The Smart Connected Home


The home, its technology and its inhabitants are now becoming more and more connected. Many of us now have WiFi networks in the home. We can sit with notebooks on our laps, wireless routers connected to our internet connection allow us to connect entertainment systems, iPads and other network appliances, printers, external drives, Smartphones and more.

Many other devices are now being developed that also offer the benefits of connectivity. For example Internet TV is almost here with products like Google TV being right on our doorstep.

Many years ago I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Arthur Anderson offices in Chicago for a glimpse of the future. An example was an intelligent  fridge with a bar code reader that created a shopping list and could automatically send the list to the local grocery delivery company.

Bill Gates had a master plan of having a Windows CE engine in home appliances, creating an intelligent house. Smart Appliances will I’m sure be in the home soon and the idea Gates had was that if they all used Windows CE, they would all have a common platform to communicate not only with each other and with your mobile computer, perhaps your home appliances.

The European Commission has perhaps seen the light in setting up The Hydra Project. “The Hydra middleware allows developers to incorporate heterogeneous physical devices into their applications by offering easy-to-use web service interfaces for controlling any type of physical device irrespective of its network technology such as Bluetooth, RF, ZigBee, RFID, WiFi, etc. Hydra incorporates means for Device and Service Discovery, Semantic Model Driven Architecture, P2P communication, and Diagnostics. Hydra enabled devices and services can be secure and trustworthy through distributed security and social trust components of the middleware.”

This has the potential to reduce the risk of being tied to specific brands of computing, communications and other technology by providing middleware that everyone can work with. Of course the home is only one place that can benefit from this concept. It applies equally to telemedicine (monitoring patients in the home), business automation, security, agriculture, manufacturing, warehousing and pretty much any industry you can think of.

Once again Science Fiction is about to become reality. It’s taken a while, but looks like we are getting there.

The following video shows an e-home controlled by voice or even by your X Box Controller and of course you can control it from your iPhone:

I want Super HiVision TV


One of the things I have always wanted, ever since I was little, was a TV screen that covers the whole wall. I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this before. I believe Bill Gates has something like that, but it’s probably a video stack, like a Pioneer Video Wall.

I want something that covers the whole wall and when I’m not watching one or multiple channels, it can be a screensaver that can take me from a beautiful beach or underwater scene in winter or a ski scene in Canada or France in summer. Something that doesn’t give me eye strain from being in the room.

Then I also want real surround sound, so I can immerse myself in the environment.

This week I was listening to the Digital Planet podcast from the BBC and they were talking about exactly this. They were talking about the demonstration of Super Hi Video at the Interneational Broadcasting Conference in Amsterdam and the demonstration of this technology being streamed live from London.

The technology is Super Hivision which offers “a video format with 7680 x 4320 pixels (16 times higher than standard Hi-vision, NHK’s HDTV system) . This world’s first video system with 4000 scanning lines delivers ultra-clear, realistic three-dimensional images that can be achieved only by ultrahigh-definition technology.
– The individual scanning lines are not visually noticeable even when relatively close to the screen, reflecting the high resolution of the system. What’s more, a wider viewing angle conveys a stronger sense of a reality.
– The new 3-D audio system with 24 loudspeakers dramatically enhances presence.”

According to the people who were watching it, it is very similar to what you can see and hear in real life. It’s taking the gloss off my HD TV (through which I am not yet watching HD)

So if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas, give me a call and I’ll give you the dimensions of my lounge wall. I suspect the price will be much more than the value of my home right now, but that’s ok.

Is that a Blackberry in your pocket or?


I’ve spent the last 3 days at the GeoCart’2008 Conference. It was an academic conference with speakers and attendees from all over the world. The content was excellent and I found it fascinating to see not only the results of academic research in the modern world of geography, location based technology research and web mapping, but also some of the great products that have and are being developed. But this is not what today’s blog is about. Perhaps more on the conference in the next few days.

I was an exhibitor at the conference and during the quiet times, was checking my phone for messages and emails as the Internet services at the venue at Auckland Univesity were shocking. I was in a building next door to the Auckland university IT Campus and the best local internet I could get was 128kbps. This morning I was listening to a podcast while I was in the shower about Internet services in Mali and how their pipe was only 2Gbps. Being landlocked they have to rely on other countries for access to the submarine cable. They would be horrified at the speed I got in Auckland, but I digress.

A number of people asked if my phone was a Blackberry and how did I like it. My answer was, yes, indeed it is a Blackberry, as issued by my company. Do I like it? I intensely dislike it. I’m a power user of mobile internet, after all I wrote the book, Unleashing the Roadwarrior and I taught companies how to improve efficiency in the field using mobile and wireless devices. Unfortunately I no longer walk the talk.

You see, to me mobile and wireless computing is about efficiency and touching things as few times as necessary. I’ve come from the world of touch screens and along with the book, published texts including Mastering your Palm and Mastering your Pocket PC.

For people who only use the phone ‘killer apps’ of voice and text, the Blackberry is a wonderful device. It has a qwerty keyboard so if you don’t use txt abbreviations, you can type your messages without having to remember the buttons and as a phone, it is perfectly adequate. If you are a Baby Boomer, the ability to do these things as well as read, send and receive email is wonderful. Attachments are another story, but you can send and receive email and you can do it securely through your MS Exchange Server which makes the IT Department happy. It does also synch wirelessly with Exchange for my contacts and calendar, but that’s pretty much where the fun and utility ends for me.

Here’s what I did with my Blackberry over 3 days at the conference. I sent and received a couple of urgent emails. I sent and received a couple of Twitter messages (which all but exhausted the ability of the browser.

Here’s what I could have done if I still had a Windows Mobile or Palm device. Actually I do still own old models, but they are old and I don’t really want to carry multiple devices anymore, although I could possibly consider a new Windows Mobile, Palm or iPhone, given the right opportunity, especially since there is now an iPhone Reader:)

I could have made lots of notes using handwriting recognition on the touch screen. I can write Graffiti or block characters without having to look at the device, so that I can concentrate on the speaker. These would have been written straight into MS Word, so that I would have them available for other purposes, such as copying and pasting into my blog. Instead I used scraps of paper, one of which I have already misplaced.

I could have taken photos of exhibits, slides and delegates for future use and reference.

I could have beamed my digital business card to others who used similar devices.

I could have shown off some of our mapping technology on the IE browser, even richer if the phone also had GPS, which my Blackberry doesn’t. (Mine is probably 2 years old) Relevant given that I work for a mapping company, specialising in web mapping API’s, routing, tracking and car navigation.

I could have quickly referenced web sites discussed during the papers and bookmarked them on the spot for future reference and integration with my favourites on the desktop.

I could have drawn mind-maps to enhance my note taking.

I could have read one of my eBooks, after setting up and while waiting for the delegates to arrive in the morning, or checked the daily paper.

I could have made audible notes and embedded them into an email, or even recorded segments of a presentation.

I could go on, but if you want to know all the other things I could have done, read my eBook, which you can purchase at ReadingIt.

It’s about efficiency, about touching things once but having access to them in lots of ways. It’s about being able to combine real time research with the discussion on the browser. You see, we can think and take in a lot more in the time that a presenter speaks, and in terms of our points of reference. It’s about then being able to access any of those pieces of information, communicate them and collaborate with other people.

Instead I have a few pieces of paper that I hope I won’t lose.

I guess this is about the dichotomy I live and work in. On the one side there is an infrastructure designed to keep data secure and cater to the lowest common denominator, for the most of whom, without training and motivation, even a Blackberry is overkill. On the other side, a busy person who wants to make the most of the information, people and media available at any given point in time. To leverage it.

The conference providers gave the delegates a CD with copies of all of the presentations, which was great. But it is pretty analogue and although I am very interested, I will probably never get around to looking at it. I will hopefully get to some of my notes, along with notes from other events that I havebeen to recently, scribbles on pieces of paper or the backs of business cards.

Then of course there are podcasts. I am big on maximising my time and whenever I am in the car, walking, exercising or doing chores, I am connected to my iPod.

So, yes it is a Blackberry in my pocket. Would I recommend it to anyone? No. Not unless all you want is a phone that does exchange / text email really well. That’s all it was designed for. I want more! I’m a busy person who wants to multitask. I want a touch screen, preferably multipoint. I want efficiency.

Skyscrapers and high society


The race is on to build the world’s tallest building, yet again. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia they are working on the first building the will be a mile high. No this isn’t a joke, it will be more then 1600 metres tall and will be called Mile High Tower. It is due for completion in 2012. You could join the mile high club without getting on a plane!

I’ve been to the top of buildings like the Twin Towers (and grateful for the experience and respect to those who died or were injured when she came down) and Sears Tower, well this is almost 3 times as high as Chicago’s ediface.

Why are they building it? In this case mostly I suspect because they can. Because Prince al-Walid bin Talal, who owns the Savoy, can. Is he doing something that is needed because of a shortage of land in Jeddah? I don’t think so. I wonder if he hsa a very large ego that he needs to house. If the Sears Tower contains 4.4 million square feet the Mile High Tould have to have close to 10 times that amount of space because the base would have to be enormous to hold up the rest of the structure.

Aside from all the issues of building and trying to pump wet concrete a mile into the sky, there are also power issues. Imagine how much electricity it would take to power a building like that? Suggestions are that the building can house a huge number of solar panels and in many cases it’s height could mean that while it is raining on lower floors, the higher floors will be basking in sunshine. maybe the ecosystem could capture boh the sun and water and try to head towards self sufficiency. As to energy use, I wonder how much energy it would take to send a room service meal from the ground to the penthouse?

This is the stuff that they have been writing about in Science Fiction for years. Imagine having a penthouse apartment that is so high up that you can’t go onto your balcony without an oxygen mask because the air is too thin. They say that from the penthouse you will be able to see the Middle East, the Pacific Ocean and Africa.

Because of the height and technology involved you would need to have 10 or more lifts just to get to your apartment. Imagine what would happen if you had to evacuate it in hurry.

A building that big would be like a medium sized town. You would have everything you need in a homogenous environment. Schools, shops, busineses, you would have your own hospital, police station, everything.

But who would want to live in such a building. Sure it would be great to have an apartment in it so that you can say you do. It would be great for corporate events. But would you want to live on the 351st floor of an apartment building? Imagine if the power went out and you had to climb down 350 sets of stairs to get to the ground.

I’ve never lived in an apartment. I’ve enjoyed staying in hotel rooms 30 floors above the ground, but this is something entirely different. I don’t much like gardening, but I do like living in a free standing home where I can turn the stereo up loud and go and sit by the pool or potter around in my rock garden. I find the whole idea of living in a building which for practical reasons, you never have to live, to be quite claustrophobic, but it will happen. Many others feel the same.

If the future means that more and more people live at great heights, this might help with the development of new transport technologies as they try to find more economic ways to move around. Who wants to spend 15 minutes standing in lifts to get to the ground floor. They won’t be able to go too fast because you are likely to suffer effects of gravity and air pressure. There will off course be helipads, but that’s a little expensive for the average person.

I’ll leave the last word to BOB with his 15 reasons to live in a skyscraper :)

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)