Category Archives: RFID Chips

Judge: Texas school can force teenagers to wear locator chips

school tagging
In this Oct. 1, 2012 photo, Kayla Saucedo, an 8th grader at Anson Jones Middle School, uses her new ID card to check out a book in the library in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio school district’s website was hacked over the weekend to protest its policy requiring students to wear microchip-embedded cards tracking their every move on campus. A teenager purportedly working with the hacker group Anonymous said in an online statement that he took the site down because the Northside school district “is stripping away the privacy of students in your school.” All students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School are required to carry identification cards embedded with a microchip. They are tracked by the dozens of electronic readers installed in the schools’ ceiling panels. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen)

Reuters | Jan 9, 2013

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – A public school district in Texas can require students to wear locator chips when they are on school property, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday in a case raising technology-driven privacy concerns among liberal and conservative groups alike.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said the San Antonio Northside School District had the right to expel sophomore Andrea Hernandez, 15, from a magnet school at Jay High School, because she refused to wear the device, which is required of all students.

The judge refused the student’s request to block the district from removing her from the school while the case works its way through the federal courts.

The American Civil Liberties Union is among the rights organizations to oppose the district’s use of radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology.

“We don’t want to see this kind of intrusive surveillance infrastructure gain inroads into our culture,” ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley said. “We should not be teaching our children to accept such an intrusive surveillance technology.”

The district’s RFID policy has also been criticized by conservatives, who call it an example of “big government” further monitoring individuals and eroding their liberties and privacy rights.

The Rutherford Institute, a conservative Virginia-based policy center that represented Hernandez in her federal court case, said the ruling violated the student’s constitutional right to privacy, and vowed to appeal.

The school district – the fourth largest in Texas with about 100,000 students – is not attempting to track or regulate students’ activities, or spy on them, district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said. Northside is using the technology to locate students who are in the school building but not in the classroom when the morning bell rings, he said.

Texas law counts a student present for purposes of distributing state aid to education funds based on the number of pupils in the classroom at the start of the day. Northside said it was losing $1.7 million a year due to students loitering in the stairwells or chatting in the hallways.

The software works only within the walls of the school building, cannot track the movements of students, and does not allow students to be monitored by third parties, Gonzalez said.

The ruling gave Hernandez and her father, an outspoken opponent of the use of RFID technology, until the start of the spring semester later this month to decide whether to accept district policy and remain at the magnet school or return to her home campus, where RFID chips are not required.

 

Military Must Prep Now for ‘Mutant’ Future, Researchers Warn

lockheed
Lockheed Martin tests its Human Universal Load Carrier exoskeleton. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Wired | Dec 31, 2012

By David Axe

The U.S. military is already using, or fast developing, a wide range of technologies meant to give troops what California Polytechnic State University researcher Patrick Lin calls “mutant powers.” Greater strength and endurance. Superior cognition. Better teamwork. Fearlessness.

But the risk, ethics and policy issues arising out of these so-called “military human enhancements” — including drugs, special nutrition, electroshock, gene therapy and robotic implants and prostheses — are poorly understood, Lin and his colleagues Maxwell Mehlman and Keith Abney posit in a new report for The Greenwall Foundation (.pdf), scheduled for wide release tomorrow. In other words, we better think long and hard before we unleash our army of super soldiers.

If we don’t, we could find ourselves in big trouble down the road. Among the nightmare scenarios: Botched enhancements could harm the very soldiers they’re meant to help and spawn pricey lawsuits. Tweaked troopers could run afoul of international law, potentially sparking a diplomatic crisis every time the U.S. deploys troops overseas. And poorly planned enhancements could provoke disproportionate responses by America’s enemies, resulting in a potentially devastating arms race.

“With military enhancements and other technologies, the genie’s already out of the bottle: the benefits are too irresistible, and the military-industrial complex still has too much momentum,” Lin says in an e-mail. “The best we can do now is to help develop policies in advance to prepare for these new technologies, not post hoc or after the fact (as we’re seeing with drones and cyberweapons).”

Case in point: On April 18, 2002, a pair of Air Force F-16 fighter pilots returning from a 10-hour mission over Afghanistan saw flashes on the ground 18,000 feet below them. Thinking he and his wingman were under fire by insurgents, Maj. Harry Schmidt dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb.

There were no insurgents — just Canadian troops on a live-fire exercise, four of whom were killed in the blast. The Air Force ultimately dropped criminal charges against Schmidt and wingman Maj. William Umbach but did strip them of their wings. In a letter of reprimand, Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson accused Schmidt of “willful misconduct” and “gross poor judgment.”

Schmidt countered, saying he was jittery from taking the stimulant Dexedrine, an amphetamine that the Air Force routinely prescribes for pilots flying long missions. “I don’t know what the effect was supposed to be,” Schmidt told Chicago magazine. “All I know is something [was] happening to my body and brain.”

The Food and Drug Administration warns that Dexedrine can cause “new or worse aggressive behavior or hostility.” (.pdf) But the Air Force still blamed the pilots.

The Canadian “friendly fire” tragedy underscores the gap between the technology and policy of military human enhancement. Authorities in the bombing case could have benefited from clearer guidelines for determining whether the drugs, rather than the pilots, were to blame for the accidental deaths. “Are there ethical, legal, psycho-social or operational limits on the extent to which a warfighter may be enhanced?” Lin, Mehlman and Abney ask in their report.

Now imagine a future battlefield teeming with amphetamine-fueled pilots, a cyborg infantry and commanders whose brains have been shocked into achieving otherwise impossible levels of tactical cunning.

These enhancements and others have tremendous combat potential, the researchers state. “Somewhere in between robotics and biomedical research, we might arrive at the perfect future warfighter: one that is part machine and part human, striking a formidable balance between technology and our frailties.”

In this possible mutant future, what enhancements should be regulated by international law, or banned outright? If an implant malfunctions or a drug causes unexpected side effects, who’s responsible? And if one side deploys a terrifying cyborg army, could that spark a devastating arms race as nations scramble to out-enhance each other? “Does the possibility that military enhancements will simply lead to a continuing arms race mean that it is unethical to even begin to research or employ them?” Lin, Mehlman and Abney wonder.

The report authors also question whether the military shouldn’t get give potential enhancement subjects the right to opt out, even though the subjects are otherwise subject to military training, rules and discipline. “Should warfighters be required to give their informed consent to being enhanced, and if so, what should that process be?” the researchers ask.

The ethical concerns certainly have precedent. In a series of experiments in the 1970s aimed at developing hallucinogenic weapons, the Pentagon gave soldiers LSD — apparently without the subjects fully understanding the consequences of using the drug. During the Cold War U.S. troops were also exposed to nerve gas, psychochemicals and other toxic substances on an experimental basis and without their consent.

Moreover, it’s theoretically possible that future biological enhancements could be subject to existing international laws and treaties, potentially limiting the enhancements — or prohibiting them outright. But the application of existing laws and treaties is unclear, at best. ”Could enhanced warfighters be considered to be ‘weapons’ in themselves and therefore subject to regulation under the Laws of Armed Conflict?” the researchers write. “Or could an enhanced warfighter count as a ‘biological agent’ under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention?”

Lin, Mehlman and Abney aren’t sure. To be safe, they propose the military consider several rules when planning an enhancement. Is there a legitimate military purpose? Is it necessary? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Can subjects’ dignity be maintained and the cost to them minimized? Is there full, informed consent, transparency and are the costs of the enhancement fairly distributed? Finally, are systems in place to hold accountable those overseeing the enhancement?

Whether following these guidelines or others, the Pentagon should start figuring out a framework for military human enhancement now, Lin and his colleagues advise. “In comic books and science fiction, we can suspend disbelief about the details associated with fantastical technologies and abilities, as represented by human enhancements,” they warn. “But in the real world — as life imitates art, and ‘mutant powers’ really are changing the world — the details matter and will require real investigations.”

5 creepiest surveillance tactics

cameras

Mannequins that watch you shop. Buses that hear you chat. Modern surveillance has taken a page right out of Orwell

Alternet | Dec 13, 2012

Since the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties depends on high levels of public apathy, some of the most dangerous privacy breaches take place incrementally and under the radar; if it invites comparisons to Blade Runner or Orwell, then someone in the PR department didn’t do their job. Meanwhile, some of the biggest threats to privacy, like insecure online data or iPhone GPS tracking, are physically unobtrusive and therefore easily ignored. And it’ll be at least a year or two until the sky is overrun by spy drones.

So when a method of surveillance literally resembles a prop or plot point in a sci-fi movie, it helps to reveal just how widespread and sophisticated commercial and government monitoring has become.  Here are five recent developments that seem almost unreal in their dystopian creepiness.

1. Buses and street cars that can hear what you say.

You can’t really go anywhere in America without being tracked by surveillance cameras. But seeing what people do is not enough; according to a report by the Daily, cities all over the country are literally bugging public transportation.

In San Francisco, city officials have plans to install surveillance cameras that record sound on 357 buses and trolley cars, the Daily reported. Eugene, Oregon and Columbus, Hartford and Athens, Georgia, also have audio recording plans in the works. The systems have the capacity to filter background noise and hone in on passengers’ conversations.

Officials have said that the system is merely intended to help resolve disputes between bus riders. San Francisco officials did not comment, but the Daily found a similar justification in procurement documents for the technology. “The purpose of this project is to replace the existing video surveillance systems in SFMTA’s fleet of revenue vehicles with a reliable and technologically advanced system to increase passenger safety and improve reliability and maintainability of the system.”

It’s nice that the Department of Homeland Security, which covered the entire cost of San Francisco’s system, is so committed to ensuring pleasant bus rides for passengers.

2. Mannequins that can see you.

A handful of retailers in the US and Europe are installing mannequins in their stores that can determine customers’ age, gender and race, Bloomberg reported last month. Don’t worry, the face recognition-equipped camera is hidden, so there is no way to tell whether the giant plastic dolls in the store are watching you as you shop. The company that developed the mannequins (named EyeSee) sells their attributes thusly:

This special camera installed inside the mannequin’s head analyzes the facial features of people passing through the front and provides statistical and contextual information useful to the development of targeted marketing strategies. The embedded software can also provide other data such as the number of people passing in front of a window at certain times of the day.

They are also developing audio technology that can pick up key words from customer conversations to help them tailor their marketing plans. A screen that displays advertising geared specifically to each customers’ demographic is also in EyeSee’s future.

Really, wouldn’t the ideal marketing scenario be if human customers were replaced by mannequins programmed to buy everything the other mannequins were selling?

3. Biometric time clocks.

For too long, employers lacked the ability to extract every second of labor from their workers with scientific precision. Thanks to the wonders of face recognition technology, many employees in low-wage workplaces are now required to log in to work on face recognition readers instead of using key cards or codes. Biometric time clocks like FaceIn, most commonly used at construction sites, create an avatar of the workers’ face that the machine keeps forever and that ages alongside the employee. Allegedly, it can tell twins apart.

Meanwhile, many fast food restaurants and retailers have started using biometric time clocks that record digital fingerprints, like the creepily named U.are.U digital fingerprint reader, to prevent employees from coming in late or giving out discounts.

4. Tagging children.

It’s probably best to train people in robotic discipline early, and many US schools, aided by surveillance technology vendors, are on it. Last month, a Texas sophomore sued her school district for making students carry RFID chips that tracked their movements, but that’s just the start. School administrators all over the country use CCTV cameras, RFID chips, and GPS tracking to moniter where students go and what they do, as David Rosen reported for AlterNet. One pilot program for middle schoolers used GPS to make sure kids aren’t late: 

Each school day, the delinquent students get an automated “wake-up” phone call reminding them that they need to get to school on time. In addition, five times a day they are required to enter a code that tracks their locations: as they leave for school, when they arrive at school, at lunchtime, when they leave school and at 8pm. These students are also assigned an adult “coach” who calls them at least three times a week to see how they are doing and help them find effective ways to make sure they get to school.

5. Biometric databases.

Federal agencies ranging from the DoD to the FBI to the DHS are revamping their databases to include iris scans, voice patterning, measures of gait, face recognition, and records of scars and tattoos. They also have a mandate to indiscriminately share this information between agencies and with unnamed foreign entities.

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Darpa Implants Could Track Your Stress Level 24/7


Photo: U.S. Air Force

Wired | Feb 3, 2012

By Katie Drummond

Plenty of geeks are already obsessed with self-tracking, from monitoring sleep rhythms to graphing caffeine intake versus productivity. Now, the Department of Defense’s far-out research agency is after the ultimate kind of Quantified Self: Soldiers with implanted body sensors that keep intimate tabs on their health, around the clock.

In a new call for research, Darpa is asking for proposals to devise prototype implantable biosensors. Once inserted under a soldier’s skin, Darpa wants the sensors to provide real-time, accurate measurements of “DoD-relevant biomarkers” including stress hormones, like cortisol, and compounds that signal inflammation, like histamine.

Implantable sensors are only the latest of several Pentagon-backed ventures to track a soldier’s health. Darpa’s already looked into tracking “nutritional biomarkers” to evaluate troops’ diets. And as part of the agency’s “Peak Soldier Performance” program, Darpa studied how one’s genes impact physical ability, and tried to manipulate cellular mitochondria to boost the body’s energy levels.

Sensors alone won’t make troops stronger, smarter or more resilient. But they’d probably offer the kind of information that could. For one thing, the sensors would provide military docs an array of reliable info about the health of every single soldier. Plus, they’d tell leaders how a soldier’s body stood up to grueling physical training or a tough deployment. Tracking changes in the body’s endocrine system, for example, might tell a physician that a soldier is increasingly sleep deprived. Or observing chronically increased inflammation levels might tell a team leader that trainee number five isn’t cut out for the Navy SEALs.

Real-time sensors would also solve plenty of problems where warzone medical care is concerned. It’s not easy to take a urine test in the middle of a firefight. Darpa’s solicitation notes that health care often suffers because of “overnight shipping to a centralized laboratory,” and the “collection, processing and handling” that can mar specimens in transit.

Besides, urine samples and blood tests are hardly as personalized as an implanted sensor would be. A system that tracks several biomarkers could offer a robust and real-time analysis of how, say, a soldier’s sleeping patterns or dietary choices affect his or her physical performance.

Far out as the idea sounds, scientists have already made impressive strides toward implantable biosensors. A team at Clemson University, with Pentagon funding, has devised a sensor that can be implanted for short periods to monitor the well being of injured patients. Another group, at Tufts University, is making biosensors out of silk, which they think will be easier to introduce into bodily tissues. Some companies are even getting into niche implants, most notably those to monitor glucose levels among diabetics.

Still, plenty of challenges persist. For one, biocompatibility — the ability of the sensor to integrate into the body, without being “walled off” by surrounding tissues — is still a limiting factor in determining whether a sensor will even work, not to mention what it can measure and how long it’ll last. And Darpa’s ideal sensors don’t just need to be biocompatible. They’ve also got to offer extremely accurate information on several different biomarkers, and have a long enough lifespan to avoid frequent replacement.

Of course, a sensor that tracked every estrogen uptick and cortisol dip would be a self-tracker’s wet dream and a major aide for doctors — whether civilian or military. It’s also got some vaguely dystopian connotations, like the prospect of job hiring and firing based on, say, a body that’s got less than optimal stress responses.

But don’t panic just yet. For now, Darpa only wants prototypes tested on “biospecimens and animal models.”

IBM: Resistance is unnecessary, the Borg will be assimilated comfortably


“Star Trek” captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is fitted with gizmos for a fictional Borg transformation. The blending of humans and hardware will probably be more artful in real life by 2111. Paramount Pictures

This wouldn’t be a Borg-like assimilation, in which humans look increasingly like machines. Rather, the machines would blend into the human body.

IBM thinks about the next 100 years

MSNBC | Jun 16, 2011

By Alan Boyle

A hundred years from now, will we be assimilated by the machines? Or will we assimilate them? These are the kinds of issues facing International Business Machines as the company begins its second 100 years.

Right now, most folks are thinking about the past 100 years at IBM, which is celebrating the centennial of its founding on Thursday. But for Bernard Meyerson, the company’s vice president of innovation, it’s all about the next century.

“That’s pretty much what we think about,” Meyerson told me today.

Related

Meyerson has plenty to look back on, including his own not-so-small part in IBM’s past innovations. When his cell phone dropped the connection during our telephone conversation, he called back and casually mentioned that he had a hand in creating the transistors built into that cell phone. And when I asked him to explain, he said, “I actually invented the technology known as silicon-germanium.”

It turns out that IBM has played a behind-the-scenes role in all sorts of technologies, ranging from semiconductor development to barcodes to Wi-Fi. “IBM is a funny company,” Meyerson said. “We don’t force you to put a little sticker on anything that says, ‘We’re the smart guys.'”

IBM Centennial Film

But enough about the past: What about the future? “Going forward, you have tremendous opportunities,” particularly when it comes to making sense of the huge databases that are being built up in all sorts of fields, Meyerson said. For example, imagine a system that can take medical records from the 285 million people around the world with diabetes, anonymize those records and analyze them, looking for potential new treatments or preventive measures.

“The fact is, there is no mechanism today that could do that, and the reason is that medical data is unstructured,” he said. There’s little consistency in how the records are kept, and medical conditions might be described in different ways by different doctors.

When you put together the volumes of data and the numbers of people that have to be covered in these massive, unstructured data sets, the figures mount up to quintillions of bytes. That’s the challenge facing new types of computing tools — for example, the Watson supercomputer, which won a highly publicized “Jeopardy” quiz-show match earlier this year. Now Watson is being put to work on a tougher task: making sense of medical records, which is just the kind of job Meyerson has in mind.

Still other challenges await. Watson-style computers could digest the millions of data points involved in tracking the flow of highway traffic, then develop models to predict where the tie-ups could arise before they actually happen. The computers of the next century will have to handle a wide range of “big data” challenges, ranging from climate modeling to natural-language search engines for multimedia.

Meyerson doesn’t expect Watson to answer that challenge completely. A hundred years from now, Watson will almost certainly be considered a quaint antique, much like the tabulating machines that were made back in 1911.

“Watson specifically is not the issue, as much as the combination of Watson’s ability to interpret natural language, the capacity to store ‘big data’ and apply data analytics to come up with solutions for society,” he said. “In the absence of natural language, you’re going to have a short, unhappy life attempting this work. Without that key ingredient, how are you going to take the interaction of humans and machines to the next level and make it easy?”

What will the next level be in the year 2111? “Honestly, at 100 years I’m genuinely unsure,” Meyerson said. The past century has shown that the pace of technological advancement can be highly variable, depending on what kinds of breakthroughs come to the fore. But if Meyerson had to bet on one particular game-changing technology, it would be coming up with a direct interface between computing circuits and the human brain.

“If it turns out that there is a very natural way to communicate data back and forth without being obtrusive, then the whole world changes,” he told me. This wouldn’t be a Borg-like assimilation, in which humans look increasingly like machines. Rather, the machines would blend into the human body.

Does that sound like a grand dream for the next century? Or a nightmare?

Chips for dinner: Edible RFID tags describe your food


An RFID in a cake could tell you how many calories it contains (Image: Image Source/Getty)

newscientist.com | Jun 10, 2011

by Jesse Emspak

For tracking, radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are the greatest thing since sliced bread. But what if the RFID chip was actually in the sliced bread?

A student at the Royal College of Art in London, Hannes Harms, has come up with a design for an edible RFID chip, part of a system he calls NutriSmart. The chip could send information about the food you eat to a personal computer or, conceivably, a mobile phone via a Bluetooth connection.

The idea is that it could send nutritional data and ingredients for people who have allergies, or calorie-counting for those on diets, or maybe even telling your fridge when the food has gone off. It could even be used to market organic food, with a chip holding data about the origin of that tuna steak you just bought.

The idea still raises a lot of questions. First is safety. People ingest electronic cameras often enough – the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first ones a decade ago. But those cameras are used to diagnose serious conditions, not eaten daily. Then there’s privacy. Do you want the whole world to know about your food allergy or diabetes? Are you comfortable telling unknown parties your eating habits?

Last is cost. RFID chips can be made cheaply, but adding a dollar to the cost of a dollar food item is a leap many people might not want to make.

It isn’t clear whether Harms could commercialice this – he has presented designs for interactive furniture and a small, portable ultrasound unit, but they seem to be industrial design concepts more than anything else. That said, the idea itself is intriguing and is a nice example of just how far we can take the concept of a wired world.

Google Invades Your Home…Android Phones Control Your Appliances and Accessories

As Google enables you to create a smart-home, they could also be building the Internet of Things. There will be an RFID chip, NFC panel, or computer embedded in everything you own.

singularityhub.com | May 21, 2011

by Aaron Saenz

Soon your smart phone may be the only light switch you’ll ever need. At this year’s Google I/O conference, enterprising executives from the Silicon Valley search giant announced that their Android OS for mobile devices will soon be able to reach out and touch appliances in your home. The open Accessory Development Kit (ADK) will allow developers to wire lights and other common electrical devices to control boards that can interact directly with Android (via USB or BlueTooth). Google wants to take this hardware interactive capability and use it to turn your home into a smart living space. Push a button in an app on your Android and specially enabled lamps will turn off and on, music will start playing on your speakers, or maybe your air-conditioner will kick in. It’s all up to you – you can command your entire house from your phone or tablet with Android as your operating system. That’s the Android@Home concept and it could make it easy and cheap to upgrade your bachelor pad from a neanderthal’s lair to a real high-tech Batcave. Check out the Google I/O 2011 presentations for the ADK and Android@Home in the video below. Using Android to send commands to other electronics is a great idea, but I’m much more excited about information flowing in the other direction. As Google enables you to create a smart-home, they could also be building the Internet of Things.

Google I/O 2011 streamed live on YouTube, so you can find almost every second of the conference online. I’ve cued up the following video from the day one key note address to where Google starts discussing the ADK. Following an awesome presentation with a life-sized Labyrinth game controlled by tilting an Android tablet, you’ll be able to see the presentation on Android@Home.

The Android ADK should allow developers to make almost any device talk with Android OS. Working with Lighting Science, Google is creating a line of LED bulbs which will be able to talk with Android OS as well as using Android@Home connectivity standards. Coming home to a dark house? Just push a single button on your Android phone and all your lamps could spring to light instantly. Pretty cool, and these bulbs are scheduled to arrive by the end of 2011. Google has also created specialized hubs for this communication through their Project Tungsten. The hubs, which appear as glowing boxes or white orbs, will be able to use WiFi, BlueTooth, or near field communication (NFC) to receive commands from Android devices, read information from NFC embedded products (like CD or DVD cases, action figures/dolls, etc), and control multimedia presentations.

Clearly Google is attacking the “wire your stuff up to Android” idea from different angles. I’m sure we’ll see specialized “Android-enabled” products from third party developers in the near future. The exercise bike seen in the presentation video was a good example. I imagine MP3 playing stereos are also going to be a first wave product as well, and of course those LED light bulbs will be coming soon. At the same time Google will be pushing their Project Tungsten boxes as ‘all in one’ sort of solutions for your media center. Eventually I’m sure we’ll see models that can handle larger appliances and power consuming devices around the house.

A smart house, however, isn’t just about what you can command, but what you can learn. When you send a message to a lamp to get it to turn on, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be able to send data back on its consumption, its bulb life, etc. Or alternatively this data could be collected at the Android device side of things. Either way you have digital information tied to the physical object you’re using. Whether we’re talking bulbs, blenders, or bicycles doesn’t matter – as soon as you have a computer tracking electronic objects in order to give them commands you can use the same computer to track the history of those objects.

As I’ve mentioned before, this object tracking is at the heart of the Internet of Things – the massive system of smart devices and sensors that is forming in parallel to our own people-inhabited internet. On a commercial level the IoT will enable us to track shipments of food, pharmaceuticals, and other goods, but in your home the near terms benefits of the IoT are all about finesse and efficiency. Let lamps turn off automatically when you leave the room. As you drive home your mobile phone could call ahead and fire up the heater or A/C to prep the environment – making your arrival more pleasant and saving energy by matching the timing perfectly. Your tablet, now the magic wand that remotely controls all your appliances, could notice that your refrigerator is cycling on (using more electricity) than normal. Did someone leave it open or is it time to get the appliance fixed?

Are those little money savers too boring for you? How about turning every appliance in your house into a burglar detection system: if a single device is activated while you’re out of the home, an alert could be pushed to your phone warning you that someone flipped on a light or opened your automatic garage door. With products like the Android ADK and Project Tungsten you could even wire up your doors with electronic locks you can remotely control. If someone breaks in, you lock them in, crank up the stereo, and make them listen to your worst Polka MP3s for an hour. You get the idea…if you imagination can dream it up, you should be able to enable it with IoT technology.

Applications like these haven’t been developed yet, but they’re exactly the sort of products I would expect us to eventually create when concepts like Project Tungsten and Android@Home fully muture. We’ve seen other companies bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds, but with Google now in the mix we may see this trend accelerated considerably. Android is a proven market with a large developer base. Now that Android is in the business of controlling other electronics, you can bet that both the necessary hardware and software will arrive – and much sooner than if Google hadn’t thrown their hat into the ring. Some precursors to the Internet of Things are already here, and now I expect more will be coming shortly. We’ve had smart homes for a while, but now the phenomenon could be hitting the mainstream, and smart cars are sure to follow (actually some of them are already here as well). From there it just keeps getting smaller and smarter. One day soon your closet will tell you which clothes match today’s weather forecast, your mobile phone will match your lunch order with your medical record to maximize your health, and there will be an RFID chip, NFC panel, or computer embedded in everything you own. Like so many other technology giants, Google’s moving from the digital to the physical world – get ready.