Mae : Wireless Mobility Blog
Mae
| News and views on everything wireless and mobile, from WiFi and WiMAX to 3G and fixed-mobile convergence (FMC).

September 2006

You are browsing the archive for September 2006.

Zune Battles iPod This Holiday Season

September 29, 2006

It’s official: Microsoft’s Zune and Apple’s iPod will be doing battle this holiday season for the hearts and minds of shoppers. Microsoft announced today that its new Zune music player will ship November 14, and be priced at $249.99, comparable to the 30GB iPod.

Here’s a quick ‘n dirty comparison of the two products:

   

Price

Storage Size

Screen Size

Laser Application for Inputting Data into Mobile Devices

September 28, 2006

On a quest to discover the latest new and cool wireless technologies coming down the pike, yesterday I made a quick scan of exhibitors at the upcoming Wired NEXTFEST. Most didn’t seem related to wireless/mobility per se, but one product that did catch my eye is a new laser-based user interface application developed by three Japanese engineers.


Titled “Smart Laser Scanner for Human-Computer Interface,” the new technology is designed to address the challenge of inputting information into electronic devices as those devices become smaller and smaller. The approach taken by the Japanese developers is to use a “a simple active tracking system using a laser diode (visible or invisible light), steering mirrors, and a single non-imaging photodetector, which is capable of acquiring three dimensional coordinates in real time without the need of any image processing at all.”

Wow, pretty technical stuff!






The engineers who developed this technology further describe it as “a smart rangefinder scanner that instead of continuously scanning over the full field of view, restricts its scanning area, on the basis of a real-time analysis of the backscattered signal, to a very narrow window precisely the size of the target.”

The demo pages for this new technology are pretty technical, but the images are cool.

Next Up for Fixed-Mobile Convergence: Femtocells

September 27, 2006

A few days ago I covered a new report out from ABI Research relating to predictions for the dual-mode handset market. (In case you’re not familiar, dual-mode handsets are phones capable of picking up signal from either a cellular network or a WiFi/VoIP network depending on which is available.) In the report, ABI mentioned an up-and-coming technology called femtocell, which I have to admit I hadn’t encountered before.


ABI describes femtocells as “small cellular base stations designed for use in residential or corporate environments.” The research firm said that femtocells have great potential for carriers interested in rolling out fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) services because the technology involved can result in more efficient networks, reduced customer churn, and improved in-building wireless coverage.


I was intrigued to find out more, but before I had to chance to do so TMCnet editor Bob Liu beat me to the punch in his September 26 article about T-Mobile’s plans to soon roll out dual-mode services.

What’s New and Cool in Wireless

September 26, 2006

This week in San Diego (the same city where, incidentally, TMC’s Internet Telephony EXPO will be held a fortnight from now), technology companies are gathered to show off their latest innovations at the DEMOfall 2006 show. Perusing through the list of products on display, a few caught my eye that relate to the wireless/mobility arena.


First up is Dash Navigation, Inc.’s simply named Dash product/service, which delivers real-time information to people while they’re driving in their cars. To me, the coolest thing about Dash is that it “creates a network of drivers who help each other avoid traffic and share information about their destinations.” I’ve read about SMS services in Europe that alert drivers about traffic jams, and this appears to be along the same lines.

What’s in a Name? Geek vs. Consumer

September 25, 2006

I was chatting recently with Art Rosenberg, author of the Unified View column, and he mentioned—as he often has before—that the adoption of new technology could be aided if only those developing said technology could come up with a single term to describe it. Art’s point was that end-users (whether they be enterprises or individuals) tend to get confused when people use several different terms to describe the same technology.


For example: Is it "unified communications" or "unified messaging"? Is it "Voice Over IP," VoIP (abbreviation that takes on its own life), or "Internet telephony"?

Thermometer-in-a-Pill for Football Players

September 25, 2006

The latest issue of Wired arrived in my mailbox on Saturday. Typically I flip through the entire magazine to locate the articles I want to read first. One item that stopped me in my tracks for a few minutes was a piece (“Less Pain, More Gain,” October 2006) about different ways National Football League teams use technology to help players perform at their best.

Among the items covered in the article are jaw-saving helmets, anti-concussion mouthguards, “air conditioner” shoulder pads, and a thermometer-in-a-pill manufactured by HQ, Inc. (under its CorTemp brand). This final item, according to Wired, has been adopted by some NFL teams because often football players are not aware when they start to overheat.

A blog post on BoingBoing by David Pescovitz from January of this year explains that the thermometer, which is about the size of a multivitamin, is swallowed by players a couple of hours before game-time—giving it time to reach the small intestine.



Waiting for an Apple iPhone

September 22, 2006

There’s been speculation for a long time now that Apple may at some point produce its own cell phone (e.g. eWeek in 2003, Edgadget in 2004). That chatter resumed recently leading up to Apple’s latest big announcements, some of it apparently coming directly from company headquarters.

Earlier this month, mp3newswire.net predicted that the odds of Apple introducing an iPod phone or iPhone are 2:1.

“A pure iPod phone would probably do well, though some of the phone companies don't like the fact that it will circumvent their own mobile music services,” mp3newswire said.

Apple’s latest news turned out to be updates to iTunes, and enhancements to all three of its iPod lines (regular, shuffle, nano). But that hasn’t stopped the speculation about a possible phone from continuing.





More on RFID and Spinach

September 22, 2006

Yesterday in this blog, I suggested that RFID tags might have been useful in containing the recent spinach-borne outbreak of E. coli. Apparently I’m not the only who had this idea. On Wednesday, an entry on the RFID Law Blog (published by McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP Attorneys at Law) covered the same topic.

In the blog entry, the law firm suggested that the E. coli outbreak represents an opportunity for the RFID industry to proactively advocate for use of the technology, “instead of always being on the defensive.”

The entry also noted that “RFID tags on produce would make it much easier for public health officials to identify the specific source of the E. coli infestation.”

Using RFID tags in this way, the blog says, would be beneficial to consumers, retailers, and farmers. Make sense to me.





RFID Useful for Tracking Spinach?

September 21, 2006

One of the biggest news items this week was that spinach tainted with E. coli was endangering the health (and in some cases, lives) of Americans. The problem was first identified by authorities almost two weeks ago, and since then has affected people in at least 23 states.

Health authorities tracked the E. coli outbreak to bags of spinach distributed by Natural Selections Foods, LLC, and sold under a variety of brands including Dole. Last Friday (Sept. 15) Dole recalled bags of spinach thought to possibly be involved (with Best-If-Used-By dates from August 1-October 1, 2006).

Despite the detective work, as of this morning CBS reports that authorities have only been able to narrow the source of the tainted spinach down to one of nine California farms.

Okay, so it’s been almost a fortnight since the problem was first detected, and all we know is that the spinach came from one of nine possible farms in California ?! In this day and age of high-tech, it seems to me that the source should have been traced a lot quicker than that.

Perhaps spinach distributors should consider using RFID tags to prevent such a drawn-out PR nightmare in the future.

For those of you not familiar, RFID tags are small devices that can be attached to people or objects for identification purposes. The tags contain stored data that can be read by scanners using radio waves and transmitted to computers for analysis.

According to RFID Journal, this technology has been around since the 1970s, but only recently has it become cheap enough to be practical for commercial applications.











Mobile Manners in the Cell Phone Age

September 21, 2006

I was at the pharmacy recently picking up a prescription, and noticed a sign taped to the counter asking customers to please refrain from using their cell phones while paying for their medicines. The sign got me thinking about cell phone etiquette—or, too often it seems, the lack thereof.

 

One of my personal pet peeves is when a person either starts or continues a cell phone conversation while going through the check-out at a store. Not only does this potentially slow things down for other people in line (since research has shown that multitasking when talking on the phone is not very efficient), but it also must be awfully frustrating for the cashier who may have to verbally convey information to a distracted or inattentive customer.

 

So, I was pleased to see that my pharmacy was confronting people with the fact that it expects customers to pay full attention to the task of making their purchases. But, the more I thought about it, I found myself growing sad that it had come to this—a store having to say, in effect, “We insist that you be polite.” Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned manners?

 

If you Google the term “cell phone etiquette,” you’ll get thousands upon thousands of results (I performed the search just this morning and got 4,510,000 hits.) Clearly, I’m not the only person who thinks that people tend to behave in very impolite ways too often when using their cell phones.

Bringing WiMAX to the Amazon

September 20, 2006

A lot of wireless news crosses my desk every day, and after a while much of starts to seem the same. One item caught my attention this morning, however: a report about Intel setting up a wireless, high-speed Internet network in the remote Amazon island town of Parintins .

 

While this network is being promoted as something that will improve the lives of the town’s residents, I can’t help but wonder what unexpected consequences will occur when modern technology is brought into a culture that’s primitive by Western standards.

 

Probably, the results will be positive—better healthcare, more education, etc. But it is true that, in some cases (e.g. the now infamous Harvard study that proved girls on the Fiji Islands developed anorexia after television became available), technology can have unexpected negative affects as well.

 

For this reason, I’m pleased to see that the Amazon network isn’t just being plunked down, but is part of an initiative by Intel to improve the lives of people around the world by helping them gain access to modern technology.

Not Crazy, Just Technologically Savvy

September 20, 2006

 I saw one again just the other day: a person who appeared to be talking to himself. This was an ordinary-appearing guy, his head partially hidden by the umbrella he was carrying to ward off a light drizzle, proceeding along a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood. There was no-one with him, nor could I locate another person anywhere in the immediate vicinity.

 

Yet, from my vantage point inside my car, I could clearly see this man’s lips moving. He definitely was carrying on a conversation. 

About Me

September 19, 2006

Mae Kowalke is an Associate Editor at TMCnet, Technology Marketing Corporation’s online news site that covers a broad range of technology and marketing-related industries including WiFi, VoIP, CRM, call center, IP communications, biometrics, alternative power, and information technology.

Mae is also a self-proclaimed geek—at least when it comes to cool, fun, and useful gadgets that offer endless hours of both frustration and productivity. In this blog, she comments on anything and everything that has to do with wireless technology and working/playing with technology that enables mobility.

Just a few of the topics that fall within this broad spectrum are 802.11 and other wireless standards, BlackBerries, cell phones, fixed-mobile convergence, the IEEE, PDAs, and municipal WiFi.