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Palm Vein-based Biometric ID system for schools

October 26, 2006 When we first saw Fujitsu Europe’s plans to develop a palm vein biometric identification system for schools, we thought that perhaps it was a case of overkill, but the more we looked, the more it made sense. The initial system installation in a Scottish primary school addresses the need for a secure non-token or cashless system to provide Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) for their catering facilities. The system uses pre-registered palm vein patterns from the pupils and staff to manage individual accounts thereby creating a cashless catering solution. The flexibility of the PalmReader design means that the technology can be expanded to provide biometric access control applications to monitor truancy levels, facilitate accurate attendance at classes and overall better time management for teachers. The installation provides a glimpse of the coming cashless society and also the school of the future.  Read More

Grancrete – could a new concrete solve many of the world’s most pressing problems?

October 20, 2006 The United Nations estimates there are almost a billion poor people in the world, 750 million of whom live in urban areas without adequate shelter and basic services. An ingenious new building technology from scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and Casa Grande LLC could help alleviate and perhaps even solve that major humanitarian problem by providing affordable housing for the world's poorest. A tough new ceramic material that is almost twice as strong as concrete may be the key to providing high-quality, low-cost housing throughout developing nations. The ceramic is called Grancrete, which, when sprayed onto a rudimentary Styrofoam frame, dries to form a lightweight but durable surface. The resulting house is a major upgrade to the fragile structures in which millions of the world's poorest currently live. Using conventional techniques, it takes 20 men two weeks to build a house. A five person crew can construct two grancrete homes in one day. There’s also plenty of commercial upside in developed nations, making low-cost buildings viable for a variety of purposes – we can see inflatable technology marrying with Grancrete construction to evolve an entirely new way of building lavishly complex structures that would be impossible any other way.  Read More

A glimpse at the future of the Human-Computer Interface

October 20, 2006 With applications in just about every forseeable field of personal and business computing, we're expecting the Upravlator keyboard (the latest concept from Art Lebedev, and the cousin of the Optimus keyboard) to do very well when it hits the market. It's a 10.8 inch, 640x480 LCD with twelve square buttons occupying it's surface. The twelve buttons each have five contacts - one in the center, top, bottom, left and right, which are freely assignable to UI elements in the software of your choice.  Read More

The ruggedized wireless Rapid Deployment Kits for response to Chemical, Weapons of Mass De...

October 19, 2006 This is the latest ruggedized, wireless, AreaRAE Rapid Deployment Kits for response to Chemical, Weapons of Mass Destruction or Radiation incidents. Made by RAE Systems, it’s one of a number of new rapidly deployable sensor networks that enable first responders to identify safety and security threats in real time. One of the first to order the new system was the United States National Guard which has already taken delivery of 55 custom configured AreaRAE RDKs to equip all 55 Civil Support Teams (CSTs) with portable toxic gas and radiation detection equipment. Key to the selection process was the ability for the CST deployed systems to interoperate, provide mutual aid, as well as interface to existing AreaRAE systems already in use by civilian first responders. The AreaRAE RDK is designed to be quickly configured and deployed in any response scenario and can integrate a wide range of detection equipment including RAE Systems’ portable monitors and third-party devices, all operating wirelessly and instantly providing data for incident commanders through a single real-time interface.  Read More

The LCD flat panel display (FPD) machine

October 18, 2006 Ever wondered what a machine that produces flat panels looks like – well wonder no more – this little baby is a new breed of highly-efficient machine that enables the production of six 55inch LCD TV screens from Gen 8.5 (2.2m x ~2.5m) glass substrates at a time. Applied Materials provides Nanomanufacturing Technology solutions for the electronics industry and has produced it as the first of several suites designed to reduce the total cost of flat panel manufacturing. The new Gen 8.5 panels are expected to contribute to TFT-LCD TV market growth, which is forecast by market researcher Display Search to exceed 40 million units in 2006.  Read More

RFID Technology for Tracking Data Center Assets

October 17, 2006 HP Labs scientist Cyril Brignone shows how a new radio frequency identification (RFID) technology created by the company's central research facility can track IT assets in data centers, even identifying when a component is moved from one location to another. Keeping track of assets could enable better accuracy of inventory, increase security and reduce data center operational and auditing costs. The HP Labs technology was tested at Meijer, a retailer with more than 170 grocery and specialty stores in the midwestern United States. The solution could automatically monitor data center assets, providing real-time tracking and auditing of servers, networking equipment, server and storage enclosures and other technology using RFID.  Read More

The Intelligent ScareCrow

October 17, 2006 Though it was designed to assist in keeping London’s fox population away from residents’ gardens, the Intelligent ScareCrow is equally applicable to protecting plants and ponds from cats, possums, raccoons, deer and heron. The ScareCrow detects animals as they approach and deters them with a spray of water. London’s urban fox population, estimated at more than 10,000, provided the necessity that became the mother of this invention as it was causing problems for homeowners and businesses wishing to keep their premises fox free. A product of the city’s post-war expansion into the rural suburbs in the 1930s, urbanized red foxes have adapted to life on the outskirts, and as their rural habitat continues to shrink, have spread into the centre of London to take up residence throughout the city, including the grounds at Buckingham Palace, City Hall, Downing Street, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Read More

The world's most expensive bottled water - US$40 a bottle

October 15, 2006 Just how do you differentiate a product like bottled water? It’s an important question when you realise that Americans drink more than 25 billion litres of bottled water a year at prices greater than gasoline. Bottled water sales have risen 50% per person in less than a decade, which isn’t bad for a core product that varies little, and is at least a thousand times more expensive than tap water which is readily available as an alternative. In Europe, water is even bigger business – Western Europeans drink more than half the world’s bottled water. The winning answer to the differentiation question in 2006 was to add a magazine to the bottle, but there are thousands of brands out there and some of them are very clever. For all those people for whom only an ostentatious display of wealth will do is Bling H2O. Available in US$40 750ml and US$24 350ml versions, the frosted, corked bottles are emblazoned with hand-applied, Swarovski crystals. Not surprisingly, the newspapers are reporting that the Goddess of conspicuous consumption Paris Hilton “has tasted the water” as has her dog Tinkerbell. (she sure gets a lot of press for a gal that don’t do much). The drink has also shown up at the Grammy's, Emmy's and MTV Video Music Awards in the hands of celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Mariah Carey and Shaquille O'Neal. Bling H2O is the creation of Hollywood writer-producer Kevin G. Boyd who knows the importance of image and what your choice in bottled water conveys to the public. In Hollywood it seems the bottled water one carries has become an important prop and it has become the land of the upmarket waters - bottles are becoming statements of coolness and Bling H2O was fashioned to make a defining statement. The mission was to offer a product with an exquisite face to match exquisite taste. The product is strategically positioned to target the expanding super-luxury consumer market. Bling H2O has been featured at many recent celebrity events including the MTV Video Music Awards and television’s biggest event, The Emmys. Our favourite quote on the subject was Adjab, which said that it proved the old adage that it's really easy to get rich people to fork over cash for stupid reasons.  Read More

TWELV - a new way to display time

October 12, 2006 There’s always a better way, but sometimes the scale of the change required to do it differently is several orders of magnitude too big. We suspect that was why Professor Richard Conn Henry’s proposal of an unquestionably better calendar and time system was never seriously considered. Fortunately, Inventerprise’s new way to display time can co-exist with current time systems. The newly patented TWELV system breaks from centuries-old tradition, dispensing altogether with the use of any hour hand or hour digit. Instead, each individual hour of the day is represented solely by one of twelve unique colors. There are some undeniable benefits for the new system though, as it requires a footprint less than half that of standard time format, the colors can be recognized correctly at great distances. It means that one clock beacon could be used as a clock in a city environment. Similarly, ambient lighting or a water fountain or a fishtank can become a clock … and the killer-app is that the footprint for the time display is MUCH smaller than conventional time displays either digital or analog, making it ideal for mobile phones, wearable audio players, and other mobile devices where display space is always at a premium. As for memorizing the colors, just start using the clock and it happens naturally; that's just how the human brain works. The system is patented in the United States, but it’s public domain everywhere else.  Read More

Initiatives to harness the power of collective intelligence

October 12, 2006 Friday the thirteenth is a date not often associated with glorious new beginnings but tomorrow sees the launch (webcast live here at 12:55 PM EST on October 13th, 2006) of a significant new institution that might have far reaching consequences for the way human beings go about their business, organise and run their communities and indeed, run the planet. It’s the official start date for the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) which has the ambitious goal of understanding how to harness the power of large numbers of people—connected together through Internet and other technologies —to better solve a range of business, scientific, and societal problems. Though its agenda is broad and grand, one of the announcements tomorrow will be more focussed - an experiment to create a Wikipedia-style book about how to use communities in business. We Are Smarter Than Me is a business community formed by business professionals to research and discuss the impact of social networks on traditional business functions. Everyone is invited to participate in a revolutionary publishing project - a "network book" to be published in 2007. Each contributing member of this beta community will be listed as an author of the book, and each will receive an equal vote on the distribution of book royalties to charity. The We Are Smarter Than Me community is seeking real examples of companies who are trying to harness the power of community. Just think - this could be the start of a whole new way of doing things - contribute if you can.  Read More

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