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The Woz Returns As Big Brother

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Apple’s Wozniak is doing it for the children and dogs:

    The co-founder of Apple Computer, Stephen Wozniak, recalls that it began with a series of lost dogs – a runaway husky, a roving Shar-Pei, a wayward bichon frisé.

    The problem led inexorably to a Wozniak solution: wireless location-monitoring technology that would use electronic tags to help people keep track of their animals, children or property.

    Now Mr. Wozniak, whose new company, Wheels of Zeus, has been operating in Silicon Valley stealth mode for 18 months, is ready to talk about the technology.

    ….In an interview last week in Wheels of Zeus’s offices in Los Gatos, Calif., which are nondescript except for his Hummer parked out front, Mr. Wozniak described WozNet as a simple and inexpensive wireless network that uses radio signals and global positioning satellite data to keep track of a cluster of inexpensive tags within a one- or two-mile radius of each base station. WozNet, he said, will include a home-base station that has the ability to track the location of dozens or even hundreds of small wireless devices that can be attached to people, pets or property. The tags – expected to cost less than $25 each to produce – will be able to generate alerts, notifying the owner by phone or e-mail message when a child arrives at school, a dog leaves the yard or a car leaves the parking lot.

    “We started out with the idea of a product to keep track of stuff,” said Mr. Wozniak, the 52-year-old engineer who was the technical brains behind the first Apple computer in 1976. “We ended up inventing a new class of wireless network.”

    ….All of the components of WozNet will be capable of receiving location information from global positioning system satellites.

    Because the tags can report their location whether they are close to their home-base station or a neighbor’s, the company is hoping to seed Silicon Valley and other large suburban communities with enough base stations to make it possible to easily track objects, even when they move outside the range of the owner’s station.

    ….”The idea has a lot of merit, particularly from the standpoint of parents and keeping track of children,” said Tim Bajarin, a consumer electronics industry analyst who is president of Creative Strategies in Campbell, Calif. “Where this is more tricky is with respect to the privacy issue and personal tracking.”

    The company says that because the network is voluntary, and will employ encryption that keeps unauthorized users from monitoring someone else’s WozNet activities, privacy and surveillance concerns are not relevant. (If neighborhoods chose to operate a series of base stations in a “community watch” system, the encryption software could be adjusted to allow that.)

    WozNet will use the same 900-megahertz unlicensed radio spectrum now used by portable phones. The power of the network comes in the ability of any tag to communicate with any base station that may come within range. Thus the network could grow organically if it became commercially popular. [NY Times]

Who wouldn’t want to keep track of children and dogs? Soon it will be viewed as irresponsible NOT to track things little and/or furry. As with all such technology, we become dependent upon it, give it too much credit, take it for granted, and are shocked by unintended consequences.

We discussed the similar GPS watches and the like back in March.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Erik Chapman

    In ancient Hebrew numerology,
    W=600, O=60 and Z=6. So WOZ=666 :)

  • http://indoorLBS.com K Kolodziej

    I would like to inform you about a recent book that covers location-aware technology similar to WoZ and location-aware / positioning applications using alternative positioning technologies to GPS and cellular/telecom.

    The book, Local Positioning Systems: LBS Applications and Services, is a highly anticipated 488-page book in the industry because it is the first reference for implementing indoor/outdoor location-aware apps.

    It was a very good time to publish this book (after 4yrs of research that began at MIT) because the industry is realizing the limitations of GPS and cellular/telecom -based positioning. LBS/navigation applications have not been as successful on the market as expected, because they don’t work where people are: indoors and in cities.

    GPS is great, but not for many of the apps we will present on this website. LBS has been trying to become the “killer app” but privacy, market awareness, and indoor coverage are still pending issues affecting the success of LBS. This book address these issues.

    Please seefor the Book’s preface, etc, if you’re interested in reading it.

    Regards,

    Krzysztof Kolodziej
    San Francisco, CA