Wireless City Services

The City of St. John’s, North America’s oldest city, is undergoing a wireless and mobility makeover. The City will equip over 100 civic workers with handheld devices to gain real-time, remote access to the Citizen Service and other mission-critical applications. Other components of the City of St. John’s wireless strategy include:

  • Automatic Vehicle Locators (AVL) – 80 snow plows are being equipped with hybrid modems with GPS sensors, which can be geographically mapped throughout St. John’s.
  • Public access website – Citizens will be able to log onto a website to determine exact location of plows and other service equipment. Mobile workers using handheld computers, can view a service request and go directly to the area requiring service.
  • Wireless access to email – for City workers using Compaq iPAQs
  • Building and Safety Inspection – Consilient’s WRAP technology is being used to extend the in-house program that building and safety inspectors use wirelessly to ruggedized handheld units.
  • Asphalt Temperature Sensors – Sensors are being embedded in the asphalt of city streets, which are hooked into a weather forecasting system. The sensors emit a signal when the temperature begins to drop, indicating a need for road salting.

EVER America’s Citizen Service provides intergovernmental collaboration for disaster management and recovery for natural or manmade disasters such as Homeland Security.

ViewSonic’s $299 X-scale Pocket PC with a $50 Wi-Fi card might save $300-$400 annually over cellular fees. Now multiply by a dozen or more different service industries and thousands of clients in the metro area.

RoamAD’s technology goes way beyond hotspots . The company has already turned the central business district of Auckland, New Zealand, an area of three square kilometers, into one giant hotspot. You can surf the internet or even make and receive phone calls via the network’s VoIP capabilities, bypassing the local wired loop. Pocket Presence runs Voice-over-IP on Wi-Fi handheld devices, while Vocera’s clip-on device has a press to talk (and dial) button and Nexian provides mobile videoconferencing on a handheld.

The value proposition of a public/private Wi-Fi network seems inevitable.

Grid Unlocked

iGrid, the biennial International Grid event, concentrates on visualizing what Grid can do. A Virtual Laboratory with a 10 GigE circuit between Seattle and Amsterdam was demonstrated. The Pacific Northwest Gigapop and the University of Washington’s Research Channel sent uncompressed HDTV over IP halfway around the world.

Tyco Telecommunications will provide the link for the next five years to the Internet Educational Equal Access Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission provides opportunities in the global telecommunications marketplace on behalf of the research and education community.

IEEAF’s “Global Quilt” includes member institutions like the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) represented by California State University at Hayward, California Politechnic University at San Luis Obispo, and University of Southern California), the Pacific Northwest Gigapop (represented by University of Washington), the Pacific Internet2 Coalition (represented by University of Hawaii), the University of Maryland, the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID), Indiana University, and Geographic Network Affilites, Inc (GEO).

The National Center for Data Mining and their Terra Wide Data Mining Testbed explores remote analysis and distributed mining on terabyte data bases. The Data Mining Group (DMG) is an independent, vendor led group which develops data mining standards, such as the Predictive Model Markup Language (PMML). Can you say future crime?

Internet2, led by 200 U.S. universities, is developing advanced network technologies with partnerships among academia, industry, and government.

The TeraGrid will include 13.6 teraflops of Linux Cluster computing power distributed at the four TeraGrid sites, capable of managing and storing more than 450 terabytes of data. It will be connected through a 40 Gbps network, which will become a 50 to 80 Gbps network or 16 times faster than today’s fastest research network. It will be used for National Science Foundation-sponsored projects and commercial applications.

Brewster Kahle’s Odyssey

The Internet Archive Bookmobile will be printing out public-domain books on demand and giving them to people at schools, libraries, shopping malls, senior citizens centers, and other venues as it crosses the country this week.

The satellite-linked bookmobile was on view in San Francisco last week in preparation for its cross-country trip to Washington D.C.

The purpose of the trip is to publicize the value of works in the public domain, as well as the practicality of printing books on demand. The bookmobile will arrive in Washington D.C. on October 9, the same day that the Supreme Court will be deciding the case of Eldred v. Ashcroft, a lawsuit challenging the further extension of United States copyright laws.

The bookmobile is one project of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit dedicated to “offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format.” Brewster Kahle serves as archive director and is president of Alexa Internet, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon.com. The Internet Archive is currently about five times as large as the Library of Congress and growing. Here’s Matt’s photo tour of the place.

Brewster’s mobile bookmobile costs about $5000 (less the Motosat mobile satellite dish which is about $6,000). Kahle uses a laptop computer, a thermal binding machine, an industrial-strength paper cutter and a double-sided laserprinter.

To use his mobile bookmobile, you browse the Internet Archive site for books that have already been formatted for distribution. Next you download the desired book, print it on sheets of 11-by-17 inch paper (two book pages per sheet of paper), cut the sheets in half, and join the two halves to make the body of the book. A special cover (printed on an inkjet printer) wraps around the book body and the pages are bound with the binding machine. The paper cutter trims the edges of the book. Kahle says he can print a copy of Alice in Wonderland in about 10 minutes, for a materials cost of about $1.

Here’s their strategy:

  1. Take a large catalog of books in libraries
  2. Tag each entry with its US copyright status
  3. Prioritize those that are out of copyright,
  4. Try to inspire the world to digitize the out-of-copyright books,
  5. Format the books for online distribution,
  6. Organize the resulting digitized books,
  7. Cause enlightenment in all corners of the globe.

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) organization founded to build an ‘Internet library,’ with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. Founded in 1996 and located in the Presidio of San Francisco, the Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to build more well-rounded collections.

Kahle previously created the architecture for Thinking Machines, developed the Wide Area Information Server and founded SFLAN in San Francisco’s Presidio district. The Manifesto:

  1. Bring Moore’s law to Internet bandwidth: 1Mb/sec for $1/month in 10 years.
  2. Low-cost megabit ISP built by users, spread like a virus
  3. Welcome to the neighborhood: you are on the net.
  4. Radio locally, fiber globally.

Kahle explains The Archive:

“In the Wayback Machine, currently there are 10 billion Web pages, collected over five years. That amounts to 100 terabytes, which is 100 million megabytes. So if a book is a megabyte, which is about what it is, and the Library of Congress has 20 million books, that’s 20 terabytes. This is 100 terabytes. At that size, this is the largest database ever built. It’s larger than Walmart’s, American Express’, the IRS. It’s the largest database ever built.”

The American Memory project at the Library of Congress is one of the largest digitized archives of U.S. history, with more than 7.5 million digital records from 100 collections of manuscripts, books, maps, films, sound recordings and photographs. The Library is evaluating how emerging data grid technologies, such as SDSC’s Storage Resource Broker (SRB) data grid software. With 6 petabytes (6,000 terabytes) of storage capacity, the San Diego Supercomputer Center has plenty of room to store the 8 terabytes of American Memory’s digital data, plus additional records as the collection evolves over decades, or even centuries.

Alexa put up a television archive called tvarchive.org, which is televison news from around the world from Sept. 11 to Sept. 18. Twenty channels in Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Iraqi. Iraqi television. In three weeks, Alexa took all these recordings from tape, massaged them, put them online, and converted them into several different formats.

Kahle adds, “We’ve put 1,000 films up online for people to download including education films, government films, propoganda films, industrial films. They’re all available for download in MPEG2, which is DVD-quality. I really recommend “The ABCs of Happiness” and “The Consequence of War.”

Just 4 percent of the world’s nearly 6 billion people were connected to 100 million hosts in 1998, a figure expected to grow 11 percent to 500 million people by 2003. Asia-Pacific will account for 20 percent of e-commerce sales and more than a quarter of the world’s Internet users by 2004, according to the US Commerce Department. Current statistics from the FCC and other sources indicate that the US produces 35% of all print material, 40% of the images and well over 50% of the digitally stored content produced in the world each year.

The world produces about 1.5 billion gigabytes of information per year (1.5 Exobytes), or 250 megabytes for every man, woman, and child on earth, according to U/C Berkeley research (NPR Report). This information consists of e-mails, phone calls, radio and television broadcasts, Websites, office documents, newspapers, etc. 93% is stored in digital form with hard drives in PCs accounting for 55% of total storage shipped each year. Printed documents of all kinds comprise only .003% of the total. All information ever produced since mankind began painting pictures in caves is 18 Exobytes. Twelve percent of the total was produced in the year 2000.

For libraries wanting more control and power; Adobe’s Content Server 3.0 may be just the ticket. Patrons can check out digital titles that are automatically downloaded onto their PC or laptop for reading. Users do not need to be connected online to read the downloaded content with the Acrobat eBook Reader. When the lending period for a title expires, the patron no longer has access to the eBook. The title then becomes instantly available to others.

The Standard Edition of the Content Server consists of a one-time fee of $5,000 for one destination site capable of hosting 250 titles. Expansion packages are $1,000 per additional 500 titles. The ASP Edition costs $10,000 for the Adobe Content Server linked to one destination site, hosting an unlimited number of titles.

It’s available through library solutions provider Baker & Taylor and OverDrive who provide the complete integration services required to deliver a robust digital content management system.

The Adobe PDF e-book format competes with the more popular Microsoft Reader and other formats like the open book standard.

The University of Virginia Library’s Etext Center, operates one of the world’s largest and busiest public eBook libraries. Memoware has a library of public domain e-books for the Palm while PocketPC books have the advantage of ClearType and bigger screens. CeWindows.net has a big library

Public domain libraries are available from at Bibliomania and Project Gutenberg. TuCows has a ton of free software. AvantGo lets you create and post your content on-line. Lots of newspaper and magazines offer their content through AvantGo.

Overdrive‘s eBookExpress Website may be the fastest and easiest way to create eBooks. The ebook Express website (FAQ), is makes an e-book for free and eliminates downloading publishing software. Just click to upload your document.

BookShare.org provides free copyrighted books for the 24 million Americans are deaf or hearing impaired and 12 million are blind. They have have over ten thousand copyrighted books online, built largely by its community of members and supporters who scan books to submit to the collection.

Booksfree.com has 4,000 members, who pay $6.99 to $14.99 a month to rent from the start-up’s online library, which is stocked with 34,000 paperback titles. Its most popular titles are mysteries, romances and action novels. Book Crossing is a catch and release program for book lovers. After you’ve finished a book, leave it in a public place and tell where on the internet. Other people will read it and do the same.

Creating a library with access to hundreds of thousands of volumes isn’t technically hard. A kiosk with a terabyte might cost less than $5,000. Burn a CD for $.25 or a CF card (for free).

Rewriting the copyright law may take many public domain works out of the public domain, however.

Kahle, unlike Seymour Cray, is a populist/revolutionary, grounded in the real world. His adventure brings to mind Michael Paterniti’s book Driving Mr. Albert where Einstein’s Brain is tranported in a car trunk, cross-country – (audio part 1 & part 2).

Albert Einstein’s brain floats in formaldehyde in a Tupperware bowl in a gray duffel bag in the trunk of a Buick Skylark barreling across America. Driving the car is Michael Paterniti, a young journalist from Maine. Sitting next to him is an eighty-four-year-old pathologist named Thomas Harvey who performed the autopsy on Einstein in 1955–and simply removed the brain and took it home. And kept it for over forty years.

On a cold February day, the two men and the brain leave New Jersey and light out on I-70 for sunny California, where Einstein’s perplexed granddaughter, Evelyn, awaits. And riding along as the imaginary fourth passenger is Einstein himself, an id-driven genius, the original galactic slacker with his head in the stars.

And what’s the big deal with Eldred v. Ashcroft? Check out A Case to Define the Digital Age, by Jane Black in Business Week, Hal Plotkin in SF Gate, Walter Truett Anderson in Pacific News, David Streitfeld in the LA Times and Steven Levy in Wired (the man who found Einstein’s brain).

Mesh Networking Unleashed

LocustWorld, a mesh networking developer, has announced the release of MeshAP-05. This is a prototype release intended for the widest possible test. Locustworld encourages feedback.

This is a test release of a bootable CD which turns a single board computer or laptop into a mesh node and access point. Here’s a gallery of meshed devices.

Cells communicate to form a robust, dynamic, compressed and encrypted mesh network. LocusWorld says to boot the CD and place a wi-fi card in the machine. Driver support for multiple ethernet cards and multiple wi-fi cards.

The Locust mission: We like this wireless technology, there is a huge potential in free community networks, as idealised by www.communitywireless.org. Our primary interest is simply in providing the enabling technology to make this dream work. All the plans for building or modifying all our units will eventually be available as will the software itself. We hope to distribute this under an opensource license so that others can improve our work.

Who is cheaper: Wi-Fi or 3G

AT&T Wireless new technologies and planning director, Umesh Amin, claimed 3G nets cost less than 802.11 WLANs.

“I feel 802.11 still has a long way to go to meet the needs of the mobile professional. As for costs, it’s true 802.11 capital expense is very low, but you also have to look at the operational expense.”

Amin said that AT&T’s 3G network could deliver wireless data to a two mile radius in and around the Seattle-Tacoma airport using a single macrocell costing about $2 million and a few T1 lines costing about $1,500.

“I challenge you to do the math for 802.11, and you still won’t have as wide a coverage radius,” Amin said.

That’s fair.

But most users aren’t connecting their laptops or PDAs at international airports or while driving. They’re at home and in the office. Tens of thousands of coffee shops and brew-pubs will pick up loiterers. Virtually every laptop and PDA will soon have Wi-Fi built-in.

Who in their right mind is going to use AT&T’s GPRS (at 30Kbps) costing upwards of $30/hour when they can surf at 300kbps for $3/hour (or free). Besides, GPRS doesn’t reliably connect indoors.

Perhaps AT&T made a bad choice with GSM and is locked into 3G equipment loans from Motorola, Ericson and Nokia. Too bad. EDGE won’t deliver competitive services for years. Cellular is great for voice but circuit-switched data is just too expensive. And slow. And unreliable. Who needs it?

What’s wrong with 10 times the speed at 1/10th the cost with Wi-Fi or “4G” systems like Arraycomm, Flarion or IP Wireless. AT&T can’t acknowledge that every Starbucks, every hotel and every laptop will have Wi-Fi in 2-3 years. They’re a corporate lemming headed straight for the cliff. Consumers know value when they see it and can turn on a dime.

Free competition is all around, Amin.

That’s reality.

Dual-Band Roundup

Netgear today launched a Dual Band PC Card (WAB501).

Based on the Atheros’ (AR5001X) WLAN chipset, the $180, Netgear Card automatically roams between 802.11a and 802.11b networks, while providing an option to only enable roaming in either 802.11a or 802.11b networks. The 32-bit WAB501 CardBus adapter appears to be similar to the one SMC announced last week, the SMC2335W. The SMC2335W is list-priced at $139.99 and will be available in October.

Atheros is no longer the only game in town. Intersil has a dual-band chipset, the Intersil PRISM Indigo. Intersil plans to undercut Atheros’ prices, with a bill of materials of only $35.

Literally dozens of 5 GHz chips are coming on the market in the next few months. Some of those include:

It’s the tip of the iceburg.