Ideas Matter




Palm Pilot to CDMA cellphone Data Dock 


Around 1998 I thought it would be cool to snap my Qualcomm Thinphone and Palm Pilot together to create what we now call a Smart Phone. Created the short concept video to raise some internal $ to have a prototype built. The QCP Thinphone and Palm Pilot connected through a COM port, which allowed the Palm Pilot to treat the cellular IS-95 data connection like a 14.4kbps modem. Estimated cost of the Data Dock accessory was less than $100. 


A couple years after prototyping this concept, Qualcomm released the pDQ, which combined a CDMA modem with Palm Pilot hardware, running Palm OS 3.0 I believe.  

Millimeter Scale Computer & Bio Power Source

Photo Credit: Greg Chen

This 1mm computer mentioned on CNET promises to enable really exciting implant sensor control and communication applications. The article does not really go into how this chip would be powered, apart from mentioning batteries or solar panels, which for bio apps would not be very practical. A few months ago I ran across an article covering research into a glucose based electrity generation system, which could allow this tiny computer to draw all the power it needs from the body. I can imagine having one of these implanted at birth to monitor a basic set of health sensing devices, with others added perhaps as part of elective or more advanced theraputic implants over our life cycle as needed.

A basic health application of this chip might perform acoustic analysis of our beating heart, counting time between beats, or identifying abnormal electrical signitures of various heart components over time. 

An example of an elective device might be an implant that goes near the ear canal, serving as a sort of sound-card, producing MIDI-like patterns, or synthesizing text to speech for devices located within the body, or outside. 

The number of areas this sort of chip can be applied within the body will be limited only by our imagination. Speaking of imagination, if you find this kind of stuff interesting and you're into Scifi, Acts Of The Apostles a novel by John Sundman is a must-read. You can find the first few chapters of his book and buy the rest on his website

P2P Wireless Networking


TechCrunch has a post on Peep Wireless and their CES announcement of a new P2P wireless voice call system. I think going for a voice network using wifi is an admirable goal, but will no doubt have challenges. That said, there is no way to get things like this going without giving it a try.

You can not account for human behavior when it comes to stuff like this. I remember in the early 90's when people thought that multi-player internet gaming would never work because of the latency of the net. Well, what they did not count on was that folks would simply stay away from game servers that were to laggy. Same thing here, if you have queues from the UI that let you know when you can/cant use the P2P voice, you'll adjust your behavior if there is a significant payoff to using the system. There have to be enough goodies locked up in a system like this to hang in with it when its performance degrades.

I would like to see a small step before going full voice, moving short messages, images between phones in a store & forward mode, where each client/server device accepts files and forwards some of their own. Reminds me of Epizoochory(really? yep, really), or the dispersal of seeds by animals. Imagine all the interesting stuff that would drift around the planet(just encrypt what you want private) when passed by proximity as phones make and break connections in freeway traffic, at the mall, etc. What if your local venue could not only check-in to you, but could tag you with a file that spreads to your friends just by being near them? 


NFC Smart Locks

NFC(Near Field Communication) will enable our phones to talk with things such as gas pumps, vending machines and cash registers, basically anything you might want to transfer money to.

NFC could also allow our phones to interact in new ways with old objects, like say, a door lock. You would hold your phone close to the lock while turning the knob. An electromechanical power circuit converts that turning force into enough energy for about about 300 miliseconds, or about 1/3 of a second processing time. A low power microcontroller within the lock accesses a connected NFC chip containing the locked/unlocked status of the lock. This NFC chip would receive it's power over the air through the short range RF interface with the phone's corresponding NFC device, relaying the unlock code to the lock's microcontroller. The balance of the doorknob turning force would then be used to mechanically move the bolt, opening the door. 


Microsoft and Phone 7 Fragmentation

An article over at TechCrunch by MG Siegler delves into Microsoft's approach to Phone 7 and how updates will deploy. Microsoft got the control they wanted with constrained spec's for manufacturers, but this also places the burden on them for tactical leadership in a way WinMobile never did. 

MSFT will have to get the balance between new features and filling in missing pieces by pulling actionable signal from all the market noise, not easy to do when you are not actually building devices yourself. The timing for something like cut/paste has to be balanced with a differentiating new feature. Android does this with many eyes and many ears, a cross manufacturer, continuous snap to OS tip revision grind that aint pretty. The end result being consumers find at their semi-annual refresh window, the top couple Android fragments that are actually competitive with iOS.

MSFT has deep pockets and can spend time building up the OS feature set, but really has to break new ground to thrust forward and catch up in ways not yet seen from them in mobile.