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New RFID Reader Reads Multiple RFID Tags at Long Range

Trolly Scan, of South Africa, has revealed their new "Radar RFID" technology, which identifies up to 100 tags at a range of 100 meters with a distancing accuracy of .5 meters. Previously, the conventional wisdom held that readers would only work in very close proximity.

I've seen many discussions online about privacy concerns, especially concerning RFID use in passports. These arguments were frequently shot down by the then-current limitations of RFID technology. It would not have been practical to use RFID to pick people out of a large crowd, for instance.  However, the Radar RFID approach seems to make this possible.

Its primary use will, of course, be in the warehouse. Businesses will probably need fewer of these readers, which are claimed to be low-cost.

It may also be possible with this technology to track customers' movements through store aisles. We already have little expectation of privacy there, since we're in public and we're aware of being videotaped most of the time while we're shopping.  But what I'm talking about is monitoring the shopping cart experience for statistical analysis.  Scenario: shopping carts themselves are tagged with RFID. The system monitors the movement of that cart through the ailes of the store, and monitors (remember it has fairly accurate location tracking) what goods are placed in the cart, at what times, and in what order. Finally, this trail could be connected to the checkout process, recording what was bought, or not bought but looked at.  This provides the shopping equivalent of click tracking on a web site. The implications for retailing would be far-reaching.... impacting merchandizing on many levels.

And the concept of retail digital signage interfacing with RFID, which previously seemed to be limited by the range of the reader in that the customer would have to pass VERY close to a reader, perhaps by intentionally bringing an item up to the screen to get pricing information or cooking recipes, could be considerably impacted. Now, a signage unit could be placed above an aisle, targeting advertising at everyone in the aisle based on the items in their cart.

Would this also make some kind of tag cloning at a distance possible? Could someone with ill intentions read many tags at a distance, for instance, credit card RFID tags or something like SpeedPass tags, and clone them for their personal gain?

Regardless of the answers, it's now clear than when considering privacy implications of technology, it's not enough to consider current technology with its limitations! It's inevitable those limitations will be overcome, allowing for a creeping loss of privacy once the door is left open by shortsightedness. The motivation?  Nothing nefarious- the best of intentions are at work in the advancement of technology, but how technology affects our morals and our rights as humans must always be monitored.

Posted on October 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

OpenOffice 2.0 Released, Free Office Software Suite Supports OpenDocument Format

Ushering in a great alternative to vendor lock-in around specific office software, OpenOffice 2.0 has hit the download servers. The office suite sports a new interface, a database engine (with a Java-based SQL engine for portability... this sounds like a very interesting aspect of the release) and the much-anticipated OpenDocument file format.  OpenDocument is an XML file format standard that is free to use and is designed for easy developer comprehension, in order to promote the development of many tools around it.

From OpenOffice.org: "With a new user interface, OpenOffice.org 2.0 is easy to learn and use by the most inexperienced user, and is significantly more compatible with Microsoft Office files than prior versions. Supported by dozens of professional companies, OpenOffice.org 2.0 will be available in more than 60 languages. Able to run on Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Sun Solaris and other platforms, OpenOffice.org is increasingly the choice of businesses and governments throughout the world, and earlier versions have been downloaded over 49 million times since the project's inception."

Visit the OpenOffice website for the free download and for more details on this exciting project. I've pointed many friends to earlier versions, as an answer to their complaints about the cost of other office software, and I'm looking forward to testing this out for recommendations as well.

Posted on October 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Digital Hub: New iPod, Front Row, EyeTV

It's been a short time since the iPod with video was released, generating considerable buzz in the tech field and even in the mainstream media. It still appears that the matter has not crystalized for everyone- Steve Jobs released an iPod music player, NOT a video player device. The price points remain the same as with the older iPod, yet the storage space has increased and the physical dimensions have shrunk. Oh, and as a nice side feature, it can play video, a small amount of which is available for paid download via the iTunes music store.

This is not a video-centric device like your Tivo, if you have one.  This is Apple remaining strong in the music field, while dipping their toes into the pool of video content. The video market has not really emerged yet, so this seems prudent and the music player iPod is a great leverage point for Apple to begin influencing that market if and when it does take off... which it just might do, as we've seen 1 million videos downloaded in just twenty days.

What is to come?  Well, we have web sites popping up with links to video formatted for playback on the iPod, and most impressively, Elgato will be updating their EyeTV software with an iPod video export function. Imagine recording television to your Mac while you're out enjoying the world, and being able to view it on your iPod on the train ride to work, or on your lunch break.
Simply amazing- the digital hub is slowly but surely being glued together as we look on.

Witness also the  compelling simplicity of the iMac G5 and the FrontRow media center software. Now you can control all media- iPhoto, iTunes, iDVD with a 6-button remote!  While not as mature as Windows Media Center Edition, the simplicity of the interface (Apple's hallmark) and the fact that this is just a "getting the toes wet" release inspire one with optimism for the Mac media hub future.

Posted on October 17, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iPod Nano screen protectors

UPDATE: I've located an iPod Nano screen protector on Amazon and have edited this post to include the link for easy reference. It seems like a lot of people are looking for screen protectors for their new Nano! Below is the original post:

According to The Register, and validated by browsing the Apple Support forums: The iPod Nano screens seem to
be easily scratched. Fortunately, help is on the way with various screen protectors on the market. I personally
just buy up whatever PDA protectors can be had on sale, and slice them up to fit the screens of my various
mobile devices.

This would be the first thing I do with any iPod I buy- I'm not sure how all these iPod Nanos
are being treated to get scratched so soon but the rumor mill has it that it's very easy to do. No doubt the
next generation will be much better- as with many products including Apple's it seems prudent to wait a product
revision later than something that's brand new.

Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/09/23/ipod_nano_scratching/

Posted on October 2, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yahoo Search Scraping Pages

Yahoo! has some interesting search technology that you don't hear other engines talking about. In the Yahoo! Search Blog, it's revealed that they not only analyze pages for ranking, but for useful units of information on the page. Essentially, for certain pages they will scrape identifiable content like a business address and list it out in their results:

"...a new feature in our abstract generating algorithm that tries to guess the  most used information about that page, and promotes it into the summaries for search results. Not only do we try to figure out the most used information on the page, but we also integrate relevant features from other parts of Yahoo!."

Posted on October 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack