Friday, February 27, 2009

Expanding connectivity characterizes our times

Smartmobs has an interesting post referring to a NYT's article on bringing mobile communications into rural developing regions:

A New York Times article today reports on Bringing the Internet to Remote African Villages. Only a few years ago, there were stories like this reporting the first tentative steps toward bringing cellphones into rural Africa. The beginning sentence of the excerpt below indicates the earlier dream is being realized. Progress made in global connectivity and the validity of expecting much more are fundamentals of the 21st century.

In recent years the mobile phone has emerged as the main modern communications link for rural areas of Africa. From 2002 to 2007, the number of Kenyans using cellphones grew almost tenfold to reach about a third of the population, many of whom did not have land lines, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

But many of the phones were simple models made more for talking than Web browsing, and wireless data networks are slow, with sporadic coverage.

Satellite connections are faster and more stable, which is why they are attracting interest from the likes of Google, as a way to provide Internet connections to the estimated 95 percent of Africans who, according to the telecommunications union, have no access.

Read original post - 'Expanding connectivity characterizes our times'


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What is a Smart Grid?

Adam Stein over at Worldchanging has done a good post on looking at the latest developments in moving towards a 'smart' energy grid:

The trouble with writing about the smart grid is that the news is moving so fast. Witness:

But this is all getting ahead of things. Round 1 of this series looked at why we need a smart grid. Round 2 will try to briefly answer the question, what is a smart grid? This question is a bit trickier to answer than you might think, much as the question “What is the internet?” is a bit more slippery than it first appears.

Read original post - 'What is a Smart Grid?'


Monday, February 23, 2009

Mobile tech is key for education

According to Smartmobs, the 2009 Horizon Report identifies personal web technologies from mobile and GPS to cloud computing as the defining trends in emergent educational technology:

The findings of the Horizon Report are not only good news for educational early adopters but also serve to help institutions better identify meaningful priorities and better negotiate the sometimes dizzying information prospects available online. From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Though the Internet has proved to be a helpful resource for many students and professors, the sheer volume of its content can make finding relevant information a tedious chore at times. According to the report, the personal Web—i.e., widgets and services that help connect individual users to the Web-based information relevant to them—will allow students, professors, and administrators to use the Web more efficiently.”

See the 2009 Horizon Report: Mobile tech is key for education


Car cockpit of the future

Could this be the car-dash of the future? Research scientists have 'developed a novel car dashboard that functions as a 3-D display and shows velocities, engine speeds or warnings in three dimensions. The display’s design can be chosen individually by the driver'. According to this Physorg post:

A driver gets into his car and turns the ignition key. The dashboard, which was black just a moment ago, now reveals itself as a 3-D display with a simple but modern design. If his son were at the wheel, the controls for the mp3 player would now appear in the foreground: “Please select an artist”. After choosing some music, he would set off.

The display would show a 3-D model of the town, and the integrated navigation system would direct him to his destination. The car owner, however, prefers other types of information, such as the latest traffic reports. He also likes to have the rev counter in view at all times. After he has driven for a while, the display changes and an alert message literally jumps out at him: “Please refuel”.

Read more at - 'Car cockpit of the future'


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mission One EV sport bike unveiled

Ex-Tesla Motors employees have been involved in the creation of this new development in electric motors - a high-performance sports bike. And it's credentials are impressive:

Mission Motors has just revealed its all-electric sport bike and the family-friendly version of our initial reaction goes something like, "Holy Mother of God and all that is good and decent!", followed immediately by the sound of our jaws hitting the floor. After a couple of years of staying almost perfectly in stealth mode, the Mission One is being unveiled today at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference. The Yves BĂ©har-designed bike sets a new performance standard for electric two-wheelers with a top speed of 150 mph and an estimated range of 150 miles.

Read more at - 'Mission One EV sport bike unveiled'


Friday, February 20, 2009

Hackers clone passports in drive-by RFID heist

Some recent news on the security and viability of using RFID for mobility ID as in passports. A British hacker has shown how easy it is to clone US passport cards that use RFID by conducting a drive-by test on the streets of San Francisco:

Chris Paget, director of research and development at Seattle-based IOActive, used a US$250 Motorola RFID reader and an antenna mounted in a car’s side window and drove for 20 minutes around San Francisco, with a colleague videoing the demonstration. During the demonstration he picked up the details of two US passport cards, which are fitted with RFID chips and can be used instead of traditional passports for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

I personally believe that RFID is very unsuitable for tagging people,” he said. “I don’t believe we should have any kind of identity document with RFID tags in them. My ultimate goal here would be, my dream for this research, would be to see the entire Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative be scrapped.”

Read more at 'Hackers clone passports in drive-by RFID heist'


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Humans will be implanted with microchips...?

First we had surveillance, then we had sousveillance - now we have 'uberveillance'. This new 'trend', it seems, refers to surveillance from within - and all around:

All Australians could be implanted with microchips for tracking and identification within the next two or three generations, a prominent academic says.

Michael G Michael from the University of Wollongong's School of Information Systems and Technology, has coined the term "uberveillance" to describe the emerging trend of all-encompassing surveillance.

"Uberveillance is not on the outside looking down, but on the inside looking out through a microchip that is embedded in our bodies," Dr Michael told ninemsn...

...But Dr Michael said the technology behind uberveillance would eventually lead to a black box small enough to fit on a tiny microchip and implanted in our bodies.

This could also allow someone to be located in an emergency or for the identification of corpses after a large scale disaster or terrorist attack.

Will it ever come to this - and should we be concerned now rather than later?

Read more at 'Humans 'will be implanted with microchips'


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Biofuel flight

It appears that Japan Airlines has become the first airline to conduct a demonstration flight using a sustainable biofuel:

The approximately 1.5hr demo flight using a JAL-owned Boeing 747-300 aircraft, carrying no passengers or payload, took off from Haneda Airport, Tokyo.

A blend of 50 per cent biofuel and 50 per cent traditional Jet-A (kerosene) fuel was tested in one of the aircraft’s four Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines.

No modifications to the aircraft or engine were required for the biofuel, which is a drop-in replacement for petroleum-based fuel.

Captain Keiji Kobayashi, who piloted the aircraft, said that there was no difference at all in the performance of the engine powered by the biofuel blend, and the other three engines containing regular jet fuel.

Data recorded on the aircraft will now be analysed to determine if equivalent engine performance was seen from the biofuel blend compared to typical Jet-A fuel. The initial analysis of the data will take several weeks and will be conducted by team members from Boeing, Japan Airlines and Pratt & Whitney.

Read more - 'Biofuel flight'


Monday, February 16, 2009

iPhones will win the war in Afghanistan

Now here's an interesting development - or expose! It seems that NATO will be waging the war - for peace - with the iPhone:

The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has said that progress is being made in the international community's battle against terror in Afghanistan - and that progress is being made by iPhones...

...More interestingly, the Alliance chief also revealed that he had suffered phone envy during a recent trip to Kabul. He also seemed to suggest that when a suffering people turn away from the dark horror-wracked night of despair and legacy technology, and instead reach out into the bright new Multitouch dawn - well, then peace and prosperity can't be far away.

According to Mr De Hoop Scheffer:

Today, half the country is relatively at peace. Access to education is up tenfold. So is access to health care. We are preparing for the second round of national elections. The Afghan Army, and increasingly the police, are growing and improving -- slowly, but clearly and steadily. And when I saw an Afghan fellow pull out his Apple iPhone in Kabul, while I was talking on my 5 year old NATO mobile, I saw another symbol of progress.

Read more - 'iPhones will win the war in Afghanistan'


Saturday, February 14, 2009

UK cops' road accident reporting going paperless

It now appears that the British police 'road accident reporting and mapping system' is to go paperless! Another step towards the digital nexus?

Officials believe that replacing paper forms with electronic ones on mobile terminals will allow faster and more accurate identification of trouble spots.

“Britain has one of the best road safety records in the world," said road safety minister Jim Fitzpatrick, "but we are determined to do everything we can to continue making our roads even safer.

"Detailed, accurate and up-to-date information is vital if we are to tackle the causes of crashes on our roads so I am delighted that this important project is getting under way.”

The new data service is referred to as CRASH, for Collision Recording And SHaring. It will be tried out by three forces from 2010 before rolling out nationally.

CRASH will see existing paper forms used by officers to record details of accidents replaced by e-forms accessed on data-capable handsets or vehicle terminals (such kit is now becoming universal in the police service). The technology will be provided by telecoms provider IPL, and managed by the National Policing Improvement Agency's Police National Computer (PNC) Services arm.

Read more at 'UK cops' road accident reporting going paperless'


Friday, February 13, 2009

Warning over 'surveillance state'

BBC News are one of many UK media channels picking up on the recent story about the UK's push towards the Orwellian State:

Electronic surveillance and collection of personal data are "pervasive" in British society and threaten to undermine democracy, peers have warned. The proliferation of CCTV cameras and the growth of the DNA database were two examples of threats to privacy, the Lords constitution committee said.

Those subject to unlawful surveillance should be compensated while the policy of DNA retention should be rethought. The government said CCTV and DNA were "essential crime fighting tools".


But surveillance and data collection must be proportionate, it added.

Civil liberties campaigners have warned about the risks of a "surveillance society" in which the state acquires ever-greater powers to track people's movements and retain personal data.

Controversial government plans for a database to store details of people's phone calls and e-mails were put on hold late last year after they were branded "Orwellian".

Read more at - 'Warning over 'surveillance state''


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Globally Networked Anarchism (#Griot)

A decent post came out recently on the site MetaSecurity that discusses how web communities will continue to be an increasingly important part of the National Security picture in 2009. See Greek riots, and you'll know how networked anarchism can work. And now there is a Second Life monument for the teenager killed by Greek police.

A recent article in the Economist highlighted the way in which the anarchist movement driving the riots within Greece has been able to connect internationally using the technology tools we are increasingly familiar with, YouTube (150,000 views), Blogs and Facebook. Facebook in particular appears to be the protest connection venue of choice, for a variety of movements from Egypt to Greece. The behavioral socio-political data that is present within the architecture of the Facebook site would provide keen insight into this developing opposition phenomena if examined and exploited. The new kids on the block are also represented by Twitter (through the #griot descriptor) and Second Life. This global connectivity produced a global reaction with protests appearing in a variety of other countries. While Facebook and Twitter are currently gathering the majority of the attention, arguably the seeds of better future information portals are to be found in Second Life.

A monument to the teenager killed by Greek Police (slurl to SL venue) has been erected within Second Life by the group Second Life Left Unity. While clearly biased in its representation it contains some interesting commentary on the subject – it clearly lacks the collaborative editing of wikipedia but the content is compelling. In similar fashion demonstrations are being held in Second Life relating to the current Israeli action in Gaza where protests are being held at the Islam Online site within the virtual world.

Second Life Monumnet to slain teenager in Greece

Second Life Monument to teenager killed by Greek Police

Read original article - 'Globally Networked Anarchism (#Griot)'


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cloud computing: Threat or Menace?

Jamais Cascio over at Open the Future has written an insightful post on how more companies are going hot for cloud-computing:

It turned out that, like many big computer industry players, this company is making its play in the "cloud computing" field.

("Cloud computing," for those of you not up on industry jargon, refers to a "a style of computing in which resources are provided “as a service” over the Internet to users who need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure." The canonical example would be Google Docs, fully-functional office apps delivered entirely via one's web browser.)

Lots of big companies are hot for cloud computing right now, in order to sell more servers, capture more customers, or outsource more support. But there's a problem. As the company I was working with started to detail their (public) cloud computing ideas, I was struck by the degree to which cloud computing represents a technical strategy that's the very opposite of resilient, dangerously so. I'll explain why in the extended entry.

But before I do so, I should say this: A resilient cloud is certainly possible, but would mean setting aside some of the cherished elements of the cloud vision.

Read more at - 'Cloud computing: Threat or Menace'


Monday, February 09, 2009

The Car of the Future Promised for October

Will an electric 3-seater win the coveted X-Prize? Well, it's darn near to product roll-out time - ahead of rivals? And fancy too..


The car of the future is almost here.

Aptera Motors has rolled out the first pre-production model of the 2e, an all-electric three-wheeled two-seater that gets the equivalent of 200 mpg and goes 100 miles on a charge. It's a significant milestone for the Southern California startup, which plans to put the first cars in driveways by Halloween and looks like a contender to win the $10 million Progressive Automotive X Prize.

"Everything is progressing nicely as we ramp up for full production of the 2e beginning in October," says chief marketing officer Marques McCammon. "We're still on target to build an ultra-efficient, high-mileage vehicle without sacrificing comfort and safety, and once Californians get behind the wheel this fall, we expect to change the world of commuter transportation."

In recent months, it has become clear that automakers big and small are focusing on electric vehicles as the next evolution of the automobile. If Aptera manages delivering its superstreamlined cars nine months from now, the 2e will be among the first mass-market, relatively affordable (at $25,000 to $45,000) EVs on the road.

Read more - 'The Car of the Future Promised for October'


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Observing Earth from Space

EarthTrends has an extensive post on earth-observation satellites that monitor climatic and environmental change:

More than two thousand satellites are currently in orbit. They measure the earth's surface characteristics, ocean currents, clouds and the gaseous content of the atmosphere. One of the oldest programs is Landsat. Run by both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Landsat is still widely used today because it provides its data to researchers free of charge.

The Landsat program—a series of satellites that continuously record information about the earth's surface—has contributed to research on an enormous variety of land-use, ecosystem and development issues.

Landsat data have been used to study mitigation of deforestation and eutrophication; prediction of the effects of climate change; quantification of urban sprawl; and early-warning and response to extreme weather, natural disasters, and vector-borne diseases.

Read more at 'Observing Earth from Space: Landsat Data and Applications'


Friday, February 06, 2009

Plug-In Scooter for a Zero-Emissions Commute

Short urban trips are also making manufacturers think about the role of electric plug-in scooters. Here's an interesting piece from Wired's Autopia blog:


Vectrix has unveiled a pair of electric scooters that need just three hours to charge and deliver as many as 55 miles before you've gotta plug them in.

The bikers and gearheads gathered at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show seemed impressed by the VX-1E and VX-2 scooters that Vectrix says are just the thing for urban commuting. The company's first generation of scooters, introduced in 2007, has enjoyed some success in Europe and has been adopted by the New York Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, so you know they're tough.

"It's a perfect choice to replace cars for short urban trips," says company CEO Mike Boyle. "The shortest car trips are the most damaging in terms of global warming, air pollution and our dependence on foreign oil."

Actually, the perfect choice for short urban trips is walking, riding a bike or taking mass transit. But an electric scooter is better than driving.

Read full article - 'Plug-In That Scooter for a Zero-Emissions Commute'


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Climate Road Trip: An Indian Movement for Change

As 2009 arrived with a bang, an Indian road trip set off in a bid for change:

As clocks ticked past midnight on December 31, signaling the start of the new year, a group of seven passionate individuals from India and around the world gathered in the eastern city of Chennai to begin an epic climate journey.

The team was embarking on a month-long road tour across India to raise awareness about local climate solutions and to empower Indian youth on one of the greatest challenges of our time: global climate change.

Representing an expanding network of youth and young professionals known as the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN), the travellers will traverse more than 3,500 kilometers through 20 cities to reach India's capital, Delhi, on February 4. They will be accompanied by a solar-powered electric band, Solar Punch, and will travel in a medley of alternatively powered vehicles, including solar plug-in Reva electric cars, a sustainably produced plant-oil powered truck, a solar-roofed jeep, and a waste vegetable oil-powered van.

The group's message is clear: climate change is real, but many of the solutions to this challenge already exist-with the greatest solution of all being the human capacity to act.

Read in full - 'Climate Road Trip: An Indian Movement for Change'


Monday, February 02, 2009

Local Currencies Grow During Economic Recession

New mobilities can also involve the movement of currency, especially in the move from the 'new' to the 'old': as in here, a return to local currency trading.

The gentle mountain slopes of New England isolate the Berkshires, creating a peaceful remoteness in this southern Massachusetts region. Today, the Berkshires is giving rise to a new wave of free thinking. The region's alternative to the U.S. dollar, Berkshares, is among the most successful of the country's local currencies.

Since the currency's launch two years ago, five local banks have printed more than 2 million paper notes. About 185,000 are currently in circulation, according to Susan Witt, a Berkshare co-founder.

The Berkshires is not alone. More communities are creating their own "complementary" currencies during the current economic crisis in an effort to keep wealth in their region. Witt is now fielding calls from around the world, she said, especially from the United States and United Kingdom.

"In the last four years, there has been a renewed interest in local economy, local production," said Witt, executive director of the E. F. Schumacher Society, a Massachusetts-based think tank focused on local production. "It just skyrocketed with the collapse of the global economy."

I think it possible that we will see an increased move towards localised communities and independent trading/mobility systems as a way of emerging from crashing global markets.

Read article at - 'Local Currencies Grow During Economic Recession'