Saturday, May 07, 2005

Google Search: "Can't Reach the Cops When you Need 'Em"

Google Search: category: Police Dept near los angeles, ca Google doesn't get it. That's my new conclusion about Google's new "local search" application. I live in Venice, CA which although it butts up against the haughty Santa Monica to the north and Marina del Rey to the south, is still a little bit on the "hood" side. Although that's changing, there's still enough of the "element" around that it behooves one to be careful.

Now I don't mind the "hood" aspect, in fact, I like places that are rough around the edges, but I don't like it when others are subject to unnecessary risk. Tonight when I pulled into the garage where I live (a reasonably high rent 5-unit complex) there was a homeless person crashed out in the alcove adjacent to the back door to the building. Now, this wouldn't concern me except that I'm the only male in the complex and the idea of someone getting into the garage or attacking one of the other residents of the building was enough to prompt me to want to call the police to have them move. Hence, Google Local Search. I also tried the SMS version. It's good thing it isn't an emergency. The list is long. And great if I live anywhere but Venice. Like Hawthorne. 3 tries to sms:46645 and no response, and scrolling through 60 results (which would have been a lifetime on a mobile device, I guess people are still going to be shelling out for 411-info for a while to come...

Japanese stores use RFID to let customers bookmark their favorite shops - Engadget - /

Japanese stores use RFID to let customers bookmark their favorite shops - Engadget - /: "Japanese stores use RFID to let customers bookmark their favorite shops

Posted May 7, 2005, 7:00 PM ET by Barb Dybwad
Related entries: Cellphones, Wireless


Tokyo-based TechFirm is launching an RFID-based service that lets stores and customers exchange information. By pairing a shopper’s RFID-enabled phone with RFID readers in the stores, customers can download and save information about the store — a bookmark of sorts for favorite shops. The incentive for the stores is that the exchange is two-way, and shops can collect lists of potential repeat customers in order to send them spam special offers and bargains. Maybe stores in Japan will actually make sensible usage of their customers’ data, but we would be the first to opt out if something like this ever hit the States."

This is exactly the sort of thing that The Pondering Primate is talking about...constant dynamic interacation between the mobile-device enabled consumer and the physical world and Internet. While this is a pretty mundane and really not too appealing incarnation, it does illustrate the point that we're constantly leaving digital footprints that have a very significant value to merchants and advertisers. The question I'm asking is; do we have the right to control who's keeping track of these footprints and a right to limit how the information might be used?

Google's new web accelerator seems to me to be another (and ugly) incarnation of this trend. Sure, it might speed up the browsing of some pages, but at what cost? The archiving of everywhere you've ever been? To me, Google is starting to look more and more like big brother every day. Just visit the Google Groups beta...everything you've EVER posted to a usenet group is there in all its glory to remind you that you were once younger, dumber, and had a dirty mouth...

Wake Up and Smell the Wi-VoIP

Vanilla Gorilla at The Pondering Primate: writes: "What If.....
I have been pondering with the idea that service providers could one day be in big trouble. I mean with Wi-Fi/Wimax being adopted everywhere (Starbucks, airports and even an entire city like Philadelphia), what happens if you can just hop from hotspot to hotspot with your 'cell' phone. Would you even need a service provider?"

Well, VG, here's your answer. Yes. I've been thinking about, and talking about with whomever would listen, what I predicted would be a huge trend and another deep wound in wireless voice carriers most lucrative revenue stream, Voice over IP over Wi-Fi. It already exists in many places. That's because plenty of intrepid home users have plugged their VOIP phones into PC's connected to their broadband via wireless access points. I know. I did that a year and a half ago just to see if it would work. It does. Better, in many cases, than my cell phone.

A number of companies Motorola included realize the potential power of a phone that's capable of handling both traditional cellular protocols, (GSM, TDMA, CDMA) and Wi-Fi with Voice over IP...or VoWi-Fi as some pundits are now calling it. Motorola claims that their new phone is capable of maintaining connectivity through the handoff from one network to the other, but only with certain types of calls.

It's an interesting concept and the applications for business are exciting both from a cost standpoint and from a unification one. Though the details are a bit scarce, it makes perfect sense that a hybrid phone would maintain the functionality of a typical office phone...extensions, conferencing, local transfer, on-net one key dialing (soft keys), and more; basically any feature a reasonably advanced office phone system would have, PLUS the highly desirable VOIP pricing and greatly streamlined administration since most of the best VOIP systems have great GUI driven administration that any network admin can easily support.

For companies that provide cell phones to employees this also has some pretty heavy economic implications, instead of two or more phones per person, one phone does the job of two, AND you get least cost routing as part of the deal. Like I said, cellular carriers had better wake up and smell the Wi-Fi cause if they don't move quickly to capture this traffic, even at a fraction of their typical voice revenues, other providers will feast on their leavings.

As far as the fast hand-offs are concerned, researchers at UCSD have been working on software to speed the handoff from one wi-fi access point to another. Using Skype VoIP with a test network on campus, they were able to achieve a decrease by a factor of 100 the time to switch AP's, fast enough that handoffs took place with no packet loss. Whether this software will also support multi-protocol hand offs is unknown but there are already patents for this technology so devices and/or software are clearly in the works.

As I said earlier I've been predicting this trend for some time. It might become something of an underground or ad-hoc phenomenon initially, but eventually, some company will get serious about these kinds of deployments and the consumer will be the happy beneficiary.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Quantum minutiae...

Mobile Technology's biggest flaw.

Have you ever heard the saying "a team is only as good as the worst player" or "you're only as strong as your weakest link?" The truth is that saying is...well...mostly true. Any well traveled tech road warrior knows the truth; all the high tech devices in the world won't help you a bit on a desert island with no power supply. Chances are every battery you've dragged with you, up and down stairs from one airline concourse to the next have already been sucked dry by devices that are faster more powerful, and more power-hungry than ever before.

Hats off to those that have tried to make speedy devices consume less power, like Trasmeta, for example, but still, battery life has been the real road block to truly wireless mobile computing. And as development rockets forward in nearly every other aspect of technology, batteries, by comparison, seem to be mired in the dark ages. As a 3 battery per trip guy, the following article was certainly an eye opener. If the claims are accurate; and my fact checking indicates they are, things might finally be turning around. Much to the relief of my, and doubtless many other road-warriors aching backs.

Electronic Products: "Have you ever seen a turtle run? Take a good look at the rechargeable
battery industry and you may be surprised at what you see. Battery
manufacturers have been criticized for years for not keeping pace with
Moore's Law and being one of the key bottlenecks in the advancement of
a wireless world. Recent advancements in technology have this
slow-moving industry accelerating at a pace never before seen."
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