Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Pay as You Go Plan
  2. You Say "Potato"
  3. Who Types There?
  4. Homework and the Web
  5. À La Cart
  6. Shattering Net Speeds
  7. Gift Bots
  8. Author
  9. Tables

South Korea’s three leading telecom firms, major credit card companies, and several banks have combined efforts to enable Koreans to pay for goods and services by cell phone in a method similar to operating a TV remote control. In what has been reported as a mass effort to establish itself as a technology trendsetter, South Korea is creating cell phone capabilities far beyond the current batch of services. Users point their phones to specially designed receivers and hit the hot key on the keypad to pay for goods at checkout counters, open parking lot gates, register for classes, or borrow library books. A spokesperson for the mobile finance division of SK Telecom envisions cell phones containing club memberships, driver’s licenses, ID cards, frequent flier accounts—basically items most people carry in their wallets. (For more on mobile commerce, see the special section in this issue.)

Table. Web surfing has not hurt productivity.

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You Say “Potato”

A sofa that determines who’s sitting on it (based on the person’s weight) and delivers a personalized greeting is just the first step toward an appliance that may one day help the elderly and disabled. Scientists at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, are developing a smart sofa that may soon order take-out meals, turn the lights on and off, and tune the TV without human intervention. The couch creators admit their device sounds like the whimsy of the extremely lazy; but in fact the team hopes the sofa will be used by the handicapped, hospitals worldwide, and assisted-living facilities where its technology can, for example, track Alzheimer patients if they wander away from their beds.

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Who Types There?

Researchers at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed software that identifies users—with a high degree of accuracy—by their individual, distinct typing styles, reports Newswise. “This software is based upon a universal prediction algorithm,” explained professor Ran El-Yaniv. “It utilizes statistics gathered while a person types freely and learns the specific patterns that accurately identify the typist.” Time differential patterns between consecutive keystrokes can uniquely determine a user, in some cases in only a few keystrokes. This “behaviometric” technology may one day be part of security systems to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to computers and sensitive material. The system currently distinguishes users from potential intruders with close to 90% accuracy through a sentence as short as “What did you do today?” The more the system monitors traits, the higher the rate of recognition.

“Yesterday I had my tech guy come to the house and disconnect my Sun network, and tomorrow I’m having them shut down my company email account.”—Bill Joy, until recently Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, on his resignation from the firm he helped found over two decades ago. His next target is figuring out how to build a Net far less prone to viruses and spam. The answer, he says, may lie in nature.

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Homework and the Web

Europe’s children are the fastest-growing segment of the Internet population, according to a new Nielsen/Netratings survey. Some 13 million of them under the age of 18 from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, and the Netherlands surf the Web for homework tips and music tracks—a 27% rise from last year. Four million were under the age of 12. The findings suggest that a plea from educators and politicians to add the Internet to school curricula and make high-speed services cheaper and more accessible is paying off, according to a Reuters report.

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À La Cart

Smart shopping is coming to an aisle near you. IBM, NCR, Fujitsu, and Hewlett-Packard are some of the industry leaders working on intelligent grocery shopping devices to debut in the near future. IBM is working on a supermarket smart cart with a screen embedded in its handles that will talk to shoppers, alerting them to any sales in the store, keeping a running tab of items placed in the cart, and keeping a history on file of what each shopper bought in that store in the past. A shopper would swipe a store card through a slot in the cart to start the device (literally) rolling; suggestions will then pop up on screen, tailored to anticipate where the shopper is headed within the store. “We’ll see more changes in the next five years in the way people shop than in the last 20,” said IBM consulting manager Dan Hopping.

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Shattering Net Speeds

A world speed record for sending data across the Internet was set in October when the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva reported sending 1.1 terabytes of data at 5.44Gbps to a lab at Caltech, in Pasadena, CA in a transmission that took under 30 minutes. The feat is more than 20,000 times faster than a typical home broadband connection, equivalent to transferring a full CD in one second or a full-length DVD is about seven seconds. This Internet2 Land Speed Record smashed the old record of 2.38Gbps set almost a year ago.

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Gift Bots

Still searching for that special something for a holiday gift? The 2003 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, legendary for its fantasy presents designed to grab attention and wallets, is offering his-and-her robots to help with the household chores. “He” can walk the dog, take out trash, and answer the door; “she” can haul groceries, put away laundry, and read bedtime stories. The bots can be reprogrammed to reverse roles, but only the female bot can leave messages, like, “It’s your turn to cook dinner.” The couple, created by Manhattan-based International Robotics, goes for $400,000—a bargain compared to, say, a Bombardier Learjet, which lists in the catalog for $7 million.

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UT1 Table.

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