Public recycling bins that use RFID to credit recyclers every time they toss in a bottle; pressure-sensitive floors in the homes of older people that can detect a fall and contact help; phones that store health records and can be used to pay for prescriptions.
In New Songdo City, a "ubiquitous city" being built in South Korea, all major information systems (residential, medical, business, governmental, etc.) share data, and computers are to be built into the houses, streets and office buildings.
When completed in 2014, the city's infrastructure will be a test bed for new technologies, and the city itself will exemplify a digital way of life, the "U-life." It starts with a resident's smart-card house key. "The same key can be used to get on the subway, pay a parking meter, see a movie, borrow a free public bicycle and so on. It'll be anonymous, won't be linked to your identity, and if lost you can quickly cancel the card and reset your door locks," aid John Kim who leads the U-city planning.
"Much of this technology was developed in U.S. research labs, but there are fewer social and regulatory obstacles to implementing them in Korea," said Anthony Townsend, a research director Palo Alto. "There is an historical expectation of less privacy. Korea is willing to put off the hard questions to take the early lead and set standards."
"This is a competitive advantage for the Koreans," comments B. J. Fogg, of the Persuasive Technology Lab. "They will know before anyone else what flies."
A team at the University of Tokyo's Center for Spatial Information Science has developed a system that evaluates walking patterns to identify individuals in crowded places such as train stations.
It could be used for security systems that can detect suspicious characters, but also to analyze walking habits in order to design shopping districts that are easier to navigate. The team plans to partner with private-sector firms and hope the technology will be ready in two or three years.
The system combines floor-level laser beams with overhead cameras to isolate and track individuals. In tests monitoring 600 sq. meters of a crowded train station, the system isolated 80% of all passersby, even at rush hours, when about 150 people were milling about simultaneously.
With this technology, the typical walking pattern of the elderly could be used to determine where in train stations to place signs with larger, easier to read lettering. Retailers could also use the system to determine if people lingering in front of their window displays are stopping to look at their products or just stopping to talk on their phones.
A surveillance system that singles you out if you're acting suspiciously and alerts authorities so they can take pre-emptive action is being developed.
The system uses behaviour recognition software to identify unusual activity, such as shifting around on a bus. The system is based on computers learning what normal behaviour is, then looking for patterns of behaviour outside the norm. The system would then alert the authorities when it detects unusual behaviour.
The technology, still in early stages, isn't designed to recognise fine detail, such as fidgeting or acting nervous. But it would detect more obvious behaviour. "For example, pickpockets have a very strange behaviour pattern on a bus compared to most people," says Barney Glover, of Curtin University of Technology. "They generally move around from seat to seat to find a mark, while most people sit down and then depart."
Roger Clarke, at the Australian National University in Canberra, says the technology would result in countless false alarms and constitute a civil liberties infringement. "It's a horrendous proposition in terms of interfering with the way the world works," he says.
Curtin University of Technology has also devised a system where "anxiety" levels are built into a house. "The house gets anxious if an abnormal event continues," says Glover. "Eventually it reaches an anxiety level where it sends an SMS to a carer and says, 'grandma seems to be sitting on the floor beside her bed and isn't responding to the prompts from the house, please intervene'."
The most sophisticated forms of the technology are expected to be available within the next 10 years.
Via ABC News.
Henrin, developed by Masaru Tabei and Yuria Terada, is a collection of CD-Rs that contains the life of a 26-year-old woman who has an elder sister. She was born and raised in a local city, had been working at a company after graduating from a university, and recently quit the job and moved to Tokyo. She is half fictional, half based on Yuria Terada's past experiences.
[left: the disks; right: screenshot of an interactive multimedia diary stored in the disks]
The collection includes 19 CD-R disks, each of which contains a year of her life. Since she is 26 years old, you can tell some years are missing. This is how the artists designed it to convey "incompleteness of memories" through this work.
Some of what I saw in the interactive multimedia diary were lyrical narratives of mundane things. Other things were somewhat disturbing (like her worries about some "cursing words" she heard when she was a girl).
This could be an interesting format for a new kind of entertainment that potentially stimulates people's voyeuristic curiosity. Using one's digital life history as entertainment media seems like a new approach (whether you like it or not).
via Digital Stadium (in Japanese)
A high-tech plaster could keep a constant check on your health, thanks to a tiny electronic device, which can be attached to an ordinary plaster.
The "digital plaster" contains a silicon chip, which can carry sensors for a range of symptoms and check vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure and glucose levels.
The data would then be processed by the Sensium silicon chip which is powered by a tiny battery, and sent via a mobile phone or PDA on to a computer database.
Patients could be alerted if the results were worrying. The computer could also be primed to detect a change in the pattern of results seen, and a doctor could be alerted to the problem.
Keith Errey from Toumaz, a spin-off company from Imperial College in London, which is developing the device, said it could even be used by people who want to keep a remote eye on an elderly relative: "You could include a motion sensor on there and it could act as a kind of 'granny monitor', so you would know if your relative had had a fall."
Via BBC News.
Q Star FlashCam-530 vociferous lampposts are being deployed across the UK.
The FlashCam has already been attached to street furniture in 52 locations in London, Glasgow and Birmingham, where it aims at detering vandalism, in particular graffiti and illegal trash dumping. Water companies are using the system to protect water storage tanks against intruders. Some systems are being used to deter burglary, drug dealing and prostitution.
The FlashCam-530 senses motion up to 100 feet away. When motion is detected, the system starts taking 35 mm photographs. A bright flash goes off and a loud voice message warns the intruder to "leave the area now" and that his/her photograph is being taken.
Former London Met police officer Steve Galinsky enthused: "They have already caught lots of people - some quite literally with their pants down, engaged with prostitutes. The look of utter amazement on their faces when the camera starts to shout is priceless."
However, The Guardian wonders exactly how the FlashCam distinguishes between strumpets administering sexual relief to punters and old ladies out walking their dogs.
Via The Register.