When clouds start gathering and it gets dark and menacing outside, most people need to ask themselves whether it's time to shut all of the windows before the rain sets in. \nIf things go the way that some researchers are hoping, the windows and shades will soon close themselves automatically, just one of many parts of home living that will become more comfortable and safe. \nThe technology is known as "ambient intelligence," and working prototypes are currently being tested by various research teams around around the world. \nThe first family to live permanently in this kind of networked home are the Steiners of Switzerland's Zug canton. The Steiners have already lived through some things that have made them question the "intelligence" of their house. \nAn example of this came on one cold evening when the computer scientist and his teacher wife were left standing on the doorstep in front of their tightly locked front door. The biometric sensor used to open it wouldn't recognize their fingerprints. \n"Our experience with these sensors comes solely from high security fields like banking," explains Beat Schertenleib, spokesman for the project FutureLife (http://www.futurelife.ch). \nIn those settings, things like temperature and humidity are predictable and constant. The device was not prepared for below-freezing temperatures. \nThe Steiner family is nevertheless quick to point out the overwhelming positives. \n"It's nice to feel independent, since we can check on and control our house remotely." \nOne machine automatically waters the grass, another ensures that packages can be delivered even if no one is around. Access to this Skybox, as the drop box is known, is granted through an electronic key or a card with an access code, with the homeowner receiving a text message on their cellphone that a package has been delivered. \nFutureLife is a Swiss project, but Germany also has its share of similar endeavors, including Duisburg's inHaus and Eindhoven's HomeLab. \nIn those cases, however, the houses are only lived in for trial periods. Engineer Klaus Scherer from the Fraunhofen Institute for Micro-electric Circuitry and Systems (IMS) in Duisburg, Germany, points out that some form of much of what his team is working on can already be found in normal households. \n"The components and devices are already on the market," Scherer says. \nThis technology ranges from energy conservation technology to telephone control of household functions through the Internet, or a combination security system with networked smoke and motion detectors. "These can recognize and report fires, break-ins and medical emergencies," explains project leader Scherer. \nThe scientists report that researchers place an emphasis on keeping the advanced technology from getting too complex for average users. \n"With `smart living,' we are finding ourselves caught between the pressures of complexity and strong tendencies to simplify," he says. This means that the inHaus no longer offers a variety of remote controls for various devices, but rather one "integrated system control." This is capable of both regulating room temperature and lowering the blinds, says Klaus Scherer. \nOne mass market product that is already on the market is the multimedia refrigerator from LG Electronics. It warns about impending expiration dates for foodstuffs and notices which products have been consumed. \nThe "coolbox" also makes the kitchen into the household's central circuit board, with other devices controlled by the fridge. The appliance can also play back music and films. \nEven if smart living makes sense in theory, most of home networking in real life is currently limited to entertainment electronics. \nMany of the devices from this technology branch can already communicate with one another thanks to the wireless WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) standard. "The computer and audiovisual worlds are increasingly in step when it comes to the living room," explains Sony's Nils Seib. \nThe core pieces tend to come from computer technology. \n"The computer is the server and archive of the home network. It plays the central role as digital shoebox for collecting everything," Seib says. \nAll multimedia content stored on the server are dished out through the network media receiver, a little silver box that communicates with the audiovisual devices in the house, either with or without cables. \nThe user makes selections through a menu on the television that shows all linked devices. Unlike many other manufacturers, Sony has elected against a so-called proprietary solution. \nThis means that the network media receiver can work with more than just Sony brand components. "You're completely free in terms of choosing output devices," Seib claims. \nPhilips is chasing a similar dream. The Dutch firm offers a slightly different twist: their devices can communicate with one another without the help of a computer as middleman. \nA wireless digital media receiver that looks like a flat DVD player bridges the "media gaps." Their networked entertainment center runs absolutely wirelessly, with content streamed from the PC or Internet. \nPhilips has also avoided the closed-solution model. "We purposely avoided developing our own standards, since nobody buys devices from just one brand." \nMuch more important is user-friendliness, even for very complex devices, he says. "You need to be able to feel comfortable with the machines without being a computer expert."
Taiwan Plus (@taiwanplusnews), the excellent English-language media outlet, reported last week that water levels were down in Taiwan’s largest reservoir as the nation’s dry season looms. The northern reservoirs may be brimming, but the rains have neglected the south, forcing the nation’s water bureaucracy to scramble to maintain supplies without rationing. Almost a metaphor for the nation’s political geography. There’s no little irony in this happening on the heels of a business-as-usual election in which all incumbents were re-elected. That construct we misleadingly label “mother nature” is sending us another tranche of signals telling us that business as usual is
In the past few weeks a photograph of Tony Blair and his buddy Bill Clinton sharing a panel with a scruffy kid wearing a T-shirt, baggy shorts and trainers has been doing the rounds. The April event was in the Bahamas and funded by an outfit called FTX — a supposedly “user-friendly crypto exchange”—– owned by the scruffy kid, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF from now on). Blair and Clinton are looking very pleased to be there, providing confirmation of the aphrodisiac effect of great wealth, because the lad who was playing host was apparently as rich as Croesus, or at any
In his Pensees, published posthumously in 1670, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal appeared to establish a foolproof argument for religious commitment, which he saw as a kind of bet. If the existence of God was even minutely possible, he claimed, then the potential gain was so huge — an “eternity of life and happiness” — that taking the leap of faith was the mathematically rational choice. Pascal’s wager implicitly assumes that religion has no benefits in the real world, but some sacrifices. But what if there were evidence that faith could also contribute to better wellbeing? Scientific studies suggest this is
Dec 5 to Dec 11 Recent visitors to Taipei’s Guangzhou Street Night Market (廣州街) may have noticed that the old concrete building with traditional tiled roofs at No. 200, which spans an entire block, is undergoing renovation. Jen Chi Hospital (仁濟醫院) maintains that it was just doing “emergency maintenance” when it partially demolished the building’s second floor walls in September, but the city stopped them and declared last week the 71-year-old structure a historic building. Since it still housed the hospital’s rehabilitation and dentistry departments, the hospital said that the structure was suffering