Monday, June 06, 2005

Technology watch: forecasting

Remember the Weather Rock? Sure fire way to know what the weather is. It's been around since before the interstate highway system. It was used most recently by the military in the Balkans...

While serving at Velika Kladusa as the Bosnia Rotary Wing Aviation Unit in Roto 7 from September 2000 to March 2001, the personnel of the "helicopter detachment" had a little fun with something we all like to gripe about--the weather. They created the Weather Rock, suspended it from a makeshift tripod and attached a plastic-covered sheet containing instructions on how to interpret the signs conveyed by the rock.
Warrant Officer Lou Schull, a met tech, explained the Weather Rock's infallible signs for our readers:
Rock white--it's snowing;
Rock wet--raining;
Rock moving--windy;
Rock casts a shadow--sunny;
Rock casts a shadow south--hangar light on;
No rock shadow--cloudy;
Cannot see rock--it's either night or the hangar light is off;
No rock--AWL;
Tripod shaking--earthquake.

Improved weather forecasting is now available in the form of the Ambient Weather Forecast Beacon.

The Beacon silently and elegantly communicates weather data using color and light. It glows more red when warmer weather is forecasted, and colder blue hues if cooler temperatures are on the way. The Beacon will also subtly pulse to show the chance of rain or snow.
Your weather is just a glance away, a quiet interface that avoids the buzzing of cellphones and the complicated interfaces of computers. Design and technology blend, a fine glass object is revealed as a powerful weather indicator.

Patent-pending wireless technology continually updates the Weather Beacon from Ambient's nationwide radio network with no monthly fees required. A world of color-based reporting: weather forecasts and activity channels like skiing, gardening, sailing, and pollen forecasts.

But that's nothing. Ambient's Forecasting Beacon just a small part of a data tracking revolution already underway. Thanks to Virginia Postrel I have been following a blog whose name describes its mission with mathematical precision: This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology & Economics. Today's find aims the light on Ambient Devices, an outfit on the cutting edge of -- you guessed it -- information and technology. They have a smart-looking little device that rests tastefull on your credenza that will tell you anything you need to know, from whether you're on the way to an option call, or whether your blood sugar is about to go off the rails because of what you had for lunch. Actually, I made that last one up. But it's just a matter of time until a wireless biosensor in your shirtpocket is able to keep up with your body functions and tells you when to schedule a trip to the loo. All you do, when the time comes, is rig it up to interface with this neat new system and you're set to go.

Check out the Ambient Dashboard.

... it’s clear what we want: streams of data that are perfectly chosen, arriving just in time, in exactly the form we need them. Every cell phone, PDA, laptop and desktop offers this promise. All of them disappoint. The company that gets this right will have created the ultimate killer app. And that’s because what used to appeal to us as a “cool gadget” now has the status of a necessity. It is the only device that promises us order in the world.

This has to be one of the reasons that Google just got into the portal game. The new portal gives us time, weather, news flashes, email. Google is a welcome player. It was late to the search engine game and still rose to the greatness. It did this partly by eliminating things from the screen. This sounds easy but it was, until recently, entirely beyond the poor bastards at Yahoo! and eBay who managed to make the screen look like the dog’s breakfast had just exploded. (It turns out that the rule of parsimony that governs good prose operates here as well. What we take out is just as important as what we put in.)

I'm not smart enough to say anything intelligent about that.
I have a great time just watching it whiz past...

1 comment:

Grant said...

Hoots, thanks for the shout out. I was interested to see that you are working in the field of food service. Have you posted on trends in this field? I imagine that the "eat fresh" trend has made a difference. How about "eat local." Thanks again, Grant