Here's our second effort to keep you up on tech news. Be sure to check out the final item. A fascinating lecture by Oxford University Physiologist Susan Greenfield on how technology will affect tomorrow's people.
--Jennifer Turchi and Jim Witte
Attention is still focused on the Blackberry case. A final word should be heard by the end of this month. According to Tom Krazit from zdnet.com , Blackberry could have a couple of options: 1) go through with the hearing and hope that the judge (or USPTO) will change his mind from his earlier ruling, 2) settle out of court, which could cost up to $1 billion, or 3) implement a “workaround”, but this one is tricky because it would take a lot of time and patience from Blackberry users. There are also pretty high stakes involved for the users of Blackberry if a workaround were to be put in to motion, resulting in lost emails, phone numbers, directories, etc (http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-6034148-2.html?tag=st.num). In the end, the outcome looks bleak. R.I.M. will have to pay either way, and this case could open an entire can of worms (full of litigation) for future wireless network device companies.
Can you imagine a world where your entire house in controlled by the touch of a finger? Michel Marriott of the Technology Section in the New York Times has found such a house and the man who created it. Vincent Aita just spent roughly $10,000 to have technology installed in his home that allows him to operate such things as his lighting, television, and a sound system. He says he was just fortunate that the technology was around when he wanted to use it. In fact, the price tag on technology like the touch lighting and such has declined immensely. Now instead of paying almost a half a million dollars, these systems can start as low as $100 and are available at your local home improvement center. (Marriot, www.nytimes.com/2006/02/02/technology/circuits/02security.html ).
We are constantly hearing about lawsuits where if people had taken two minutes to stop and think about their actions, damage would have been avoided. Case in point: McDonald’s lawsuit in 1992 when Stella Liebeck burned herself when she placed her HOT coffee between her legs. If it can happen in fastfood, why not in consumer electronics? O’Grady reported on Monday: a Louisiana man is planning on suing Apple for “failing to take adequate steps to prevent hearing loss among iPod users”. Should we tell the gentleman to just turn down the volume on the iPod. Reports are saying another goal of the case is to force Apple to supply an upgrade that would limit the amount of decibels the iPod puts out to 100. ( http://blogs.zdnet.com/Apple/?p=89 ).
In other big news, corporations might soon have to start paying a small (and by small we mean nothing over a penny) fee to send out e-mails. AOL and Yahoo are the two online providers that are about to start using “preferential treatment to e-mails”. If a paying customer sends an e-mail, the message will be sent directly to the receiver’s inbox. However, if the message is not paid for, it will be subject to the numerous filters and possibly sent to the junk inbox. The companies claim, by establishing “postage” for e-mail, junk mail, identity theft, scams, etc will be greatly reduced (not to mention the amount of money made through this business deal). (Hansell, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/05/technology/05AOL.html).
The Gallup News Service did a survey at the beginning of December last year that examined how people are spending their time on the Internet. It is of no shock that e-mailing was the number one reported activity. This was followed by searching the news, weather, shopping, booking travel plans, finding medical advice, playing games, chatting, etc. They also found some interesting gender differences. Men are more likely to search for news and participate in online auctions (i.e. Ebay). Women are more likely to use email and search for health advice. Interestingly, there was no difference in activities across age generations (Saad, http://poll.gallup.com/content/?ci=21310).
A couple of weeks ago I talked about a watch that helps to detect malaria. This week, Ed Gottsman reported on the device. He has a different view about the watch with a “why stop there” mentality. If the watch can monitor traces of malaria, why can’t it monitor things like heart rate, blood sugars, cholesterol, etc? Also, Gottsman can see this device working its way in to the insurance field as a way to monitor activity, which can then have an influence over premium rates. His point being that “insurance company[ies] could actually become an active (even aggressive) participant in your health care” (Gottsman, http://blogs.zdnet.com/BLT/?p=2579).
Finally, we'd like to call your attention to Susan Greenfield's (http://www.pharm.ox.ac.uk/academics/greenfield ) very interesting lecture ( http://multimedia.telekom.at/portal/player.asp?id=4136) on The People of Tomorrow. Greenfield discusses five different aspects that scientists are changing through technology. From her presentation the five main conclusions were this: 1) there will be a merging of cyber and reality, 2) there will be a blurring of natural and physical, 3) work will continue with daily existence, 4) there will be a loss of distinct life narrative and 5) there will be experiences rather than learning. This is where technology and scientists are leading us. As with much that is fascinating, also a bit scary.