Friday, June 22, 2007

WiFi With A 238 Mile Record Reach

Researcher Ermanno Pietrosemoli has set what appears to be a new record for the longest communication link with Wi-Fi. Image Credit: Escuela Latinoamerica de Redes

WiFi With A 238 Mile Record Reach

So you are sitting in your home in Los Angeles and you notice that among the available WiFi networks in your area, you have your own at&t DSL connection, a neighbors cable based wireless signal, and one from Hearst Castle on the central coast of California.

Well, that is about the same distance as someone in Venezuela was able to achieve on a WiFi network portal … that is, to set up a WiFi connection with the reach of about 238 miles using mostly “off-the-shelf” equipment and a few hacked parts.

Imagine the additional coverage one could achieve on a DSL in areas where the phone company has neither hardwire service or cell towers (at least until a direct satellite link is affordable). Judging from what networking guru Ermanno Pietrosemoli was able to prove when he established a wireless connection between a PC in El Aguila, Venezuela, and one in Platillon Mountain, this may be both a financially and technologically feasible solution for some remote communications applications.

Excerpts from CNET News Blog –

New Wi-Fi distance record: 382 kilometers
Posted by Michael Kanellos - CNET News Blog - June 18, 2007 9:18 AM PDT

Researcher Ermanno Pietrosemoli has set what appears to be a new record for the longest communication link with Wi-Fi.

Pietrosemoli, president of the Escuela Latinoamerica de Redes (which means networking school of Latin America) established a Wi-Fi link between two computers located in El Aguila and Platillon Mountain, Venezuela. That's a distance of 382 kilometers, or 238 miles. He used technology from Intel, which is concocting its own long-range Wi-Fi equipment, and some off-the-shelf parts. Pietrosemoli gets about 3 megabits per second in each direction on his long-range connections.

Most Wi-Fi signals only go only a few meters before petering out. Conventional Wi-Fi transmitters, however, send signals in all directions. By directing the signal to a specific point, range can be increased.

Image Credit: Escuela Latinoamerica de Redes

Honing the signal, however, means that the receiver and transmitter have to be aligned. Trees, buildings and other objects that get between them can sever the link. The curvature of Earth, misalignment between the transmitter and receiver, as well as shaking and any sort of movement at the transmitting or receiving end can also impair the signal. (To ameliorate some of these factors, Intel has created a way to electrically steer the signal, which in turn increases bandwidth.)

Geography was on Pietrosemoli's side. El Aguila and Platillon Mountain sit in the Andes, which form fairly jagged peaks in this part of the range.

The old record was 310 kilometers. Swedish scientists made a link between a balloon and an Earth-bound station.
Platillon Mountain, Venezuela directional INTEL antenna aimed at a location 238 miles away. Image Credit: Escuela Latinoamerica de Redes

Intel, along with organizations like Inveneo, are testing the feasibility of long-range Wi-Fi as a communication link in Uganda and other emerging nations. Long-range Wi-Fi isn't as robust at WiMax, but the towers cost a lot less. Some hobbyists have accomplished a long-range Wi-Fi connection with low bandwidth.

Similar experiments are being carried out in the United States as well. A long-range Wi-Fi link connects Intel Research's Berkeley Lab and a Sun Microsystems lab on the San Francisco Peninsula, more than 20 miles away.
Reference Here>>

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Corporate Culture (and technology) Gone Wrong

Albertson's - Coming of age in an internet world. Image Credit: W=UH

Corporate Culture (and technology) Gone Wrong

Let’s be honest … when a company invests improperly in technology that would have allowed them to compete on an equal footing with the other players in the marketplace the worst things can happen.

Albertson’s never had a clue that after it purchased Lucky Stores that it now had to finally jump into the “discount club” fray along with Ralph’s and Vons. The management put off the decision for the longest time but finally had to submit to the competitive pressure.

The problem was that they bought off on technology that was "on the cheap"! The loyalty/discount cards they had purchased placed the unique barcode information for each customer on the surface of the plastic that the card or key-fob was made of … as opposed to having the image embedded or otherwise protected by the plastic cover.

The barcode information began to rub off immediately upon issue and after awhile became unreadable by the barcode reader. This left the job to the cashier who had to manually enter the data in order to allow the customer to accrue loyalty points and achieve a discount.

It gets worse – Albertson’s will now totally abandon the “discount/loyalty” program with the excuse (spin) that they are opening up the discounts to everyone … sound familiar? It should. That is what they told all of the shoppers as the excuse as to why they did not have a loyalty program … just after they had purchased Lucky Stores.

Really, this is about corporate culture and how it can go all wrong.


News Item from The Salt Lake Tribune -

No more 'Preferred Card' at Albertsons
The Salt Lake Tribune - Article Last Updated: 06/20/2007 01:39:55 PM MDT

Posted: 1:27 PM - Albertsons stores are ending their "Preferred Card" program at 78 Southwest stores.

The Arizona Republic reports today that instead, the chain will offer discounted items to everyone.

"Our objective is to give all the consumers in the marketplace the same great deals irregardless of having to have a loyalty card," said Bob Colgrove, Albertsons Southwest division president.

Other supermarkets and grocers, including Safeway, Fry's and Bashas', said this week that they don't plan to follow Albertsons' lead and will keep their cards.
Reference Here>>

That's because their (Safeway, Fry's, and Bashas') cards work.

By the way, never listen to anyone who uses “IRREGARDLESS” … it (irregardless) is NOT a word. Just as a barcode is not a barcode when it can be, or becomes mushed.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Who, When, Where Clearly Defined Space

Corrections officer is able to keep track of anyone who is wearing a coded RFID wristband or belt mounted sensor anywhere in a defined prison space. Image Credit: Alanco/TSI Prism Inc.

The Who, When, Where Clearly Defined Space (with video demo link)

The Minnesota Department of Corrections has decided to implement a system that is gaining great favor with prison systems throughout the country.

This deployment is a system adopted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department last year to keep track of both inmates and Sheriff Officers that operate the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Correctional Services Division facilities.

The tamper proof system of bracelets and sensors will track the movements of all of the inmates and prison guard personal throughout any facility the RFID antennae array is installed and implemented.

Not to worry America, now even Paris Hilton’s whereabouts will not be a secret … even to the paparazzi! Well, at least until she is released from Sheriff Baca's tightly survailed RFID domain.

Excerpted from Computerworld -

Minnesota turns to RFID to monitor inmates
The system can detect track prisoners, modify behavior

Marc L. Songini, Computerworld - June 18, 2007

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) is about to roll out a half-million-dollar radio frequency identification (RFID) inmate-tracking system at one of its facilities to boost security and automate the monitoring of prisoners.
The RFID system is from Alanco Technologies Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz.

A spokeswoman for the DOC offered few details about the project, except to note the state has other prisons with RFID-based inmate-tracking systems. She deferred questions to Alanco.

Alanco's system is "a very powerful management tool that... can change the way prisons are managed," said Greg Oester, president of
Alanco/TSI Prism Inc. the Alanco subsidiary providing the RFID technology. "It provides a level of monitoring not available by any other way. The inmates know they are monitored and are lectured that the system is there, and they learn very quickly that it is extremely accurate. Basically, they stop doing the things they face additional punishments for."

Its use can also free up correctional staff to engage in other tasks, such as drug sweeps, instead of just monitoring inmates
[Video Demo Link].

The tracking system is based on active RFID tag technology and provides alerts if something abnormal is going on, such as a fight among the inmates, said Oester. In such a system, he explained, both inmates and corrections guards wear wrist straps containing a proprietary RFID tag, which sends out a signal every two seconds to antennas installed inside of the facility and around its perimeter. The readers feed information into the proprietary TSI Prism management application that sends the data to a master terminal in a control room as well as to client terminals placed in strategic locations throughout the facility, such as the warden's office.

It's up to the prison administrators to decide what the exceptions are. They could include any time a prisoner gets within 10 feet of a fence or when two rival prison gang leaders get too close. If there is an exception, such as a fight or if an RFID strap is torn off, the rules-based software detects it immediately. The monitoring screen goes from green to red and sends out an audio alert. Once an alert is issued, the screen shows where the trouble is and identifies nearby guards and prisoners.

If it's a gang fight or a hostage situation, the staff will know the identities of everyone involved and what the threat level is based on the histories of the offending inmates, which are kept in a database. "It's proven to be a tremendous aid in reducing prison violence," said Oester. Every infraction committed by a prisoner is in the database, and any perpetrator of a crime can be immediately located and dealt with.

A prisoner can be tracked in virtual real time, as well. "If there is an inmate suspected of being a mule [carrier] for contraband, we can watch him all day and find out where he goes and roll up his whole network," said Oester. It can also be used to document prison processes, such as whether a diabetic inmate has received his medication or not.
Reference Here>>

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Biomass Downside Of Biometrics

Silhouettes representing healthy, overweight, and obese. Image Credit: Wikipedia via FDA

The Biomass Downside Of Biometrics

Many security systems use a confirmation “second entry” in order to verify the clearance of an individual through a specific pass gate in a secure environment.

In a biometric secure system, however, a “growing” problem is coming of age here in North America.

It seems that the incidents of false positive readings on biometrics devices where a “biometrics only” confirmation verification are on the rise and the reason is a little surprising.

These false acceptances are being triggered through weight creep against many DOD biometric databases.

This item excerpted from TechInsider Blog (Allan Holmes, Bob Brewin and Daniel Pulliam on what's happening and what's being discussed in the world of federal information technology.) -

The Risk of Using Biometrics: People Get Fat
By Allan Holmes Wednesday, June 06, 2007 11:34 AM

The following item was posted by Bob Brewin.

DISA has develop a new guide detailing how individuals gain access to Defense Department computers and networks, which contains pages of cautionary warnings about the use of biometric identifiers.
But the guide, which goes by the bureaucratic title “Access Control in Support of Information Systems Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG),” also warns that current and planned biometric identification systems carry more than their share of risks.

“A compromised password can simply be changed, however once a biometric is compromised there is no going back or changing it,” according to the STIG. “For information systems that currently accept Biometrics-only for authentication, this must be combined with another authentication method such as a password.”

“The central risk of the verification process is that the technology will mistakenly verify a user’s identity when that person is actually someone else – a phenomena known as false acceptance,” according to the guide.
Poorly designed biometric-recognition systems can be tricked into verifying someone else’s identity, the STIG reports. For example, with a poorly designed facial recognition system, an imposter may simply show the capture device a life-sized photograph of a valid user or, in the case of voice recognition, a tape recording of the valid user’s voice.

The DISA guide added: “For any biometric, one can devise a potential substitute to mimic the real user, though certainly some biometric characteristics are more susceptible to this than others. To mitigate this risk, robust biometric solutions have ‘liveness’ checks that validate the sample as coming from a live human being and not a facsimile.”
I obtained the above information from a draft copy of the STIG, which is OK to write about because someone at DISA stamped the document “For Office Use Only,” instead of “For Official Use Only.”
Reference Here>>