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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wearable Technology: Quo Vadis

New prototypes in wearable computing were on show in Boston at the 11th International Symposium on Wearable Computers. ISWC07. Some of the more interesting included stretchable, threadlike sensors developed by The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). These can be woven into clothing and transmited temporal-spacial information to a PC which provides invaluable biofeedback for the rehabilitation of those living with pain and back injuries. Also on display from the University of Bremen, was a shoe-borne global position system which provides real-time location tracking in areas where satellite navigation systems cannot reach. Currently the key sensors are held in place by the shoelaces but the developers hope the commercial version will have the sensors embedded in the heel of boots. The hope is the GPS footwear will be useful to firefighters and other emergency services. The Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) demonstrated a gizmo which looks like a name badge worn around the neck. Sensors pick up information about motion and speech patterns of people in close proximity. The collected data is transferred to a PC or mobile phone for analysis and used to determine the level of engagement. The device has useful application in social network analysis, sales, criminal detection, and security. Hitachi Ltd., are keen to make the badges for corporate consultants to use with their clients. The Colorado School of Mines demonstrated nanotechnology in new gloves which with the faintest flick of the fingers can control portable devices such MP3. The convenient glove is ideal for motorists and snowboarders. Brave new world but meantime you will still have to take your shoes off at the airport checkpoint according to the Transportation Security Administration , who have rejected the use of a General Electric shoe-scanning machine . Post September 11, the need for increased security has meant travellers have to physically remove their shoes to complete security screening. A principle aim of the Registered Traveler program has been the ability for travellers to pass through security without removing their shoes. Unfortunately the GE shoe scanning machine (Mk2) has not met the minimum detection standards. Back to the drawing board but autorities but all are keen to incorporate technological enhancements,” in the third generation, shoe scanner.

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