Showing posts from February, 2012

Codes that empower consumers

Stuck in a department store, unable to decide which brand of shampoo to buy? Wondering if a VCD is a geniune one? Having doubts if the latest best-seller book is worth buying and you want to read a review of it? A GPRS-activated smartphone could make your task easier.

Haven’t you noticed those black think and thin parallel lines or a rectangle of dots and designs on the back of a product? Those are barcodes and QR (quick response) codes that have in them huge amounts of data related to the product. Obviously, they are of little use if you don’t have a barcode scanner that can read and decipher the information in them. But the best part is, today you can have a code reader application on your smartphone.

These codes were originally devised with the aim of tracking product movement. In most countries it’s mandatory for all products to have the codes. Now, more and more people are using the scanners on their mobiles to read reviews, compare prices and find out where products are available…

Dawn of smartphone era

This is what everyone has been predicting and waiting for -- dominance of the smart mobile device that will keep everyone networked all the time. Emerging figures not just validate the hypothesis but give us an idea of how information would be created, disseminated and consumed.  

Worldwide, for the first time ever, in 2011, smartphone shipment surpassed that of PCs. Canalys reports that while 488 million smartphones were shipped last year, the figure for PCs was 415 millon. Smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2011 made a 47.3% jump compared to the corresponding period in 2010, says Gartner. Sales figures too reflected the same pattern -- smartphone sales last year touched 472 million units, up 58% from 2010. Records are tumbling in India too. Shipments for 2011 crossed 10 million units for the first time, in November, says Cyber Media Research.

The useage too has seen a surge, The entry-level phone is no longer the low-end feature phone -- nearly 80% of smartphone users in Indi…

Footnotes that talk and move

Textbooks are widely acclaimed to be boring, in spite of colourful pictures . Also, there is a limit to information textbooks can provide. Since Internet is an ocean of information, many textbooks now give URLs of websites where more data can be found.

Surajit Sen, a Bangalore engineer, has taken the integration between textbooks and multimedia to a new level. He calls it “numerically linked book”, a book that is supported by a CD. It uses a technology, developed by Sen, that provides footnotes in an audio-visual form. He says it’s the first of its kind in the world, and is awaiting patent approval. 

The working is simple and effective. On the book, instead of footnotes, you merely have numbers against words that need explanation. Insert the CD in your laptop. After the program loads, key in the footnote number. You are taken to a multimedia or internet page that provides you an elaboration on the topic. The software is compatible with Windows, and for sound and video, Adobe Flash Pla…

Machines talk to each other

When you slouch on the couch, and use the remote to hop TV channels, you are unwittingly getting one machine to talk to another. This is a loose example of, what today has grown into a fledgling M2M, or machine to machine, communication industry.

The science of machine talk is telemetry -- transfer of data from one location to another. It’s been around for over 100 years. In the beginning, it was wired transmission, now it’s wireless. Collection of meteorological data using weather balloons is a good example.