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RFID and the Internet of Things
RFID is a term you’re going to start hearing a lot more about, if you aren’t already familiar with it. What is RFID?
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders. The technology requires some extent of cooperation of an RFID reader and an RFID tag.
RFID tags have little bits of data encoded into an integrated circuit and are usually placed on something in need of auditing, like goods at Wal-Mart or more recently US passports. An RFID reader then sends a signal which is picked up by the RFID tag’s antennae and sends back the data that it picks up.
Here’s another example of what they can do: You’re off to the grocery store to pick up some milk, bread, cheese and a bottle of wine. Each item of these items has an RFID tag and when you go to check out you won’t need to scan each item, the cashier will already know the cost. All you have to do is bag your stuff and pay for it.
If your credit card has an RFID chip, you won’t need to take the card out of your wallet, just authorize the purchase with a thumb scan or a signature.
When you arrive home and unpack all your items, putting everything into the fridge, which also has an RFID reader, you refridgerator can tell you which items are about to expire and put in an order for more eggs and yogurt. Your fridge can also tell you what you can make with what you have.
This is happening now.
A company called ZeroG Wireless is producing low-power wireless chips that can be embedded “into any system including consumer electronics, smart energy devices, home and building controls, portable medical sensors, and sensor networks.”
Tikitag is another company that offers a home starter kit with custom software that you can use to program your own RFID chips. These tags are compatible with many third-party scanners like “NFC (Near Field Communication) enabled mobile phones.”
What does this mean to the nonprofit sector?
Imagine having instant auditing capabilities to all the food stored at your foodbank? Or the items for sale at Goodwill? What else could you monitor with these tags? Like the health of rivers or the quality of air? And then having this information accessible from anywhere in the world? And being able to compare this data with other nonprofits?
What do you think?
(Hat tip to Read/Write Web)
Wikipedia content is now available through BitTorrent -
Wikipedia school edition is an offline DVD version of Wikipedia by SOS Children’s Villages (a charity for orphans) filled with “checked content” from the user-edited online encyclopedia. The 2.9GB download is available only via BitTorrent, and to top it off, here’s a quote you don’t hear every day: “It helps our charity if you keep ÂµTorrent running after your download is finished.”
Most hard-core web users have either seen or used sites like Digg and Reddit at one time or another. These popular news aggregation services use the vote-to-promote model to push interesting user submitted links to the front of their pages. Users then vote on these submissions and the links with the most votes float to the top.
The model first gained traction with the launch of Digg in 2004. Many other sites are trying to repeat Digg’s success by launching similar websites in specific niches. You can find vote-to-promote in Mixx, Reddit, Shoutwire, Blinklist and VideoSift. The USA Today has adopted the model for use in their articles, an interesting approach to bringing more popular news to the forefront of their website.
Del.icio.us and Magnolia, both social bookmarking services, take a different approach to the vote-to-promote model. These sites allow users to share bookmarked links with other users, promoting further discovery of interesting news while adding more bookmarks to the service. The number of times a specific link is bookmarked the more popular it becomes as people implicitly vote for that link.
Websites can now roll their own vote-to-promote applications though Pligg’s and Reddit’s opensource software. Reddit, who opensourced their code earlier this week, has a slim advantage over Pligg as the technology is more familiar among web-heads.
The vote-to-promote model is an interesting way to aggregate fresh content though it does have its flaws. As the technology matures and developers tweak the underlying source code, websites and services will continue to find novel uses for this idea.
Recently I was reminded of an article by activist and author George Monbiot from a year ago. He argued that “green consumerism” is pointless when trying to affect environmental and social change but that political participation is the most effective course of action.
If [green consumerism] merely swapped the damaging goods we buy for less damaging ones, I would champion it. But two parallel markets are developing: one for unethical products and one for ethical products, and the expansion of the second does little to hinder the growth of the first… It is easy to picture a situation in which the whole world religiously buys green products, and its carbon emissions continue to soar.
I agree that political action is a necessary to drag industries and outdated ideas into the present, but we can’t entirely discount consumer action. Effectively and permanently distributing consumer buying power through organized group purchasing of ethical products based on an information system of corporate social responsibility and Leed-like ratings, consumers can affect the impact they seek.
There are a number of tools consumers can use now to inform their purchasing decisions and coordinate purchasing -
eSwarm brings groups buyers and sellers together to lower the cost of goods and services. The idea is that the larger the group purchasing a particular good, the more attractive it will be to the seller to lower the cost. The concept is similar to Tuangou, a shopping strategy originating in the People’s Republic of China.
Greener One is developing a LEED-like rating system for consumer products that is crowdsourced by the community. The system will arm consumers with the knowledge needed to aid in “green consumerism” purchasing decisions.
KnowMore.org uses wiki technology to expose corporate abuse and enable shareholders to hold unethical companies more accountable. They also offer a Firefox extension that alerts consumers when they’ve visited a website of an unethical company. Alonovo is a similar service that allows consumers to set values on 40 different criteria that reflects their views. Products are then recommended through Amazon.com.
These mobile applications allow consumers to make informed decisions before purchasing a product through their iPhone or phones on the Google Android mobile platform. Consumers use their camera phones to read bar codes and EZcodes and are instantly linked to data relevant to the product.
The potential these technologies have when used together is profound and factoring in the proliferation of mobile technology and seamless social network integration for knowledge sharing and coordination, change isn’t a possibility, it’s an inevitability.
Pipes is a web service that allows users to easily build web-based applications from aggregated web feeds, web pages and other sources of content. The drag-and-drop user interface makes it dead simple to quickly create useful applications from various data sources.
Some examples below:
Content Keyword RSS
This pipe will search news sources from multiple sites such as Digg, Technorati, Yahoo News, PRWeb, and Google News, compare content to remove duplicates and output a unique RSS feed full of content related to your keywords.
YouTube tags to RSS
Be alerted when videos on Youtube are tagged with specific keywords that you may be interested in watching.
Social Media Firehose
This is a big, fat, wide-reaching net of social media searches to alert you every time your brand or product is mentioned by anybody on a slew of social media sites, including flickr, twitter, friendfeed, digg etc.
Keep up with the Amazons bestselling booklist. This Yahoo Pipe creation is updated hourly to include the most popular books on Amazon.
GeoAnotated Reuters News
Uses the geonames.org RSS-to-geoRSS webservice to add location information to Reuters newsfeed. The result is displayed using the Yahoo!Maps AJAX API
Nonprofits will find the service beneficial for augmenting their own data, with Pipes geo-location mashups, buzz monitoring tools and data analysis.
Dapper is a similar service, based in Tel Aviv, that also makes it easy to reuse content from any web site.
Gears “is an open source project that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser.” With Google Gears, you can -
- Let web applications interact naturally with your desktop
- Store data locally in a fully-searchable database
Gears is exploring implementing other uses as well:
- Multiple File Upload: Using the File System API, Chris demonstrated a multiple file upload experience.
- Resumable File Upload: He then showed a YouTube mockup that showed uploading multiple files, seeing their status, and after a connection died showing how the file resumes and doesn’t start from 0% All using a ResumableRequest that sat on top of the Blog API and HttpRequest
- Find nearby stuff! A Google I/O demo searched for beer, resulting in local places around the Moscone Center. This example used the Geolocation API which uses GPS, Wifi IDs, Cell IDs, and IP address to work out where you are
The Common is a sort of match-making site for non-profits and socially minded organizations needing help and looking to help others.
Once you sign up, you can either join a “Community” or add your own. By community, they mean non-profits, churches and activist groups. From there you are supposed to invite people you know that share the same goals as your community. I signed up as an administrator and added a non-profit I help run, Friends & RPCVs of Guyana.
As the administrator I was asked to post the collective “Abilities” of people in your “Community,” from mentoring to web design to mechanics, you can put anything. Then I was asked to post any “Needs” that my “Community” has. I posted our need for help with finding grants.
Individuals can post “Initiatives,” which are “jobs that are bigger than just one need. They encompass lots of needs that are related in some way. An initiative organizes needs under one umbrella. Facilitators are the only users who can create initiatives.”
If you want to affect real change, this services does a decent job at helping you or your organization figure out where to start.
Many of us use a number of websites and services with posts and pictures and videos all over the web. Lifestreaming takes all that content and puts it into one place. According to Wordspy, lifestreaming is “an online record of a person’s daily activities, either via direct video feed or via aggregating the person’s online content such as blog posts, social network updates, and online photos.”
It’s basically a very easy way to aggregate your web activity and share with friends and family. According to Wired Magazine, it’s “the new black.” For the laziest among us, I can see this replacing blogging.
A few lifestreaming services below -
Google App Engine
Earlier this week, Google launched App Engine, a web service that takes care of hosting, servers and databases for developing web-based applications, all using Google’s own infrastructure. This frees up the developers to work on their applications while relying heavily on Google to maintain the nuts and bolts.
Though the service is similar to Amazon’s AWS, it lacks the ability to use App Engine’s features a la carte. According to TechCrunch.com, “applications cannot use more than 500 MB of total storage, 200 million megacycles/day CPU time, and 10 GB bandwidth (both ways) per day” and can only be written in Python.
This week, Flickr introduced the ability to upload video to their website. The point isn’t to compete with YouTube but to allow users to upload short clips taken with a digital camera or cell phone. The limit for each file is 90 seconds in length and up to 10 megs.
Is this useful? I think so, I was able to unload a number of short clips that seemed too short for YouTube but just long enough to capture a story. Photojojo, a photography blog, suggests using Flickr to take Long Portraits. What’s a Long Portrait?
[It's] a 30-second (or less) portrait of a person, kind of like a video snapshot. It lets you capture the essence of a person: not just what they look like, but who they are right now.
The thing is, everybody thinks they donâ€™t change that much from year to year. But what if we told you we had video of you singing your favorite song from 7th grade? See? Youâ€™ve changed. We all do. This is why home videos are so poignant: they capture a moment of time that inevitably goes by.
Build a Book with Blurb
If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, but didn’t know where to begin, Blurb is a great place to start. Blurb is a micro-publishing service that enables you to create your own bounded book from any media. You can create a book from your blog content, your Twitter or Flickr accounts or from just about anywhere else.
Blurb also introduced a group collaboration feature, permitting a number of people to work on a book together. Taking this idea a step further, Blurb recently release a Facebook app that allows you and your friends to build a photobook through Facebook.
You are only bound by your imagination, and your pocket book, to what you can publish.
The Felton Personal Annual Report
Graphic designer Nicholas Felton is the author of Feltron.com, a site that chronicles much of his work as well as The Felton Personal Annual Reports. In 2005, Felton began publishing personal “annual reports” where he accounts for much of his day-to-day minutiae, such as days worked, number of vacation days, purchases, movies watched, beers consumed and so on. He combines this information with attractive infosthetics that ties all this data together.
Upon request, he mails these out. I actually have one if you’d like to see what one looks like.
You’re doing it wrong
Twitter is extremely useful beyond the “I had a ham sandwich for lunch” or the “I’m watching Sanford & Son” tweets. There’s a lot you can do with 140 characters of text. Lifehack.org has a few suggestions.
Quick Human Answers – Ask folks on your friendâ€™s list which digital camera to buy for under $300 US, and youâ€™ll get back a stream of responses.
Conference / News Briefings – The last several major tech events were covered by Twitter. I heard about the Apple iPhone faster through Twitter than I would via blog surfing. Similarly, Iâ€™ve watched people in San Francisco report earthquakes that took news sources hours to confirm.
Friendsourcing – Last Tuesday, I asked about a web designer for a project. I got back 14 emails in 10 minutes from different sources on Twitter. Itâ€™s a great place to find folks to help with things. We once helped a friend out of a bind when he got stuck at an airport, strictly by Twitter.
Micro-Attention-Sharing – Lots of us use Twitter to direct folks to blog posts weâ€™ve written, news we find needs sharing, or entertaining things weâ€™ve found on the web. Itâ€™s *like* using del.icio.us to share, but itâ€™s instant, and you wouldnâ€™t drop 100 links on someone in Twitter in a given day.
Direct People to Good Causes – Iâ€™ve seen plenty of posts of someone doing a walk for hunger or a collection for diabetes. Twitter allows people to use their friend lists to propagate that information faster, and try to draw more direct help down to a problem.
And Twittown writes of two users who covered the fires in California in October of 2007.
“Twitter users Nate Ritter and Viss have been busy posting rapid-fire updates of the current wildfire situation in Southern California. Both of them are on the scene in San Diego, and they are doing an excellent job of providing information and news about evacuations, meeting points and anything important that local residents would need to know. Viss is also on Flickr and he’s posting photos.
Nate and Viss are using the hashtag #sandiegofire. Twitter users can enter “track sandiegofire” in SMS or IM and receive notifications whenever a tweet goes out with that tag in it.”
Iâ€™m sure you remember the worst of the DJs youâ€™ve ever run across, it doesnâ€™t matter if it was at a party or someone playing their favorites at the office. The experience of listening to the best of Abba, Debbie Gibson b-sides and the Vanilla Ice/Limp Bizkit mashup album is seared into your psyche for eternity.
According to the Urban Dictionary, Playlistism is defined as “discrimination based not on race, gender, or religion, but rather on a disturbingly horrible iTunes music library discovered through a school or job network.”
Thanks to the amazingness of the interweb, now everyone can create and share their wonderful taste in music with millions of people quickly and easily! Mixwit and Muxtape are two services that help you do this.
With Mixwit, this service helps you find mp3s already hosted on the internet somewhere, allowing you to link to each song from their site and share the mix youâ€™ve made. Muxtape allows you to upload actual songs, up to 10 of your own mp3s. You can share that playlist with your friends too.
Not sure where I heard this, but it sounds about right, “Hell is other people’s music.”
Crowdsourcing takes a function or project normally done by an individual and outsources to the public, Wikipedia is an example of this. Sometimes there is financial incentive to participate in a crowdsourced project, as with Predictify.com, but usually not.
Amazonâ€™s Mechanical Turk is an innovative crowdsourcing tool that uses “artificial artificial intelligence.” Mechanical Turk utilizes a network of humans to complete tasks submitted by site customers, completed tasks are then incorporated into the customers applications.
Dolores Labs is a company that helps organizations best use Mechanical Turk to solve problems. Some examples of how they have used Mechanical Turk -
Oâ€™Reilly Media wanted to find the sentiment of thousands of blog comments on a news event. In less than 24 hours, every comment was labeled â€œproâ€? or â€œcon.â€?
Zvents collected 100,000 hand labeled judgments to classify local events as whether or not those events might be interesting to people. Zvents then used that effort to train their machine learning event classifier.
Prices from popular shopping sites, many of which are impossible to accurately scrape, were extracted.
Scribd, a YouTube for documents, classified thousands of documents uploaded by users and used that data to build an automated classifier.
In September 2007, Steve Fossett, a famous aviator and explorer, went missing while flying over the Nevada deserts. Using Mechanical Turk, 50,000 people searched through satellite images provided by Google to hunt for the missing aviator. These online volunteers scrutinized images of the 17,000 square mile area where Fossett’s plane is thought to have crashed. This innovative use of distributed search showed the usefulness of the technology.
1,000 True Fans Theory
Peer-to-peer networks, bittorrent, email and other forms of file sharing have many asking how an artist can make any money when the content they’ve created can be so easily pirated?
The RIAA is trying to address this issue by the suing the bejesus out of college kids and grandparents for using Kazaa, the MPAA is suing the creators of DVD rippers and indie video game makers are having a heck of time getting wider distribution.
Kevin Kelly, a founder of Wired, suggests one solution for content creators to keep some of the profit. His idea is called “1,000 True Fans.” The idea goes like this,
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat.
If you think about it, 1,000 True Fans isn’t that unrealistic. With the growth of internet usage expanding almost exponentially each year, potential exists for growing an even larger fan base. If each of those 1,000 True Fans spent a paltry $100 US a year on artist produced and distributed music, art, media, whatever, that’s $100,000 a each year. This idea works well for solo artists and will need some tweaking for a band, but it’s not an unrealistic goal.
Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, has tested this approach with his release of the album Ghost in March and The Slip in May. His success in selling directly to his fans has allowed him to bypass the traditional big label model. Also, the prostitue involved with Eliot Spitzer made over a million dollars over night selling singles she created on the site Amie.st (of course this isn’t quite the norm for this approach).
Spinning this idea for non-profit world, I can bet Idealist has 1,000 True Fans. The question for us and for other non-profits is how we can leverage a devoted community, how do we nurture it and with what content? The problem for most non-profits isn’t content creation or distribution, but a lack of a larger following, limited two-way communication and a failure of creativity.