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In RF Veritas: Wine, Wireless and “Lovers’ Cups”

Recently, I read an article where a Boston Back Bay seafood restaurant’s guests were getting a kick out of the”Wine Skipper”: 12-inch touch screen device with Wi-Fi enabled that is used in conjunction with a hard copy of the restaurant’s wine list. http://www.celebrate-wine.com/50226711/computer_picks_your_wine.phpThe system’s high-speed connection to the internet allows users to access not only the websites of every winery on the list, but also reviews, descriptions and pairing suggestions for every label. The goal was to informationalize the wine selection process for patrons, table-side, including reviews of boutique wineries, including some in my neck of the woods, the Livermore Valley of Northern California. More significantly, it can make any wine layperson sound like Robert Parker through a few taps on a screen.This story made me remember some other “wine and wireless” experiences I have had or noted over the past few years.Although not technically a real-time wireless service, in 2000, Wine.Com launched a channel on the AvantGo Mobile Internet Service. This provided users with a platform to purchase wine during wired or wireless synchronization. It started modestly with several dozen wines from around the world and included tasting notes from noted experts (now, how do I get a job like this). At the time, then Wine.Com CEO Bill Newlands noted this application as an example of how”cutting-edge technology can change the 4,000 year-old wine business.” A few years afterwards, one vineyard owner, Don King, used wireless sensors to coax 30,000 plants to grow grapes of exactly the right color, size and sweetness to produce great ice wine and other fine vintages…with the help of judicious watering, a knowledge of the age-old art of viniculture. The electronic sensors were linked together in a wireless network using an Intel-based TinyOS and TinyDB, allowing the multiple sensing devices to monitor grape micro climates and help determine irrigation and frost patterns. Around the same time, in Washington, D.C., Schneiders of Capitol Hill pioneered the world’s first wireless wine shop with a Phoenix, Ariz.-based restaurant industry interface. TasteNtalk provided the technology to allowe the inventory from Schneider’s 7,500-square-foot wine cellar to be available for buyers with Web-enabled wireless phones. The service has subsequently morphed into a more general online wireless service for restaurant ordering.Last year the IntelliScanner Corporation introduced the Wine Collector 150, a personal handheld barcode scanner with included wine management software for Mac OS X and Windows. By simply scanning the retail bar code found on a bottle of the wine with the USB or Bluetooth wireless IntelliScanner barcode reader, the system then downloads the name, varietal, winery, country, type, color, and region, in a computer database. The technology offering provides: – Personal wine inventory management:- Access to a 62,000 wine databaseAnd finally, earlier this year, two researchers at the MIT Media Lab have developed a set of Wi-Fi Wine glases that incorporate a variety of coloured LEDs, liquid sensors and wireless (GPRS or Wi-Fi) links into a pair of glass tumblers allowing long-distance sweethearts to share some intimacy with vino even when they are not together in the same room or even the same continent. http://web.media.mit.edu/~jackylee/cups.htm When either person picks up the one of the so-called “lovers’ cups,”red LEDs on their partner’s glass glow gently. And when either puts the glass to their lips, sensors make white LEDs on the rim of the other glass glow brightly, so you can tell when your other half takes a sip. I don’t know about you, but wireless and wine makes me feel warm all over (and that has little to do with the fact that 2.4Ghz is the same frequency as a microwave oven). Time to meander over to the cellar.

Can You Find Me Now?

RFID is in the news again -this time it’s the US government requirement of certain countries to provide citizens with RFID-enabled passports. And of course with it comes the inevitable cries that this creates incredible privacy violations. The concern is that with RFID technology, individuals and their very personal information can be tracked very precisely. While I applaud those that are trying to ensure that our personal information is safe through tight security standards (we don’t need to live through WEP applied to our personal information), tracking someone via the RFID chip in their passport seems a bit ludicrous -I’ll say, even a bit 24-like. Read More »

That rabbit’s got a vicious streak. It’s a killer!

“That is not an ordinary rabbit … ’tis the most foul cruel and bad-tempered thing you ever set eyes on.” Monthy Python and the Holy GrailOK gentle readers, it’s Friday and we are closing in on Halloween. For your Wi-Fi weekend, I would offer up one of the strangest toys to hit he market, Nabaztag, the first smart (read Wi-Fi) rabbit. Recently introduced this RF bunny uses a Wi-Fi connection and text-to-speech software to read things like RSS, e-mails and weather reports out loud. http://new.nabaztag.com/en/m-2-nabaztag-how-does-he-work.htmlAs reported in CNET and other sites, some Nabaztag users in France have created their own online community with a MySpace.com-like atmosphere in which they share photos of their smart rabbit and its environment. Nabaztag members apparently have been orchestrating flash-mob-type happenings. Up to 100 people often show up with smart rabbits in tow No only is this the first convergence device to blend unlicensed spectrum and Pokemon-like cuteness. Don’t take my word for it, check out the photo gallery on TechRepublic. http://content.techrepublic.com.com/2346-1035_11-30628.htmlOK, I like Wi-Fi as much as the next RF nut, but this is a trick or treat must. Caveat emptor: it’s a $150 to play.Happy Halloween.

Wi-Fi Security and the State of California

The California State Government recently passed a bill to mandate that manufacturers of consumer grade Wi-Fi products attach labels to warn consumers on the dangers of not securing their wireless networks. The hope is that with more visible warnings, consumers will understand the need for wireless security and take steps to enable security settings. Education is always a good thing. Thus educating consumers on the need for greater wireless security cannot be a bad idea. Still, the extent to which the government needs to be involved is up for debate. I can see the value in advising consumers on how to protect their sensitive information. Let’s face it; I don’t want my next door neighbor taking a peak every time I log in to do some online banking. Yet selfishly, as an avid”borrower” of free Wi-Fi, I hate to see too many networks locked down -for fear of never being able to find free connectivity again. Read More »

RF and the Highway System

Over the past few months there have been 2 distinct technical threads in the wireless industry regarding RF. There are those who claim all RF problems will be solved in the standards bodies, a rote exercise for chip and system manufacturers building wireless products. There are others -including myself –who believe the real RF challenges are still in front of us and still remain to be solved. At the Bard of New England, Robert Frost suggested, oh Mobility Blog faithful, there is your role:”a jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.” Read More »