Cellphone app could help illegal immigrants

Tom Marcinko @ 04-12-2009

64 sqThis is going to be controversial:

A UC San Diego professor said he has developed a cell phone tool that may help guide illegal immigrants safely across the border.

Similar to the way hungry drivers can find a restaurant through the global positioning system devices in their cars and cell phones, illegal immigrants soon may be able to plot their ways across the treacherous border between the United States and Mexico.

“It shares some aspects of the GPS systems that people have in cars,” said Ricardo Dominguez, a professor of visual arts at UC San Diego. “It locates where you are in relation to where you want to go, what is the best way to get to that point and what you can expect when you reach the endpoint.”

Dominguez, an activist and artist, said the reason for developing the technology, which he calls the Transborder Immigrant Tool, is to keep people safe.

As many as 5,000 people in the last 15 years have died trying to cross the border.

[Story tip: New Times Phoenix blog; image: sixty-four squares, theilr]


Cellphone epidemiology- Japan’s swine flu panopticon

Paul Raven @ 22-05-2009

mother, child and cellphoneIn response to the swine flu almost-epidemic, my government thoughtfully sent me a leaflet, advising me to steer clear of people sneezing and so on. The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, however, appears to be approaching the problem from a more technological angle; this autumn, they’ll test a system that uses mobile phones to track the locations of citizens and inform them whether they’ve been in contact with a flu carrier:

The proposed system relies on mobile phone providers to constantly track the subjects’ geographical locations and keep chronological records of their movements in a database. When a person is labeled as “infected,” all the past location data in the database is analyzed to determine whether or not anyone came within close proximity to the infected individual.

The system will know, for example, whether or not you once boarded the same train or sat in the same movie theater as the infected individual, and it will send you a text message containing the details of the close encounter. The text messages will also provide instructions on specific measures to take in response.

The primary purpose of the test, which will involve about 2,000 volunteers in both urban and rural areas, is to verify the precision of GPS tracking technology, estimate the potential costs of operating such a system, and determine whether or not such a system can be put into practical use.

The first problem that leaps to mind here is that just one or two undiagnosed flu carriers loose in your city is going to throw a spanner in the works; those few errors will multiply exponentially over time.

Secondly – and channelling my tin-foil hat-wearing younger self for a moment – what a fantastically comprehensive way to monitor and control your population, should you decide you need (or want) to, and what a great excuse to coat the pill with. There’s a polical-dystopian technothriller just waiting to be written right there; just replace the word ‘infected’ with ‘subversive’ in the above quotes, and off you go. [via Technovelgy; image by kalandrakas]


Lubing the unregulated edges of the internet

Paul Raven @ 20-02-2009

cellphone solar chargerIsn’t that the best title ever? Jan Chipchase strikes again, talking about the anthropological outcomes of the proposed universal micro-USB phone charger format:

Widespread adoption of Micro-USB lowers barriers to entry for would-be services providers – they currently need support a range of memory cards, umpteen data cables, Bluetooth and InfraRed […] A mobile phone optimised Bollywood movie can take 20 minutes to transfer from a laptop onto a generic micro-memory card – currently it’s hardly convenient.

If you follow Chipchase’s Future Perfect blog (and if you enjoy the stuff we talk about here at Futurismic, I suggest that you really should do) you’ll be aware that developing nations are far more dependent on their cellphones for infrastructural purposes than we are in the West; universal accessories would remove a number of small and pointless obstacles from the flow of commerce. In other words:

There is a place at the edges of the internet where the level of friction makes content and data grind to a halt. It’s largely unregulated. And it just got seriously lubed.

[Image by Ken Banks, kiwanja.net]