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

February 2007

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To Cell or Not to Cell--That is the Question

February 28, 2007

Warning: I’m about to get on the soapbox.   I’ve written before about cell phone etiquette, but usually shy away from the topic since I have a tendency to get off on a rant when doing so. This morning, though, two articles—one at The Orion Online about the debate regarding what’s rude and what’s not with cell phone usage, the other a column by StatesmanJournal writer Carol McAlice Currie about cell phone yakkers in the library—caught my eye and got my pulse pumping.   Instead of going on a rant, though, today I’m going to suggest a very straightforward way to determine whether or not its appropriate to talk on a cell phone in any given situation.   At the core of my suggestion is the reason why, I suspect, people get so uptight about cell phone usage.

Banks Beware: Competition Looms From... Mobile Service Providers?

February 27, 2007

I happened across an opinion piece today about cell phones and banks, by Financial Express columnist Janmejaya Sinha, which brought an arresting thought to my mind: I’m part of a generation that can’t recall a time before ATM machines at banks, but some future generation won’t be able to recall a time before banking was performed using mobile phones.   In his column, Sinha references a recent Economist article about mobile money (I believe he’s referring to “The end of the cash era,” Feb. 15, 2007) that explored how people may in the future use their mobile phones for financial transactions. He argues that banks may face competition from telecom companies for some types of money-related services, like transferring funds.   Sinha suggests that, in the future, consumers will be able to use their mobile phones for managing funds.

Spotigo Claims to Run World's Largest WiFi Hotspot Directory

February 26, 2007

Here’s something that landed on my virtual desk the other day, which I thought was kind of interesting: Spotigo, which claims to run “the world’s largest hotspot directory,” now boasts more than 180,000 WiFi hotspot listings, 100,000 of them in Europe.   The directory lets you search for WiFi hotspots in more than 130 countries, and sort your results by country, city, ZIP code, provider and site type (e.g. café, hotel, park). For American users, the search form may be a bit confusing with its European flair (cities are selected as “town” and you’d use the Postcode field for ZIP).

Worldlabel's Infinity Machine Addresses Need for Specialty RFID Label Printing

February 15, 2007

One of the impediments to implementing real-world radio frequency identification (RFID) systems is the cost of embedding the tag inlays on paper or film labels. Although RFID has many practical applications in a variety of industries—including pharmaceuticals, baggage tracking, consumer packaging, and supply chain—the printing cost of tags can be prohibitive.   At least one company is moving to find its niche by helping to lower the cost of RFID tags. This is Worldlabel, a division of Singapore-based Innotech Resources Pte Ltd. The company recently launched its Infinity V1 RFID tag and inlay embedding system.   Worldlabel says that its system “provides a low cost method of converting RFID tags/inlays to be embedded accurately into a paper or film label, even though each production batch has varying size labels and requires a different type of RFID tag to be embedded in a different area of the label.”   This is achieved with a machine that was jointly developed by Worldlabel and TÜV SÜD PSB Group.   The company explains that the machine is highly flexible and features “compact catering to many different sizes of labels and it can insert all types and sizes of RFID tags, accordingly to exact customer requirements.” It can product up to 100 labels per minute.   In a news release about the system, TÜV SÜD PSB Group assistant vice president of PSB technologies, said: “We are very confident that the machine will meet the most demanding RFID label converting needs of industry. Its versatility, compactness and accuracy in embedding inlays is a major advancement in Smart Label converting technology and makes this machine one of its kind.”   Other features of Worldlabel’s machine include:
  • Independence from downstream conversion processes
  • Buffer station capable of catering up to 800 mm of completed reel
  • Can inspect and embed reading RFID tags from inlay reel into conversion process
  • Touch pad enables operator to key in length metrics
  • Can be modulated with current label converting systems or operate stand-alone
According to Worldlabel’s announcement, the machine is being manufactured in Singapore; current lead time for orders is about 12 weeks.

Apple iPhone Competitors LG and Samsung Jump on the Touchscreen Bandwagon

February 9, 2007

Ever since Apple took the world by storm with its iPod music player, the company has been on the forefront of the coolest new portable entertainment technologies. With its January announcement of the iPhone, the company seems poised to have a similar effect on the mobile phone market.   Yet, it remains true that where one company leads, others will follow, and in some cases the followers will come up with something even better. This could end up being the case when it comes to using touchscreen technology on cell phones, PC World blogger Danny Allen suggested Thursday.   Allen pointed out that LG’s “Prada” KE850 and Samsung’s F700 phones, both unveiled in the past month, incorporate touchscreen technology in their designs. It remains uncertain when U.S.

Superbowl Commercials Comment on Mobile Technology

February 5, 2007

While many of you tuned into the Superbowl last night to watch the Colts and Bears battle it out in Florida, I’m willing to bet that at least a few of my readers also paid attention to the commercials aired during breaks.   The Superbowl commercials represent an entertainment realm all their own, commenting in clever ways on the fears and dreams of Americans even as they bring to one’s attention the key features of a particular product or service. This year’s batch of commercials was as good as ever. Two of my favorites, which both have to do with mobile technology, were from Garmin and Sprint.   In the Garmin commercial, a lost motorist attempts to figure out where he is by unfolding an old-fashioned paper map.

RuBee Fills in Where RFID Fails

February 2, 2007

An EE Times item in the Jan. 27 edition of Information Week reported on the potential uses of RuBee, a new wireless networking protocol announced by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) last June.   IEEE describes RuBee (a.k.a. IEEE 1902.1) as “a bidirectional, on-demand, peer-to-peer, radiating, transceiver protocol operating at wavelengths below 450 Khz. This protocol works in harsh environments with networks of many thousands of tags and has an area range of 10 to 50 feet.”   EE Times reporter John Walko notes in the report mentioned above that RuBee looks promising as a way to fill in some of the gaps left by radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. More specifically, the new protocol could be useful for applications of “real-time inventory under harsh environments, even near metal and water and in the presence of electromagnetic noise.”   Walko notes in the report that RuBee’s main appeal lies in its ability to deal with harsh environments; “getting accurate RFID reads around liquids and metals has been the most significant obstacle to widespread, cost-effective deployment of the technology.”   Because RuBee operates at slower speeds than RFID, it is an alternative rather than a replacement—useful in situations where, since RFID doesn’t work, something slower but relatively comparable could be used instead.   IEEE’s RuBee working group will be meeting Feb. 20 in Boston, just before the RFID Smart Labels Conference kicks off. So watch for news about development plans for the protocol.

Motorola Teams up With TI to Develop Mobile WiMAX Handsets

February 1, 2007

WiMAX Day reported today that Motorola plans to expand its relationship with chip manufacturer Texas Instruments to develop a line of mobile, WiMAX-enabled handsets. The two companies reportedly will focus their efforts on the 802.16e standard. Motorola said that it plans to launch the new mobile devices in 2008.   According to WiMAX Day, during 2006 Motorola shipped 217 million mobile phones, landing the company 21 percent of the market. Motorola still takes second fiddle to Nokia (with 34 percent market share), but it may be poised to make headway in the WiMAX segment as Nokia seems to be lagging a bit behind in that area.   The WiMAX Day report notes that, arguably, Samsung is the leader currently when it comes to WiMAX handsets; the company played a key role in launching WiBro during 2006, and has committed $320 million R&D money for WiMAX products.   Other companies potentially looking to make moves in the space include LG Electronics (snagged six percent of mobile handset market during 2006, is eyeing WiMAX) and Sony Ericsson (seven percent market share, no WiMAX announcements yet).