hatchback or the AMC Gremlin's prettier sister. At 122.2-inches long, 57.3-inches wide and 46.3-inches high, it was a little bigger than a Smart ForTwo and a little smaller than a Honda CRX. It had a fiberglass body for light weight, but just what it weighed has been lost to history.

See original post - 'GM Builds a Plug-In Hybrid ... in 1969'


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Big Brother tracking comes to Second Life

Here is news on a new development in ever-expanding Second Life: RFID tagging in medical environments:

Students at the University of Arkansas have created a couple of full-sized hospitals inside Second Life to experiment with the use of RFID tagging in medical environments, and ride on flying cats.

The idea of the project is to see if delivery and consumption of medical supplies can be tracked around a working hospital if everything is tagged and logged by monitors placed around the building. Two hospitals have been created - one hypothetical model and one based on Washington Regional Hospital right down to the contents of shelves and storerooms. Both models include delivery equipment and allow the placement of RFID readers with limited range.

Read more at - 'Big Brother tracking comes to Second Life'


Monday, November 10, 2008

Google takes to the seas

The Times has a nice scoop on how Google has taken out a patent to deploy their servers not 'overseas' but 'on the seas' - that's right, on mobile 'data' barges:

Google may take its battle for global domination to the high seas with the launch of its own “computer navy”. The company is considering deploying the supercomputers necessary to operate its internet search engines on barges anchored up to seven miles (11km) offshore.

The “water-based data centres” would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google’s costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property taxes on its data centres, which are sited across the world, including in Britain.

In the patent application seen by The Times, Google writes: “Computing centres are located on a ship or ships, anchored in a water body from which energy from natural motion of the water may be captured, and turned into electricity and/or pumping power for cooling pumps to carry heat away.”

A great idea!?

Read more at - 'Google takes to the seas'


Friday, November 07, 2008

More EV and Hybrid Concepts for Paris

GreenCarCongress has reported on new developments in electric concept vehicles which carry their own renewable recharging tools:

Venturi Automobiles and Michelin are working together to produce a new-generation electric concept vehicle. The partners will unveil the concept at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, which opens on 2 October for the press.

The partnership allows Michelin to demonstrate the capabilities of its latest innovations on a high-performance vehicle. Venturi has built cars such as the Fetish electric sports car and a low-speed electric vehicle that can be recharged via roof-mounted solar panels or with a personal wind turbine (earlier post).

Venturi is also partnering with PSA Peugeot Citroën to supply electric vans based on the Citroën Berlingo First / Peugeot Partner Origin in response to a tender from the French Post Office, La Poste.

Read more at - 'More EV and Hybrid Concepts for Paris'


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Computer games drive social ties

BBCNews has this post on a recent report from a Pew Internet study about how certain video games can help young people engage with friends and community - and play 'air-guitar':

The Pew Internet study of US teenagers found that few play alone and most join up with friends when gaming. It found that many used educational games to learn about world issues and to begin to engage with politics. The report also found that gaming had become an almost universal pastime among young Americans.

The survey of 1,102 teenagers aged 12-17 revealed that 99% of boys and 94% of girls across the socio-economic spectrum play some kind of computer or video game.

The most popular title was Guitar Hero, followed by Halo 3, Madden NFL, Solitaire, and Dance Dance Revolution.

Read more at - 'Computer games drive social ties'

Monday, November 03, 2008

Caterpillar plans 600 tonne lorry robots

In what appears a 'robotic move' too far the recent US military-funded driverless car contest technologies are finding their first real world applications:

To be precise, American droid chiefs plan soon to unleash titanic, 600-tonne automated trucks capable of squashing flimsy human vehicles like bugs.
The existing, human crewed Caterpillar 797B

The invincible godzilla-lorry plan is the brainchild of robotics boffins at Carnegie Mellon University, teamed with huge roaring machinery company Caterpillar. First-catch credit goes to the excellent Ares war-tech blog.

The intention is to add robo-driver mode to Caterpillar's most outrageously enormous trucks, such as the 600-tonnes-all-up 797B model.

Huge beasts...

Read original post - 'Caterpillar plans 600 tonne godzilla-lorry robots'