Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ugly barcodes?

One argument for RFID sometimes is that because it does not require line-of-sight the ID's would not disturb the visual appearance of products. However, I found some examples which follow the opposite approach: make the barcode part of the design:
[1] http://www.barcoderevolution.com
[2] http://www.artlebedev.com

Some articles about the Internet of Things

An article [1] just pointed me to the fact that the vision of the Internet of Things is about ten years old now, after early work has started at Auto-ID Center at MIT. This was my trigger to search for current papers describing and discussing the Internet of Things.
A rather critical articel, [1], proposes to envision the Internet of Things as a hierarchy of objects with different capabilities instead of a network of fully peer connected items, as layed out in the early days of the Auto-ID Center [2]. In order to develop robust business cases, these heterogeneous requirements (tagging of strawberries, cheap items with short life-time, is different from cars with changing configurations) of objects have to be tackled with different technologies, e.g. barcode/RFID/sensor-networks. This is a reasonable argument against building an Internet of Things only RFID, RFID should be part of it, but others, barcode, as well.

Finally, I found a master thesis describing an art project about collecting and sharing stories about objects [3], which the authors calls an internet for things. It's probably not the killer-application but could be a nice consumer gadget for the EPCglobal architecture.

An interesting (but weired;) article is [4], where Rob Kranenburg (btw - the supervisor of [3]) argues for a society that should be in control of the (ubicomp) surveillance technologies it develops. The article is a little bit copious but provides nice arguments for why consumers should be empowered to play a mature role in an Internet of Things.

[1] Bob Williams, What is the Real Business Case for the Internet of Things?, Synthesis Journal, iTSC, 2008
[2] McFarlane, D.C., Sarma, S.E., Chirn, J.L., Wong, C.Y., and Ashton,
K., „The Intelligent Product in Manufacturing Control“, Journal of EAIA, July 2002
[3] Patrick Plaggenborg, Social RFID - internet for things, Master Thesis, Utrecht School of the Arts, August 2006.
[4] Rob van Kranenburg, The Internet of Things. A critique of ambient technology and the all-seeing network of RFID.

Immersing into a robot

Just before christmas a new toy has arrived, the rovio robot. It really does look frightning (though the developers designed it to let hard working parents remotely communicate with their kids at home...)

Actually, it's not really a robot it's rather a remote controlled toy. The rather limited autonomous features, such as 'go home to base' or 'follow path' do not work that well (see also reviews at amazon).
However, it's funny to walk through a shared office space late at night spying on who's still there. The exciting part also is, that the other one doesn't see who's currently controlling the robot (showing it could also be a nice feature though). You really start immersing into the robot while controlling it through the web-interface. You learn the dimensions of the robot know what you can pass and what you can't. Navigation in the dark is rather poor, but luckily we our office lights react on motion. Another exciting part are colleagues the get annoyed and carry the robot away (which corresponds to 'tele-porting' in computer games) and you have to find your way back again to the base station - hopefully, before rovio runs out of battery.
Despite it's limited functionality and it's current flaws Rovio is really fun.