December 2002 Archives

Customised billboards

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Some billboards in California, USA, are going to have the advertisements they display determined by the radio stations car drivers are listening to, according to this San Francisco Chronicle article. A device picks up signals from car radio aerials and works out how many people are listening to which stations. The video-screen billboards can then display adverts chosen to fit the consumer profile of the most popular station(s). If only this kind of ingenuity was put to good use.

Citizens plotting problems

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The City Scan project uses hand-held computers, digital cameras and GPS to allow citizens to pinpoint instances of problems such as graffiti, holes in road, etc. This data is then used to generate reports and maps that officials can use to decide how best to tackle problems. It's currently on trial in Connecticut, USA, and sounds good, although the front page declaring it aims to "encourage citizens to behave as customers" seems odd to me -- is being a citizen not good enough? I also hope it's not too tied in to Microsoft's proprietary technology.

It reminds me of a scheme in the UK which is being expanded after successful trials (sorry I can't find a link to this anywhere, despite having read/seen it at least twice). Villagers are given hand-held speed cameras to get information on vehicles speeding through their villages. This information is passed on to the police who issue a warning to the drivers. Is it a good thing to be passing these tasks on to citizens? It seems to be working but something about it, which I can't quite put my finger on, feels wrong.

New words

I'm using some of the dead holiday time to catch up on emails, one of which included a link to Word Spy. It's like Wired magazine's Jargon Watch only including lengthy citations, background, and links to related words. Quite, quite fabulous. (Thanks Anthony.)

This is quite a fun site about population growth, and features this stunning graph of population growth over the past 10,000 years (via Seb's Open Research). No matter how many times I see graphs like that they still stop me in my tracks.

BBC's Book of the Future

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If I had time I'd spend more time looking at this project at the BBC and make some comments. It looks interesting, but I'm too busy and my computer at home has been broken for a while now. Sorry. Anyway, Matt Jones wrote some things about it.