Smart doorknob: an exciting RFID application

November 27th, 2005

Here is what a smart doorknob can do.

“When you approach the door and you’re carrying groceries, it opens and lets you in. This doorknob is so smart, it can let the dog out but it won’t let six dogs come back in.

It will take FedEx packages and automatically sign for you when you’re not there. If you’re standing by the door, and a phone call comes in, the doorknob can tell you that ‘you’ve got a phone call from your son that I think you should take.”

This smart doorknob is part of a MIT research project called “Internet of Things” (see IHT). An interesting thing about this system is that it relies on the extensive usage of RFID tags. When it comes to RFID technology, some people are very worried, and some others are very excited.

CIA Open Source Center

November 26th, 2005

The US Intelligence Community has announced a new center to exploit publicly available information for intelligence purposes.

“US intelligence chief John Negroponte announced Tuesday the creation of a new CIA-managed center to exploit publicly available information for intelligence purposes. The so-called Open Source Center will gather and analyze information from a host of sources from the Internet and commercial databases to newspapers, radio, video, maps, publications and conference reports. Douglas Naquin, the center’s director, said it will build on the work of the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service, which once monitored and translated foreign radio broadcasts but has since expanded its reach to other media.

The FBIS’ strength has been in tracking media trends that show, for instance, how foreign publics are responding to particular US policies. But in recent years a group at the FBIS also has been applying data mining techniques to analyze massive volumes of information on the Internet or commercial databases, Naquin said. He said they are “trying to use what we call the volume problem against itself in some type of judo fashion — you know, the more volume the better — so we can kind of get some sense of where the trends are and what the buzz is on certain topics, or who’s connected to whom.”

I’m certainly not in the loop on what the intelligence community does now and where they are going, but the nature of ‘open source’ information is evolving rapidly on the web and will continue to do so for many years. I suspect that the intelligence community will need to explore new ideas and techniques to deal with and mine the flood of new information coming from web pages, the blogosphere, email, online communities, mailing lists and groups, metadata annotations, open semistructured databases (e.g., Google Base), semantic web data, search engines, etc. The new open sources provide a much clearer and more direct view of what people are thinking, concerned about and, in some cases, doing. Add in increasingly better techniques for text mining, information extraction and language understanding the potential is great– for both good and bad uses. (Link)

Podcast Hit Parade

November 26th, 2005

Popcasts ranks the ‘most popular podcasts’ at several podcast sites and updates an hourly RSS feeds of their top ten and newest podcasts. Popcasts sites include: Apple iTunes Podcasting, Odeo, Podnova, podfeed, iPodderX, PodcastPickle, Podcasting NEWS and Podcast Alley. They offer seperate services for podcasts in Japanese and Chinese.

Models of trust for the Web

November 23rd, 2005

The Workshop on Models of Trust for the Web (MTW’06) will be a one-day workshop held on May 22 or 23, 2006 in Edinburgh in conjunction with the 15th International World Wide Web Conference. Tentative deadlines are January 10 for paper submission and February 1 for acceptance notification.

“There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and facts found on the Web.” — anon

“As it gets easier to add information to the web via html pages, wikis, blogs, and other documents, it gets tougher to distinguish accurate information from inaccurate or untrustworthy information. A search engine query usually results in several hits that are outdated and/or from unreliable sources and the user is forced to go through the results and pick what she/he considers the most reliable information based on her/his trust requirements. With the introduction of web services, the problem is further exacerbated as users have to come up with a new set of requirements for trusting web services and web services themselves require a more automated way of trusting each other. Apart from inaccurate or outdated information, we also need to anticipate Semantic Web Spam (SWAM) — where spammers publish false facts and scams to deliberately mislead users. This workshop is interested in all aspects of enabling trust on the web.”

UMBC seeks Dean of Engineering and Information Technology

November 21st, 2005

UMBC is searching for a new Dean of its College of Engineering and Information Technology — see the UMBC Dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology search site. I am happy to field questions from or talk to anyone who might be interested in applying for the position or nominating a colleague. It’s a great opportunity for someone who wants to help shape and guide a strong College that wants toward biger and better things.

FIPA membership for only $40 US!

November 21st, 2005

The IEEE FIPA Standards Committee invites individuals and organizations to join as members. FIPA had two levels of membership: full (voting) and associate (non-voting) with fees of $200 US and $40 US, respectively. That’s a bargain! Payment can be made via PayPal. Contact the FIPA SC Treasurer with questions.

Friends of CSEE@UMBC on LinkedIn

November 20th, 2005

Friends of the Ebiquity group and readers of the Ebiquity blog are welcome join the LinkedIn networking group Friends of CSEE@UMBC.

Go to this URL to join the group:

What Is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is an online network of more than 4.2 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 130 industries.

When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments. Your profile helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients, and partners. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you.

What Is LinkedIn for Group?

(Google == Web2.0)?

November 20th, 2005

Paul Graham muses on Web 2.0.

Web 2.0, Paul Graham, November 2005

Does “Web 2.0” mean anything? Till recently I thought it didn’t, but the truth turns out to be more complicated. Originally, yes, it was meaningless. Now it seems to have acquired a meaning. And yet those who dislike the term are probably right, because if it means what I think it does, we don’t need it.  

His bottom line is Google==Web2.0. Sort of. But both are evolving, and maybe co-evollving, clusters of ideas and experiments.

Google Base: not your father’s craigslist

November 19th, 2005

Editor and Publisher has an article on a Goldman Sachs report on the potential impact of Google Base on an important revenue source for newspapers — local classified ads.

Goldman: Economic Implications of Google Base ‘Will Be Dramatic’
By Jennifer Saba, November 17, 2005

NEW YORK Google’s foray into the classified category is still nascent,
but if Google Base takes off, it could be a huge threat to newspapers,
said a report released today from Goldman Sachs. It’s “yet another
challenge to the hegemony of newspaper publishers in the classified
market,” wrote Peter Appert, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. …

The article cites the percent of revenue that some of the larger MSM corporations get from classified ads:

Journal Register Co. 32.5%
Knight Ridder 31.2%
McClatchy 30.9%
Gannett 29.3%
Media General 23.6%
Lee Enterprises 22.2%
Tribune 21.0%
The New York Times Co. 18.4%
Journal Communications 10.3%
E.W. Scripps 9.6%
Washington Post Co. 2.4%

It has been reported that craigslist rendered the San Francisco Chronicle unprofitable largely by defection of classified advertising. If Google Base is successful, it should be able to offer services for classified ads that go far beyond craigslist and similar systems. This will be especially true if it truely does evolve into a system with semantics.

FieldMarking: creating the global human sensor net

November 17th, 2005

We’ve been conducting a pilot study at towards creating a Global Human Sensor Net: people all over the world collaboratively reporting, tagging, and thus exchanging information about their observations of the natural world. Such information is already piling up in casual text in blogs and discussion forums, but it is not very accessible to scientists there.

A variety of efforts are underway to address this general problem of how to share unstructured information: simple tagging, microformats, datablogging, structured blogging, and semantic web browsers.

The FieldMarking concept is to let people freely report what they see in unstructured text, but to provide them with appropriate data fields to structure or annotate their own — or somebody else’s — observations. To use text scrapers and existing ontologies to provide suggestions for appropriate markup. To publish the structured data in RDF so it can be intelligently retrieved and aggregated so that scientists can be alerted, for example, to invasive species or emerging diseases. Interactive graphing tools would allow both citizens and scientists to visually mine the data.

FieldMarking combines observation in the “field” with the idea of filling out data “fields” or creating semantic “markup.”

The current prototype, FieldMarking, uses the datablogging technology at Thus we can take advantage of RSS syndication, mobile posting, and graphable data fields from shared templates. Datablogging also does not require any special plug-ins to be installed by users. Our testing suggests that, in addition to some bugginess in the software, this approach has some limitations. We need to be able to apply multiple data records to a text entry, because it often makes sense to report many observations or many kinds of observations in one paragraph. Also, we need to allow data records from other users who may dispute the original markup. Customized log types can be shared with other users of, but we’ll want to more broadly distribute across multiple platforms.

All the same, the potential is enormous and we will continue to gather pilot data on the kinds of biological information available in these unstructured data sources, the willingness of people to structure it, and the technologies that will make it possible.

UN foresees an Internet of things

November 17th, 2005

The Internet of Things is the seventh in the series of “ITU Internet Reports” published since 1997 by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union. The report will be available in mid November and include chapters on enabling technologies, the shaping of the market, emerging challenges and implications for the developing world, as well as comprehensive statistical tables covering over 200 economies. Here’s an AP story about today’s announcement at the World Summit on the Information Society [2] in Tunis.

Machines and objects to overtake humans on the Internet: ITU, AP, Nov 17

Machines will take over from humans as the biggest users of the Internet in a brave new world of electronic sensors, smart homes, and tags that track users’ movements and habits, the UN’s telecommunications agency predicted.

In a report entitled “Internet of Things”, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) outlined the expected next stage in the technological revolution where humans, electronic devices, inanimate objects and databases are linked by a radically transformed Internet.

“It would seem that science fiction is slowly turning into science fact in an ‘Internet of Things’ based on ubiquitous network connectivity,” the report said Thursday, saying objects would take on human characteristics thanks to technological innovation.

Semantic Web and Policy Workshop wrap up

November 16th, 2005

The Semantic Web and Policy Workshop (SWPW) held at ISWC had some great presentations and discussions on policy-based frameworks for security, privacy, trust, information filtering, accountability, etc. The SWPW web site has the proceedings, papers, presentations and some pictures. Watch for announcements about a related workshop on Models of Trust for the Web that will be held at WWW2006.