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.

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.

Microsoft’s Virtual WIFi

October 19th, 2005

Microsoft research has and interesting project called VirtualWiFi — a virtualization architecture for wireless LAN (WLAN) cards for Windows XP.

“It abstracts a single WLAN card to appear as multiple virtual WLAN cards to the user. The user can then configure each virtual card to connect to a different wireless network. Therefore, VirtualWiFi allows a user to simultaneously connect his machine to multiple wireless networks using just one WLAN card.”

A prototype implementation is available for XP. This allows you, for example, to make an ad hoc connection to another computer will simultaneously making an infrastructure connection to a AP for internet access.

Key in Disaster Management — Communication

September 14th, 2005

Local governments and agencies are waking up with a start — could it happen here? If first responders cannot communicate with each other in the first 72 hours — how do they do their job?

The New Orleans tragedy manifested the worst communication nightmares imaginable — underground communication lines were disabled due to flooding, cell towers were blown over, backup generators ran out of fuel — or filled up with water. Radios of police, firefighters, ER couldn’t talk to each other. In some cases first responders were simply walking over to each other to talk!

Ad hoc networks boast of working in especially such situations … after more than 10 years and millions of $$ in research … where is the first deployed/working ad hoc network?

Baltimore Sun:

No sooner had a 46-truck convoy of Baltimore first-responders and equipment left for Louisiana on Sunday than it received an education in emergency communications: Even state-of-the-art systems can fail.

Grand Rapids Press:

“The lessons we can learn from the Katrina disaster is what happens to those with mobility and transportation issues. If there is a need for a mass evacuation, how would we get those without transportation?” 1st Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak asked.

Eyewitness News:

The Nevada Homeland Security Department is taking up the issue of disaster response. From their own experience and what they’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina relief, they’ve determined the channels of communication are broken.

Economist on the digital home

September 5th, 2005

The Economist has a good article on industry’s vision of a “digital home”.

“Technology firms are pushing a futuristic vision of home entertainment not because consumers are desperate for it but because they themselves are.”

The article points out the gap between industry’s ideas (some of which are like Clippy on steroids) and what people actually say the want (less configuration and help with the basics like printer sharing). It also identifies a key problem in the lack of interoperability standards and the prisoner’s dilemma situation that has resulted.

UK tests active RFID license plates

August 23rd, 2005

The prospect of every licensed vehicle being required to have an active RFID tag raises lots of privacy issues, although in many ways ways we have them already with visual tags and modern image processing. It also opens the door to many new opportunities.

Brit License Plates Get Chipped, Mark Beard, Wired News, 9 august 2005

The British government is preparing to test new high-tech license plates containing microchips capable of transmitting unique vehicle identification numbers and other data to readers more than 300 feet away.

Proponents argue that making such RFID tags mandatory and ubiquitous is a logical move to counter the threat of terrorists using the roadways, and that it will scoop up insurance and registration scofflaws in the process.

The U.K. Department for Transport gave the official go-ahead for the microchipped number plates (as they are called in the United Kingdom) last week, and the trial is expected to begin later this year. The government has been tight-lipped about the details. One of the vendors bidding to participate in the trial said it would start with smartplates added to some police cars.

The point of the test is to see whether microchips will make number plates harder to tamper with and clone, said U.K. Department for Transport spokesman Ian Weller-Skitt. Many commuters use counterfeit plates to avoid the London congestion charge, a fee imposed on passenger vehicles entering central London during busy hours.

MORE (via Bruce Schneier)

Thieves use Bluetooth to find laptops to steal

August 22nd, 2005

UK Thieves are using Bluetooth phones to scan for and detect Bluetooth enabled laptops left in the trunks of cars. Detective Sargent Al Funge, from Cambridge’s crime investigation unit, said:

“There have been a number of instances of this new technology being used to identify cars which have valuable electronics, including laptops, inside. The thieves are taking advantage of a relatively new technology, and people need to be aware that this is going on. ”

MORE (via Schneier on Security).

User adaptive door from Japan

August 13th, 2005

This new automatic door from Japan creates a minimal opening for an object to pass through. The door is composed of a series of strips which open when activated by the infrared sensors on their edges. It’s said that the door also can identify people (RFID?) for security. Such doors can help manage energy loss in a a room, garage or freezer and protect a space from unwanted dust, pollen, bugs, and germs. Plus, they are cooler than the doors on Star Trek. See this video.

Here’s a marketing tip: get the door to occasionally say “Gee, you’ve lost weight, haven’t you?” and it will sell like hotcakes.

RFID in u-Korea

June 28th, 2005

The South Korean government is investng US$800 million into RFID research and development. Link

Daeje Chin, the Korean Minister of Information and Communication, said after several pilot projects the government believes RFID to be as important as the mobile phone business.

Chin said: “This will be very important for us in the next 10 years. The handset business is very big but RFID will be as important. We are trying to procure a number of goals with RFID and the application of new technology brings benefits in all social systems including the individual family.”

South Korea is also pushing ubiquitous computing (“anytime, anywhere, and on any device”) as a way to keep it’s mobile IT business expanding. Korea is a country with 47M people and 35M mobile subscribers. Link

Hey boss, how ’bout some air?

June 5th, 2005

Pirelli announced that their X-Pressure AcousticBlue tire pressure monitoring system will be able to send low-pressure warnings to your Bluetooth mobile phone. The the X-Pressuxre AcousticBlue is said to be available in September 2005. (spotted on Gizmodo) I’d guess that this will require explicit pairing with your phone. Maybe this is a good application for the use of RDF and a simple automated publish-subscribe protocol. I’d subscribe to messages tagged as warnings from devices owned by me, a member of my family or University lab. Helpful service stations would subscribe to public warnings from devices that are part of a vehicle. Also required would be a simple security and privacy mechanisms, perhaps driven by RDF-grounded policies used by both the sender and receiver. I might use such a policy to delegate access to securityWarnings from my office computer to our department sysadmin. and he would configure his policy to accept such delegations from current department members. Rounding out the picture would be a reasonable approach to the GUI, lest we reinvent Clippy. I might want to configure my phone to show only urgentWarnings immediately and log the rest for viewing on demand.

WiMax chip from Intel

April 18th, 2005

So the major players have joined in the WiMax game. This report from the Washington Post describes Intel coming to DC area to release their new WiMax chipset.

Hitachi claims 1 TB 3.5 inch disk

April 5th, 2005

Hitachi has said it can fit 230 gigabits of data per square inch on a disk using “perpendicular recording”

The storage industry currently makes hard drives using longitudinal recording, which is reaching its limit.

Tiny harddrives drive the mobile device market