Personal Infrastructure

“Case was twenty-four. At twenty-two, he’d been a cowboy, a rustler, one of the best in the Sprawl…jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix.”
– William Gibson

Gluco Watch

Personal Infrastructure

Posting about implants reminded me to check in on how medical technology is moving the personal interface to technology over and under the skin in interesting ways.

“The monitor measures glucose from interstitial fluid located just underneath the skin by sending a tiny electric current through the skin. The Glucose Watch has a 3-hour warm-up period and could provide painless, noninvasive measurements of blood sugar every 20 minutes for up to 12 hours. The Glucose Watch is not intended to replace traditional finger stick glucose monitoring, instead it should be used to supplement monitoring.”

Implants Growing Like Weeds

Personal Infrastructure

The European Commission is investigating pros and cons of RFID. This seems like a common sense, balanced investigation.

“RFID tags are far cleverer than traditional bar codes. They are the precursors of a world in which billions of networked objects and sensors will report their location, identity, and history” said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “These networks and devices will link everyday objects into an ‘internet of things’ that will greatly enhance economic prosperity and the quality of life. But as with any breakthrough, there is a possible downside – in this case, the implications of RFID for privacy. This is why we need to build a society-wide consensus on the future of RFID, and the need for credible safeguards. We must harness the technology and create the right opportunities for its use for the wider public good.”

In the U.S., the State Department seems to be marching ahead with plans to require RFID chips on passports. There have been several rounds of review and comment on proposed regulations, but privacy advocates are not yet reassured.

Spy Chips or Cow Chips?

Personal Infrastructure

RFID chips, first conceived of as inventory management devices, made the leap to living beings in the cattle industry.

“An ISO compliant RFID tag to provide each head of cattle a unique code, plus a rugged field reader that can automatically upload data into the BeefLink software on your PC.”

Advocates of benefits to humans, such as the proposed medical use here, have been overwhelmed by ham-handed Homeland Security passport proposals. My guess is there won’t be mandates, and many people will voluntarily choose implants.

Joseph Feldman, MD, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine, Hackensack University Medical Center, said “We look forward to using the VeriChip System to assist in patient identification and access to medical information. Particularly beneficial to patients with chronic illnesses…”

And WalMart’s inventory control needs are going to continue to drive the state of the art, which may be where technical fixes to privacy concerns actually come from.

The Electric Human

Personal Infrastructure

I didn’t see any of these guys at CES, but they are midway between the Asian companies obsession with clean air and my speculations that some of the tinfoil hat crowd, if you filter out the paranoia, might be onto something.

“Targeting Americans concerned about exposure to mobile phone and electrical infrastructure, online retailers are selling a growing selection of protective gear. Listings include radiation-blocking boxers, radio curtain shields and pendants for removing electromagnetic frequencies…the proliferation of cellular antennae and electricity-sucking gadgetry is heightening concern among those who profess to suffer from electrical sensitivity, an illness triggered by exposure to frequencies emitted by various manmade technologies.”,1367,69640,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_3


Personal Infrastructure

1. IrisAccess 4000

IrisAccess 4000, buried in the corner of the huge display of LGE digital big fat flat screens, was the only sign of biometrics at the Show. That industry got up wholesale and moved over to the Homeland Security pig trough over the last couple years. I believe in about four more years it will appear again in the consumer space with amazing development funded by bottomless defense department and DHS spending.

2. Logicube

Logicube formerly recognized as the “dominant leader in hard drive duplication”, has expanded in this Age of Terrorism into the leader in computer forensic products that are Government approved and now offer solutions in the law enforcement community.“ That is, they sell technology for reading drives that have been wiped clean of data. The “Made in the USA logo is prominent, as is a United States Government Approved” seal with an eagle and the words Law Enforcement, United States of America, “to honor, serve and protect.”

3. Yellow Machine

A terabyte storage drive, in the shape and size (one foot tall) of a desktop refrigerator, with a distinctive yellow color. More sexing up of core geek technology, as Moore’s Law marches on.

4. Buffalo Technologies TeraStation

A similar size, but tricked out to look like a metal safe. It’s also tricked out, unlike the Yellow Machine, to be a home media server connected to television. When bytes is bytes, functionality is only limited by marketing imagination.

5. RJ Technology

“Welcome to RJ Technology’s fascinating digital world. Our vision is to offer a new touch of digital life style, which blends fashion and design with technology.” All the things in their catalog, from the floor speakers to MP3 and DVD players to the high fashion models, are emaciatingly thin.

6. Faserwave

A portable satellite receiver that folds up to the size of a notebook – get your satellite TV wherever you go. Of course you have to take the satellite converter box with you too – not bad for the mobile home lifestyle. Coming soon – the 2006 Marine Antenna, with digital gyro compass systems for satellite tracking in moving vessels.

7. RaySat SpeedRay 3000


Speaking of moving vessels, RaySat SpeedRay 3000 – tracking satellite receiver for the roof of your mobile vehicle of choice. Cool NASCAR name as well.

8. Chitter Chatter

So I bought my 9 year old daughter a cell phone for Christmas – a Firefly, with limited minutes and a set of preprogrammed numbers she can call. I still felt it was kind of early for that. Then I saw the Chitter Chatter phone – same kind of deal, but additional feature of location-based technology – be able to find location of your kid (or at least their phone) within 300 feet. The implications, of course, are that your boss could know if you’re playing golf when you call in sick. High degree of social impact in this one.

9. TouchNTalk Multi-Language Learning System

Scanner pen and companion unit with voice synthesizer that reads the words you scan. Kids can read to themselves! Very cool, unless it works like the first language processor I had, which translated a German menu item as the succulent “Pig’s Nipple”.

10. XaviX BassFISHING –

Adding to their line of baseball, golf and other games combining a motion sensing pad on which you stand and swing with video game environments on your TV, this year’s product introduction is…Bass Fishing! Pulse pounding action !!!


Personal Infrastructure

Asian manufacturers, from Japan (not counting Sony and other “majors”), Korea (not including Samsung and other “majors”), Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and elsewhere have large presences at the Consumer Electronics Show. These illustrate life-cycle trends in technology innovations from years past, but also technology trends that never make it to North America. I am constantly struck by the range of health-related gadgets among these companies, revealing something about Asian cultures that I’m too provincial to get. And sometimes I make fun of the language issues, but please excuse that juvenile attitude.

1. Newlane Limited MP3 Players

Deep in the Hong Kong/Taiwanese modular show booth farms are countless knock-offs of familiar brands – MP3 players copying the Apple white surface and shape. One from Newlane Limited has a plus-sign shaped up-down-left-right control in the place of the scroll dial. The plus-sign comes in children’s primary colors – looks like a cross between Apple and Fisher Price. Brands travel.

2. SurroundAir Ionic Air Purifier

I wonder if Asia has more air purification gadgets because of their higher proportion of urban, skyscraper hi-density living and working space. Try the SurroundAir Ionic Air Purifier. It’s portable and you can “enjoy clean air even when stuck in traffic”. Or from the same outfit, a hand-held Live Sure Water Tester, which gives you a readout of “Total Dissolved Solids levels (TDSs can include salts metals leads, arsenic, sewage, fertilizer, pesticides and other impurities). – I suppose it also includes salt or other harmless stuff?

3. Vigorhood Pacific

I have a personal shredder, but, mostly I just like the company name.

4. Kingbillion

Again, I just like the name.

5. Health Fan Heater

Health Fan Heater – cleans air, generates negative ions (the good kind!), with built in air fan and heater and generates (or prevents?) “Far-Infrared Ray”. I have to investigate this one a little more I guess. This Web site seems ephemeral – but I think they were a Hong Kong outfit.

6. Airdow

Airdow generates negative ions to reduce computer’s static radiation and kieep health”

Produce the high-density negative more than 2 million per second, make people feel in the forest;” Comes in green, gray, pink and “milky white.”

7. iBox iTelephone Café

More a business opportunity than a technology, iBox iTelephone Café is a “real telco-level switch – start with a switch the size of a cable converter box, “with a minimal investment, you can issue your own calling cards at wholesale telecom rates. “As your business grows from a small one man telephone café into a real telecom company with hundreds or thousands of people working for you, our telco-level switches are ready to accommodate your growth.” I can only guess that this is aimed at developing nations, but don’t ask me contact:

8. Magnetic Point Massager

Handheld device for magnetically stimulating acupressure points. Comes with acupressure map. You first.


It’s an indoor deodorizer, bacteria killer, skin moistener and humidifier. It destroys “Funk produced by organic substance”. Aromas include lavender, mint, Eucalyptus and Pythoncidere.

10. Vapir

Digital Vaporization Technology. “Since the dawn of time, humans have burned plants, inhaling unhealthy compounds from the process that aren’t found in the original plant. The Vapir line of vaporizers …”releases an herb’s essential material, without many of the toxic elements created by smoking.” Paging the medical marijuana movement. Hey, wait a minute! These guys aren’t Asian – they’re from Venice, California. Well, Pacific Rim then.

11. Digital Integrated Systems

An entry from Malaysia – with a line of MP4 players. They also do Digital Audio Broadcasting receivers, which I think is a good, not too crowded entry niche for a low cost manufacturer. The Blue Thunder line includes the Viper Cam with its “attractive snake shape camera”.

All the health devices seem so obsessed with sensory perceptions. I remember one of my favorites from the dotcom era, a company called DigiScent. They claimed to be able to digitize scents, send them over the wire, and recreate them on a device at your end. From a Neurosphere point of view, this would actually be viewed as a step forward toward digital interconnection on a more integral basis, all senses instead of the abstractions of words and bits. Hmm.


Personal Infrastructure

Second in my series of Top Tens from the Consumer Electronics Show.

Increasingly, my interest in the CES is less about the by-now-expected trends of miniaturization and personalization in the devices themselves, but more in the support infrastructure that makes (or doesn’t) the other trends practical for the user. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, from powering to ergonomics.

1. Better Battery

“Matsushita Battery has developed this Direct Methanol Fuel Cell system by incorporating its new fuel supply technology with its stack technology, high power lithium ion battery and battery management system (which is based on previous development work for electric power sources). This cell itself is approximately 400cc (24 cubic inches), which is similar to the size of a beverage can and roughly half the size of models publicly demonstrated to date. With an average output of 13 watts, a peak output of 20 watts, and low weight that enables true mobility, a laptop PC is using this fuel cell is able to achieve up to 20 hours of runtime.”

2. Wired Child Protection

Another angle in the power game – as a parental veteran of clunky child-guard technologies of all kinds, I was interested to see Koncept’s Smart Shutter, “a patented internal tamper-resistant system that blocks insertion of potentially dangerous objects – like paper clips, keys and letter openers – yet opens for any standard 2 or 3 prong power plus, and automatically closes upon removal of plugs.”

They also have similar technology in surge protector flavors, and this one claims to clean and remove appliance-caused noise elsewhere in the home grid from getting into audio/visual products and degraded sound performance. This electromagnetic interference filtering is also a feature of this year’s number one Consumer Electronics product, the PowerSquid power strip.

3. Gracenote MediaVOCS

I have noted Gracenote’s role in the past to provide information lubricants for music download services. They are now leveraging their databases. “When integrated with the Gracenote Media Management System, MediaVOCS provides voice command-and-control functionality and unlocks the potential of devices that can store large digital music collections…Traditional graphic user interfaces, with their small screens and limited controls, are just not practical when trying to find a specific song in a 5,000-song collection while driving in traffic or in the middle of a workout.” The product enables voice commands like “Play Stairway to Heaven” or “Create Playlist with More Songs Like” the one that is playing now. If they could translate the technology “Get more information on a song currently playing by asking, “What is this?”” into the same function while listening to the radio, I would buy it. Come to think of it, I did buy it in 1999 – it was the the Sony eMarker (a victim of the dotcom crash, alas).

4. Freeplay FreeCharge

Freeplay, the wind-up energy company, was present as always with a small 10 by 10 booth, true to their non-profit mission. In addition to the radio and flashlight product line, they now have the FreeCharge Weza “portable energy source”. The wind-up is by foot pedal rather than hand crank, and generates enough to jump start car or boat motors. They also advertised the LIFELINE radio, specifically for development or humanitarian projects, and “is typically not available commercially, rather given to those who need it at no coast to the recipient. It is available in the USA through a cause related initiative that sees a radio donated for each one purchased.

5. Iqua UFO

My Nokia phone has a loudspeaker function that works to conference in a friend or colleague in a pinch. The Iqua UFO is a stand-alone, palm sized, round (UFO-get it?) speaker connected via Bluetooth for better quality conferencing off your cell phone, eight hour battery life, a time of call display for those of you tracking billable hours.

6. Solio

Portable three solar panel unit that fold into one. Contains converters for cell phones, PDAs, iPods and, well, anything.

7. Backup Pal

Is your cellular phonebook backed up? About the size of a large pocketwatch, plug into your cellphone, press one button, and backup is complete. Not only are “No technical skills required”, but indeed “No thinking required.” There are only three buttons, Backup, Restore to Phone, and Reset. Maybe the bit about no thinking is actually true?

CellStik is the same idea in the shape and size of a USB memory stick, which in turn plugs into PC for editing of phonebook information.

8. Computer-on-a-Stick

Speaking of sticks, FingerGear has Computer-on-a-Stick. USB memory stick with an onboard operating system and application suite. I think this is more of a support technology right now, though at least one friend carries a memory stick with all files between his desktop computers in Albany and New York City as he splits time between locations. Same company has a “Bio USB Drive” that is fingerprint secured.

9. Sit N’ Fit

I am always sort of, uh, embarrassed when entering a cubicle where office ladies are sitting on one of those big fitness balls. I mean I appreciate the struggle for fitness in a desk job world, but they should all get a Sit N’ Fit. This product has an exercise ball built into a stable, corporate style office chair frame.

10. NetThrone

Or here’s a different way to be a hard bodied desk jockey. It seems like this also ought to work as a exercise machine, but it just looks like one, or like the control technicians in the classic cult TV show The Prisoner.

Top Ten from This Year’s Consumer Electronics Show

Personal Infrastructure

Took me a while to write this up, but here you go. Technology for the Neurosphere, filtered through the emergent Darwinian soup of hyper-consumerism. You have been warned.

1. The PowerSquid

This year’s number one Consumer Electronics product, the PowerSquid powerstrip

Has 6 flexible outlets spreading out from the power cord in a, well, squid-like way. Also, it incorporates electromagnetic interference filtering technology they call Purestream – supposed to improve audio-video performance of your home theater system. Basically, I just love the way it looks.

2. Digital Video Eyewear

Icuiti offers Digital Video Eyewear, and implies the 3.5 ounce, one inch wide eyeglass frame delivers a picture equivalent to a 42-inch big screen. Offering a special adapter for the Video iPod, about which it has been legitimately asked, what is one going to watch on such a small screen?

3. Night Vision Wireless WebCams

I’m big on Web cams as building awareness of the world around us. This WirelessCam is weatherproof, which is cool enough, but add Night Vision capabilities to the camera, and you have 24/7 awareness. Okay, 24/7 surveillance at least, which is what they actually are selling, although there is a picture of toddlers being surveilled in the backyard pool while Mommy mixes a martini in the kitchen.

4. Homeland Integrated Security Systems

So the biometrics crowd went uptown to homeland security a few years ago; there’s no longer a biometrics pavilion at CES. Somehow, these guys didn’t get the word and reversed the flow. They sell:

CyberTracker – transponder attached to a vehicle or other “asset” and track anywhere, plus builtin alarms if the asset moves somewhere its not supposed to.

CyberNoze – detects trace amounts of most commercial and military explosives

Cyber Rad – detects radiation from such potential “dirtybomb” candidates as Cobalt 60, Cesium 137 and Iriducm 192.

Cyber Pass – some kind of component as part of a solution for systems under development for authorized access to American ports.

This whole set of stuff creeps me out – plus this industry has barely scratched the surface – we’ll be investing billions in this for the next fifty years as Islamic fundamentalists continue to breed like flies. Weird fact – these guys have offices not only in Wash D.C., but also new age-y Asheville NC, West Palm Beach, and Beirut. Wow.

5. Magellan Roadmate

GPS navigator with TrafficKit software, it sends live traffic reports directly to your portable Magellan receiver, and onscreen icons identify the location of traffic accidents. Different indicators specify road work, lane reductions, and slowdowns. Radio traffic reports never seem to have much granularity – this might be a breakthrough. The data comes from a company called NavTeq, who apparently have been running such a system in Europe.

But NavTeq has another, even more impressive product, Incorporating ACME’s ParkingCarma™ Real-Time Parking Space Availability Engine. And they say there’s no progress in the world.

6. H2O Audio

I’m an iPod slut. Apparently, iPod’s are yesterday’s news for my hip, scenester friends, but anyway, here’s the best iPod accessory I saw at this year’s show. Waterproof housing and sport armband for you iPod or other MP3 player. Your electronics and data can be anywhere in the world.

7. IQUA Smart Badge

Bluetooth-enabled wireless headset built into a holder for your corporate ID badge, so as to improve your productivity as you navigate from one meeting to the next inside your corporate campus. I think there’s also a need for productivity solutions for the company cafeteria.

8. LG Remote Monitoring Laundry System

LGE has a washers and dryers with digital inputs and remote monitoring capability – including ability to sense when clothes are dry, rather than at a set time. Another small step on the way to the Jetsons’ lifestyle.

9. Scooba

And another step… iRobot has followed up it’s famous Roomba automatic vacuum cleaner robot with the Scooba. It “Preps, Washes, Scrubs and Dries.” (There are already Roomba knockoffs – see the CleanMate QQ line;

10. Touchless, um, Toilet

And in an area the Jetsons couldn’t talk about, ITouchless offers a Tissue Free Computerized Smart Toilet Seat. It includes “top-of-the line fully computerized automatic bidet toilet systems with the unique Enema function control that would eliminate the painful Enema.” OK, it’s here in the top ten, but I really don’t wanna know about it.



Personal Infrastructure

Sorry for the hiatus – still recovering from the influx of novelty at the Consumer Electronics Show a couple weeks ago. Soon I’ll be posting several Top Tens from the Show. In the meantime, here’s one fave:

The world’s first credit card ssized USB Flash drive. This is an interesting technology angle to me –despite cell phones and PDAs, I still am not going anywhere without my wallet. So I’m all in favor of tech adapting to me rather than vice versa.


Personal Infrastructure

What’s this got to do with Neurosphere? I dunno. I’m a soccer dad, what can I say?