Saturday, May 26, 2007

RF-WiFi-ID – Tracking With Combined Technologies

People can wear the Siemens/Ekahau tags – Image Credit: BBC News

RF-WiFi-ID – Tracking With Combined Technologies

At a recent exposition held at London’s Olympia Exposition Centre, The Wireless Event – delivering enterprise mobility, Motorola, and Siemens unveiled systems that were jointly developed with the Finnish firm Ekahau, which can track objects or people.

By using technologies that were already deployed in most business and public controlled environments, one can track objects and people throughout a managed WiFi radio space.

RFID tags, and some software stitch this application together so that through the triangulation of sensed ping information, the specific location of a person or thing is easily determined.

Excerpts from BBC News -

Wi-fi and RFID used for tracking
Wireless tracking systems could be used to protect patients in hospitals and students on campuses, backers of the technology said.

BBC News - Published: 2007/05/25 11:56:43 GMT

The combination of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and wi-fi allows real-time tracking of objects or people inside a wireless network.

Angelo Lamme, from Motorola, said tracking students on a campus could help during a fire or an emergency.

"You would know where your people are at any given moment," he said.

Marcus Birkl, head of wireless at Siemens, said location tracking of assets or people was one of the biggest incentives for companies, hospitals and education institutions to roll out wi-fi networks.
Battery powered

Battery-powered RFID tags are placed on an asset and they communicate with at least three wireless access points inside the network to triangulate a location.

Mr Birkl said: "The tags have a piece of software on them and they detect the signal strength of different access points.

"This information is sent back to the server and it then models the movement of the tag depending on the shift in signal strength detected."

For the system to work, the building or area that has been deployed with a wireless network needs to have been mapped and calibrated.

To effectively locate objects a wireless access point is needed every 30 metres and Siemens said it was able to pinpoint assets to within a metre of their actual position.

Mr Birkl said: "It's very useful for the health care industry - where there are highly expensive pieces of mobile equipment that move around a hospital.

RFID tags could track patients and equipment – Image Credit: BBC News

"At every point in the day health staff need to know where it is."

The system can also be used to track wi-fi equipped devices, such as laptops, tablet PCs and wi-fi enabled phones.
'More popular'

As wi-fi becomes more popular in schools, the technology could also be used to track students.

"It has to be aligned with the understanding of the people who are tracked," said Mr Birkl.

There have been privacy concerns expressed in some quarters about RFID tags, especially around the possible use of tags on shopping goods to monitor consumer spending habits.
"There needs to be standards put in place so the data is not abused for other purposes," said Mr Birkl.

He added: "But there are clear benefits to keeping people safe."

More than half of respondents to a recent pan-Europe consultation on RFID said regulations were needed to police the use of tags.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Trouble With Palm OS

Treo 755p Palm OS Smartphone - Image Credit: Brighthand (A.Wright)

The Trouble With Palm OS

The trouble isn’t that the operating system doesn’t work, or is reliable, or even that it isn’t even owned by the company that had originally developed it. The trouble with the Palm OS is that everyone knows that it is time to move on to an operating system that will take advantage of all that this new mobility world has to promise.

Phone, Camera/Imager, WiFi, Bluetooth, Digital Video, Physical World Connection & Hyperlink Applications, and More are functions better left to the next generation of operating system that ACCESS is busy developing with Linux. Microsoft has led the agenda in the mobility arena and it is now time for the Palm OS to become the Windows 95 of its world.

Excerpts from Computerworld Mobile & Wireless -

Treo 755p: The Palm OS goes out with a whimper, not a bang
The end of the Palm OS?

By James Turner – Freelance Writer For Computerworld - May 17, 2007

The Palm Pilot was the first wildly successful product that enabled us to walk around with a small computer in our pockets. Palm -- and the Palm OS -- has long since branched out into smart phones, and many reports claim the new Treo 755p, just released by Sprint Nextel Corp., will be the last hurrah for the aging Palm OS as Palm replaces it with Linux.

There are many advantages to Palm in making this move. Perhaps the biggest is the fact that Palm can leverage that technology for the Treo and make available to users the many third-party applications written for Linux-based phones.

So the Treo 755p may well be the end of an era for a platform that once held near-monopolistic market share for mobile devices. Is the 755p a grand final moment for Palm OS?

Side-By-Side Older Treo 680, Treo 755p, and Nokia N95 - Image Credit: Brighthand (A.Wright)

Not really. We just spent some time with the 755p and found some solid incremental improvements, but the device is mostly familiar, with nothing that will make you sit back and say "wow." The most noticeable change is the same "antenna-ectomy" that other recent Treo releases received. The resulting form factor fits a bit better in a pocket, but the Treo antenna was never that big to begin with. Palm touts the 755p as being slimmer, but if you measure the device, it's only 1.2mm thinner.

From a corporate perspective, the Treo 755p supports the new Microsoft Exchange "Direct Push" technology. Assuming that your IT department sets up your Exchange server to support it, this allows you to receive e-mail as soon as it arrives rather than having to wait until the device polls for it.
Beyond that, though, the Treo 755p is very similar to the older Treos. For example, like the Treo 750, the 755p is now covered by one of those annoying, flimsy plastic snap-on covers that could easily come off the first time it catches on something. The memory capacity is the same as the 700p -- 128MB with 60MB available to the user -- as is the 312-MHz XScale processor. Both devices run the same release of Palm OS and have the same display and camera.

Oddly, the Treo 755p is rather pricey for a device sporting an aging operating system. Sprint is offering it for as low as $280, depending on the service plan, which is significantly more expensive than more up-to-date smart phones. Sprint offers both the Motorola Q and at least one BlackBerry for less than $100, depending on your plan, and a host of other smart phones for under $200.

So, if this is, indeed, the last significant product based on the Palm OS, it goes out with a whimper, not a bang. Palm hasn't released much that has been new or interesting since the Treo 700w, its first Windows Mobile phone, which started shipping more than a year ago. Of course, that will change dramatically when it releases its first Linux devices, which could see the light of day before the end of the year, according to some reports.

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Sounds like the Linux OS can not arrive soon enough.

Rumor has it that Motorola may scoop up Palm and kill two birds with one stone … own and eliminate a major cellphone competitor and have access to ACCESS support of the Palm OS through Palm’s perpetual license agreement in order to prop up the Symbol Technologies products that were sold with the Palm OS. If the rumor becomes true, this would be a significant play.

If this were to happen, Motorola would become very strong in its core business and it would hurt the fortunes of any company that had been put together in order to capitalize on the vacuum created through the recent non-renewal of the Palm OS license to Symbol Technologies before Motorola had purchased the company.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mobility Devices - The Tail That Wags The Dog Of Digital Signage

Traditional Digital Signage - Image Credit: Digital Signage Expo (formerly Digital Retailing Expo) - ExpoNation LLC

Mobility Devices - The Tail That Wags The Dog Of Digital Signage

People who make their living in the arena of visual communications are just now beginning to grapple with the power of the very small screen platform. This realization was not made any clearer than what transpired in a recent discussion panel held at this week’s Digital Retailing Expo - May 16 & 17, 2007 at the Navy Pier Exhibition Center in Chicago, IL.

Notably missing were discussions about the appropriate use of “BlueCasting” (Blue-Jacking … Bluetooth Delivered Messaging) and Physical World Connection concepts through which one might deliver a digital message to the mobility device screen.

Truth is that the tail-that-wags-the-dog of large digital displays will soon be the delivery of digital content to cell radio, WiFi radio, and Bluetooth enabled devices with little screens … not handheld devices with little screens used to influence big screen displays as the discussion suggests.

Digital retailing on a handheld is just now on the radar of ALL of the industry experts.

Excerpts from Marketing At Retail (POPAI) -

Mobile Phone as Key to Digital Retail
Editorial: David Keene - Marketing At Retail - 5/18/2007, 5:12:01 PM

The Digital Retailing Expo changed its name this year to the Digital Signage Expo, to take advantage of the growing concern for anything digital signage in retail, transportation, education, and corporate environments. But in Chicago this week, the city that arguably gave rise to the modern retail industry, the Digital Signage Expo kicked off under its new moniker with perhaps more buzz about things retail than any other vertical market.
On Wednesday [May 16, 2007], one of the most compelling panels was "Going Mobile". Moderator/Presenter Stephen Randall, CEO of LocaModa, led a discussion with Matt Lindley, SVP and executive creative director at Arnold One (an ad agency); Brian Ardinger, SVP and marketing officer at Nanonation; and Mike Brown of Artisan Live to explore how mobile phone technologies are enabling "the next wave" in digital signage interactivity and place-based communications at retail particularly.

Randall (whose white paper on the topic was recently featured in the pages of Marketing At Retail) started the panel with a firm admonition that mobile as a robust, at-retail advertising vehicle on par with the other three screens, is not here yet. He cited the double-opt in limitations to mobile–under the "Can-spam" act: any mobile phone user must opt-in, and re-confirm the opt-in, before they can be targeted with mobile coupons, SMS messages etc. And Randall emphasized that with mobile, "seven guys control it." In other words, the major mobile carriers (Cingular, Sprint, etc) have what Randall called "monopolistic DNA" that is limiting the market from developing freely.

But Randall, after throwing out a variety of caveats, did acknowledge "the mobile phone is a link to digital signage". He cited several case studies where the mobile phone was used as a "remote control" for interactive signage systems in retail. And he observed that the key to the success of mobile as a catalyst for digital signage would be a tie to the web–interactive signage systems, linked to mobile phone users, that extend the interactive features of the web to at-retail.

Agency veteran Matt Lindley, SVP and executive creative director at Arnold One, shared his many experiences where his clients are requesting a mobile component to ad campaigns. Lindley also drew parallels to the web, saying that mobile campaigns can mimic web campaigns, but acknowledged that the money is not coming as rapidly into this channel as many agencies (with fond memories of the dotcom train) expected.

All the panelists agreed that the adoption of mobile phone as a key component to interactive digital signage was inevitable, that it was happening now, and that the initial successes are more "on-demand" than push as all the players including consumers tip-toe around privacy and legal issues surrounding the most personal of electronic devices on which marketers have now set their sites.
Reference Here>>

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Always Feel Like Someone Is Watching Me

Eyebox2 - The system uses an array of infrared LEDs and a 1.3 megapixel digital camera to monitor eye movements. The camera has higher resolution than most eye-tracking systems, and can easily pick out the distinctive infrared signature from a pair of human pupils from up to 10 metres. It can also track several people at once and can determine their gaze from four metres away to within 15 degrees. Image Credit: New Scientist

I Always Feel Like Someone Is Watching Me

When you are out in the crowd, looking around, you know, to see what is going on and to see what information is available, did you ever stop to think that the people who are displaying that information are looking right back at you?

They want to know what you are doing and if their information is sinking in!

They really are looking right into your eyes … well, tracking your eyes to try to understand your behavior. They are asking themselves, “Aren't our billboards pretty enough?” and “What is your problem, you didn’t even give us a gaze ... or a glance!”

This from the New Scientist -

Tracking billboards could give you the eyeball
Tom Simonite - news service - 14:11 09 May 2007

A camera that monitors eye movements from up to 10 metres away makes it possible for smart billboards that track the attention of passers-by.

The developers behind the technology – dubbed Eyebox2 – believe it could have a range of possible applications, but should particularly interest advertisers. This is because it allows billboards to track people's attention and perhaps respond when it wanes.

Until now, eye-tracking systems have only worked over about half a metre.

"It's less accurate than those systems, but it is good enough to let us know whether you are looking at a display or billboard or not," says lead developer Roel Vertegaal from Queen's University in Ontario, Canada.
Distance benefits

Most eye tracking devices monitor people while they use a computer. This can reveal, for example, which parts of a picture or a web page they are focusing on (see The mind ogles: Women are worse).

Being able to track gazes over greater distances opens up several new possibilities, according to Vertegaal. Space on advertising screens in public places could be sold "by the eyeball", he suggests. Or, the products in a store that get the most glances could be recorded.

"We are launching with the advertising market in mind, but there are many other applications," Vertegaal told New Scientist. The team has also tested it as a means of controlling a home entertainment system. "When you stop looking at the screen for a time, the image pauses until you are looking back again," Vertegaal says.

Focusing attention

And, another project involves making hearing aids function more effectively through eye tracking. "When you are looking at someone you automatically filter out other noise to hear what they are saying," Vertegaal says. "[Similarly] an eye tracker could tell a hearing aid what to focus on."

Vertegaal and colleagues have created a company, called Xuuk, to develop and market Eyebox2 commercially.

Linden Ball, a psychologist at Lancaster University in the UK, uses eye tracking to study human-computer interaction. He says such a system could perhaps provide a more natural way to control things on a large display. "If the accuracy is great enough, this technology might make eye tracking one way of doing that," he says.

Ball adds that advertisers already use eye-tracking technology to monitor the way people respond to adverts presented on a computer screen. "They could get similar data in a more natural environment," he says. "For example, which posters people attend to, how long they look for, whether they take in the whole thing, and the effect of logos or dynamic information like animations."
Reference Here>>

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Power To Be Tether Free

Powercast's no cord solutions are great for any low power device: 1) The Transmitter - plugs into the wall socket and broadcasts safe, low-power radio waves. 2) The Radio Waves - change their frequency as they bounce off objects and walls. 3) Tiny Receivers - in the devices that you have, "hear" frequencies around the original one, capturing up to 70% of the radio signal's energy. The energy is then converted into DC electricity. Image Credit: XPLANE.COM

The Power To Be Tether Free

An answer to a nagging and growing problem ... Here we are building this anytime, anywhere mobile life and every time we turn around ... we have to plug-in.

All of the tools we have that allow us to be a part of the mobility world require that we tether ourselves ... well, our tools, to a wall outlet and wait until we get our full charge of power.

Powercast wants to change (and charge) all of that, and their solution is really quite inventive. It has already received the CES "Best Of Show Award" for emerging technologies and great reviews from CNET.

Excerpts from Business 2.0 Magazine -

Death of the cell phone charger
A Pennsylvania entrepreneur has developed technology that gives you all the battery juice you need directly from the air. Business 2.0 reports.

By Melanie Haiken, Business 2.0 Magazine – April 2007

How much money could you make from a technology that replaces electrical wires? A startup called Powercast, along with the more than 100 companies that have inked agreements with it, is about to start finding out. Powercast and its first major partner, electronics giant Philips, are set to launch their first device powered by electricity broadcast through the air.

It may sound futuristic, but Powercast's platform uses nothing more complex than a radio--and is cheap enough for just about any company to incorporate into a product. A transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device. The receiver turns radio waves into DC electricity, recharging the device's battery at a distance of up to 3 feet.

Picture your cell phone charging up the second you sit down at your desk, and you start to get a sense of the opportunity. How big can it get? "The sky's the limit," says John Shearer, Powercast's founder and CEO. He estimates shipping "many millions of units" by the end of 2008.
Broadcasting power through the air isn't a new idea. Researchers have experimented with capturing the radiation in radio frequency at high power but had difficulty capturing it at consumer-friendly low power. "You'd have energy bouncing off the walls and arriving in a wide range of voltages," says Zoya Popovic, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Colorado who works on wireless electricity projects for the U.S. military.

That's where Shearer came in. A former physicist based in Pittsburgh, he and his team spent four years poring over wireless electricity research in a lab hidden behind his family's coffee house. He figured much of the energy bouncing off walls could be captured. All you had to do was build a receiver that could act like a radio tuned to many frequencies at once.

"I realized we wanted to grab that static and harness it," Shearer says. "It's all energy."
Powercast says it has signed nondisclosure agreements to develop products with more than 100 companies, including major manufacturers of cell phones, MP3 players, automotive parts, temperature sensors, hearing aids, and medical implants.

The last of those alone could be a multibillion-dollar market: Pacemakers, defibrillators, and the like require surgery to replace dead batteries. But with a built-in Powercast receiver, those batteries could last a lifetime.

"Everyone's looking to cut that last cord," says Alex Slawsby, a consultant at Innosight who specializes in disruptive innovation. "Think of the billion cell phones sold last year. If you could get Powercast into a small percentage of the high-end models, those would be huge numbers."

Video Demonstration provided by CNET (click image) - Image Credit: CNET

Could Powercast's technology also work for larger devices? Perhaps, but not quite yet. Laptop computers, for example, use more than 10 times the wattage of Powercast transmissions.

But industry trends are on Shearer's side: Thanks to less energy-hungry LCD screens and processors, PC power consumption is slowly diminishing. Within five years, Shearer says, laptops will be down to single-digit wattage--making his revenue potential even more electrifying.
Reference Here>>

In Japan, research scientists at the University of Tokyo have come up with a unique material that can transmit electrical energy to nearby devices without the need for direct contact.

This material can be utilized as a table cloth or a wallpaper that would then re-charge devices through the Faraday induction process.

This from Just Chromatography Everything about Chromatography and Analytical Chemistry -

World without wires
01, May - Posted by Chemist as General Science

What would you say if in a few years from now you would not need a power cord to charge your notebook or to deal with those annoying, tangled up cords behind your TV and stereo? Or would you imagine that your PDA or cell phone could be recharged remotely?

I would say it is something rather from a more distant future, but research scientists at the University of Tokyo have come up with a unique material that can transmit electrical energy to nearby devices without the need for direct contact.

The system is based on a well know phenomenon discovered by Faraday in 1831 - electromagnetic induction - when electrical energy can be transmitted without a contact, just like some electric toothbrushes that recharge while sitting in a plastic charger.

The power-transmitting material is a plastic film with imprinted elements:

1.) Japanese Researcher’s knowhow - a contactless position-sensing system that allows to direct power to wherever the appliance sits . It has a two-dimensional grid of copper coils and a matrix of transistors made from the organic molecule pentacene.

2.) Switching mechanism consisting of an arrangement of plastic microelectromechanical system (MEMS) switches, which direct the power to the device.

3.) A second two-dimensional layer of copper coils that transmits the energy.

The sheet is 21×21 cm, 1 mm thick, and weighs 50 g. It contains a grid of 64 position-sensing units and 64 power-transmission units. The sheet is capable of providing 40.5 watts of power with more than 80% efficiency - sufficient to operate a small laptop computer.

Example of power transmission to LED in water – Image Reference: T Sekitani et al, Nat. Mater., DOI: 10.1038/nmat1903

When an electronic device containing a ‘receiving coil’ is next to the sheet, its presence is detected by the positioning coils, and coordinates relayed by the organic transistor circuit. The MEMS switches then direct the power to that point.

A head of research group Takao Sekitani comments:

“Since all the device components are manufactured on plastic films, the system is thin, lightweight and flexible. Therefore it is easy to put the sheet system in the wall, desk, floor - anywhere you can imagine. And because the system is manufactured by printing technologies it is potentially low-cost and it can transmit high power selectively to the position of electronic objects, making transmission loss very small.”
Reference Here>>

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Smartphones That Know When & Where To Move

New DoCoMo phones, which are being released in Japan this month, will initially use the motion-sensing technology for games. Later in the year, the phones will be able to use gesture-sensing for map browsing. Image Credit: GestureTek

Smartphones That Know When & Where To Move

A new type of technology is making its way to the cellphone platform. The mobile phone has played host to GPS, Cameras, Symbology (barcode) Scanning, Walkie-Talkies, Bluetooth Broadcasting, MP3 Music, and more.

Well, there is a new application in town. It is a technology that comes from the world of video games and it is now being applied to the cellphone. The technology allows the phone to sense motion and gestures which are then interpreted to bring direction motion to the display images on the screen.

We already can imagine how this would be useful in games displayed on the phone, but this technology may be of greater benefit to the user when it allows one to scroll around screen images that are larger than the display screen itself.

With just a flick of the wrist, one can move around scroll menus, maps, photos, web pages designed for computer displays – all without touching the pad keys on the phone.

In the emerging Web 2.0 world of mobility, this technology is a pretty smart move!

Motion Sensing - Shake, Rock, & Roll - Image Credit: GestureTek

Excerpts from CNET News -

Technology brings motion-sensing to camera phones
Marguerite Reardon - CNET

A company that supplies motion-sensing technology for videogames is bringing that technology to mobile phones.

Earlier this week, GestureTek announced that NTT DoCoMo in Japan would be embedding the EyeMobile gesture-recognition technology into two new FOMA 904i series handsets.

The new DoCoMo phones, which are being released in Japan this month, will initially use the motion-sensing technology for games. Later in the year, the phones will be able to use gesture-sensing for map browsing. Eventually, the technology will also be used for motion-controlled menu scrolling, picture browsing and mobile Internet surfing, company executives said.

Motion-sensing technology has recently come into vogue with the huge success of Nintendo's Wii games console, which enables people to hit tennis volleys like they're Andrew Murray. The Wii uses tiny embedded devices called accelerometers that detect motion. Some handset makers, such as Nokia, Samsung, LG and even newcomer Apple, are using accelerometer technology to provide some kind of motion-sensing capability in a handful of handset models.

The software supports three main types of motion: shake, rock and roll. Shake can be used for actions such as rolling dice and shuffling MP3 decks. Rock interprets right, left, up and down gestures to generate traditional cursor-style user input commands. Roll offers joystick control by responding to tilting motions used in navigating games, maps or Web pages.
GestureTek is over 20 years old. The company got its start developing camera-based motion-sensing technology for museum installations. It then moved on to providing technology for digital signage, retail displays and devices such as the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 2 EyeToy.

The deal with DoCoMo is the first time the company has licensed its technology to be embedded in mobile phones. The company has licensed its software to third-party BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) developers to create games for Verizon Wireless subscribers. But in that case, the software is downloaded as part of the game and is not used for more advanced motion-sensing navigation applications.
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This description of the new EyeMobile Engine software from GestureTek -

The EyeMobile Engine is a software-only solution that uses the existing camera on mobile phones to enable innovative mobile device interfaces and applications through real-time motion control.

An intuitive alternative to conventional mobile phone interfaces, EyeMobile allows you to do anything you would normally do with the device, such as...

Answer calls
Make a menu selection
Scrolling, pan, and zooming
Control games with hand motion

Instead of using small and cumbersome device buttons, EyeMobile enables you to use real-life motion for game control:


EyeMobile Engine API for Developers -

A convenient environment for authoring EyeMobile-enabled applications for OTA and pre-embedded delivery to mobile devices, the EyeMobile Engine application programming interface (API) provides application developers with the means to integrate motion control with applications much the same way as with current analog controls such as keys and buttons.

The EyeMobile Engine SDK for OEMs -
Provides mobile device manufacturers with an ideal development environment for embedding EyeMobile Engine features.

Shake, Rock & Roll

Shake, Rock, and Roll are the EyeMobile Engine's three levels of tracking. Shake provides the amount of “shake” as a single value that the programmer can use as an input for such actions as shuffling MP3 play lists, throwing dice, etc. Rock is a gesture recognition system built on top of the Roll engine; Roll provides joystick-style input control.

The EyeMobile Shake extension provides developers with a “force of motion” control interface. Applications can then be controlled by how vigorously the user shakes the mobile device. Whenever a frenetic user-action is appropriate, the EyeMobile Shake extension may be implemented.

Rock & Roll
The EyeMobile RocknRoll extension provides the ability to control an application either by rocking the mobile device (i.e. flicking forward and back or side to side) or rolling it (i.e. tilting it from side to side or up and down). The RocknRoll extension presents the opportunity to control applications based upon rock, roll, or a combination of the two. With Rock, you can use the flick of a wrist to answer a call or simulate a throw. Use Roll to turn the pages of a document or for steering and navigation. Combine Rock and Roll to simulate mouse or joystick control.


Reference Here>>