Put the Cell Phone Down

I’m a big fan of the Rose is Rose comic strip. I particularly liked last Sunday’s edition. What a poignant reminder to put the technology down and really pay attention to what is around us.

Rose Is Rose

Beach Goers Willingly Injected with RFID Tags

In it’s latest issue, Wired magazine has included a list of the “10 Best Uses for RFID Tags” and while some of the uses posed are interesting, I’m disturbed by one in particular.

(For those unfamiliar, RFID stands for radio frequency identification and refers to the use of a very small chip, called a tag, which contains a code. When passed by a reader, the code can be used to pull information from a database. Some consider it to be the next bar code. It is currently used for things like EZ Pass to zoom through tollbooths in the northeast U.S.)

Number 6 on the Wired list reads:

At Barcelona’s Baja Beach Club, VIPs are injected with RFIDs linked to debit accounts, making wallets passé. Handy when all you’re wearing is a thong.

No, no, no. I have worked with standards surrounding RFID use in the supply chain. I have been involved with public policy. Our stance was always tag products, not people.

Yet here is a beach club offering RFID tag injections to make it easier to pay for a drink or access a VIP area without ID. What ever happened to giving your name to access a tab or for someone to verify on a VIP list?

To me this is over the top and simply not enough of a step up in convenience. Obviously there are others who disagree because people are willingly accepting the chip. (Note: It is the consumer’s responsibility to have the tag removed later if they so choose.)

If you’re interested in reading more, these articles will tell you how the Baja Beach Club uses RFID and walk you through one patron’s experience with the chip.

As for me, I still don’t see a need for tagging people, nor do I mind carrying some form of payment and ID.

Onion Video Shows Why Usability is Important

My dad sent me a link to the following video from the Onion and I thought it was a great example of why usability is important. No, this is not a real product. But consider for a moment if you had to use it. How long would it take you to do your work? Would it help or hinder? This, folks, is why usability is important.

(Note: Since WordPress.com won’t let me embed the Onion video code, this is from YouTube. For better quality, watch the video on the Onion.)

Wii Wins Fun Quotient

My stepson-to-be saved up his money to buy a Playstation 3. My fiancé told him that if he saved $150 of his own money, dad would pick up the rest. After earning and saving for months, the young one found the Wii more enticing (much to my fiance’s chagrin- no Blu Ray player, poor graphics!). We held off on purchasing for the past month while the PS3 vs. Wii decision was weighed from every possible angle. With the final decision resting on a ten-year-old, the Wii finally won out and we purchased it last week.

My fiancé had a hard time understanding why the Wii was more appealing. In his mind, the games are at such a low resolution, why not go for better graphics on the PS3? Grown boys tend to rank high definition right up there with their favorite sports team and mom’s homemade lasagna, don’t they?

For the kids, however, it isn’t always about the best graphics. Sometimes it is simply about the fun quotient. The Wii had more games that my stepson-to-be found appealing. I would imagine the silliness (as opposed to lifelike detail) and bright colors (rather than dark, true-to-life color) contribute to his preference.

Watching him enjoy games that some adults find lackluster takes me back to when I used to play video games with my dad on our old computer. We played Space Quest, Police Quest, King’s Quest, and so many others. Sure the later King’s Quest games grew to have nice graphics, but that didn’t make the first few any less fun. The first version was barely more than blocks of color on two-dimensional screen-by-screen land, yet it still had everything I looked for- exploration, riddles, puzzles to solve. So what if the prince was comprised of a yellow triangle on top of a peach circle on top of a red square? He had no fewer adventures.

The PS3 has many fans, I suspect amongst older boys (and boys at heart). I will vouche that the graphics are incredible. Playstation maintains itself as a top contender in the video game world. The Wii earns lots of credit for the fun quotient, though, and that is one characteristic not to be overlooked.

Future Green City Imagined on New Micro-site

The Future Mega CityRemember The Jetsons cartoon? You know that perky little family living in the future where flying cars and moving sidewalks made getting around so much faster? A place where getting ready for work meant being gently pushed on to a conveyer by your bed, then carried through the shower, dryer, and make up stations? In the opening credits you would see George Jetson dropping off each family member in a personal pod that carried them the rest of the way to their destination. How efficient.

Many people have envisioned the future, usually resulting in robots, silent mini-cars, or personal hovercrafts. What happens if you imagine the future through environmentally-conscious eyes? You get The Plan for Tomorrow’s Mega City, just launched by PopSci.com (the online presence for the magazine Popular Science).

This is a fun site to visit for several reasons. First, the imagery is quite inspiring. Take note of how detailed the tree trunk is on the right side. You can almost feel its texture. Second, consider the possibilities as you click through The Plan to see ideas on how to harness energy from wind, water, and walking. (Yes, I said walking.) Amuse yourself with the thought of renting a car like you do those luggage carts at airports- take one off the front of the stack and return it to the back when you are done.

The future may or may not unfold as shown on the mega city site. All I know is I am happy there are folks out there who are focused on finding new ways to support our life on this earth.

Technology in the College Classroom: 1998 vs. 2008

As my step-sister marches toward her high school graduation next week and prepares to set off to university, I have been recalling my own university days.

I spent second half of the 1990’s in college, where spiral bound notebooks and three ring binders were staples (and yes, we needed staples, too). The only students who brought laptops to class were a few re-entry students (generally 10 years older than the rest of us and lugging around a company issued machine). Now laptops are required by an increasing number of universities.

Mobile phones were just becoming mainstream in my college years. I would estimate less than half of the students had mobile phones at that time and those who did turned them off before class. (Though, I remember being appalled when one fellow student answered his cell phone during science class.) I suspect classrooms are now filled with musical ringtones, texting, and photo sharing.

Most of us were using email for the first time on the old two color terminals at the computer lab. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. Sure the Internet was there, but most of us were just learning how to use it. We could go online to see a syllabus for most teachers’ classes, but they still gave us handouts on the first day assuming that most students didn’t have easy access to the Internet.

It wasn’t until my senior year that the university library made its search software available online. I was ecstatic to be able to see what books were available from afar (without lines) before hustling to the library to beat any others who may be searching for the same study of supernatural occurrences in Shakespearean literature. If only they had enabled that “place on hold” functionality before my departure… oh cursed spite.

If you really want to boggle your mind, just think of what a change my college experience was from my father’s! I think he double majored in practical applications of fire and the physics of wheel creation. (Just kidding, Dad!)

The point is college classrooms are changing rapidly. Until today, I had not thought about how different my step-sister’s experience would be from my own. So, what can she expect? The following video, created by a cultural anthropology class at Kansas State University, paints a vivid picture of college in 2008.

Happy graduation, Sis! Teach me how to effectively use Facebook before you leave for college, please. I’ll bring my notebook.

RFID to Test Magazine Readership in Waiting Rooms

I have been watching RFID, or radio frequency identification, for a while to see how it will be applied in our world. EZPass is one example of RFID usage for those that travel toll roads in the Northeast United States. It is also being used by WalMart and some of its suppliers to track pallets of products from the manufacturer to the distributor, to the storage room and, subsequently, the storeroom floor. I recently read about a new application of the technology: Folio Magazine reported that waiting room readership will be measured using RFID.

Mediamark Research and Intelligence (MRI) announced that it is going to measure magazine readership using RFID technology. By placing a tag in the cover of each magazine and sensors throughout, with a nearby reader, MRI says it will be able to determine which magazines are opened, for how long, and where in the magazine it was opened and closed. This test is being done in conjunction with DJG Marketing’s Waiting Room Subscription Services and is slated to run in 10 to 20 waiting rooms during the first quarter of 2008 (no, I don’t know which waiting rooms or where).

This seems like overkill to me. Though prices have fallen, RFID technology is still not cheap to implement. After investing, how useful will the results be? The system will measure when magazines are picked up and put back down, but likely won’t know why the magazine was put down. Did the person find it uninteresting, or did their waiting time merely come to a quick end? I understand the importance magazines place on their readership scores, but will this test truly provide the intended results? Guess we’ll wait and see.

Don’t worry just yet (unless you happen to find yourself in one of those “bugged” waiting rooms). You won’t see this application of the technology appearing on your subscriptions anytime soon.

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