Saturday, December 23, 2006
Biggest Readable AutoID Code ... Ever!
A new first, and it comes back to the strength and dynamics of the best Auto ID Code created. The Quick Response Code (QR Code) that was first developed by DENSO Wave (a Toyota company) is finding its way around the applications world in many and unique open and closed source application environments.
In this case, this application and display (pictured above) may go down as the World's Largest readable automatic identification symbology EVER ... that is if the Guiness Book of World Records agrees.
This QR Code was created and displayed on the side of a new apartment building in Hiroshima, Japan. Since most of the camera mobile phones in Japan take clear pictures, users can just snap the QR code and read the content with their cellphone.
The information contained in the cameraphone readable display has the URL of the website for the apartment along with other information such as a map and directions to this location.
Directly translated form Japanese to English at Plus D Mobil -
Plus D Mobil/IT Media, Inc.
Recognition of the QR cord/code corresponds at many of camera equipped carrying, the object just is photographed has URL to ahead the notification sight and the feature which can verify various character string informations with carrying. The thought of utilizing also the expedient which can acquire information easily with impact and carrying of the super enormous QR cord/code the leaflet and the television and the newspaper etc in addition to the announcement expedient which has done from the past, liking to do notiifying widely.
As for size of announcement curtain 15.3 (height) ×14.58 (width) as for meter and size of QR cord/code 10.97 (height) ×10.97 (width) meter. The same company makes “size the greatest in the world as the QR cord/code which can be grasped,” is the register application to the Guinness book that it did.
Installation features of enormous QR cord/code
Installation features: The hiroshima city Aki Ku Yanotou 1 Chome wall surface of "[hurorensu] Yanotou gland arc first mansion" and "[hurorensu] Yanotou gland arc second mansion"
Installation period: [hurorensu] Yanotou gland arc first mansion: 2006 December ~2007 year
February schedule: [hurorensu] Yanotou gland arc second mansion septentrional wall surface: 2007 March ~2007 year
May schedule: Information of offer Apartment feature, campaign contents, model room MAP other things
Friday, December 22, 2006
Broadly Used Consumer Technologies Driving IT?
"Off the shelf/over the portal" applications made easy ... too easy.
A contributor to SlashDot - fiannaFailMan writes to point out The Economist's reporting on the way consumer-driven software products are increasingly making their presence felt in the corporate world. Some CIOs are embracing the influx while others continue to resist it.
Excerpts from an article in The Economist -
From The Economist print edition - Dec 19th 2006 SAN FRANCISCO
IN OCTOBER, shortly after taking over as head of information technology (IT) at Arizona State University, Adrian Sannier gave the nod to his contact at Google, the internet giant known for its search engine, and with one flick of the proverbial switch 65,000 students had new e-mail accounts. Unlike the university's old system, which stores e-mails on its own server computers, the new accounts reside on Gmail, Google's free web-based service. Mr Sannier is not forcing anybody to change but has found that the students, many of whom were already using Gmail for their private e-mail, have been voluntarily migrating to the new service at a rate of 300 an hour. Crucially, they can take their "asu.edu" e-mail addresses with them.
For Mr Sannier, however, a bigger reason than money for switching from traditional software to web-based alternatives has to do with the pace and trajectory of technological change. Using the new Google service, for instance, students can share calendars, which they could not easily do before. Soon Google will integrate its online word processor and spreadsheet software into the service, so that students and teachers can share coursework. Eventually, Google may add blogs and wikis - it has bought firms with these technologies. Mr Sannier says it is "absolutely inconceivable" that he and his staff could roll out improvements at this speed in the traditional way - by buying software and installing it on the university's own computers.
In the past, innovation was driven by the military or corporate markets. But now the consumer market, with its vast economies of scale and appetite for novelty, leads the way. Compared with the staid corporate-software industry, using these services is like "receiving technology from an advanced civilisation", says Mr Sannier. He is now looking at other consumer technologies for ideas. He is already using Apple's iTunes, a popular online-music service, to store the university's podcasts.
Mr Sannier is ahead of his time because most IT bosses, especially at large organizations, tend to be skeptical of consumer technologies and often ban them outright. Employees, in return, tend to ignore their IT departments. Many young people, for instance, use services such as Skype to send instant messages or make free calls while in the office. FaceTime, a Californian firm that specialises in making such consumer applications safe for companies, found in a recent survey that more than half of employees in their 20s and 30s admitted to installing such software over the objections of IT staff.
Consumer technologies such as IM usually make employees more productive, says Kailash Ambwani, FaceTime's boss, so IT bosses should concentrate not on stopping them but on making them secure. In the case of IM and some kinds of file-sharing, the risks are that viruses or spyware could come into the corporate network from the outside, or that employees could ship vital information outward.
With Google Apps for Your Domain and other software services that are accessed through a web browser, the security issues are more subtle. Since the software and the data reside on the service provider's machines, the danger is of losing control of sensitive data, which is now in somebody else's hands. Most IT bosses find this scary. Not so Mr Sannier. He remembers a picture that Google showed him of one of its data centres burning to the ground; it looked awful. The point, however, was that no users of Google services anywhere even noticed, because Google's systems are built to be so robust that even the loss of an entire data centre does not compromise anybody's data.
This trend could cause problems for traditional software firms such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Already, start-ups such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite provide "software as a service", supplying sales-force automation, accounting, payroll and other features via the web. (Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, had the idea for his firm while browsing on Amazon's online store one day. Why, he wondered, could business software not be delivered the same way?) Other firms, including Google, provide web-based e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets and databases.
Big companies will probably keep "mission critical" systems in-house. But as everything else migrates to web-based services, software will increasingly resemble the web technologies of the consumer market, says Mr Benioff. Those enterprise firms, such as his own, that follow the lead of consumer-oriented websites will do well in this environment, he argues.
Security concerns, Mr Benioff implies with a wink, are red herrings thrown by ageing IT bosses trying to justify their salaries.
This comment found in reaction to the Slashdot posting -
I can see many companies might have issues with the security of their documents or data being held by 3rd party companies but once that hurdle has been jumped it seems to me to make sense so long as you (the company) can still have the same control you would were you hosting the service yourself.
Really, this is just outsourcing particular aspects of your business to specialists which is something a lot of companies now have a lot of experience in.
For example, the company I'm currently working for - develop software for their own warehouses and distribution network because the success of this directly affects their ability to compete in the market - but they also have a team of people managing their mail servers and providing support for office applications which they could certainly benefit in not doing themselves provided the alternative was cheaper and as effective.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
At Symblogogy, we have explored the use of symbologies and cellphone camera technology working together in harmony.
Here is a unique consumer information application which is simple to implement and an effective way to meet a customer's need for information.
A customer with a cellphone, programmed to read QR Codes, simply points the camera to the QR Code printed on the wrapper and - Voila! - nutrition information at one's fingertips - quick, simple, and easy ... providing that the catsup (or cheese) isn't smeared on over 30% of the code ... otherwise, the QR Code will reconstruct and it's good to go.
Friday, December 15, 2006
"Sick" RFID tags - A Real Threat To Systems
Many who work with RFID systems falsely believe that the only threat of virus infection to the computer's programs is through the standard entry points (new program downloads and transference, emails, hackers, and etc.).
A new entry point has been found and at this point, there are no ironclad defenses to this simple act of just "scanning a tag".
Excerpts from the Department of Computer Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam -
RFID Viruses and Worms
By Melanie R. Rieback, Patrick N. D. Simpson, Bruno Crispo, Andrew S. Tanenbaum - Department of Computer Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Unfortunately, businesses and governments are not the only ones interested in RFID. Civil liberties groups, hackers and criminals are also keenly interested in this new development, albeit for very different reasons. Civil liberties groups are concerned about RFID technology being used to invade people's privacy; RFID tags enable unethical individuals to snoop on people and surreptitiously collect data on them without their approval or even knowledge. For example, RFID-enabled public transit tickets could allow public transit managers to compile a dossier listing all of a person's travels in the past year -- information which may be of interest to the police, divorce lawyers, and others.
However, privacy is not the focus of this website and will not be discussed further below. On the other hand, we are intensely concerned about privacy in an RFID-enabled world and have built an entire sister website about a device we have constructed, called the RFID Guardian, which could potentially help people protect their privacy from RFID snooping in the future. Those interested in RFID and privacy might want to check it out at www.rfidguardian.org. The website even includes a video of the prototype RFID Guardian in action.
A completely different category of threats arises when hackers or criminals cause valid RFID tags to behave in unexpected (and generally malicious) ways. Typically, computer-bound or mobile RFID readers query RFID tags for their unique identifier or on-tag data, which often serves as a database key or launches some real-world activity. For example, when an RFID reader at a supermarket checkout counter reads the tag on a product, the software driving it could add the item scanned to the list of the customer's purchases, tallying up the total after all products have been scanned.
Here is where the trouble comes in. Up until now, everyone working on RFID technology has tacitly assumed that the mere act of scanning an RFID tag cannot modify back-end software, and certainly not in a malicious way. Unfortunately, they are wrong. In our research, we have discovered that if certain vulnerabilities exist in the RFID software, an RFID tag can be (intentionally) infected with a virus and this virus can infect the backend database used by the RFID software. From there it can be easily spread to other RFID tags. No one thought this possible until now.
While we have some hesitation in giving the "bad guys" precise information on how to infect RFID tags, it has been our experience that when talking to people in charge of RFID systems, they often dismiss security concerns as academic, unrealistic, and unworthy of spending any money on countering, as these threats are merely "theoretical." By making code for RFID "malware" publicly available, we hope to convince them that the problem is serious and had better be dealt with, and fast. It is a lot better to lock the barn door while the prize race horse is still inside than to deal with the consequences of not doing so afterwards.
To make clear what kinds of problems might arise from RFID hacking by amateurs or criminals, let us consider three possible and all-too-realistic scenarios.
I.) A prankster goes to a supermarket that scans the purchases in its customers' shopping carts using the RFID chips affixed to the products instead of their bar codes. Many supermarkets have plans in this direction because RFID scans are faster (and in some cases can be done by the customers, eliminating the expense of having cashiers). The prankster selects, scans, and pays for a nice jar of chunk-style peanut butter that has an RFID tag attached to it. Upon getting it home, he removes or destroys the RFID tag. Then he takes a blank RFID tag he has purchased and writes a exploit on it using his home computer and commercially available equipment for writing RFID tags. He then attaches the infected tag to the jar of peanut butter, brings it back to the supermarket, heads directly for the checkout counter, and pays for it again. Unfortunately, this time when the jar is scanned, the virus on its tag infects the supermarket's product database, potentially wreaking all kinds of havoc such as changing prices.
II.) Emboldened by his success at the supermarket, the prankster decides to unwittingly enlist his cat in the fun. The cat has a subdermal pet ID tag, which the attacker rewrites with a virus using commercially available equipment. He then goes to a veterinarian (or the ASPCA), claims it is stray cat and asks for a cat scan. Bingo! The database is infected. Since the vet (or ASPCA) uses this database when creating tags for newly-tagged animals, these new tags can also be infected. When they are later scanned for whatever reason, that database is infected, and so on. Unlike a biological virus, which jumps from animal to animal, an RFID virus spread this way jumps from animal to database to animal. The same transmission mechanism that applies to pets also applies to RFID-tagged livestock.
III.) Now we get to the scary part. Some airports are planning to expedite baggage handling by attaching RFID-augmented labels to the suitcases as they are checked in. This makes the labels easier to read at greater distances than the current bar-coded baggage labels. Now consider a malicious traveler who attaches a tiny RFID tag, pre-initialized with a virus, to a random person's suitcase before he checks it in. When the baggage-handling system's RFID reader scans the suitcase at a Y-junction in the conveyor-belt system to determine where to route it, the tag responds with the RFID virus, which could infect the airport's baggage database. Then, all RFID tags produced as new passengers check in later in the day may also be infected. If any of these infected bags transit a hub, they will be rescanned there, thus infecting a different airport. Within a day, hundreds of airport databases all over the world could be infected. Merely infecting other tags is the most benign case. An RFID virus could also carry a payload that did other damage to the database, for example, helping drug smugglers or terrorists hide their baggage from airline and government officials, or intentionally sending baggage destined for Alaska to Argentina to create chaos (e.g., as revenge for a recently fired airline employee).
Some companies with a vested interest in RFID technology have said their software can withstand attacks such as the ones we have proposed. We hope that is the case. These claims would be much more believable, however, if the companies made their software available to universities and other neutral parties for exhaustive testing, along with a large reward (say, $100,000) for the first person to construct a virus that successfully infects it. If no one is able to infect the software after, say 6 months, the claim that the software cannot be infected is a great deal stronger than merely stating it without proof. The nice part of this for the company is that if the software is bulletproof, it costs the company nothing.
STOP sneezy, drippy, virus laden tags now!
Suggested research links (the links give more technical detail about possible attacks and how to prevent them) - best viewed in order of listing:
Classes of RFID Malware
The Architecture of RFID Systems
Vulnerabilities that Can Be Exploited
How to Write an RFID Virus
How to Write an RFID Worm
How to Defend against RFID Malware
Monday, December 04, 2006
Really ... and you don't even need a screen.
"Touchscreen" a plywood board, a plate of glass, a school chalkboard, a field of grass, an icerink, a kitchen sink, a block of wood, and an automobile hood.
Now any surface can be a computer interface surface with the software and microphone sensors used in a system called Tai-Chi which translates to Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer-Human Interaction (demonstration video link below).
So feel free to "touchscreen" for the good ... your whole neighborhood!
This from New Scientist -
Acoustic sensors make surfaces interactive [plus video links]
By Tom Simonite - NewScientist.com news service - 14:22 28 November 2006
A series of acoustic sensors that turn any surface into a touch-sensitive computer interface have been developed by European researchers.
Two or more sensors are attached around the edges of the surface. These pinpoint the position of a finger, or another touching object, by tracking minute vibrations. This allows them to create a virtual touchpad, or keyboard, on any table or wall.
The system, called Tai-Chi (Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer-Human Interaction), was developed by researchers from Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France and the UK. "We have made a system that can give any object, even a 3D one, a sense of touch," says Ming Yang, an engineer at Cardiff University, UK, who is coordinating the project.
A video produced by the researcher shows four sensors attached to a flat, vertical surface, being used to trace a researcher's finger (4.6MB, wmv format). Another video shows a simple interactive instrument developed using the system. The sensors were also used to create an interactive globe that accesses geographical information on a computer screen when the user touches different regions.
"One advantage of the system is that for little cost you can have a much larger touch-sensitive area," says Yang. "The whole surface of your desk could become your keyboard and mouse-pad."
Tai-Chi uses tiny piezoelectric sensors to sense surface vibrations. The sensors are connected to a desktop computer loaded with software developed by the team and the system can track up to two objects at once, in one of two ways.
One method involves measuring differences in the amount of time vibrations take to arrive at two or three different sensors – a similar approach to sonar. Using this method any surface can be made touch sensitive simply by attaching the sensors.
The other method requires just one sensor and can actually be more accurate – to within just a few millimetres. But this method requires the calibration of the system beforehand, so that it recognises the vibrations caused by contact at different points on the surface. It then uses a database of vibration "fingerprints" to identify the point of contact.
Workplaces in which hygiene is critical, such as hospitals, could particularly benefit from Tai-Chi, says Wang. "Keyboards are very difficult to keep clean and can harbour infection," he explains. "We could have a keyboard drawn onto the desks that would work perfectly and could be disinfected much more easily."
William Harwin, a haptic interfaces researcher at Reading University, UK, thinks Tai-Chi has promise. "It is a very clever idea," he told New Scientist. "The technology is a neat and relatively simple solution to making ordinary objects touch sensitive."
But Harwin adds that users might not find it easy to switch from a normal keyboard to simply tapping on their desk. "People expect a degree of feedback from pushing buttons and switches," Harwin explains. "It is important in giving people a sense of quality."
Monday, November 27, 2006
Christmas Shopping Gives Us A Window On The Future
This Christmas, the shopping experience has taken to the streets!
In an innovative and technologically inventive move, Ralph Lauren, Chicago, decided to do more than just decorate its flagship store window for Christmas, it decided to turn the window display into a combination website and Point-Of-Sale checkout station for the self-service minded consumer who happened to be out-on-the-town ... "Window Shopping".
Excerpts from BusinessWeek -
Shopping in a Window Wonderland
Big stores in cities such as Chicago have always hosted fab holiday windows. Now those displays are high-tech, high-end - and crucial to sales
By Reena Jana - BusinessWeek, Innovation - November 23, 2006
Holiday shoppers strolling down Chicago's stylish Michigan Avenue are accustomed to the extravagant window displays beckoning consumers to buy pricey gifts. But this year, the street's Ralph Lauren (RL) store is introducing an unusual alternative, one that gives new meaning to the phrase "window shopping."
On Nov. 20, Ralph Lauren installed a 67-in. touch-screen display that allows passersby to purchase any item from the company's RLX line of high-performance ski-wear - 24 hours a day. They can then retrieve available items from inside the store, or have the clothes shipped from a central warehouse - no long check-out lines necessary.
"Our goal was to do what we thought was the most exciting holiday window we could create," says David Lauren, senior vice-president of advertising, marketing, and communications at Polo Ralph Lauren (and the founder's son). The tech-savvy strategy is designed to appeal to sophisticated early adopters.
"We also saw the interactive window as a way to reinterpret the Ralph Lauren brand," ... one that is often associated with traditional, preppy clothing ... "in a very modern way," Lauren says. The touch-screen window also displays informational videos on ski conditions in the jet-set destination of Aspen, and ski tips from experts.
A prototype of the Polo Ralph Lauren window debuted in New York, at the Polo Ralph Lauren store at 888 Madison Avenue, during the U.S. Open Tennis Championship in August. Often, crowds lined up around the block to get a glimpse of the window or to purchase clothes using it.
Although Lauren won't divulge the cost of the windows, he jokes that it is about the price of buying an ad in two issues of a weekly print magazine, which is roughly estimated in the $140,000 range. Such a relatively modest sum could fuel a full three months of eye-catching brand promotion vs. two weeks of magazine ads. The Chicago window is scheduled to remain through February 19.
The interactive window was inspired by Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise manipulates a giant, vaporous computer screen with his hands like an orchestral conductor. Lauren called Spielberg directly to see if the technology was possible. When he learned that the display was just a digital special effect, he began developing a system internally.
After the prototype debuted in New York in August, Lauren received a phone call from Spielberg. "He called us to find out how it worked," Lauren says of the window. While he can't describe the full technical details, he says the screen's futuristic effects are achieved via rear-projection of images. The touch-sensitive window is enabled by a transparent foil embedded with electrodes.
And it's not only the luxury stores experimenting with new, spectacular ways of drawing in buyers. Macy's Herald Square department store in New York, for example, is featuring interactive window displays for the first time. The concept suggests a children's version of the Ralph Lauren touch-screen windows. Passersby touch pads shaped like red stars (the Macy's logo) to set animatronic figures in motion.
At a time when the National Retail Federation is predicting that total holiday spending will increase 5% in 2006 to $457.4 billion, retailers understand there are potentially more dollars to be made than in previous years. For luxury emporiums and mid-range stores alike, developing a stronger brand identity via show-stopping window displays - or, in the case of Ralph Lauren, interactive sales windows - appears essential to a merry holiday selling season.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
3D Barcode - Auto ID "CUBED"
That's digital 2D code "X" axis, "Y" axis, and Color!
To the power of three ... that's what I say! What could be more powerful than a code that incorporates color as one of it's discernments? After all, this is a color world.
QR Code (a registered trademark of DENSO WAVE INCORPORATED) breaks out of it's shell through the introduction of a new automatic identification symbology variant - the ColorCode (ColorCode and ColorZip are registered trademarks of ColorZip Media Inc.).
ColorCode is the name of the first ever "3D Barcode" utilized by a server-based content delivery system known as ColorZip.
At the moment, ColorCode is a closed and managed source code symbology designed for use by Brand Managers and Marketing Communication professionals through ColorZip Media - a flexible, real-time, interactive content management system that provides up-to-the-minute CRM data to the consumer.
So, with the ColorZip system, all a consumer needs to do is point a CCD or CMOS camera (with a minimum 100,000-pixel resolution) at TV screens, print ads, magazines, POP displays, outdoor boards, electronic screens, product packages, web banners, T-shirts, and etc. containing a ColorCode, and decoded information sends the consumer's computer or phone to a web server that, in turn, delivers digital information to the consumer that he can use to be informed or make a decision.
ColorZip Japan now announces [ColorZip Certified Program] to give certificate to our trusted partners and their products. The program is set to find creative design or hardware companies who can cooperate with us to make the ColorCode designs or improve hardware. After thoroughly evaluating creativity, robustness of their product and technology, ColorZip's Partnership is certified and official logo is provided. With the ColorCode, you can appeal your reliability and expand business chances. Image Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.
Imagine the possibilities of reaching out to consumers on-the-fly when ColorCodes can be read quickly and easily from a 15 foot distance by mobile phones, Cell PDAs, PCs, and other devices equipped with cameras. Say good-bye to exclusively communicating through one-dimensional print display methodologies.
Excerpts from ColorZip Japan, inc. website -
There's a colorful new world to be explored.
Point your mobile phone at a model in a magazine ad and zip you're visiting her website.
Point your Cell PDA at a music video on TV and zip you've got a sample of the hit single.
Point your cell phone at your favorite team's logo and zip you know the score.
That's the power of ColorZip.
ColorZip works with mobile phones, PC cameras, and other imaging devices that read ColorCodes. Let's say you see a poster for a movie you're interested in. Point your mobile phone at it. The camera in your phone reads a ColorCode printed on the poster. The ColorCode contains information provided by a server. The server then sends data to your phone in the form of content, perhaps a movie trailer. Best of all, it happens instantly, in a zip.
The ColorCode was exhibited at the AUTO-ID EXPO by SATO (printers) held at TOKYO BIG SIGHT. The flower motif ColorCode is for use on flower tags at a florist or nursery. Image Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.
Every picture tells a story.
ColorZip also makes watching TV an interactive experience. Suppose you see a product you like on a TV show or commercial. Point your mobile phone at the screen and zip, you can order the product. Perhaps you're watching a TV quiz show. With ColorZip you could play along from home, "answering questions" with your phone and instantly winning prizes.
There are more than 17 billion color patterns available in a 3 mm square code, and in larger codes the possibilities are infinite. Codes can be created in wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors and printed on paper, fabric, glass and other materials. They can appear as corporate and brand logos, designer labels, photos, and virtually anything you can imagine.
It's only a matter of time before the world around you is painted with ColorCodes. Wherever you go, wherever you look -- TV, magazines, store shelves, shopping bags, billboards, web banners, T-shirts and more -- you'll see ColorZip in action.
All you need to do is zip.
ColorCodes from Origin through Mobile Site have been designed by the Sankei Co Ltd.'s desingners. The design represents their corporate profile and philosophy. Image(s) Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.
Excerpts from Newsweek International via MSNBC early this year-
Using Color Codes To Browse the Web
By Christian Caryl (with B. J. Lee in Seoul) - Newsweek International - Jan. 16, 2006 issue
It's an advertiser's dream. Imagine you're sitting in your favorite cafe when something in the business pages catches your eye. That company you're reading about sounds intriguing. So you take out your mobile phone and focus the camera lens on a small splotch of color embedded in the corner of the article. Suddenly the phone's screen is displaying real-time stock prices and up-to-the-minute company headlines.
It's become a truism that the Internet is transforming the way businesses reach their customers. But among advertisers there's a nagging sense that the online world is still too disconnected from more traditional media, like print. For most users, gaining access to the Internet still means sitting in front of a computer and hammering away at a keyboard - a setup far removed from the experience of reading the morning paper or thumbing through a magazine. Advertisers would instead like to give print readers immediate access to the full range of Web-based information. Colorzip Media, a South Korea-based company, is one of the numerous small firms hoping to bridge this divide.
Colorzip's idea is to build on the pros of bar codes while shedding the cons. The intricate structure of bar codes makes them hard to read; scanners have to be close and precise. And if anything else gets in the way - an ad, for example - the scanner can't cope.
A few years ago Korean computer scientists came up with a new kind of code based on color patterns, which can be easily incorporated into company logos or other graphic designs. Colors are much easier for scanners to read, and they help users home in on the content. Colorzip codes have the added advantage of simplicity.
The design highlights the Skype logo and uses plenty of Skype light blue within the ColorCode. Image Credit: ColorZip Japan, Inc.
Unlike a data-heavy bar code, all a Colorzip code communicates when it's scanned is an index, a pathway to content stored on a server. That links the reading device to the desired content which then pops up on the screen.
Even better, the colors can be read at relatively long distances - say, half a meter away and at poor resolutions. Colorzip codes have already been used on TVs, for example, with viewers voting to express their preferences for the outcome of a show. You focus your phone's camera on a splotch of color in the corner of the screen and press the button; you then find yourself at a Web site.
"We're able to put content onto the code to make it attractive," says Christopher Craney, CEO of Colorzip's Japan subsidiary.
But who goes to the trouble of carrying around a scanner? The answer: 60 percent of mobile-phone users in South Korea and Japan. Their phones come with Quick Response readers, based on a code [a 2D code - QR Code invented by DENSO WAVE CORPORATION] that's somewhere between bar codes and the version proposed by Colorzip. With some software from Colorzip, users can zap everything from specially made Colorzip postage stamps issued by the postal service to T shirts or caps marked with jazzy graphics, and be directed to a Web site.
The technology has a drawback. Because the codes can be photographed or copied, they might be susceptible to hacking.
But the color codes may presage a day when the combination of user-friendly codes and the Google-sifted Net universe opens up myriad possibilities.
Friday, November 17, 2006
QR - A Mouse With A "Tale"
Imagine, if you will, that you are flipping through one of your favorite magazines and there is a story about an exciting travel destination, you know, one that describes where to go, what to see, how to get around ... and you would like to look all of this information up on the computer when you get home.
Well, in Japan you can.
In Japan, the article would be accompanied with a printed image known as the QR Code. This code image, because it is a QR Code, can contain as much alphanumeric information that over 4,000 characters would allow. One image can contain a small story ... a tale!
In this case, the information contained in the QR Code (created by DENSO Wave) is website location information ... but how does one get this information into the computer, to either go to the website, or read the "tale" data?
This from Ubergizmo -
Elecom Bar-Code reading mouse
How many people actually need to use a mouse that comes with a bar code reader? Apparently enough to create the demand for such a product that drove Elecom to develop the new Bar-Code Reading Mouse. This neat little peripheral is capable of reading both monochrone and 2D color barcodes (also known as QR barcodes) The ergonomics on this peripheral looks suspect, although it does resemble a bar-code reader's design more than that of a mouse. In case you don't know that the mouse is from Elecom, they have kindly emblazoned a large reminder on the entire left side of the mouse's surface. No word on when it will be released and how much it costs.
... And this from OhGizmo! -
Elecom Releases Bar-Code Reading Mouse
By Andrew Liszewski - OhGizmo!
Even though they don't seem to be as popular in North America as they are elsewhere odds are you've seen those 2D QR barcodes at some point. You know, they're those weird little square graphics that are made up of what appears to be random patterns of smaller squares. Well in reality those patterns aren't random and those small squares can actually hold a surprising amount of encoded text.
Elecom now has a USB mouse with a built-in optical QR reader that can handle both the traditional black and white versions of those barcodes as well as the newer color versions which actually hold less data and are typically only used as pointers to websites.
Here are some image examples from the manufacturer's website as to how the mouse is used.
Magazine article with QR Code image locator. Image Credit: ELECOM
Callout of QR Code image as it appears in the magazine. Image Credit: ELECOM
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
QR Code - The Best Auto ID Code Ever, Really!
In the worlds of automatic identification and information technology, the question of what is the best machine-readable information-packed symbology ever ... has been answered.
Well, until someone comes up with a device-readable code that can hold nearly twice as much information as the next available code option, have the code achieve a move tolerance of about two meters a second (approximately six feet a second), and have the code repair itself with as much as 30% of the code image missing ... then one cannot dispute this claim!
The best auto ID code ever?
The best automatic identification code (symbology) ever is the QR Code, developed by Denso Wave (a Toyota Group Company). The QR Code was originally intended for use in tracking the complex task of automobile parts manufacturing and sourcing throughout the automobile assembly process.
This code, which was proprietary, has been an open source solution for years (first standard approval by AIM in 1997) and has found great favor in many application quarters, but the early adapters have mostly been found in the confirmation of cellphone-purchase transaction-verification and entry security.
The QR Code uses a true two-dimension (2D) digital matrix pattern symbology as opposed to a high-density or stacked barcode image approach. This code is read by image reading digital cameras as opposed to a single beam of light reading back upon itself in order to sense the reflectivity of an image through a "wave pattern" (laser). The strength of an image reading digital camera device is that they are solid state (no moving parts, which relates to increased reliability) and the imager can read ALL symbologies regardless of image/symbology approach.
As for use in the information technology marketspace (legal, insurance, medical, shipping and etc.), we at Symblogogy ask; what could be a better tool than a full mini traveling database for document identification information and dynamic file indexing?
Excerpts from Denso Wave (Japan) -
Bar code to 2D Code
Bar codes have become widely popular because of their reading speed, accuracy, and superior functionality characteristics.
As bar codes became popular and their convenience universally recognized, the market began to call for codes capable of storing more information, more character types, and that could be printed in a smaller space.
As a result, various efforts were made to increase the amount of information stored by bar codes, such as increasing the number of bar code digits or laying out multiple bar codes.
However, these improvements also caused problems such as enlarging the bar code area, complicating reading operations, and increasing printing cost.
2D Code emerged in response to these needs and problems
2D Code is also progressing from the stacked bar code method (that stacks bar codes), to the increased information density matrix method.
About QR Code
QR Code is a kind of 2-D (two-dimensional) symbology developed by Denso Wave (a division of Denso Corporation at the time) and released in 1994 with the primary aim of being "a symbol that is easily interpreted by scanner equipment".
QR Code (2D Code) contains information in both the vertical and horizontal directions, whereas a bar code contains data in one direction only. QR Code holds a considerably greater volume of information than a bar code.
In addition to QR Code, some other kinds of 2D Code have been developed. Below is a table of typical 2D Code and their features.
Reference Table Here>>
[Example shows that the QR Code data capacity for numeric data only is 7,089 characters and the alphanumeric data capacity is 4,296 characters. In comparison, the next closest code option is the DataMatrix Code by RVSI Acuity CiMatrix. The data only capacity is rated at 3,116 characters while the alphanumeric data capacity is set at 2,355 characters.]
QR Code provides the following features compared with conventional bar codes.
High Capacity Encoding of Data
While conventional bar codes are capable of storing a maximum of approximately 20 digits, QR Code is capable of handling several dozen to several hundred times more information.
QR Code is capable of handling all types of data, such as numeric and alphabetic characters, Kanji, Kana, Hiragana, symbols, binary, and control codes. Up to 7,089 characters can be encoded in one symbol.
Small Printout Size
Since QR Code carries information both horizontally and vertically, QR Code is capable of encoding the same amount of data in approximately one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code. (For a smaller printout size, Micro QR Code is available.
Kanji and Kana Capability (RoW communication capability)
As a symbology developed in Japan, QR Code is capable of encoding JIS Level 1 and Level 2 kanji character set.
In case of Japanese, one full-width Kana or Kanji character is efficiently encoded in 13 bits, allowing QR Code to hold more than 20% data than other 2D symbologies.
Dirt and Damage Resistant
QR Code has error correction capability. Data can be restored even if the symbol is partially dirty or damaged. A maximum 30% of codewords can be restored. Readable from any direction in 360 degrees
QR Code is capable of 360 degree (omni-directional), high speed reading. QR Code accomplishes this task through position detection patterns located at the three corners of the symbol. These position detection patterns guarantee stable high-speed reading, circumventing the negative effects of background interference.
Structured Append Feature
QR Code can be divided into multiple data areas. Conversely, information stored in multiple QR Code symbols can be reconstructed as single data symbols.
One data symbol can be divided into up to 16 symbols, allowing printing in a narrow area.
For 2D Code to become widely used, it is first necessary for QR Code specification to be clearly defined and made public. In addition, QR Code must be freely usable by users.
The background [story] behind the popularity of bar codes, is specification disclosure [open source]. Today, there are very few bar codes with closed specifications or strict patent protection.
QR Code is open in the sense that the specification of QR Code is disclosed and that the patent right owned by Denso Wave is not exercised.
Standards References Here>>
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
It's Time For "Push-To-Pay" In Proximity Purchasing
Proximity pay and access technology strategies largely did not take into account the fact that even with the encryption of information, the information could be picked up with RF antenna sensors at anytime one came within the sensors operating range.
Austrian watch maker Lucas Alexander Karl Scheybal felt there had to be a better way. A way to allow the owner of the information be released when the information was intended to be released - not a minute before and not a minute after - it was time to implement "Push-To-Pay" controls for the purchaser.
Excerpts from ContactlessNews eDigest - Avisian publications -
New watches add smart card technology to enable contactless payment, access, and logical security
By Chris Corum, Executive Editor - Tuesday, October 31 2006
An Austrian watchmaker may not be the guy one would expect to find impacting the identity and payment card markets, but Lucas Alexander Karl Scheybal is not your typical watchmaker. At his company, LAKS, he designs precision timepieces that do more than just keep time. Recently added to his line of mp3 and flash drive watches are models that enable contactless payments, employee access and ID, and even a version that accepts a SIM card and connects via USB to a computer.
Embedding an identification device or chip into a watch is not new. Contactless-enabled watches have been used as lift tickets at ski resorts for years. But LAKS is taking the functionality -- and the style -- to new heights.
Pay for transit fares and access your office with a wave of your wrist
The company's Event Watches contain a contactless chip that can be used for transit, access control, or employee ID applications. The watch has become a popular form factor among frequent commuters in Shanghai. The Chinese city's mass transit ticketing system accepts the traditional contactless fare card but also the trendy LAKS watch.
According to Mr. Scheybal, 'Our Event watches have (also) been used for company entrance systems with either Philips MIFARE or LEGIC transponders ... (and) some hotels and SPA Hotels are using the watches for their entrance systems.'
Add multi-application capability by inserting your SIM card
Yet making this Events model seem almost traditional is the company's exciting new Smart Transaction Watch. This watch enables the user to pop open the face and insert a knock-out SIM card. The Smart Transaction Watch was used during this summer's FIFA World Cup as a MasterCard-PayPass (TM) payment token. The watch was a companion to credit cards issued by Chinatrust Commercial Bank, one of the largest credit card issuers in Taiwan. The project was so successful that Chinatrust has continued its issuance beyond the World Cup promotion.
"The watch will always work as a companion card with your 'normal' creditcard," says Mr. Scheybal. A card issuer could provide the watch with the chip in place or could leave the insertion to the cardholder. "The bank can send your personalised card and you simply knock out the chip and insert it into the watch. This is a decision of the bank."
"To comply with the PayPass specifications, we added high security into an analog watch," said Mr. Scheybal. "We are now set to enter these exciting new secure identity and transaction markets."
The latest addition to the SmartTransaction Watch is a "Push to Pay" feature. With the integrated "Secure" button, the antenna is blocked -- thus disabling transactions -- until the wearer presses the button.
The SmartTransaction Watch accepts SIM format smart cards with USB, contactless, or both interfaces. To gain the advantage of the USB interface, the PHILIPS SmartMX chip must be used. Says Mr. Scheybal, "The best feature is the USB cable. Using the USB interface the watch can be used as a token. This feature opens a wide range of applications."
When might you find a smart watch on your wrist?
Clearly he is on to something. In this full configuration, this highly fashionable wristwatch could be used for contactless payment, access, and other functions as well as a full complement of USB-enabled logical security applications.
When pushed about the schedule and potential for the multiple application availability, Mr. Scheybal conveniently becomes a watchmaker again. "You know we are only the watch manufacturer. We are the analog part ... the digital part comes from the card manufacturers side and there are so many options."
In the identity industry where 'so many options' are sometime slow to materialize, the LAKS watches have one major advantage over traditional form factors ... Regardless of how you use it, you still have a great looking, high-quality timepiece.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
"Speedpassing" RFID Privacy Strategies Not Ready For Primetime
At Symblogogy, we have chronicled many strategies where people would be able to pay for items with an ever gaining popular technology that is based in radio frequency detection and reading.
The neat thing about this technology is a little like being recognized at the checkout … as if you were raised with and have lived with the people who are serving you. Proximity.
It is an illusion though because the equipment they are using would be able to read ones payment information without one having to reach into ones wallet … just like being recognized by ones personal banker, or ones mother.
From cellphones, passports, and now even credit cards are being embedded with proximity RFID technology that allow personal identification and financial information to be captured without the person carrying this "technology" know that the information has been given up.
Excerpts from The New York Times -
Researchers See Privacy Pitfalls in No-Swipe Credit Cards
By JOHN SCHWARTZ - Published: October 23, 2006
AMHERST, Mass. - They call it the "Johnny Carson attack," for his comic pose as a psychic divining the contents of an envelope.
Tom Heydt-Benjamin tapped an envelope against a black plastic box connected to his computer. Within moments, the screen showed a garbled string of characters that included this: fu/kevine, along with some numbers.
Mr. Heydt-Benjamin then ripped open the envelope. Inside was a credit card, fresh from the issuing bank. The card bore the name of Kevin E. Fu, a computer science professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who was standing nearby. The card number and expiration date matched those numbers on the screen.
RFID pick-up/input reader system Image Credit: Dima Gavrysh/Associated Press
The demonstration revealed potential security and privacy holes in a new generation of credit cards - cards whose data is relayed by radio waves without need of a signature or physical swiping through a machine. Tens of millions of the cards have been issued, and equipment for their use is showing up at a growing number of locations, including CVS pharmacies, McDonald's restaurants and many movie theaters.
The card companies have implied through their marketing that the data is encrypted to make sure that a digital eavesdropper cannot get any intelligible information. American Express has said its cards incorporate "128-bit encryption," and J. P. Morgan Chase has said that its cards, which it calls Blink, use "the highest level of encryption allowed by the U.S. government."
But in tests on 20 cards from Visa, MasterCard and American Express, the researchers here found that the cardholder's name and other data was being transmitted without encryption and in plain text. They could skim and store the information from a card with a device the size of a couple of paperback books, which they cobbled together from readily available computer and radio components for $150.
They say they could probably make another one even smaller and cheaper: about the size of a pack of gum for less than $50.
And because the cards can be read even through a wallet or an item of clothing, the security of the information, the researchers say, is startlingly weak. "Would you be comfortable wearing your name, your credit card number and your card expiration date on your T-shirt?" Mr. Heydt-Benjamin, a graduate student, asked.
The finding comes at a time of strong suspicion among privacy advocates and consumer groups about the security of the underlying technology, called radio frequency identification, or RFID. Though the systems are designed to allow a card to be read only in close proximity, researchers have found that they can extend the distance.
The actual distance is still a matter of debate, but the claims range from several inches to many feet. And even the shortest distance could allow a would-be card skimmer to mill about in a crowded place and pull data from the wallets of passersby, or to collect data from envelopes sitting in mailboxes.
The experiment was conducted by researchers here working with RSA Labs, a part of EMC, an information management and storage company. The resulting paper, which has been submitted to a computer security conference, is the first fruit of a new consortium of industry and academic researchers financed by the National Science Foundation to study RFID.
Security experts who were not involved in the research have praised the paper, and said that they were startled by the findings. Aviel D. Rubin, a professor of computer security at Johns Hopkins University, said, "There is a certain amount of privacy that consumers expect, and I believe that credit card companies have crossed the line."
Chips like those used by the credit card companies can encrypt the data they send, but that can slow down transactions and make building and maintaining the payment networks more expensive. Other systems, including the Speedpass keychain device offered by Exxon Mobil, encrypt the transmission - though Exxon came under fire for using encryption that experts said was weak.
Though information on the cards may be transmitted in plain text, the company representatives argued, the process of making purchases with the cards involves verification procedures based on powerful encryption that make each transaction unique. Most cards, they said, actually transmit a dummy number that does not match the number embossed on the card, and that number can be used only in connection with the verification "token," or a small bit of code, that is encrypted before being sent.
Tom O'Donnell, a senior vice president at Chase, the largest issuer of the new cards, said that the attacks described in the paper would be too cumbersome in the real world. And the researchers said that other kinds of fraud, like so-called phishing scams in which criminals trick people into revealing credit card information through misleading e-mail messages and Web sites, were currently more effective.
Still, John Pescatore, vice president for Internet security at Gartner, a technology market research firm, said he was surprised by the lack of security in transmitting personal data. He said it was a mistake that companies often made in rolling out early versions of a technology.
"It's the classic 'Let's depend on security through obscurity - who's going to look?' " he said. "Then, whoops! As soon as somebody does look, you roll out the security."
All of the card companies said that they were in the process of deleting names from the stream of data transmitted to the card readers. "As a best practice, issuers are not including the cardholder name," Mr. Triplett of Visa said.
Read All>> (free subscription)
The seriousness of breaches in security and ID privacy cannot be understated. "Security through obscurity" doesn't work in this day and age of easy access of information through the internet and the spread of identity theft schemes in our society.
This technology just may go one step too far.
Friday, October 20, 2006
RFID Applications Come Into Focus With EPC Standards Overlay
Radio frequency identification is a pretty nifty technology. Take an antenna and some memory, power it up (active) or have it be able to be useful when activated with radio waves (passive) and one has a way to have a greater amount of identification information be attached to an item, a person, or a thing ... Then retrieve this information with proximity based readers without having to have a person to be paid to scan the information (as with barcodes and printed symbology) in order to get it to where it can be used and processed by computer programs.
"Zero human intervention!" stated Peter T. Bloch, RFID Program Director Systemedia Division - NCR.
The four steps of creating an Auto-ID or mobility application using ADC involves creating Transaction Business Objects using the more than 80 powerful functions of the platform. Then a business analyst can sequence the Business Objects into a Transaction Process. A group of Transaction Processes are placed together to create an Application and assigned to one or more users. For ADC, a user can be a human or a device, such as an RFID portal. ADC bridges the divide within Auto-ID technologies, providing a platform for intent-based data collection and pervasive data collection. Intent-based data collection ties a person to the Auto-ID process allowing the person to direct when and where data collection activities occur. Pervasive data collection is automated. As materials flow through an environment, movements are captured via RFID tags and readers and processes executed accordingly. Image Credit: NCR/IDVelocity
As with all efforts designed to help aid in the human endeavor of life, to have this technology maximize the benefit to all, standards must be applied.
Enter the Electronic Product Code (EPC), a number for uniquely identifying an item.
The adoption of this standard and its effect is a little like affixing a wide angle lens to a camera that allows a business effort to visualize, to a greater degree, what is actually happening within the distribution and delivery systems that are set up to fulfill the intended needs of the products we all use.
The application of these standards also allows those who are involved in an activity to meet needs, to think ... Globally.
The conference and expo was "a-buzz" with the anticipation of a breakthrough year in adoption and benefit realization. Truth is, this technology has been growing steadily at about 40% per year (estimated by Joe White, VP Engineering-RFID Tag Business, Symbol Technologies, Inc.) and still has a few hurdles to overcome before most business processes participate in the benefits of a RFID/EPC standard.
Symbol Technologies, Inc., The Enterprise Mobility Company, announced that it has launched the RD5000 [09/19/06], a compact, mobile Gen 2 RFID reader that can be integrated with forklifts, pallet jacks, stretch wrappers, and other material handling equipment, and utilized in various space-constrained environments. By extending the range of RFID beyond the dock door, the RD5000 mobile RFID reader provides customers with improved asset visibility in motion throughout the supply chain. Image Credit: Symbol Technologies
For example, currently, not all items are tagged with RFID tags ... let alone tags that conform to the EPCglobal standard. Then, if all items were tagged "globally", there still remains the problem of having hundreds of thousands of portable data collectors that read barcodes but cannot read RFID tags existing in the field. If the people are there anyway, why not give them the ability to capture the RFID data?
"Upgrade them!" says Martin Payne, VP of Marketing & Strategy - Skye Tek. "Sure, upgrade the portable data collectors so that the devices can capture barcodes and RFID as well."
Skye Tek offers the SkyePlus (TM) MXH and MXU antenna multiplexers to ease integration efforts for those devices requiring multiple read-points. Both the MXH and MXU can be equipped with 4 or 8 antenna ports depending on the application requirements. Infrastructure costs are reduced by using the multiplexer to minimize the number of readers required to support multiple read-points. Image Credit: Skye Tek
Skye Tek, located near Boulder, Colorado, designs and manufacturers RFID reader modules for inclusion with other manufacturers' products. The reason Skye Tek is able to deliver an OEM hardware solution that is smaller and less expensive is because the main load of the technology is shouldered in the software approach that supports the overall RFID information capture solution that Skye Tek delivers. At a cost of inclusion of well under $500.00 per unit, an existing population upgrade can be easily justified when pitted against the information-gathering benefits realized with the addition of multi-technology read capability units working in the field.
As EPCglobal US likes to put it in their "About Us" description -
The EPCglobal Network combines Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, existing communications network infrastructure, and the Electronic Product Code-TM (a number for uniquely identifying an item) to enable accurate, cost-efficient visibility of information in the supply chain. The end result helps organizations be more efficient, flexible, and responsive to customer needs. To learn more, please visit http://www.epcglobalus.org/
Excerpts from a press release submitted to Business Wire -
EPCglobal US Conference 2006 Puts the Business Value of EPC/RFID in Focus
Senior Executives from Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, and Wyeth Tell Attendees About Their Companies' Use of Electronic Product Code/Radio Frequency Identification Technology (EPC/RFID)
By Pete Settles, GS1 US - Joanne Beardslee, Elias-Savion - Tuesday, October 17, 2006
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Senior executives representing a broad range of industries addressed 1,300 attendees at the general session of the EPCglobal US Conference 2006 today, discussing how EPC technology is already demonstrating value for their businesses and the potential it has for the future.
"Industries are increasingly turning to EPC/RFID to drive topline business growth, improve product availability, protect supply chains, and reduce supply chain costs," said Mike Meranda, president of EPCglobal US, as he opened the general session.
"The more companies, industries, and trading partners that use this technology, the greater the collective benefits for every company investing in this effort," said Carolyn Walton, vice president of Wal-Mart. "Today, we truly have a realistic opportunity to achieve end-to-end supply chain visibility. We can cut our expenses. We can reduce the concerns about counterfeit products through powerful item identification and authentication. We have the means to create a safer and more secure supply chain. And most important of all - we can do a better job of taking care of our customers."
Thomas Pizzuto, director of RFID technology and strategies at Wyeth spoke about the benefits EPC/RFID brings to the pharmaceutical industry.
"Wyeth views RFID/EPC as an important enabling technology that when combined with other anti-counterfeiting technologies and systems we are implementing will help ensure patient safety and the overall security of the drug supply chain. RFID/EPC gives us the means to mass serialize our products at the item-level and to provide points downstream in the supply chain with a labor-efficient means of identifying and associating these items with their drug pedigree."
"Based on what EPC has done at Procter & Gamble, and how this technology is advancing across a broad range of industries, it is clear this is a transformational initiative," said Dick Cantwell, EPC Team Leader, Procter & Gamble. "We finally have the means to see our products move from the point of production to the point of sale and everywhere in between. Ultimate accuracy, unmatched visibility, real supply chain safety and security - these are no longer things that companies can only imagine. We can achieve them and transform our businesses."
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Unlicensed Radio Frequencies Gain Space In Technology Shift
There was a time when one wanted to implement a radio based communications strategy, one had to do a site survey to see what frequencies were being used, apply for a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and once approved, set the devices used to the specific frequency and hope that there we no conflicts with other radio based devices that might roam into ones radio space.
Pressure to open up radio communications applications and the advent of frequency hopping/threading management technology helped to open up the use of frequencies that did not require a license from the FCC.
TR-005 Panasonic "Flying Saucer" TV (1971) - Image Credit: tvhistory.tv
Fast forward twenty (or so) years and technology advances combined with FCC policies that recognize the shift in available frequencies, a new world of unlicensed frequency band applications is set to be available in 2009 when Television goes digital.
Excerpts from ARS Technica -
FCC opens up "white spaces" to consumer electronics
by Nate Anderson - ARS Technica - 10/13/2006
The FCC officially signed off on the plan to allow low-power wireless devices to operate in so-called "white spaces" in the television spectrum. The Commission laid out a roadmap for this plan last month, but only issued the "First Report and Order" that actually authorizes it yesterday.
Here's how the scheme will work: consumer electronics devices will be allowed to operate in the portion of the TV spectrum being vacated by broadcasters as they switch to digital broadcasts in 2009, with some restrictions. Channel 37 is out - it's used by radio astronomers. Channels 52-69 are also out, since they have been allocated for public safety use. Finally, channels 14-20 might be out (the Commission has asked for more information) because 13 US cities currently use parts of that spectrum for public safety communications.
Sharp 5 inch B&W Transistorized TV (1981) - Image Credit: tvhistory.tv
While manufacturers can begin to design and certify their devices in the next few months, they cannot go on sale until February 18, 2009. Even though the spectrum in question should be available after that date, the FCC is still concerned that unlicensed devices in the band might generate interference that could affect the digital TV signals, and they plan to conduct extensive internal testing (and possibly adopt more rules) to ensure that this doesn't happen.
The Commission also mandated a dynamic frequency selection mechanism be built into every device, so that it does not interfere with other devices in the immediate vicinity. It may also decide to enforce the "geo-location" rules ...
... where a professional installer (or the devices themselves) would use GPS to check the installed location against a database in order to avoid potential interference.
This was a decision that was easy for the commissioners to like. Michael Copps, one of the two Democrats on the Commission, pointed out that the US is falling behind in broadband - the International Telecommunications Union ranks us at number 15. Copps believes that opening up a new chunk of spectrum will help pave the way for wireless broadband services like WiMAX that can help bring broadband to more Americans. "Make no mistake about it," he says, "it is a very grave situation. There is simply no way that our country can remain in the forefront of the global economy without developing a broadband infrastructure that is up to the task."
"With our recent AWS auction and the upcoming 700Mhz auction," he says, "we are opening up a huge swath of prime spectrum to licensed use - and it seems to me, on the present record, that the appropriate balance is to open up the TV white spaces to unlicensed use."
JVC Model 3100D - "Pyramid" with clock - Transistorized - Approx 7" Screen which folds down (1978)
The approach that is ultimately chosen will have a huge effect on the uses that the spectrum is put to: Just think of the success of cordless phones and WiFi, two wildly successful wireless technologies that have taken advantage of unlicensed spectrum. On the other hand, think of the interference issues that result when your 2.4GHz cordless phone rings and disconnects your WiFi - welcome to the downside of unlicensed spectrum.
Obviously, the opening up of unlicensed frequencies for consumer electronics use opens up these "freqs" for business applications hardware as well.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
It's Change Or Die Tryin' At NACS
This week, Symblogogy is visiting the National Association of Convenience Store's (NACS) tradeshow, titled NACS Show 2006, here in Las Vegas.
The overriding theme of most exhibitors and conference speakers throughout the show is clearly settled in the unsettled territory of a constantly changing world.
One conference session featured the changes happening in our purchasing habits as reflected through the changes in the technology we carry with us every day when we leave the house ... the cellphone. This device and its impact on how we will shop were even mentioned in the Opening General Session presentation delivered by NACS Chairman of the Board, Scott Hartman.
In the case of the conference session, Robert Wesley, CEO of MobleLime, described how his company was focused on delivering mobile rewards and promotions right to your cellphone while enhancing the process of purchase payments through RFID proximity information entry ... a process clich'ed as "Speed-Passing" in reference to the Mobil Oil pay-at-the-pump process for buying gas.
In this case, Wesley highlighted the technology that was being added to a Nokia phone where the customer, at checkout, would call up a payment method file stored in the phone (Visa, Master Card, American Express, and etc.) and simply wave the phone next to a RFID sensing/pick-up device at the counter, and walk away with the goods.
Excerpts from a press release from NACS -
Dizzying Pace of Change Presents Opportunities, Challenges for Industry
Contact: Jeff Lenard - firstname.lastname@example.org - October 9, 2006
LAS VEGAS, NV - Demand for convenience has never been stronger, and that presents both challenges and opportunities for convenience store retailers, NACS Chairman of the Board Scott Hartman told attendees in the NACS Show 2006 Opening General Session on Oct. 9.
This demand for convenience was evident over the past year, when Hartman logged well more than 100,000 miles representing NACS on what he called "basically one long study tour."
"From the operating expertise that is evident in Asia, to the mastering of senses like food aroma and lighting at the retail level in France, to the sustained excellence of retailers throughout the U.S., I have seen new ways of doing business driven by changing consumer demands, and by technology." noted Hartman, who is president of York, Penn.-based Rutter's Farm Stores.
"Time is money, and time is really what we sell," said Hartman. But convenience is what virtually every other channel is now trying to replicate, he noted.
Above all, the fresh and healthy image is key to today's customer, noted Hartman. "All over the globe the fresh presentation is the first thing customers are seeing as they enter stores, especially in Europe ."
Customers also expect what Hartman called "mass customization" - companies gaining efficiencies by making products in volume, but allowing the individual to customize products to their own needs. And they want their lives simplified, a trend that is evident in Asia .
"Clearly, technology will play an ever-increasing role at our stores. And it already is in Asia . The cell phone you have today acts nothing like the ones they are using in Japan and Korea . But you will soon see them here," said Hartman, noting that they already serve a customers' electronic wallet, personal scanner and personal navigation system and locator.
Cell Phones, Cell Phones, Cell Phones. Image Credit: Yahoo! News
"Customers will receive offers on their phones, redeem electronic coupons with their phones and Web applications will allow them to find the lowest priced products between them and their next destination," said Hartman. "As retailers we will market our gas prices to customers as they drive down the highway and customers will have their cars programmed to seek out food offers they prefer. The in-car convenience store billboard is closer than you think."
"NACS is doing much more that looking at the future of technology in our industry; it is helping to shape it." said Hartman.
"At NACS, we believe that technology is an investment, that if you make it wisely, it should yield a competitive advantage." said Hartman. "The technology building blocks that we've been putting in place must continue at the store level, and through the involvement of NACS and PCATS, they will make a difference in your operations."
Hartman concluded by reminding retailers to stay true to their mission, despite the dizzying pace of change, which will only intensify.
"Only those that seek change, and embrace change will thrive. But let me also offer some caution. Know your competition, but know yourself even better. Seek to change, but don't change because of the competition. Competitors, after all, will come, and competitors will go. Put your real focus on your customer. Study them. Engage them. Learn from them. Change for them." said Hartman.
"Lastly, give back to your customers, your communities and your people any way you can. You'll get back more than you ever gave," said Hartman. "That has certainly been my experience in my own business ... and in serving as your chairman this past year."
The NACS Show 2007 will take place November 6 to 9 in Atlanta, Georgia .
The NACS Show is ranked one of the 50 largest annual tradeshows in the U.S. The NACS Show 2006, which runs through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, features the largest exposition ever at a NACS Show, with 380,000 net square feet of exhibit space.
NACS is an international trade association representing more than 2,200 retail and 1,800 supplier members. The U.S. convenience store industry, with over 140,600 stores across the country, posted $495.3 billion in total sales in 2005, with $344.2 billion in motor fuels sales.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Movie Tickets For The 21st Century "Mobility" World
There was a time one had to go to the theater and stand in line to buy a ticket to see a movie.
Then along came the era where virtually every home had a computer where one would log-on, buy a ticket, go to theater and find the kiosk that one could retrieve the ticket with the insertion of a credit card. There are some of us who are still just getting the hang of this process.
Well, let's get used to the future. Today, we all would feel lost without a cellphone. We feel naked if we left home and forgot to bring along our phone. What if the cellphone we carried could buy tickets via a phonecall to the theater, and then we never had to stand in any line anywhere to get a ticket? How about if one would just have to show up with the phone they purchased the ticket with ... and have the screen scanned by the usher and you're in!?
Excerpts from the Film Journal International -
By Doris Toumarkine - FJI-VNU - Sep. 21, 2006
Made in Europe and Asia, but made for America?
In yet another example of innovative entertainment products, services, amenities and ideas incubating and flourishing overseas before finding their way stateside, mobile movie ticketing (m-ticketing) that turns cell-phones into bar-coded movie tickets has just arrived. Just maybe, such ticketing - different from printing tickets on home computers or retrieving them at theatres or their kiosks - will become as American as adopted leisure imports like rock videos, neon, anime, discotheques, reality shows, wine bars and even great coffee at every corner.
At least Michigan-based Emagine Entertainment, an exhibitor that operates 46 screens in three locations, thinks so. Last January, Emagine announced an agreement for the first of their three theatres with Michigan-based MobilRelay's Mobile Box Office (MBO), the only service that allows U.S. moviegoers to use mobile phones as tickets.
The barcode-based MBO service, initially begun for all shows at the 18-screen Emagine Canton, is now available at the 18-screen Emagine Novi Theatre. Chris Brandt, VP of operations for Emagine, expects an imminent rollout to a third venue, the ten-screen Hollywood Cinema in mid-Michigan.
MBO initiated their barcode-based software in the two theatres and, after glitches were fixed following the first rollout, the service is running smoothly. It goes something like this: All that cell-phone users need on their devices are color screens (for the color branding that MBO provides for its business customers) and web access. To order tickets to any Emagine show, filmgoers use their cells to go to MBO's mbo.com website, where they order tickets and, as in ordering tickets online or over the phone, supply credit card information. Once all is approved and confirmed, customers receive a confirmation barcode on their cell display that is later read by a scanner operated by theatre personnel at the theatre's entry point. The whole point of m-ticketing is to allow filmgoers to bypass the box-office lines or the wait at kiosks. Filmgoers love the convenience; exhibitors love the extra time filmgoers have to buy concessions.
Says Emagine's Brandt, "It all works smoothly, provided the filmgoer has pulled up the appropriate screen [with the barcode]. Otherwise, it can take time for whoever's manning the scanner to find the barcode, as [cell-phone] devices or services can vary." He adds that it's important that theatre personnel be properly trained on the scanner - although the procedure is not difficult - and that these personnel are used efficiently. For instance, getting managers during off-peak to deal with the scanners can take extra time.
For maximum efficiency, Brandt says the solution is to get ushers on the scanners. And those ushers must also be savvy enough to help customers find their ticket barcodes on their phones. The variety of carriers and devices doesn't make this easier.
Brandt explains that Emagine has about 20 ushers at each theatre and, thanks to ease of use, they can all master the scanners. "The trick is to be able to get the tickets up on the cell-phone screens. Sometimes our customers need a little training in retrieving the barcodes from the website, but once it's up on their screens, it's easy. For customers to arrive at entry points with that done is so helpful. And once they've gone through the e-ticketing process smoothly, they love it. It's about convenience, the fact that they can bypass a line of people at the box office."
Color LCD screen with barcode that can be read by ushers. Image Credit: Mobile Box Office
Variety aside, even the march of technology itself can present a problem: "Because some of the newer [device] screens are so small, MBO had to switch from 12-number barcodes to ten so that they would fit," says Brandt.
Emagine works with MBO in their aggressive marketing campaign to promote the m-ticketing service. The tagline - "What can your phone do?" - is at the heart of the campaign, which involves both in-theatre advertising and outside promotions.
In-theatre, Emagine features MBO-produced m-ticketing commercials during their pre-shows. Says Brandt, "These are full-motion videos, not slide shows. There are also MBO posters in front of the box office, plus MBO has reps at the theatres Friday and Saturday nights promoting the service by handing out cards."
Predictably, the primary MBO users are young adults, not kids, aged 18 to 30, who also comprise the main filmgoing demographic. Explains Brandt, 'This more or less also mirrors the 12 to 24 year-olds, that segment of the population that uses their cell-phones for so many things, especially texting. Many seniors use cells, but they'd never dream of using MBO."
Yet m-ticketing marketers may soon be calling all seniors: Seniors, unlike many teens, have credit cards and, for now, m-ticketing requires credit card payment.
Like its users, MBO's service is young and has a way to go in terms of amassing new customers. Brandt says that the percentage of tickets sold through MBO in July was about one percent, but points out that that percentage doesn't look so weak, considering July attendance at the two MBO-powered theatres was about 175,000.
Even the entrenched online movie ticket services don't do a whole lot better. The New York Times recently reported that for the non-blockbuster films, only about five percent or less of total tickets sold are through these established online services.
In Europe, Asia and Oceania, music and sports fans have been using their mobile phones as tickets to music and sports events for several years; more recently, m-ticketing for movies has become the latest phenomenon.
As Brandt says, "Europe is light years ahead of us with this [m-ticketing] thing." Much of this overseas maturity has to do with the fact that these other markets have been way ahead of the U.S. with regard to cell-phone use and text messaging. But there are signs that the U.S. is catching up.
According to Verizon Wireless spokesperson Brenda Rainey, the carrier, one of the country's biggest, already has 54.8 million customers, with many of these responsible for the 12 billion text messages that were exchanged during the second quarter of this year. For the same quarter, 232 million picture messages were sent over Verizon.
All Verizon Wireless phones are capable of text messaging and all camera phones can send and receive picture messages, so barcodes will travel easily. And, at ten cents per text message, texting - done mostly by the young and shallow-pocketed - is cheap. Even picture messaging is only 25 cents to send or receive. And subscribers to this messaging service, mainly kids, get a deal via bundled packages, although Verizon also has a pay-as-you-go program for those who text less frequently.
But just as technology gives, it also takes a little away, especially when it comes to the challenge of different markets and different devices embracing different formats. There are several kinds of text messages used worldwide, upon which m-ticketing is dependent. These are SMS (short message service), which is actually a binary service and is the simplest. There's also MMS (multimedia sending) and the more obscure EMS. All are pushed through the Net by WAP (Wireless Application Protocol).
EMS, which stands for Enhanced Messaging Service, is an extension of SMS on several networks. A collaboration of such device manufacturers as Ericsson and Motorola, it handles messages that can be displayed as SMS transmissions. But phones that are not EMS-enabled won't be able to deliver EMS' special text formatting (such as bold or italic) or its images and sounds.
But the U.S. presents a different situation. He continues: "Carriers in the U.S. have generally chosen not to support binary SMS, so they are primarily delivering with a mix of MMS and WAP push. In Canada, it's a mix of all three. But whatever the kind of message, the user experience is very similar. A message arrives on the cell-phone, you open it, the ticket is displayed and this same ticket gets scanned for event access."
Paradoxically, as Cameron has it, the U.S. is both behind and ahead. M-ticketing may just be getting its start here, but "the U.S. is jumping beyond SMS, which is what has really caught on in Europe and Asia, and embracing MMS/WAP."
And MBO has "imagined" growing its business beyond Emagine. "We're talking to a very big national chain right now and we'll probably announce that launch in a month or two. It will be in one or two theatres in Texas and will precede a monthly rollout."
Hopefully, being an early adopter of m-ticketing will also pay off, but it's ultimately just about selling tickets, stupid! Declares Brandt, "I couldn't care less where [customers] buy tickets, as long as they buy."
Beyond short lines, long lines and online, there's that all-important bottom line. Says Brandt, hitting a metaphorical pause button as m-ticketing rages on: "Ultimately, the future of the theatre business will depend on the quality of films, no matter where the technology takes you."
Which doesn't mean a soft focus on where that might be. Brandt asserts, "I think we'll see that MBO is at the right place at the right time."