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Pages: pp. 94-96


Locating Wi-Fi hotspots

Online Wi-Fi hotspot directory has teamed up with the UK's Mobile Commerce phone service and Multimap online mapping companies to let cell-phone owners locate the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot. Users send a short-message service (SMS) message containing the keyword "hotspot" to common short code number 84140. On receiving the message, the service responds with the nearest registered Wi-Fi location's name, address, and phone number. This service is based on the SMS store-finder service that Mobile Commerce and Multimap established in September 2004. The Wi-Fi locator service works across the UK's four leading GSM networks (Vodafone, Orange, O2, and T-Mobile).

Tracking children

Fujitsu Limited and Rikkyo Primary School in Japan have teamed up to provide a service that automatically records the times at which students arrive at and depart from school grounds. Radio frequency identification (RFID) readers with a range of approximately 10 meters read tags attached to student backpacks or other personal belongings (see Figure 1). The tags carry no personal information that can be obtained if they're lost or stolen. The service reports students' locations to a secure Web site, which parents and school staff can access. In addition, the system can email parents their children's arrival and departure information. By providing all approved personnel with such tags, the school will also be able to detect unauthorized visitors. The system's planned full-scale rollout will be in April 2005.

Graphic: RFID tag for tracking schoolchildren. (figure courtesy of Fujitsu Limited)

Figure 1   RFID tag for tracking schoolchildren. (figure courtesy of Fujitsu Limited)


Low-cost personal internet communicator

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has launched a line of Personal Internet Communicator (PIC) PCs for countries without significant Internet penetration, such as India, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil (see Figure 2). This new line shares some goals with the low-cost wireless PC-development effort involving Carnegie Mellon University's Raj Reddy that we reported on last column. However, while that research effort specifically targets the illiterate, AMD is focused on bringing Internet connectivity to 50 percent of the world's population by 2015. AMD developed the PIC PCs—in conjunction with Solectron, Seagate, and other companies—to be affordable and easy to use and maintain. The PCs offer fixed functionality with preinstalled software (such as email, Internet, and productivity software) tailored to each market, which can't be upgraded. End-user system customization is also limited. AMD will sell the PCs to ISPs and telecommunication companies, which in turn will offer them to subscribers and provide service and support. The first PIC, shown here, runs Microsoft Windows. AMD will first offer it in India. It has an AMD GX 500 processor, 128 Mbytes of double-data-rate dynamic RAM, a 10-Gbyte drive, four USB ports, and a VGA port.

Graphic: AMD's affordable personal Internet communicator.

Figure 2   AMD's affordable personal Internet communicator.


Safekeeper trusted I/O

National Semiconductor is shipping two Safekeeper ICs, the PC8392T and PC8374T, which provide hardware-based mechanisms for making computer systems more secure (see Figure 3). These ICs implement version 1.1b of the Trusted Computing Group's Trusted Platform Module specification, which details numerous security features. One such feature is that TPMs include mechanisms to securely generate, store, and operate on private keys, thus reducing the likelihood that system software can compromise those keys. The PC8392T and PC8374T also provide a unique private/public key, providing a trust root for the system with such an IC installed and letting other systems and users uniquely identify and authenticate the system. These ICs provide mechanisms for computing secure hashes, which you can use to protect computer software (such as the operating system and applications) from unauthorized changes. In addition to these and other security features, the ICs provide I/O functions useful for building systems, including parallel and serial port interfaces, a floppy disk controller, sensor interfaces for monitoring and controlling fan speed, and numerous general purpose I/O pins.

Graphic: National Semiconductor's Safekeeper Trusted I/O chip.

Figure 3   National Semiconductor's Safekeeper Trusted I/O chip.

Smart memory cards

Matsushita Electric Industrial Company has announced a novel secure digital memory card called the smartSD card, which includes a smart card module in addition to flash memory (see Figure 4). Using conventional SD memory card-access devices, you can write information to the smartSD card and optionally encrypt it. Special readers then read the information wirelessly. The smart card module can also receive data wirelessly. The company has planned commercial shipments of the smartSD cards for fall 2005.

Graphic: Secure digital memory card with smart-card capabilities.

Figure 4   Secure digital memory card with smart-card capabilities.

Digital TV on handsets

Texas Instruments is developing an IC that will let you watch digital TV broadcasts on your handset. Samples of the new IC will be available in 2006; this will let handset manufacturers launch products in 2007 in conjunction with the first large-scale deployments of the forthcoming mobile TV digital infrastructure. The IC will support the Digital Video Broadcasting–Handheld (DVB-H) and Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting–Terrestrial (ISDB-T) digital TV broadcast standards. (The former, developed for Europe, will likely be extended for North America, and the latter was developed in Japan).

All-plastic color LCD

HP Laboratories has developed a prototype plastic bistable display that can display 125 colors (see Figure 5). The company designed the technology to scale to paperlike resolutions over large areas and is targeting it for such applications as electronic books, magazines, and digital posters rather than video displays. The prototype uses a passive rather than an active matrix and plastic instead of glass, making it feasible and more cost-effective to build large displays. HP made the prototype using imprinting and lamination processes instead of the more expensive vacuum deposition and photolighography used for today's flat panels. HP is continuing to develop the technology and expects it to take a few more years to assess the commercial potential.

Graphic: HP Laboratories' all-plastic LCD.

Figure 5   HP Laboratories' all-plastic LCD.

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