Updates Part One
September 1, 2006 By Pulp & Paper Canada
Radio Frequency IDentification has become more widely accepted and even more widely used. The most famous adopter of RFID is Wal-Mart and, although they have had to extend their timeline in order for their suppliers to fully implement the process, the program itself is meeting with success. Tags are now smaller, cheaper and more robust. New technologies are being developed to allow the tags to be made of plastic. The potential exists for them to be cheap enough to be included on envelopes to allow better automated sorting in the post office.
Current common uses are for pharmaceutical tracking (Viagra), gas station ‘quick payment’ tags and rapid transit passes as well as package and pallet tracking for large shipments. As with many new technologies, its simplicity and ease of use, as well as the imagination of those who apply the new technology, will have it appearing in many places and uses not thought of today. One warning — even these simple devices are susceptible to viruses!
Wireless computing is booming! Traditional locations for commercial wireless are restaurants, hotels and airports. Many businesses have gone wireless in what is known as WiFi, or Wireless Fidelity. Now entire cities are becoming wireless — with a few hundred U.S. cities leading the way. Toronto may become the first Canadian city to go wireless. New venues include Via Rail train lines, cruise ships and even airplanes. Costs can be high, but many providers are going to low-cost or even free (read ‘ad-based’) models.
There is convergence happening between cellular-based technologies and those conventionally thought of as exclusively for computers. Some laptop computers are including new very high speed cellular modems and some portable phones can use either cellular connections or VoIP technology (see below). A new entry is satellite-based connections for computers and phones, allowing connection in the most remote of areas. Although the equipment for satellite connections is easily portable, the costs are… well… astronomical.
What was once desirable has become insufferable and, not infrequently, banned. Cell phones loaded with every feature and function have become available — but not only do many people not want them, some companies are going so far as to formalize injunctions against them. Despite miniaturization, every added feature adds weight, size and power drain. In addition, they have been used for questionable or illicit purposes such as taking photos in areas normally off-limits to cameras. These include places as diverse as swimming pools or locker rooms, check-out lines (for credit card or cheque information) and sensitive areas in an industrial or commercial location. A few people have even been convicted of taking inappropriate photos with covert cell phone cameras.
A few industrial sites have banned any form of electronic device that might be used to take photos, including PDA’s, cell phones or conventional digital cameras to protect proprietary processes or sensitive areas. However, there are new uses for cell phones — more features and functions being added: parking payments (whether at meters or in lots), vending machine payments, music players (MP3s), even as TV!
It has been known for some time that the miniscule transmitting power of recent cell phones is much too small to affect aircraft equipment. The conventional ban is in place more for historical reasons than for technical ones. So now, there is a proposal to allow airlines to permit the use of cell phones on airplanes during flight. The advantage for the airlines is that it would be fee-based. However, I find this to be a frightening proposal, as there is no escape while you are on a flight. At least on the ground, if you are being subjected to someone else’s loud or obnoxious conversation, you can usually leave the area. It is a little more difficult at 10,000 metres up in the air. I hope both the regulators and airlines will come to their senses.
Heralded as the great replacement for the conventional phone lines, Voice over Internet Protocol is predicted to free companies and individuals from the costs of long-distance calls. The low costs coupled with innovative features have won many converts. The costs of installation, however, are not trivial — not only the extra equipment and bandwidth required, but training for the users.
Regular VoIP is based on a wired connection to a high speed internet connection. However, combined with WiFi, it allows freedom from wires in a whole new way. Not only can you wander at will through your home or office with your WiFi-enabled VoIP phone, but you can take it with you to any other WiFi area — airports, hotels, etc.
Despite the threat of spam over VoIP (it is an internet service and so subject to all the woes of email), it is steadily being adopted by many users looking to make use of its advantages over conventional telephones. By the way, the acronym for VoIP Spam is SpIT — Spam on Internet Telephony.
This theme of updates will be picked up in the next column, with more on Spam, Blogs and Travel Agents.
If you have anything to add or would like to suggest another topic, please contact the author. Dan Davies is the application manager at Degussa Canada in bleaching and water chemicals. He can be reached at email@example.com
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