Sunday, December 25, 2005

Google Book Search Beta

Google Book Search Beta: here

+ Related

Judging Book Search by its cover
11/17/2005 02:49:00 AM
Posted by Jen Grant, Product Marketing Manager

What's in a name? Quite a bit, actually; what you call yourself says a lot about what you think you are. And we've been thinking lately that Google Print should really be called Google Book Search.

Why the change? Well, one factor was all the comments we got about how excited people were that Google Print would help them print out their documents, or web pages they visit -- which of course it won't.

More important, the change reflects our product's evolution. When we launched Google Print, our goal was to make it easier for users to discover books. Now that we're starting to achieve that, we think a more descriptive name will help clarify what our users can do with it: namely, search the full text of books to find ones that interest them and learn where to buy or borrow them.

No, we don't think that this new name will change what some folks think about this program. But we do believe it will help a lot of people understand better what we're doing. We want to make all the world's books discoverable and searchable online, and we hope this new name will help keep everyone focused on that important goal.

Source here
Google Print is Renamed Google Book Search

It's all in a name, especially when that name confuses people. In a post on the Official Google Blog, Jen Grant, a Product Marketing Manager at Google says that Google Print has a new name. The service is now called Google Book Search. Makes sense to me. URLs for now redirect to the new URL.

Why the change? Grant writes:

Well, one factor was all the comments we got about how excited people were that Google Print would help them print out their documents, or web pages they visit -- which of course it won't.

Sure, the name Google Print might not have been the best choice in the first place but I also think Grant's comments once again point out that with all of the services, tools, etc. that those of us who watch the search industry on an daily (if not more) basis understand are often unknown or in this case, misunderstood by the masses. Even with the large amounst of attention, especially in the case of Google Print, has received it's possible. If it can happen to Google, it can happen to any company.

Calling the service Google Print gave Google the option to easily include non-book material in the database. For example, articles from magazines. Now, they'll have to brand (something Google does very well) another product if/when they decide to offer content from magazines and other print sources.

Grant continues that the name change also reflects the evolution of the service.

Now that we're starting to achieve that, we think a more descriptive name will help clarify what our users can do with it: namely, search the full text of books to find ones that interest them and learn where to buy or borrow them.

That's true, you are able to "search" the full text but unless the book is in the public domain, you'll only be able to read a selected amount (as determined by the publisher) online. In the case of in-copyright books scanned as part of the Google Print/Book program for Libraries, you'll only see snippets that contain your search terms. In both cases, you'll not be able to print the material. Danny does a great job of summarizing what SEW Blog has been saying since the beginning about the differences between Google Print/Book for Publishers and Google Print/Book for Libraries in his post: Once Again -- The Difference Between Google Print & Google Library. Google has also tossed out the idea of online book rentals.

Google Book Search is not the only online books search service available today or coming in the future. Here are links to a few others:

+ Search and Read Full Text Books Online via ebrary
In this case you can read the full text of 20,000 books online, pay to print and copy. Links to other services including NetLibrary, Books 24x7 and Safari included in the post.

+ Microsoft Announces MSN Book Search; Joins Open Content Alliance

+'s "Search Inside the Book"

+ More Sources For Ebooks & Electronic Text

Posted by Gary Price on Nov. 17, 2005 | Permalink

Source here
Google: Search or Destroy?
16 - 12 - 2005

Google stands accused of copyright infringement by two major American authors’ associations and a French newswire. But the tools the company provides have done more to promote global access to information than any other. Here, librarians, lawyers, legislators and thinkers discuss the rights and wrongs of an internet giant.

Further here

Saturday, December 24, 2005

BT's next-generation consumer offering
BT's next-generation consumer offering: does BT have the answer?
John Delaney
December 22, 2005, 12:30 GMT

The telco's entry into television is promising, but is accompanied by signs of hubris

On 8 December, BT launched its next-generation consumer offering, described as a range of services "which will help customers transform how they communicate, are entertained and manage their lives".

The core of the whole offering comprises two elements: ADSL broadband and the "BT Hub", a router that provides a wireless network in the home. The services that BT can deliver over this infrastructure fall into three categories:

* Communications. PC-based and phone-based VoIP services, with advanced applications such as network-based address books, unified messaging, video calling and high-definition voice calling
* Entertainment. Broadcast TV including PVR features, 'catch-up TV', archive TV, movies on demand, music on demand and interactive gaming.
* "Life management". ID protection, Internet protection and parental controls, home surveillance, and online content backup and management.

Comment: There's an old joke about a tourist who stops a local man to ask for some directions. The local replies: "Ah well... if you want to get to there, you shouldn't be starting from here." Similarly, if you are forming a company that hopes to be a major player in digital TV, you wouldn't ideally choose to do it in a market where your brand is associated with another line of business altogether, and where pay TV is already dominated by another company. However, in entering the market for TV in the UK, BT has to work with circumstances as they are, not as it would like them to be.

Within those limits, BT has put together a package of entertainment services that the mass market may well find appealing. It has made a good start with the three big content partners it has announced: BBC Worldwide, Paramount Pictures and Warner Music. We are yet to be convinced, however, about the broadcast TV element of content.

On the one hand, BT has wisely chosen to partner with Freeview, allowing it to tap into a large existing market. However, it's not clear whether BT will also be able to offer popular pay channels such as Sky One and Sky Sports. Without these, a large fraction of the potential pay-TV customer base will be unlikely to consider BT as its provider.

We are impressed by the ambitious scope of BT's next-generation offering. It encompasses some "futuristic" services that have been talked about for years, such as video communication, TV over telecoms lines, and hi-fi voice calling; it's good to see some dates on these things at last.

BT has made a good job of collecting this large and diverse collection of services into a coherent marketing proposition. It has also done well to emphasise the CPE aspects of the offering: it's always much easier to market a service if you buy it as a "box", like the BT Hub.

That said, however, it's one thing to communicate a large, diverse proposition in two hours to a group of industry experts, but quite another thing to communicate it to the mass market in a 30-second TV advertisement. It will be a big challenge to market the next-generation consumer offering in a way that is simple enough to appeal to the mass market. It is also likely that the increased complexity of the offering will lead to a big increase in the volume of calls to BT's call centre (rather than the 30-40 percent reduction that BT hoped for in its launch presentation).

The main elements of the next-generation offering are scheduled to launch during 2006. In that case, we don't think the initial addressable market will be as big as BT says it will. BT talks about a nationwide offering, but this turns out to be predicated on the assumption that 2Mbit/s of DSL access is enough.

Gavin Patterson, MD of the Consumer Group, asserted that with current compression technology you can deliver a broadcast-quality video stream over 2 Mbps, and indeed you can — but you can't deliver much else. If someone else is accessing the Internet at the same time, for instance, they're likely to find the experience falling well short of what one expects from broadband. The integrated bundle of home entertainment and communications services that BT was touting so heavily is, we believe, going to need a lot more access bandwidth than 2 Mbps if it is to live up to expectations.

An incumbent has some big advantages in the future market for converged communications and entertainment services: brand strength, strong customer relationships, and an established organisation for provisioning and support. BT has made a good job of building its offering around these strengths, and of avoiding the mistake that some telcos have made in the past of straying too far outside them. When questioned about rumours that BT was planning to acquire the TV channel ITV, chief executive Ian Livingston was encouragingly derisive.

BT closed its announcement events with a video, in which the following slogan was repeated seven or eight times: "BT has the answer". This sounded a bit smug, and smacked a little too much of hubris for our liking. Like all incumbent telcos, BT is still a long way from having all the answers. These days, however, at least it's making a better job of understanding the questions.

John Delaney is a Principal Analyst in Ovum's Consumer Group.

Source here

"Broadband is a fundamental civil right and human right"
New York flirts with fat pipes for all
"Broadband is a fundamental civil right and human right"
By Marguerite Reardon
Published: Thursday 22 December 2005

New York City on Wednesday took a step closer to a comprehensive plan for bringing broadband to its citizens.

In the last session of the year, the City Council of New York passed legislation that creates a special broadband commission to advise mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city council on how the resources of city government can be used to help roll out broadband throughout the city. The goal of the commission is to educate the general public about broadband and the newest communication technologies, and to give New York City residents the opportunity to comment on how to close the digital divide.

Bill de Blasio, a city council member, said during the session on Wednesday: "Broadband is a fundamental civil right and human right. This legislation will start us down this road."

Today only 38 per cent of the city's eight million residents subscribe to a broadband service, according to a report prepared by the New York City Economic Development Corporation in March. This, despite the fact that access to broadband service is nearly ubiquitous throughout the city. Verizon Communications reports that about 85 to 90 per cent of New Yorkers have access to DSL service, and Time Warner Cable, the predominant cable provider, reports that 100 per cent of its customers have access to cable modem service.

Gale Brewer, the city councilwoman who sponsored the bill, said many New Yorkers do not subscribe to broadband because it's too expensive. She said that small businesses and not-for-profit groups in many parts of the city either have no access to broadband or find it costly.

Other cities, such as Philadelphia and San Francisco, plan to build citywide wireless networks based on wi-fi technology. Officials in these cities, like those in New York City, believe that access to affordable broadband is crucial to the economic development of the city. But Brewer said New York City is still deciding on the best approach for its citizens.

She said: "The reports from the committee may find that we are already well served by DSL and cable. But all we've ever known in New York until now has been Verizon and the cable companies, so I think it's important that we educate ourselves about what else is available."

The legislation requires that the committee hold two public hearings in every borough during its three years of existence. In addition, the committee will issue a report yearly with recommendations to the mayor and city council on how the government can accelerate the construction of broadband infrastructure throughout New York City.

Source here

China starts building 3G trials
China starts building 3G trials
By Mure Dickie in Beijing
Published: December 22 2005 22:01 | Last updated: December 22 2005 22:01

GraphicChina has quietly begun building large-scale trial networks based on its home-grown third-generation (3G) mobile telephone standard, say industry participants.

Construction of the networks in Shanghai and other cities is the strongest evidence yet of China’s determination to create a central role for the TD-SCDMA standard as part of its long-awaited roll-out of 3G services.

It will also fuel expectations that Beijing plans soon to issue a TD-SCDMA licence to China Telecom, the leading fixed-line operator, which is running the Shanghai trial along with two other phone companies.

The Shanghai trial involves two core networks and 16 “base stations” that cover commercial districts, development zones and residential neighbourhoods, one industry participant said.

“They started with Shanghai . . . and are also drawing up plans for other cities,” said another participant. “[The trial networks] will be progressively expanded to a pretty big scale.”

BDA China, a telecoms consultancy, said by introducing TD-SCDMA, Beijing hoped to give China Telecom an edge over domestic rivals that use foreign-backed standards and to support local equipment providers.

A headstart would help to make up for the lack of maturity of TD-SCDMA technology compared with the rival European-backed WCDMA and US-supported CDMA-2000 standards.

It would be good news for local equipment vendors such as Datang Telecom, TD-SCDMA’s biggest backer, and ZTE, which makes products for the other 3G standards but is strong in TD-SCDMA and is supplying the equipment for the Shanghai trial.

Equipment vendors have been awaiting the arrival of 3G in China, the world’s most populous telecoms market in terms of subscribers, with each local operator likely to spend about Rmb50bn ($6.2bn) over two or three years to build a national network.

Beijing’s telecoms regulators remain tight-lipped about their plans, but there have been increasing signs of likely action.

State media this week quoted Xi Guohua, information industry vice-minister, as saying “decision time” had arrived for 3G licensing policy and that TD-SCDMA must play a central role. “Now the technology and the industrial chain for this standard has taken shape,” Mr Xi said. “TD-SCDMA must take a place in Chinese 3G and it may be run by a strong operator.”

His remarks were seen as a signal that China Telecom would be soon allowed to build a nationwide TD-SCDMA network.

The timing of any move remains unclear amid speculation about a potential restructuring of the telecoms market.

However, BDA said Beijing would not wait to decide on industry reorganisation before moving on 3G.

Source here

+ Related

IR/PS in the News : Telecommunications Report

"Workshop Participants Back FCC's Spectrum Approach"

June 15, 2005

Forty industry, government, and academic experts gathered at the University of California at San Diego recently to develop scenarios on the future of wireless markets and regulations in the U.S., China, and other developing countries. The workshop was the third such held at the school to predict developments in the market - and regulations - over the next five to seven years.

A leader of the effort, Peter F. Cowhey, dean of the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UC-San Diego, who holds the QUALCOMM chair in communications and technology policy, discussed the workshop with TR. An edited transcript of the interview follows.

TR: Can you explain how the workshop process worked?

Cowhey: We broke into three working groups and people developed alternative scenarios for the future. . . . One dealt with the United States, one dealt with developing countries in general, and the third specifically focused on China. To save time, I'll use the U.S. and China scenarios as illustrative of what we were thinking about.

On the U.S. side, the basic view of two alternative scenarios that were developed was very overlapping in the sense that people thought the implication of truly smart handset devices and of Internet protocol architectures for networks in the wireless industry in the future was that the traditional business models of carriers would be under enormous stress, that there was a high likelihood that despite all the experimentation with new consumer services for the carriers, that that would not raise average revenue per user, and that the consequence of that would be that the
carriers would be under grave stress. Two scenarios emerged from those starting points.

One is the enterprise services scenario, and the other is what the group called the Google phone scenario. The enterprise services scenario basically argued that the largest source of revenue that actually could be tapped by carriers would be enterprise-level services, which could be rolled out in a whole new way in a world with much greater spectrum and higher-speed networks that were wireless. And that the carriers then would be leveraging their control of their traditional wired networks, along with this high-speed wireless network experience to offer quality of service and
customized services to enterprises, who were the one set of customers who would probably be willing to pay for these sort of conditions. . . .

The more radical scenario was that really the carriers would lose control over the entry point to the network - that is the handset would truly be the access gateway and that a growing proportion of all customers would essentially be carrier-independent. The handsets would do searching for the
network of choice, set by the parameters or tastes of consumers. . . . Services would come in the same sort of Google-like experience that you would essentially have preferences there, that [you] would crawl down and choose what you want - subsets of the applications - whether it's for content or whatever else. ... It's kind of a - from the viewpoint of the carriers - a profitless race to keep up.

TR: Tell us about the scenario for deployment of services in China.

Cowhey: The China scenario group basically said, "Let's imagine what a radical change in the China market might look like." . . . They chose the idea that China really does embrace an industrial policy for the fourth generation [of wireless services], such as China has been in discussions with [South] Korea and Japan on and off over the last year. And in the fourth-generation scenario, China says it's going to deploy a 100 megabits-per-second network in a relatively rapid way. It uses command-and-control tactics to both allocate the spectrum for the network and to impose compulsory standards on the carriers to get it to deployment.

And, depending on the mix of technologies, maybe compulsory intellectual property licensing laws for foreign vendors that want to sell at all into this network deployment.

And the question then was, "What would happen for the world market, for industry, as a result of this strategy." And a couple of the predictions out of the group were a little surprising. The first was that unless the Chinese government offered a massive subsidy to the carriers, the cost of the
services would be sufficiently high that they wouldn't find a vast consumer market in China. And that the enterprise market in China tends to be in relatively new infrastructure, and therefore wireless services aren't that competitive head-to-head against fiber-optic service for those new office buildings. . . .

Then the second conclusion was that . . . there might be disappointing returns for the Chinese in the advanced industrial countries because the amount of spectrum you would have to clear for a fourth-generation network to be rolled out rapidly - and the capex [capital expenditures] involved was sohigh - that you might not find that the major players in the Western markets would actually buy the export equipment. But there might be a market that could be developed in the big emerging markets, where the Chinese example might be enough to swing countries like Brazil and India to decide to emulate the Chinese model. ... It's much harder to predict ... winners and
losers out of this scenario than you might think of at the beginning.

And the final point that they made is that the big benefit that would be almost for sure of the effort is that it would allow large scale, national deployment of high-speed connectivity in the parts of China that are not well-served by the current communications infrastructure, and thus it might
change the pattern of industrialization in China away from the current sort of coastal approach. . . .

TR: What were the policy conclusions of the participants?

Cowhey: The first is that in all of these scenarios, the convergence of services that you're likely to get over the wireless device is such that it makes a lot of the old regulatory distinctions not work that well. And there's a case for careful considering of moving to more general competition policy to replace specific communications regulation with a few caveats. You'd still want to have some special rules probably about interconnection among service providers and carriers, and at least you would want some principles about how you would think . . . if there is too much concentration
of control of the spectrum. . . .

The second thing is that all of these scenarios depend on a continuation of the basic direction of FCC spectrum policy in the last few years - that is, getting more spectrum out on a more flexible basis. It relies on the reauthorization of auctions in the U.S., for example. It requires incentive
systems to move incumbents from the spectrum that they currently occupy. So things like the trust fund, using auction proceeds to move incumbents. It requires timely conversion of television spectrum to other uses. . . . In general, it was an endorsement of the general direction of the FCC policy, saying, though, that you had lots of problems to solve yet and you had to do these fundamentals at least.

The third point is that all of these policies make it more important to get rid of inefficient subsidy systems because the pressures of wireless carriers offering lower-priced networks was such that our traditional cross-subsidized pricing structures weren't going to work. . . . In developing countries, for example, one of the chief points of the scenarios was that almost all the cross-subsidy schemes work against the build-out of networks. So the feeling was that you needed to have universal service policies that would be much more transparent and competitively neutral and targeted in a way to assist the right consumers, not the carriers.

The final, I think, [three] sets of conclusions were more international. The first was that it was possible that we were heading to a period where the world radio conferences would no longer be necessary and that would be a desirable outcome. That instead they would become times for consultation about best spectrum practices and discussions of how allocations might head in terms of smart spectrum policy. But you'd no longer have to do the same level of global coordination.

The second point is that it would be good to get international consensus about how to approach certain public-goods aspects of communications services like emergency services, so that equipment designers and carriers operating global networks could have a common approach, make it more efficient over time.

And the third point was that the potential for mobilizing industrial policy in the marketplace was still there, as witnessed by the China scenario, and that U.S. and other government officials would have to continue to watch for the possibility that industrial policy might severely distort the market

Source here

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The future of shopping
Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 06:26 GMT 07:26 UK
By Tim Weber
BBC News Online business editor in Rheinberg, Germany

Few industries can match retailing for cut-throat competition. Jostling for the attention of consumers, Tesco, Wal-Mart and other giant retailers are working hard to fine-tune their store formats.

Now hi-tech emerges as a tool to build market share. BBC News Online visited the "Future Store" in Rheinberg, Germany, set up by the world's fifth-largest retail group, Metro.

The intelligent scale doesn't like our bunch of bananas.

When we had put tomatoes on the scale, its digital camera took just a split second to recognise the produce, weigh it and print a bar-coded price tag.

No wait at a checkout to have them weighed. No need to find "tomatoes" on a 50-button display.

But now the scale is baffled, and offers four choices: Are we weighing bananas, chicory salad, long beans or avocados?

Touching the banana logo on the screen solves the slip-up. "The bunch of bananas was probably too large for the camera," says an apologetic shop assistant.

Welcome to Metro's Future Store.

New and old

At first glance the supermarket looks disappointingly normal.

A computerised Personal Shopping Assistant on the trolley helps with the shopping
Tablet computers on the trolley help shoppers to find their way around the store

Yes, to German shoppers the layout may be revolutionary, with wide "freshness aisles" right at the entrance, offering a vast and pleasantly displayed array of fresh fish, meats, vegetables, and the mouth-watering smell of freshly baked bread and donuts.

Nothing new here for many French and UK shoppers.

The real revolution, though, lies with nifty machines like the Intelligent Scales using IBM's Veggie Vision software.

The machines, so the claim goes, can identify most produce by sight, regardless of whether it is packed in a plastic bag or not.

Marketing the easy way

The good people of Rheinberg a town of 30,000 in the west of Germany are willing participants in this hi-tech experiment in retailing.

Not sure what to buy? In key sections - multimedia, baby care, hair colours, wine, meat, and fruit and vegetables - touchscreen terminals give in-depth information.

infoterminal at Metro Future Store
Infoterminals bring information - and a sales pitch

How a particular wine tastes, which food to have with it, and a smattering of the wine region's history - in colour, interactive, and on demand as a print-out.

Learn how to cook asparagus and skin tomatoes. Get recipes for the meat and veg available and in season (courtesy of Nestle, whose products just happen to crop up in some of the recipes).

Above the aisles, large flat screens show still pictures and videos of special offers and promotions.

"Customers buy more when we have two screens next to each other showing the same product," says Metro's Holger Schneidewindt.

A quick scan of a product barcode, a few taps on a handheld computer, and the wireless network changes the display on the large flat screen above a shelf groaning with bottles of vodka and schnapps.

For managers of the 4,000 square metre store, it is marketing the easy way.

Don't scream for ice cream

Personal Shopping Assistants (PSA) are the clincher, though - small Wincor Nixdorf tablet computers clipped to shopping trolleys and activated with a loyalty card.

Customer hands back Personal Shopping Assistant at Metro Future Store
Personal Shopping Assistants cut down on waiting time at the checkout
Want some ice cream but don't know where to find it? Type "ice cream" on the touch screen and you are directed to the correct aisle - floor plan included.

Regular purchases show up on a favourites list, with price and location. Special offers are flagged up as you move from section to section.

Write your shopping list online - at home or work - and soon it will be automatically downloaded to the PSA.

The integrated scanner gives you both a running total of your shopping and fast-track treatment at the check-out.

Smart logistics

The shop's shelves sport 30,000 wireless electronic price labels that can be changed at the push of a button.

Smart self-scan check-outs, meanwhile, tackle fraud by comparing the weight of your shopping bag with the items you scanned and prevent underage drinking by prompting staff to check out customers scanning alcoholic products.

The Future Store's biggest potential, though, is its use of RFID tags, a kind of "talking barcodes".

With the help of software from business process expert SAP, Metro now knows in detail how supplies move from the Essen distribution centre on to trucks, into the Rheinberg store room, and on to the shop floor.

The result: the inventory is always up-to-date, shelves are rarely empty, and losses are down.

At its most revolutionary, smart shelves using RFID - currently tested on Gilette razor blades, Pantene shampoo and Philadelphia cream cheese - alert staff when the shop's shelves are getting empty or cheese packs are past their sell-by date.

Are Rheinbergers geeks?

An RFID black box on a Gillette razor 'smart shelf'
Smart shelves use radio tags to control stocks

One year into the experiment, the people of Rheinberg have taken to the store with gusto.

"Customers come to the store more frequently, store loyalty is up and sales are up 30%," says Metro spokesman Albrecht von Truchsess.

To a large part that is due to the store's new "fresh and easy" format.

But more than 70% of customers have used the various technologies at least once, and a hard core of regular users (21% for PSAs, 53% for the scales) is growing strongly.

And it is the over-60s, not just the geeks of this rural area, who are among the keenest to use the new technology.

Looking past the bottom line

But does the Future Store make a profit?

Not in the traditional sense. Ultimately, it is just a large laboratory, using customised bleeding-edge technology.

RFID tag swiper at Metro Future store
Customers can wipe clean the RFID tags on their goods
"One can't talk about return on investment for such a store," says Metro's Mr von Truchsess.

And anyway, for Metro's 45 technology partners, this is a giant "Bring Your Own Technology" party, where each partner's costs are neither disclosed nor added up.

For Metro, meanwhile, it is an opportunity to find out whether better service and a streamlined supply chain can help it compete with Germany's ultra-cheap grocery discounters like Lidl and Aldi.

But it is also a way to identify potential trouble, for example to see whether radio interference can trip over large RFID systems.

There is just one problem. Surveys suggest that some customers dazzled by the snazzy technology think prices must be higher as well.

Not so, says Metro's Mr von Truchsess.

But he admits: "There will always be certain areas where customers will not accept a high-technology store".

Source here

+ Future Store project

Website here

The METRO Group Future Store Initiative is a cooperation project between METRO Group (Link to external, SAP, Intel, IBM and T-Systems as well as other partner companies from the information technology and consumer goods industries. Its objective is to promote innovations in retailing on a national and international level. The initiative shall be understood as a platform for technical and process-related developments and innovations in retailing. Within the METRO Group Future Store Initiative, technologies and technical systems are tested and further developed in practice. In the long run the initiative is aimed at setting standards for retailing that can be implemented on an international scale.

Visions of the future

The four movies "Mobility", "Efficiency", "Virtuality" and "Personalization" were shown at the NRF-Conference in New York in January 2004 in the so called Future Lab. The Future Lab is the centre of the booth and symbolises with its ufo-like shape the visions of the future of the METRO Group Future Store Initiative.
Have a look and get fascinated by the visions of the future of retailing! - see here

"smart fabrics"
Tech bra has hearts racing
It counts heartbeats and could be 1st in a wave of `smart fabrics
Submitted by nestorb on Wed, 2005-12-14 13:08.

Dec. 14, 2005 -- 'FRANK GREVE - Knight Ridder - WASHINGTON - A new sports bra that counts heartbeats is causing a stir.
The bra, introduced this week, is the first consumer product to be based on an electronic interaction between a textile and its wearer. A special conductive fabric in the chest band, when it's wet, picks up the heart's pulse and sends it to a digital readout wristwatch via a tiny transmitter in the bra.
Such "smart fabrics" are the next big thing in so many fields that some analysts predict they'll change the world as much as the Internet did.
"The applications are limitless, and they're for everybody," said Spyros Photopoulos, an analyst at Venture Development Corp., a technology market-research firm in Natick, Mass. According to Photopoulos, "hundreds" of companies are chasing the potential of miniaturized electronics that people can wear.
A medical application for a smart shirt that monitors heart rate and respiration with the help of sensors and wiring woven into its spandex already has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The shirt, made by VivoMetrics of Ventura, Calif., is used to monitor patients with a respiratory disturbance called sleep apnea.
A future variant worn by chronically ill patients at home could extend their lives by enabling doctors to better monitor their health and to intervene faster when trouble arises.
Many researchers expect the Pentagon to back the development of smart fabrics. An Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which the Army launched in 2002 with $50 million, is the biggest visible step in that direction. It's developing fatigues woven with electronics that would report a soldier's location and vital signs to officers and medics.
Stacey Burr, chief executive of Textronics Inc., which makes the sports bra, said her firm and others were working on sports apparel to monitor respiration, the proportion of lung capacity used, length of stride and other indicators vital to athletes.

Source here

+ Related

Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN), MIT

The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) is an interdepartmental research center at MIT. Established in 2002 by a five-year, $50 million contract from the U.S. Army, the ISN's research mission is to use nanotechnology to dramatically improve the survival of soldiers. The ultimate goal is to create a 21st century battlesuit that combines high-tech capabilities with light weight and comfort. Imagine a bullet-proof jumpsuit, no thicker than ordinary spandex, that monitors health, eases injuries, communicates automatically, and maybe even lends superhuman abilities. It's a long-range vision for how technology can make soldiers less vulnerable to enemy and environmental threats. You can see dramatic examples of how research will achieve these goals in a newly released 12-minute video about the ISN, its mission, and its research program.

The Challenge
Today’s dismounted infantry soldier carries a back-breaking load, usually 100-140 pounds, and still has insufficient ballistic protection, little defense against chemical and biological weapons, and too many pieces of equipment that don’t work well together. The ISN’s challenge is to transform today’s cotton/nylon fatigues and bulky equipment belts to a sleek, lightweight battlesuit that provides everything from responsive armor to medical monitoring to communications—and more—in one integrated system.

Why Nanotech?
Nanotechnology fits into this vision in two important ways. First, it offers the potential for miniaturization, a key part of reducing weight. Today’s hefty radio worn on a harness might be reduced to a button-sized tab on the collar. And a waterproof poncho could be replaced by a permanent nano-thin coating applied to everything the soldier carries. Secondly, because nanotechnology operates at length scales where classical macroscopic physics breaks down, it offers engineers the potential for creating unprecedented new materials properties and devices. Nanotechnology can solve problems that scientists have been struggling with for decades. MIT's School of Engineering has produced a video about nanotechnology at MIT that features several examples of the ISN's research (scroll to the last video on the page).

Army Transformation
The ISN’s vision for the soldier of the future is part of a larger transformation going on today in the U.S. Army. Faced with new threats and challenges, the Army is redesigning itself as a lighter, faster, more agile force that can be deployed quickly where soldiers are needed. The ISN supports the Army’s Future Force Warrior program, which aims to achieve a soldier-centric force enabled by an integrated individual combat system.

Source here

Educate your business about the second Internet revolution (before someone else does)

IT managers 'should play with Xbox 360s'
Andrew Donoghue
December 09, 2005, 17:00 GMT

Staying up to date with disruptive technology should be a key part of your IT strategy for 2006 which means getting to grips with new consoles and head-mounted displays

Analyst group Gartner has revealed the top 10 must-dos for IT managers in 2006 and along with the usual advice, such as working closer with the finance department, are other tips such as exploring emerging technologies such as game consoles.

Released on Thursday, Gartner's CIO Resolutions for 2006 are 10guidelines designed to help IT managers plan their strategy for the next 12 months. The group claims that 2006 will be a "paradoxical year" as although there will be a surge in technology innovation, the economic outlook is "unpredictable".


Gartner's CIO Resolutions for 2006

1. Educate your business about the second Internet revolution (before someone else does)
10. Check out some 2006 'hot' technologies


One unusual tactic proposed by Gartner is that IT management should look to expand their technical horizons by exploring technologies that they may not have considered as business related. The analyst group claims technology professionals should see, touch and use at least three of the following in 2006:

1. Web based micro-applications such as or
2. Flickr
3. A new generation of consoles e.g. Nintendo 'revolution' or Xbox 360
4. A head mounted display
5. Google Earth
6. An in-house pilot of consumer technology such as podcasting a company communication.

"Those who don't use the resolutions to get themselves and their organisations in good shape may find 2007 an unpleasant white-knuckle ride," said Gartner chief of research John Mahoney.

Source here

an emerging culture based on sharing
We Are the Web
By Kevin Kelly

The Netscape IPO wasn't really about dot-commerce. At its heart was a new cultural force based on mass collaboration. Blogs, Wikipedia, open source, peer-to-peer - behold the power of the people.

Ten years ago, Netscape's explosive IPO ignited huge piles of money. The brilliant flash revealed what had been invisible only a moment before: the World Wide Web. As Eric Schmidt (then at Sun, now at Google) noted, the day before the IPO, nothing about the Web; the day after, everything


I believed him. Despite his quirks, it was clear to me that a hyperlinked world was inevitable - someday. But looking back now, after 10 years of living online, what surprises me about the genesis of the Web is how much was missing from Vannevar Bush's vision, Nelson's docuverse, and my own expectations. We all missed the big story. The revolution launched by Netscape's IPO was only marginally about hypertext and human knowledge. At its heart was a new kind of participation that has since developed into an emerging culture based on sharing. And the ways of participating unleashed by hyperlinks are creating a new type of thinking - part human and part machine - found nowhere else on the planet or in history.

Source here


Internet encyclopaedias go head to head
Special Report
Published online: 14 December 2005
Jim Giles

Jimmy Wales' Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries, a Nature investigation finds.

One of the extraordinary stories of the Internet age is that of Wikipedia, a free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. This radical and rapidly growing publication, which includes close to 4 million entries, is now a much-used resource. But it is also controversial: if anyone can edit entries, how do users know if Wikipedia is as accurate as established sources such as Encyclopaedia Britannica?


Wikipedia is growing fast. The encyclopaedia has added 3.7 million articles in 200 languages since it was founded in 2001. The English version has more than 45,000 registered users, and added about 1,500 new articles every day of October 2005. Wikipedia has become the 37th most visited website, according to Alexa, a web ranking service.


But to improve Wikipedia, Wales is not so much interested in checking articles with experts as getting them to write the articles in the first place.

As well as comparing the two encyclopaedias, Nature surveyed more than 1,000 Nature authors and found that although more than 70% had heard of Wikipedia and 17% of those consulted it on a weekly basis, less than 10% help to update it. The steady trickle of scientists who have contributed to articles describe the experience as rewarding, if occasionally frustrating (see 'Challenges of being a Wikipedian').

Greater involvement by scientists would lead to a "multiplier effect", says Wales. Most entries are edited by enthusiasts, and the addition of a researcher can boost article quality hugely. "Experts can help write specifics in a nuanced way," he says.

Wales also plans to introduce a 'stable' version of each entry. Once an article reaches a specific quality threshold it will be tagged as stable. Further edits will be made to a separate 'live' version that would replace the stable version when deemed to be a significant improvement. One method for determining that threshold, where users rate article quality, will be trialled early next year.

Source here

+ Related
What is it with Wikipedia?
Last Updated: Friday, 16 December 2005, 12:24 GMT

Technology commentator Bill Thompson is a big fan of the open source encyclopedia Wikipedia, despite its faults. But that does not mean he is not aware of them.


The achievement of the Wikimedia Foundation should not be underestimated, but we should not be surprised if there are errors. No information source is guaranteed to be accurate, and we should not place complete faith in something which can so easily be undermined through malice or ignorance thanks to its open architecture.

That does not devalue the project entirely, it just means that we should be sceptical about Wikipedia entries as a primary source of information, and not accept the claims that it marks some form of emergent collective intelligence, a new era in human consciousness or the rebuilding of the Library of Alexandria.

Wikipedia is produced by volunteers, who add entries and edit any page
It is the same with search engine results. Just because something comes up in the top 10 on MSN Search or Google does not automatically give it credibility or vouch for its accuracy or importance.

It tells you something about how the page or site under consideration is viewed by the search engine, but that is really all.

One benefit that might come from the wider publicity that Wikipedia is currently receiving is a better sense of how to evaluate information sources.

Ofcom, the UK's media regulator, is also responsible for media literacy; although it sits oddly with its role investigating competition in the telecoms market or reporting on broadband uptake.

The days when everything you saw on a screen had been carefully filtered, vetted, edited and checked are long gone. Product placement, advertorials and sponsorship are all becoming more common.

An educated audience is the only realistic way to ensure that we are not duped, tricked, fleeced or offended by the media we consume, and learning that online information sources may not be as accurate as they pretend to be is an important part of that education.

Source here

Communities Dominate Brands / Tomi T Ahonen and Alan Moore

Tomi T Ahonen and Alan Moore | Communities Dominate Brands | Business and marketing challenges for the 21st century (Futuretext Ltd, March 2005)


Communities Dominate Brands: Business and marketing challenges for the 21st century is a book about how the new phenomenon of digitally connected communities are emerging as a force to counterbalance the power of the big brands and advertising.

The book explores the problems faced by branding, marketing and advertising facing multiple radical changes in this decade. Communities Dominate Brands discusses how disruptive effects of digitalisation and connectedness introduce threats and opportunities. The authors compellingly illustrate how modern consumers are forming communities and peer-groups to pool their power resulting in a dramatic revolution of how businesses interact with their customers. The book provides practical guidance of how to move from obsolete interruptive advertising to interactive engagement marketing and community based communications, with dozens of real business examples from around the world.


The book discusses such recent phenomena as blogging, virtual environments, mobile phone based swarming and massively multiplayer games. The book introduces a new generation of consumers called Generation-C (for Community). The book also discusses such new concepts as the Connected Age, Reachability, the Four C's, Alpha Users, and introduces Communities as an unavoidable new element into the traditional communication model.

Combining the digital trends, modern management theories, and emerging new customer behaviour, Communities Dominate Brands arrives to its conclusion, that traditional marketing methods are increasingly ineffective and even becoming counterproductive. The power of the brands and the abuses by marketing have created a vacuum for a counterbalance, and digitally connected communities, the blogosphere, gamers, and especially the always-on connectedness of those on mobile phone networks, are emerging as the counterforce to redress the balance. The power of smart mobs and digitally enlightened communities will react rapidly to marketing excesses as the natural force balancing the power of the brands. The way a business can and must interact with the powerful new communities is through engagement marketing, by enticing the communities to interact with the brands.


Communities Dominate Brands establishes a new class of consumer, Generation-C for Community, the population that is always in contact with friends and colleagues and trust them more than your branded messages. The book indicates how we have moved from a Networked Age of the 1990s to the Connected Age of now, pinpointing the relevant changes and explaining the significance of this transition. The authors explain how the communication model is altered with the emergence of communities. Then the book provides practical guidance how brands can move from interruptive advertising to engagement marketing, to capture the interests of the new communities.


Source here

+ Related


Why use your TV to watch repetitive drivel when you can plug your PlayStation into it instead
Posted by Alan Moore, 19 December 2005


Kevin Kelly (Wired article here) makes the case for

Peer to peer flows of communication
What we all failed to see was how much of this new world would be manufactured by users, not corporate interests. And as we like to say Communities Dominate Brands.

Linking unleashes involvement and interactivity at levels once thought unfashionable or impossible.

The electricity of participation nudges ordinary folks to invest huge hunks of energy and time into making free encyclopedias, creating public tutorials for changing a flat tire, or cataloging the votes in the Senate. More and more of the Web runs in this mode. One study found that only 40 percent of the Web is commercial. The rest runs on duty or passion.

The language of postmodern culture is one of:Flexibility - fluidity - portability - permeability - transparency - interactivity - immediacy - facilitation - engagement

In our book we talk about the 4C's; Commerce, Culture, Connectivity and Community. Without these interlocking components business and marketing models look pretty lame, or in this instance TV programmes.

We live in a super distributed media ecology, where we swap, scrape share, mash, mix. Upload and download. We co-create - we participate - we want to be engaged - And you don't come out of a computer game and put up with the sliced white bread that seems all to often to be the average broadcast experience these days.

And remember Prime time is no longer a time of day it is a state of mind.

We are curating our consumption like never before but that means we look for quality of experience. And our personal P&L account is based upon value.

The thinking at SMLXL is that government, businesses and their brands in the 21st Century have to give up control to gain control.
They have to become facilitators, enablers, life-simplifiers, co-creators, they have to inspire greater C2C interaction and in that way they will get the most precious thing from their customers is personal advocacy

Living in a postmodern world means that we have to leave our industrial mindset in the past.

For a while it suited us and delivered exponential value for many years. But our world has changed.

So its How clean is your house vs. World of Warcraft .... err I think I'll take the constantly modified World of Warcraft please with all its role-playing interactivity. Or hang out with my mates at

"If Companies spent the 20th century managing efficiencies. They must spend the 21st century managing experiences."

Our means of production have changed and also our means of consumption.

Creativity now needs to sit at the very heart of what we create, what we make and how we deliver it.

We need hot media not cold media, relevant and interactive. But most of all give it some quality, please.

Source here

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pattern Recognition

William Gibson, Pattern Recognition (2003)

Official website here

Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled and her computer hacked, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected.

Editorial Reviews
The first of William Gibson's usually futuristic novels to be set in the present, Pattern Recognition is a masterful snapshot of modern consumer culture and hipster esoterica. Set in London, Tokyo, and Moscow, Pattern Recognition takes the reader on a tour of a global village inhabited by power-hungry marketeers, industrial saboteurs, high-end hackers, Russian mob bosses, Internet fan-boys, techno archeologists, washed-out spies, cultural documentarians, and our heroine Cayce Pollard--a soothsaying "cool hunter" with an allergy to brand names.

Pollard is among a cult-like group of Internet obsessives that strives to find meaning and patterns within a mysterious collection of video moments, merely called "the footage," let loose onto the Internet by an unknown source. Her hobby and work collide when a megalomaniac client hires her to track down whoever is behind the footage. Cayce's quest will take her in and out of harm's way in a high-stakes game that ultimately coincides with her desire to reconcile her father’s disappearance during the September 11 attacks in New York.

Although he forgoes his usual future-think tactics, this is very much a William Gibson novel, more so for fans who realize that Gibson's brilliance lies not in constructing new futures but in using astute observations of present-day cultural flotsam to create those futures. With Pattern Recognition, Gibson skips the extrapolation and focuses his acumen on our confusing contemporary world, using the precocious Pollard to personify and humanize the uncertain anxiety, optimistic hope, and downright fear many feel when looking to the future. The novel is filled with Gibson's lyric descriptions and astute observations of modern life, making it worth the read for both cool hunters and their prey. --Jeremy Pugh

[USED] clothing/ open source branding

+ [USED] clothing: project website here

+ the current state of the prototype can be viewed here

The project USED Clothing extends the function of clothes as storage medium by a virtual component: in a "second-hand shop", each article is provided with a RFID tag. Through RFID- and web technology, the respective owners can store and read digital information on the individual garment. Further, a "virtual library" develops e.g. to each T-shirt, into which owners can add arbitrary information and multimedia contents. Thus the "history" of each single garment can be visualized. By exaggerating the identity component, USED Clothing brings up inputs for a discussion concerning future developments within virtual communities. [Source here]

+ open source branding - idea and concept

consumers tend to choose clothes not because of their primary qualities like cloth quality, durability or even looks. mass media and social trends have shaped a market situation where products and especially clothes are bought because of their brand image. companies try (and succeed) to add a surplus value to everyday articles through brands. an effective brand transports a virtual lifestyle - and people are willing to pay for this virtual surplus value.

actually, USED clothing does the same thing ;-)

But in contrary to a classic brand image, which in fact is created through long-term corporate strategies, USED clothing provides the garment's owner himself the ability to add this virtual surplus value, according to his/her preferences. in addition, the surplus value adds up step by step with the number of (previous) owners - a classic example of the "network effect" in economics. the concept behind this process i call open source branding.

why clothes?

clothes have a tradition in transporting information about their owners. Fashion style is one of the first impressions we get from a new contact. USED clothing uses this effect to exaggerate this identity-transmitting component - the ID component is transformed into the garment's primary quality.

why used clothes?

when a new garment is purchased by it's owner, it can start to record it's own individual story. with more consecutive owners, the initial brand function gets "overwritten" by the owners' stories - and the garments "meta-information" finally gets vivid.

the bigger picture

the information landscape is moving towards a new scenario: the information market is no longer controlled by central broadcasters but individual broadcasts (blogs, podcasts, etc.) are on the rise. so how can companies succeed to communicate their brands (a central one-way-communication) in this environment? stronger campaigning? fuel campaigns with more money to be louder than the chaotic noise of all individual “global players” out there? Or just use this new environment as an opportunity to take brand campaigning to a new level? this brought me to the concept of open source branding:

in the concept of open source branding, each individual customer is a brand designer. he/she is given the ability to contribute to the brand's image. so the brand definition lies in the hands of the customers, therefore each customer can better identify with the brand lifestyle because of this strong individual connection. no need for superficial role models. no need for setting a stage. sun microsystems predict that the network is the computer - this might also be the next step for brand campaigns: the individual is the brand.

Source here

Online shopping spree

[Note: In October I introduced Peter Cochrane to Martin Mairinger, who was showing his Used Clothing project (-the winning project of 2005: [the next idea] at Ars Electronica), at the Cybersalon/Open Spectrum UK Future Wireless event at the Science Museum's Dana Centre. - JW]
11.25 Friday 16th December 2005
Peter Cochrane's Blog: Online shopping spree

Written on BA296 flying Chicago to London Heathrow and dispatched to from a London hotel with the wisdom to provide free wi-fi.

Just over 10 years ago I can remember contributing to the debate on the commercial web and what it would mean for retail. My views were always positive. It always seemed pretty obvious that we were laying the foundation for a new economy that would see new markets created. I also postulated that the transformation would be fast. What I hadn't reckoned on was just how fast!
Once people get a taste for online buying they tend not to go back to the old ways.

Here we are fast approaching Christmas 2005, with the commercial web in its 11th year, and the impact on the high street is palpable. Everywhere I travel, town centres and shopping malls are busy but not so busy as in the past. Everything from books, music, videos, games, cloths, home appliances, electronics goods and food are being purchased online. And worse, this may be the last year that offline sales dominate. The numbers are staggering. In some countries and sectors online purchases are averaging around 47 per cent of the total.

In the UK a net result of this surge in online activity is a rash of early high street sales with up to 20 per cent off tag prices. Ouch! This is really going to hurt.

What has happened to cause this acceleration of online sales? Well, shopping has always been a bit of a pain but add the increasing number of traffic and parking restrictions, the rising price of gasoline and traffic congestion, and compound those with busier working lives and an increasing IT awareness, and bingo - there you have it! People are just taking the line of least resistance.

Specialist stores, really high-value designer goods and out-of-town shopping seem to be flourishing but the rest are on a downer. People in work and at home are busy buying online. So rapid has been the growth in the last year that those offering online food shopping and home delivery in the UK have hit full capacity as demand exceeds supply.

For the high street shopping scene I suspect that even worse is to come. Once people get a taste for online buying they tend not to go back to the old ways. And it seems to be beyond coincidence that the number of IT-capable people in society, as well as homes and offices with a PC online, has now also well-exceeded the 50 per cent mark in many countries.

Where will all this go? I think MP3 and the music industry is perhaps not too extreme an example. Imagine the impact of RFID on the used clothing market, for example. When the entire history of production, sale, ownership and use can be logged, then the exchange of clothing might migrate toward the CD, DVD, book and car model.

The big question for the high street stores is what are they going to do about all this? To my mind there are huge opportunities to be had but it means changing the business model and the service provided. But it starts with getting online, and providing in-store net access. The only way to get the attention of, and gain access to the new breed of customer, is to use the medium. Remember, the medium is the message, and the medium may well be clothing within the next decade!

Source here

+ Related

USED Clothing

This year the winning project of 2005: [the next idea] at Ars Electronica is Used Clothing by Martin Mairinger (Austria.)

Clothes are an expression of an individual’s identity. The way a person dresses is almost always directly connected to his/her lifestyle, worldview and self-image. OK, then why not use clothing even more intensely as a medium? And the Linz native proceeded to create “USED Clothing,” a concept for furnishing clothes with additional information.

A radio frequency identification (RFID) chip to which the wearer can save information about himself/herself is sewn into each garment. When the item of clothing—for instance, a jacket, pair of pants or T-shirt—is sold at a special second-hand shop, the buyer can access this information online and find out about the garment’s past.

The interests and personal philosophy of individuals with a preference for the same type of clothing often resemble one another. Accordingly, the second-hand interface node just might yield interesting hookups. The project’s long-term concept envisions the establishment of a community of registered users who take advantage of the second-hand shop’s offerings not only to acquire clothing but also to establish social contacts within the network of human beings connected to the shop.

Source here

Friday, December 16, 2005

Siemens says US mobile could shift to GSM
Thu Dec 15, 2005 2:53 PM ET

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Siemens (SIEGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) believes North American telecoms operators could shift to the GSM mobile standard from the rival CDMA system, a senior company executive said in an interview published on Thursday.

"Latin America is already moving from CDMA technologies to GSM," Christoph Catselitz, the head of Siemens AG's mobile networks business told Finnish business daily Taloussanomat.

"I would not bet on North America continuing with CDMA."

CDMA (code division multiple access) technology was invented by San Diego-based Qualcomm (QCOM.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and the company delivers virtually all chips needed in CDMA networks and mobile phones used by some 500 million consumers mostly in the Americas and Asia.

The rival European-invented Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) has 1.6 billion users globally, according to the GSM Association.

"CDMA is losing market share globally as the new mobile phone users live mostly in the areas where GSM is the leading technology," Catselitz was quoted as saying.

Catselitz said Siemens aims to grow its network infrastructure services operation faster than the market grows. It has 80 deals with operators in 50 countries.

Among the markets the company is active in is China, which he said could issue third generation (3G) licenses in several stages, starting early next year.

"I believe China's 3G licenses will be given in the early part of 2006, it could be the first quarter," he said.

China is expected to spend more than $10 billion to set up its 3G networks after licenses are awarded, widely expected to be in the first half of 2006.

Source here

Sun: PCs are outmoded

Stephen Shankland
September 26, 2005, 08:55 GMT

Jonathan Schwartz keeps singing Sun's favourite tune - that Web services, not desktop apps, are the future

Increasingly, the personal computer is a relic.

So asserted Jonathan Schwartz, president of server and software maker Sun. Instead, what has become important are Web services on the Internet and the mobile phones most will use to access them, he argued at a Friday speech in San Jose, California, at a meeting of the American India Foundation.

"The majority of the applications that will drive the next wave of innovation will be services, not applications that run on the desktop. The real innovation is occurring in the network and the network services," Schwartz said.

Sun, which sells the back-end infrastructure that powers such services, has promulgated variations of this message for years. But there's evidence the idea has some merit.

Schwartz points to the increasing wealth and power of companies, like eBay, Google, Yahoo and, that profit from free services available over the network. Among his audience, many more people said they'd rather have access to Internet services than their desktop computing applications. And Microsoft — the company with the biggest financial stake in the PC software business — has struggled to cope with the arrival of Web services.

The threat to PCs is twofold. Not only are services moving to the network, Schwartz said, but PCs won't be the way people use those services — particularly in poorer areas of the world that have risen higher up Sun's corporate priority list. Instead, that access will come through mobile phones.

"The majority of the world will first experience the Internet through their handset," Schwartz said.

When it comes to aiding developing regions' digital development, "Our collective generation believes the desktop PC is the most important thing to give to people. I don't buy that. The most important thing to give is access to the Internet."

Since Schwartz became Sun's president last year, the company has touted a campaign to bridge the digital divide, for example by promoting freely available open source software such as Schwartz doesn't pretend his company's motives are altruistic, though.

"Clearly it's in my company's best interest to have 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa join the network," Schwartz said

But he does argue that there's more to be gained from pervasive network access than just a restoration of Sun's financial health and improvement to its stagnant stock price. The network also helps bring value to society, he said.

"The Internet has clearly become, as electricity and railroads did before it, a social utility," Schwartz said.

One case in point was visible with the online classified ad site Craigslist during the effort to cope with the Katrina hurricane that devastated states on the Gulf Coast. And he expects more with the approach of the next storm, Rita.

"The Internet — and one organisation in particular called Craigslist — played an absolutely central role to recovery efforts," Schwartz said. "While the Federal Emergency Management Agency was stumbling and trying to figure out how to present its information, Craigslist was providing a connection vehicle for people who wanted to find their friends, their family members, their pets."

Source here

$100 laptop to be built in Taiwan

Michael Kanellos
December 14, 2005, 09:40 GMT

Quanta has won the contract to manufacture the laptop for Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop per Child organisation

Taiwan's Quanta, the biggest manufacturer of notebooks in the world, has signed on to the $100 laptop project.

The OLPC organisation, which hopes to bring a $100 laptop championed by MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, has selected Quanta to serve as its original design manufacturer, or ODM. ODMs typically manufacture products, but also participate substantially in the final design.

Although not many US consumers know the name, many own Quanta's products. The company produces systems for HP, Dell and others. It is engaged in a long-running rivalry with Compal, also based out of Taiwan.

The signing of Quanta isn't an entire surprise. Earlier this year, MIT and the company signed a five-year, $20m (£11.3m) research pact. Still, lining up one of the world's major contract manufacturers further demonstrates the feasibility of the project, according to backers.

"Any previous doubt that a very-low-cost laptop could be made for education in the developing world has just gone away," Negroponte said in a statement.

Quanta will try to bring out a product in the fourth quarter. The machines will run Linux and require little energy (turning a hand crank will be enough to power them). Connecting to the Internet will be possible through mesh networking.

For an in-depth look at the $100 laptop project click here

The first 5 million to 15 million units will get shipped to China, Brazil, India, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand.

Other participants in the project include AMD, Brightstar, Google, News Corp., Nortel and Red Hat.

While many have saluted the goal, others have expressed scepticism. Intel Chairman Craig Barrett has said that the idea won't travel far. Consumers in emerging markets want full-fledged computers, he asserted.

History has also shown that bringing PCs to the poor is extremely difficult. Attempts to bring low-cost PCs to Brazil have failed several times. The Simputer, a cheap computer designed in India, fell flat, and AMD has not sold many of its cheap Internet devices for the emerging world, according to sources.

Partly because of this, some entrepreneurs, such as India's Rajesh Jain, and some of India's leading academics have decided to tackle the problem by deploying thin clients. Other companies are promoting full-fledged, full-price computers that can be shared by communities. To save energy, thin clients and PCs can run on car batteries or solar panels.

Source here

+ Related

The $100 laptop: A well intentioned waste of time?
Cath Everett
November 22, 2005, 11:55 GMT

Some claim the only piece of educational technology known for sure to work is the school bus and have little faith that cheap gadgets alone can bridge the digital divide

While the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative from the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is laudable, it is unlikely to succeed without suitable support mechanisms to help the developing world exploit the technology.

That's the opinion of a range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that deem the scheme well-intentioned but doomed to failure if the right infrastructure is not put in place.

Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and co-founder of MIT's Media Lab, announced the $100 PC project and the formation of the One Laptop Per Child not-for-profit organisation to great euphoria at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2005.

More details emerged on the 16 November at the International Telecommunication Union's World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, when Negroponte announced that his group was working closely with manufacturers and should have an order placed by February or March 2006.

The $115 laptop?
However he admitted that the price may rise to more than the magic $100. "We're not even going to promise they're $100," he said. "They may be $115. What we're promising is that the price will float down."

The aim of the $100 laptop initiative is to provide each child in the developing world with a laptop that can also act as an e-book, a tablet PC and a TV in a bid to help bridge the digital divide.

The benefit of such devices over more traditional educational materials, Negroponte believes, is that they can become "both a window and a tool: a window into the world and a tool with which to think. They are a wonderful way for all children to 'learn learning' through independent interaction and exploration."

Nonetheless, he is adamant that this is not a technology-based project, but an education-based one, although "not teaching or education as we know it".

"Only a part of learning comes from teaching. A lot of it comes from exploration and interaction due to curiosity. That's how we learned to walk and talk and it's the kind of learning that kids do very well so this is a tool to make it more continuous and seamless. At age six, we say 'learning that way, learn via books and teachers', but there's another piece that's very important," he says.

Free textbooks
The intention is for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organisation to sell the machines directly in consignments of a million or more to ministries of education, which will distribute them for free. Initial orders, however, will be limited to one million each for the five pilot countries — China, Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa.

The preliminary goal is to have initial units ready for shipment by the end of 2006 or early 2007, but manufacturing will not begin until between five and 15 million have been ordered and paid for in advance.

As for OLPC, this is being 75 percent funded by MIT and 25 percent by its founding members, AMD, Brightstar, Google, News Corp and Red Hat, which are each believed to have put in $2m so far.

Meanwhile, the devices themselves will come with a 500MHz processor, 1GB of memory, four USB ports and a 10-inch dual-mode display that provides a full colour or black-and-white option if sunlight is strong to make it more readable and consume less power.

Hermetically sealed
Linux will be the operating system of choice with applications developed in-house by MIT. To protect the machine from damage, it will be covered with a rubber casing and will hermetically seal when the lid is closed.

To cater to children in areas where electricity is in limited supply, it will be possible to power the machines using a crank that operates on a "ten to one ratio – you crank for one minute and get 10 minutes of power", according to Negroponte.

Moreover, the laptops will be Wi-Fi-enabled and connect together using mesh networking technology. This will not only cut potential costs for networking infrastructure, but also of Internet connections for the devices.

"When you open each laptop, it becomes a node in a mesh. This means that only one or two laptops need to go to an Internet backbone and all of the kids are connected, so [a 2Mbps line] can serve 1,000 kids. If you have [a 2Mbps line] for 1,000 kids, you're in great shape, although you're not in such terrific shape if you download video," says Negroponte.

But despite its laudable intentions, some NGOs are not convinced that the concept will deliver the results that Negroponte and his team hope. David Grimshaw, international team leader for the new technologies programme at charity Practical Action, believes that there are three key aspects to this type of project and providing access to computers addresses only one of them. Practical Action focuses on helping people in the developing world to use technology in the fight against poverty.

"MIT potentially have an excellent idea here. But to make it really work in developing countries, it needs to be well thought through in partnership with content providers, perhaps in education, and also NGOs and civil societies that are in touch with grass-roots community-level organisations," he says. "It's about working in a participative way to allow people to develop their own solutions rather than have them imposed on them."

While Negroponte claims that content is being developed by Seymour Papert, also a member of OLTP and considered a leading theorist on child learning, Grimshaw believes that it is crucial for children to be able to access relevant local information in their own language. What may appear intuitive to a western mind may not necessarily apply to other cultures, not least in terms of the myriad assumptions about how people think that are written into US and European software.

"You have to ask yourself to what extent are we influencing culture by taking a top-down approach? The Internet is mainly English-language and Western culture dominated so is it appropriate to people elsewhere? In my view, it would be better to develop local information first because it's about sensitivity to cultural issues too," says Grimshaw.

Top down approach
Tim Varney, a trustee of EdUKaid, an educational charity working in the Mtwara region of southern Tanzania, believes that the potential success or failure of OLTP could depend on where the project is taken up.

Interest is likely to be highest in more developed countries such as the former communist bloc, for example, where education is perceived as important and there is already a reasonable educational infrastructure in place, but where access to facilities is not as good as their western neighbours.

"But if you dumped a load of computers into Africa or other third world countries, they'd just gather dust. Without the basic teaching skills and people to implement projects of this type, they'll just become a toy to be played with or they'll pile up in a cupboard and not be used," Varney says.

Education is the best way to help countries develop according to Varney. If a school received 1,000 text books in Swahili but they weren't handed to the right people, they would still end up in that same cupboard, he says.

"You really need foot soldiers on the ground to provide back-up and training on how to use these things. There are no quick fixes for the problems in Africa and I'm struggling to think of the benefits computers would bring to children that haven't learned to read and write properly because they don't have the proper equipment to do so," says Varney

Moreover, one of the problems with the numerous charitable initiatives that have been undertaken with the best of intentions in the region is that people tend to make too many assumptions about what their beneficiaries require without consulting them first.

Too many assumptions
"You can go into schools and help teach, but at the same time, you don't want to impose western ideals onto a country that doesn't want them. It's been done too often and people are naturally becoming sceptical. You have to help them find their own way, but give direction and assistance on how to get there rather than make their decisions for them," Varney adds.

The consensus from the NGOs is that it's vital to work out a broader development strategy when introducing initiatives such as OLPC. "There has to be a clear reason to give computers to schools and you have to work out what you're trying to achieve. Improving education seems like a good idea, but what happens to people's expectations if society can't follow through and deliver on them?" says Grimshaw.

The danger is that if people feel let down, the situation can breed "the potential for conflict, unease and unhappiness", which is not only counterproductive but also dangerous as it can disturb community power balances.

Cool technological developments
John Naughton, professor of public understanding of technology at the Open University and director of the Ndiyo Project puts such concerns another way.

"It seems to me to be a continuation of a philosophy that has bedevilled educational technology from day one. This is the mindset that thinks each new cool technological development must, somehow, have an educational use. You could caricature it as the 'technology is the solution, now what's the problem?' mindset," he says.

The main problem in his opinion, however, is that there is little evidence to suggest that computers actually improve learning. "We've invested billions of dollars in the West putting computers into schools on the assumption that it must do some good. But we really don't know if investing in a new computer system brings more educational benefits than hiring a new teacher. It's really faith-based investing," he says.

To back up his point, Naughton cites a former colleague and distinguished educational researcher, who now heads up a leading British research university. He used to say that 'the only piece of educational technology known for sure to work is the school bus'. "And I tend to approach initiatives like OLPC with that in mind," Naughton says.

Faith-based investing
His approach instead would be to ask: "What are the real educational problems that bother people in the developing world, and how — if at all — would OLPC help to solve those problems? If there's a real prospect that OLPC could indeed ameliorate or solve tangible problems, then proceed. Otherwise try and find technological solutions to the problems that really bother people on the ground".

Ndiyo itself is a non-profit organisation, which is developing a low-cost server running open source software that supports ultra-thin client machines and is intended for use as an out-of-the-box four-screen Internet café among other things.

The aim with this particular implementation of the technology is to enable people in the developing world to earn a living by providing community members who cannot afford a computer and Internet connection with online access.

But Practical Action's Grimshaw raises a final point about the need to develop a model for long-term sustainability. "You might say a $100 PC is cheap, it's simple, it's rugged and it will last for maybe five to 10 years. But what happens then? You'll need a new injection of capital or to build sustainability into the project from the outset and that's always been a major issue in the past."

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RFID may become a $3bn business by 2010
December 14, 2005, 15:40 GMT

It has taken a while to get here, but RFID is a technology now ready for take-off, say analysts Gartner

RFID technology is on the upswing as businesses start to see ways it can augment bar coding, according to a new report.

Worldwide spending on the emerging wireless tracking technology is set to reach $504m (£275m) this year, up more than one-third from 2004, market researcher Gartner said on Tuesday. Adoption will accelerate by 2007, with spending pegged to hit $3bn by the end of the decade.

RFID, or radio frequency identification, has been hailed for its promise as a superior way to keep tabs on merchandise in warehouses and retail outlets. Scanning of data-laden chips on pallets and products would help keep inventories in order and assure buyers that they're not paying money for counterfeit goods.

In Mississippi, the technology was used to help identify victims of Hurricane Katrina.

It's also been denounced as a harbinger of a Big Brother society in which personal privacy disappears, either because of voluminous record-keeping on people's shopping habits and travel patterns or because the chips could end up under people's skin.

Most uses so far have been limited to trial runs, but mandates are coming from both the public and private sectors. The US Department of Defense, for instance, recently insisted that its suppliers of packaged rations, clothing, personal-care items and weapon-system repair parts radio-tag products shipped to certain supply depots.

The Gartner report sticks to the mundane side of things, focusing on how RFID would augment — rather than replace — ubiquitous bar codes.

While bar codes are better at collecting data in highly structured locales such as warehouses, RFID tags will be useful in collecting data on mobile assets and in unstructured business processes, including retail stores and hospitals, Gartner said.

"Just because bar codes are used extensively in distribution centres does not mean RFID will be," Jeff Woods, Gartner's research vice-president, said in a statement. "Businesses are beginning to discover business value in places where they cannot use bar coding, which will be the force that moves RFID forward."

Woods pointed to the role of the Food and Drug Administration, which is pushing for RFID tags to combat sales of fake pharmaceutical products. If the FDA's regulatory activity proceeds, he said, widespread tagging could begin around 2007.

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New NHS system to SMS patient appointments
Tom Espiner
December 16, 2005, 09:00 GMT

A new NHS system will text message patients to remind them of appointments, and target specific groups needing treatment

An innovative NHS appointment text messaging service has been rolled out to six London-based primary care trusts (PCTs), it was announced on Thursday.

The messaging service uses software that is designed to access NHS patient databases and send reminders of appointments. Patients can also be contacted if they are deemed to be "at risk", and can send confirmation back by SMS.

"We extract the relevant information — the mobile phone number, the date and time of the appointment — from each client's site," said Toby Gockel, business development manager for iPlato, which supplies the software the messaging service uses.

"Clients could be trusts, surgeries, any independent unit that arranges appointments. We then send the information via a TCP/IP encrypted connection from our server, which enables automatic text messaging. The server generates an appointment reminder message, which is sent via the Orange SMS gateway to every mobile phone," Gockel said .

Orange provides the GSM platform to send the texts. The server used by iPlato can currently handle large volumes of SMS messages, the company said.

"We can send four million texts per day in the current system. The server has a huge capacity," said Gockel.

The project has the backing of Liberal Democrat MP and health spokesman Steven Webb.

"This is entirely a positive thing for everyone involved. It's clearly a gain for patients. It speeds up the appointment process, as patients can cancel if they can't get to the appointment, which frees up potential space. From the practice point of view they save money, as a text is a fraction of the cost of a stamp," said Webb.

"There is clearly a case for central government incentivising [sic] this kind of scheme. The money GPs get depends on their meeting various targets. This could include rewards for setting up text based systems. Once the system has been set up, costs come down," said Webb.

Security and patient confidentiality have been addressed through numerous fail-safes. The information is only passed through the NHS intranet, and is encrypted, while servers only respond to requests from trusted IP addresses.

" is like an intranet — it's secure. Our server is configured to only accept incoming information from the fixed IP addresses of client sites," said Gockel. "Information transmission is by 128 bit SSL code."

The NHS administrator responsible for implementing the pilot study in south London thought the system might be too secure.

" is very secure. I think it might be over-secure, even. It's very difficult when I'm trying to open a port as I can't use IRC — it's a bit of a pain," said Adrian James-Morse, IT coordinator for Dr Masterton's Surgery in Streatham.

Patients can be grouped by the NHS — for example, if they need a flu jab — and then sent a bulk message. Each text costs 6p per patient.

"Compared with the traditional way of printing out letters — which is labour and resource intensive, and costs approximately £1 per patient — with texts, all of a sudden you have a fantastic business case," said Gockel.

Patients can also respond to the texts. The server converts the text messages to email, and these are sent to the healthcare site.

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Families turn away from the internet
Families turn away from the internet
Dec 16 2005
Tryst Williams, Western Mail

INTERNET access in Welsh households has "peaked" at a surprisingly low 41%, a Welsh Consumer Council report shows today.

According to the study, Wales is in danger of getting left behind by the online revolution while access across the rest of the UK has continued to rise to 55%.


Large swathes of Wales now have less internet access than three years ago;

More that half (56%) of Welsh people say they do not use the internet at all - whether at home, work or any other setting;

The number of young adults with internet access has actually dropped by 9% over the past year;

Internet access figures for Wales have reached a plateau in the last few years.

Report author Sarah Richards last night described the figures as "worrying".

"In the 12 months leading up to March 2005 internet access has remained static at 41% of households," she said.

"This suggests that people's resistance to the internet and the persistence of the 'digital divide' has to remain a prominent issue for politicians and organisations in Wales."

She added, "We were quite surprised by the data and weren't expecting to see it.

"We don't know if it's a blip but it's definitely something that needs to be monitored."

Of particular concern to experts was that young people aged between 16 and 24 seem to be turning away from online services.

One reason put forward for that drop - from 66% to 57% - was that the survey looked specifically at computer access to the internet, even though people are increasingly able to browse websites through their mobile phones and games consoles.

But one expert suggested poverty and the lack of distinctive Welsh-based content may be behind the apparent switch-off by the nation's next generation.

Dr Mike Reddy, a lecturer in future technology and robotics at the University of Wales, Newport, said, "Young people may have jumped onto the internet and can't sustain it.

"They're not getting what they need and looking at the money they're spending each month.

"At the moment it's not seen as an essential utility - but it will be."

He added, "There's not much of a Welsh presence on the internet. I think if people took that up and put a Welsh flavour to services I think people would feel they were getting a direct benefit from the internet."

The new report, Internet Inequality in Wales: Update 2005, is the sixth annual survey to be commissioned by the consumer council.

Based on interviews with 1,001 adults across Wales in March the results appear to show a deepening "digital divide" between the nation's haves and have-nots.

The number of home internet connections in the South Wales Valleys has seen the biggest decrease, down from 37% in 2004 to 26% in 2005.

Alarmingly, figures for home internet access in the South Wales Valleys and mid West Wales are now lower than in 2002.

Miss Richards feared hundreds of thousands of Welsh people could miss out as businesses put more and more of their services online.

"Our concern is that as we all rush to use the internet as our primary source of information sharing there will inevitably be some who get left out," she added.

"Typically the people who don't access the internet are generally on a lower income, are unemployed/retired and are above 65.

"It may be that businesses decide not to target these potential customers, however, it is essential that those providing public services maintain other forms of communication."

There was some consolation that internet access among the 55-64 age group had seen the biggest growth in Wales.

But overall the picture remained bleak with the proportion of Welsh households connected to the internet lagging 14% behind the latest Government figures for the rest of Britain.

Miss Richards added, "The idea that young people in Wales are turning away from accessing the internet is also a particular worry, however, this may be explained by advances in technology and the development of other ways of accessing information.

"It would seem that internet penetration has begun to slow and so any new marketing strategy, targeting these groups in particular, will need to have a strong benefit-led emphasis.

"Although, I think we need to also be realistic and recognise that there are consumers who simply have no interest in getting connected. Because of this, service providers cannot simply rely on the internet as a panacea for their communication strategies."

However, the findings were yesterday disputed by Assembly body Broadband Wales.

Andrew Pirutz, head of marketing, said their latest survey, due out early next year, suggested internet access was continuing to grow across Wales especially in the broadband sector.

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Internet uptake in Wales stagnating
By Staff Writer | 21 Dec 2005

Despite high-budget marketing strategies and BT’s claim that Wales has 94 per cent broadband availability, internet uptake in Wales is stagnating in comparison to that in the rest of the UK, reveals the 2005 report into Internet Inequality in Wales, recently published by by the Welsh Consumer Council (WCC).

Sarah Richards, policy officer at the WCC, comments: "In the twelve months leading up to March 2005, internet access has remained static at 41 per cent of households. This suggests that people's resistance to the internet and the persistence of the 'digital divide' has to remain a prominent issue for politicians and organisations in Wales."

Though Richards admits that not everyone can have an interest in the new technology and that some may never want to use it, she is urging the government to target its future marketing campaigns to address those who have been left out, typically lower income earners, the unemployed and retired people.

A worrying finding is that home internet connections in the Valleys have dramatically decreased, from 37 per cent in 2004 to 26 per cent in 2005. The report sees this as a major step backwards, considering the percentage is now lower than it was in 2002.

Richards says: "These statistics are a cause for concern, as mid Wales and the Valleys are among the most remote and economically deprived areas in the whole country."

Surprisingly enough, the report shows a decrease in individual internet access among young people (57 per cent) compared to 66 per cent in the previous year; while the biggest increase in home internet connections is to be found in the 55-64 age group.

Richards remarks: “The idea that young people in Wales are turning away from accessing the internet is also a particular worry, however, this may be explained by advances in technology and the development of other ways of accessing information.”

Households that are most likely to have internet access are those including three or more people (54 per cent as opposed to 21 per cent for households with just one person) or those with dependent children, which may explain the lower rate of internet connections among older people, who are less likely to have dependent children.

On the other hand, figures regarding broadband penetration show an increase since last year with over half of households (55 per cent) connected to broadband.

Paradoxically, although lower income earners are less likely to get internet access, those who do are more likely to have a broadband connection than people from higher social classes. People living in the Valleys too are more likely to have a broadband connection even though the rate of internet access has dropped in this area.

However lack of awareness could impede the adoption of broadband as 21 per cent of people without a home internet connection believe broadband is not available in their area. Those with a home internet connection usually refuse broadband on the grounds that they don’t want it (27 per cent) and that it is too expensive (25 per cent).

Despite this plateau, those who do have access to internet in Wales increasingly use it for online shopping (61 per cent by March 2005 compared to 55 per cent in 2004). Men aged 45 and over are particularly keen on this method. Both men and women find online shopping convenient and cheaper.

This is the fifth report into internet inequality in Wales, conducted annually over the last six years. Since the study first began, the most noticeable changes include the rise in broadband availability and the increase in people using the internet to shop online.

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