Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

Illinois law to require wireless tracking devices for miners

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has signed into a law a number of reforms that will go a long way toward improving mine safety in the state's 18 underground mines. Included in the legislation are requirements for wireless tracking devices, which should make it easier for rescue teams to locate trapped miners in emergency situations.

Of course, mining is still a dangerous undertaking, but anything that can be done to make things a little safer will go a long way.

Cingular Wireless preparing for 2006 hurricane season

This is a headline we probably would not have seen pre-2005, but now, it's good PR for the Cingular folks.  Cingular has prepared a "checklist" of sorts to prepare hurricane-prone areas for communications emergencies.

It's good to know that cell sites along the Gulf Coast have backup generators, batteries and centralized monitoring systems that can tell the Cingular NOC when a problem occurs -- like being hit by hurricane-force winds. In addition, COWs (Cellsites On Wheels) can be moved into place to provide temporary coverage in the event a stationary site becomes completely unusable.

Wireless gambling about to take off in Las Vegas

So, you want to get your poker or hold 'em game on with a handheld wireless unit? You're about to be in luck, as these wireless gambling devices are soon to infiltrate restaurants and other venues where physical casino betting is impossible to have available. I mean, the Vegas casinos need to grow their revenue, right? How better than to make handheld gambling fit into every possible supervised public area in Sin City.

The regulations are new, the technology is new and the audience will soon be developing (most likely, males in their 20s and 30s), so watch out the next time you visit the city in the middle of the desert. You'll be able to order a NY strip steak and potatoes while playing Blackjack on the menu, or at least close to the menu.

An Example of Testing Your New Wireless Device Your Way

It really goes without saying that if you're going to see how a new product works, you have to test it out in nearly every type of situation and environment. Every product will work if you test it in the "perfect" environment, but since there is no such thing, you have to work with it in your own environment.

My friend Rich Nass from Mobile Handset DesignLine has tested many wireless products over the years, and he discusses his experience with the new Motorola Bluetooth HT820 stereo headphones. I've been in his home quite a few times, and when he talks about how the device is able to pick up signals through his concrete walls, he's not kidding.

In other words, if you're going to spend big bucks on any new wireless gadget, it's imperative that you make sure it works in the type of environment you are accustomed to, and not take what is written in the owner's manual or manufacturer's website as gospel.

Just because it's wireless doesn't mean it's a great product--testing it to make sure it works the way you want it to is the key to the whole deal.

Congress Looking to Legislate Wireless Communications Systems for Miners

Particular attention has been paid lately to mining safety in the wake of the two disasters in West Virginia in the last few weeks that have resulted in the deaths of over a dozen miners. Most of the focus is on development and eventual legislation by Congress of wireless communication systems and tracking devices so that if something does happen, responders will have a fighting chance to talk with, and eventually rescue, trapped miners.

Of course, all of this talk and research has been too long in coming, and if attention had been paid to this issue even a few months before, these tragedies may have been avoided. In any event, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing next month to discuss mine safety procedures and enforcement measures and wireless devices will definitely be on the agenda.

In addition, it would be a good idea to bring mining company executives to this hearing and have them publicly commit to instituting wireless communications systems so there will some accountability, at least on the surface.

Nicholas Negroponte and Cisco Invest in RFID Firm - To The Tune of $21 Million

RFID has been a hot topic today, eh? This is a precursor to things-to-come in 2006 from all accounts. When an internet-largesse like Cisco Systems starts investing, we know RFID is making its headway into the mainstream of several industries. Although, the mention of "RFID by nature being non-disruptive" from the linked story is quite short-sighted, I believe. Yes, from a tech standpoint this may be partially true. From a sociological standpoint -- when human tracking enters the realm -- RFID could be particularly troublesome, if not incredibly troublesome. Should it be? Yes.

The efficient-as-I'll-get-out proponents of RFID have a great argument, and in retail especially, RFID continues to hold tremendous efficiency challenges in inventory tracking, replenishment, shrinkage reduction, self-checkout, etc. The bottom lines of those who fully implement RFID into their corporate customer-facing structures -- and internally as well -- should have a large bump to those companies (and their shareholders). As we move away from this area of interest though, the use and pervasiveness of RFID starts to grate on many a mind. How about yours?

California's Hot Potato RFID Bill - The Tug Of War In Progress

Senate Bill 768 in the California legislature seems to be quite a hot potato right now, what with the EFF and ACLU (seemingly) winning while the industry responsible for making RFID tags and tech sweating about the outcome. Although RFID has had (and will have) challenges in the government sector (IDs and what-not), the march continues on with RFID deployment in the private sector such as retail. 2006 will most likely see incredible uptake of RFID by some of the largest goods manufacturers in the U.S. as well as the largest retail outlets, such as Wal-Mart's well-publicized adoption.

However, when it comes to personal liberties and privacy, RFID should be (and is) on much shakier ground. I'm not sure I want *any* of my personally-identifiable information broadcast anywhere. Memories of the mall scenes in "Minority Report" come to mind, although RFID scanning and eye transplants are quite a different approach. Will privacy concerns and RFID usage, such as a government-issued form of ID, compromise when it comes to the privacy of the public? Surely they will. but when and how much leeway will each side bow to? An interesting answer from the initial stages should cause us to stay tuned to SB768 in California. The outcome could set a dangerous *or* beneficial precedent. Where is Big Brother when we need him?

Mine Company Head NOW Says Miners Should Carry Wireless Communications Devices

This is certainly a case of 20/20 hindsight, but the head of the company that owns the Sago Mine in West Virginia where 12 trapped miners died last week now says that if the men had wireless communications devices, they would have been able to immediately send out an alert for rescue. When the mine exploded, the wired phone that was the only means of communication to the outside was destroyed. He now says that all of his company's miners will be required to carry wireless radios.

Obviously, this is an extreme case of second-guessing, but wouldn't you think in 2006 that supplying workers, especially those who toil in extremely hazardous situations (like coal mining), with the most up-to-date communications devices would be a standard operating procedure?

Use of Wireless Technology in Medical Devices Trending Up

Patients with heart conditions are among a vast group of people who may benefit from the emerging trend of devices embedded with wireless monitors being implanted into their bodies to track their disease state and watch out for signs of abnormalities before they occur. The medical device industry is turning to wireless technology in order to make sure their devices do what they're supposed to do and note any possible defects before a mass recall on any one or more products will have to be issued.

In addition, healthcare experts say using these wireless technologies will help cut down on unnecessary exams and gives patients the opportunity to be more active in caring for themselves. Plus, insurance costs may decrease because of all of these activities, and that certainly is an extra added bonus.

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