Technology today is exploding! I am particularly impressed with advancements in four areas: technology that promises to protect us while on the road, technology that continues to bring us closer together no matter where we are, technology making our “stuff” smaller, faster and more efficient, and technology that affects our privacy and national security. This paper summarizes the possibilities.
I. Close to Home
Using new technology, the Emergency 911 office in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama can now triangulate the exact latitude and longitude of cell phone users. Recently this technology may have saved the life of a worker trapped beneath a gas pipeline way out in a rural area of the county. I suggest that parents should advise their children to keep their cell phones turned on whenever away from home.
Parents might also want to consider a new technology enabling them to monitor the driving habits of their kids. Teenarivealive.com offers a global positioning system chip that is built into the teen’s cell phone, and serves to locate the teen and to determine his speed of movement. If the driver exceeds a predetermined speed, a beeper warns both the parents and the teen. Technology has no answer as to what to do after that, however.
II. On the Go
Additional new technologies will someday serve all people whenever they are on the go, and wherever they are located. Cheetah Wireless Technologies is near completion of the country’s first pilot mobile broadband network in Las Vegas, Nevada. This network employs routers located on city owned light poles, streetlights and road signs. Signals are transmitted in a mesh pattern instead of the conventional hub and spokes pattern seen in cellular and Wi-Fi networks. As long as a laptop is near any of the routers, its signals can be channeled in random fashion through any of the other routers to any destination, including the internet, thus extending the range of the system beyond previous technologies.
Wireless broadband is spreading rapidly. From Orlando to Denver to Salt Lake City, and soon to be everywhere else it appears, are wireless networks featuring high-speed rates of broadband data transfer. MeshNetworks Inc. and others are also employing these systems to assist cities, fire and police departments, as well as computer users. These pilot programs are not identical, and I think it will be very interesting to see how this technology plays out. The next “Microsoft” may arise from one of these ventures!
III. Smaller, Faster, Better
One of the most exciting single ventures under development at this time is that being undertaken by Neah Power Systems, Inc. They, and some competitors, are working on technology to replace batteries in cell phones, PDAs and small devices with fuel cells powered directly by alcohol and alcohol mixtures. The technology will increase “battery life”, and make recharging the fuel cell cheap, easy and fast. There are problems to be worked out, not the least of which is the law forbidding the presence of alcohol products on airplanes, a favorite location of the trendy, “wired “set.
Intel is working on a new microchip architecture that will lower user electric bills, will facilitate easier computer management, and lower IT management costs. They have promised to deliver processors with two or more cores that can each operate slower and cooler, but provide more performance than today’s single-core chip. Intel is promising other advances, too, such as “virtualization”, which allows computers to run multiple operating systems and applications in virtual partitions. This should allow for a computer to continue functioning even after an individual application has failed.
Intel has already designed the Pentium-M, a cooler-running, more power-efficient processor. With the emergence of wireless Internet, Intel combined the Pentium M, a Wi-Fi radio, and a low power chipset to create “Centrino”. Intel has termed this combination “platformizations”, meaning “the convergence of computing and communications.” Intel has installed Centrino certified Wi-Fi stations in many locations. Users now expect new laptops to be wireless.
IV. Privacy Matters!
Technologies aimed at increasing automation tend to lower costs and increase convenience. According to the article by Kumagai and Cherry, they also represent a threat to personal privacy. RFID tags (a small microchip coupled with a tiny radio antenna) and enormous databases of consumer activity created through data mining and other consumer tracking devices will eventually provide a very clear picture of every individual. If the security of this information is ever compromised or misused, the personal privacy of a person could be in grave danger.
Researchers are working on biometric sensors to identify individuals by their walking style (gait). “GPS” receivers are being developed to track an individual with pinpoint accuracy. Digital cameras and video cameras are becoming smaller with higher resolution and are now being implanted in cell phones. Expect to see mass-produced sensors to monitor such things as groundwater content. One researcher has developed a technology to perform surveillance on surveillance devices! His device will have the capability of being built into watches or cell phones. In the future, expect to be able to wear (woven into our clothing) multimedia devices and cameras.
Researchers anticipate equipment that can trace every individual at any location, any time, all the time! Also coming are artificial noses that can detect traces of explosives in an individual’s hair. RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags can be implanted under an individual’s skin for identification. The federal government is pushing researchers to develop biometrics as surveillance tools. This involves face recognition and increased-distance iris scanning. A wireless technology recently developed has the ability to differentiate the “background radiation” between objects and humans, and could be useful in airport security.
Well, there you have my overview of the technology that most fascinates me. Some of it also scares me a little. We must hope to embrace it, and use it well in our lives. We must pray that it does not engulf us, and make us its victims!