Times Article 018
30 years in the computer and technology industries, it’s hard to
surprise me. But I can be sneaked up on, and that’s what
happened to me a few weeks ago when I abruptly came to the realization
that not only has the Internet connected all of us, but it’s also
realization started when I was researching the reasons that Intel has
added an electronically-readable serial number to every Pentium III
chip. In case you missed it, the CPU ID is a Web-accessible random
(but unique) number that Intel is embedding in all future chips. Their
reasoning is that with increased electronic commerce, it would be a
lot easier to have a buyer’s Web browser transmit the CPU ID number
to confirm where an online order was coming from.
Intel didn’t realize is that privacy gurus would loudly howl that
they didn’t want their computer broadcasting its
presence wherever they went on the Web, and threatened a boycott.
Somewhat disgustedly, Intel promised to turn off the CPU ID feature by
default. But that got me thinking about privacy and the Internet in
general. Privacy on the Web? “You have none. Get over it.” is the
phraseology used by Scott McNealy, Sun Computer’s CEO.
agree. If you have a
network interface card in your computer, for example, it’s not a
difficult task to locate the unique hardware-level MAC address
that’s permanently burned into each NIC (that’s the ID that your
network uses to decide where to send data packets). Web servers also
log each user’s IP address, and most users accept “cookies”
specifically designed to identify them in the future. All of which is
beside the point.
you consider the Internet as a conduit for any and all information,
you’re getting closer to what I’m seeing. Since around 1984,
people have been connecting unusual devices to the Net, including
cameras, Coke machines, door bells, ceiling fans, & even a hot
tub. Don’t take my word for it; browse over to http://hamjudo.com/cgi-bin/hottub
and take a look. Even my digital pager is accessible via the Web.
my company’s network, we have a neat, and inexpensive, device called
an Intel NetPort Express 10/100 that lets us connect two parallel-port
printers and one serial device directly to the network. It uses a Web
browser to control the NetPort and the attached devices, and I can
access those printers remotely from anywhere in the world. Can it be
long before we can access all of our everyday devices the same way?
I got more interested in this concept, I researched (using the Web, of
course) who first came up with the idea. Not surprisingly, I found
that Vinton Cerf, often referred to as the “father of the
Internet,” had given a speech back on March 4, 1997 to the
Association for Computing Machinery, the 50th anniversary of the
group. He tried to envision the next 50 years of computing, and came
up with some evolutionary ideas.
Cerf spoke about the future of the Internet, focusing on its
applications for being built into our homes, our appliances, and even
our bodies. He said to imagine that everything is connected to the
Net, all the time. Every kitchen appliance, every car, every
telephone, every smart card, every pacemaker, every light bulb. With
that infrastructure, every light fixture would have its own IP
address, all accessible - and communicating - via the Web.
term “Internet appliance” has been coined to describe Web browsers
that are embedded in devices that can access the Net. Maybe today
you’ll use the Web to check your freezer’s temperature while
you’re on vacation in Thailand, but tomorrow that link may be
two-way, and your refrigerator will converse with your freezer and let
you know that you’re out of your favorite beer and pizza. And the
day after that, they may place the order online for you using e-mail.
Take a look at http://www-cse.ucsd.edu/users/bsy/iam.html
for an intriguing list of Internet-accessible machines.
light fixture could send a trigger to your home-maintenance system to
let it know that the filament was burned out, and the security system
could ask another nearby light to turn itself on instead. Sensors on
(or in) your body could let the house know where you are, so lights
could turn themselves on to the appropriate brightness level. If you
doze off, lights dim automatically, your phone’s ringer shuts off,
and the oven lowers the temperature on your turkey.
you wear a pacemaker, your doctor’s office could monitor it, along
with your overall health. When you enter a building, its systems could
detect the pacemaker, query a medical server to determine if any
devices might cause you risk, and warn you about their presence.
Finding the nearest Pepsi machine - with at least one can - would be
simple, and you could pay for the drink with a smart-card; no more
cash or credit cards. And if you happen to take the next-to-last can
of Pepsi, the machine would alert the JIT (just-in-time) delivery
all this seems far-fetched, browse over to Sun and take a look at
their Jini interface. Jini connects devices to the network
independently of any PC or server (my Intel NetPort device does
require a server to be running), and the software that provides an
interface to the computers also resides on the network. A Jini device
is accessible by any other device, from anywhere and any computer. Sun
also intends Jini to “federate” devices so that they work together
as a system; Jini runs in each device and emits a “tone” that is
automatically picked up and registered by the network as an available
AOL bought Netscape in a deal that involved Sun, AOL expressed
interest in using Java technology “to develop selected
next-generation Internet devices that will help Internet users access
America Online’s brands from anywhere, anytime.” Jini might be
just the tool to grant AOL’s wish to have access as easy as a
telephone. Phones are ubiquitous: you find them everywhere, in your
hotel room, a gas station, or your night stand. Phones are both easy
and standardized: you connect one cable, and there’s no installation
software. If you use a cellular phone, even the cable disappears.
Build it simple, and even more people will use it.
many of the initial generation of Internet appliances are already here.
Samsung has delivered its Web Video Phone II, which is designed to
provide Web access, e-mail, and IP telephony, as well as standard voice
Based on PersonalJava applets, the Web Video Phone can connect to a
standard telephone circuit, an Ethernet network, or both. Another
interesting Web Video Phone feature is called Web Touch & Talk: when
users connect to an appropriately-designed Web page, they can read
information and simultaneously contact a person with a PC simply by
pressing an icon. Think about that for e-commerce and customer service.
introduced its 9000 Communicator last year; a cross between a palmtop
and a cellular phone offering Web access and e-mail (http://www.nokia9000.com).
Qualcomm, the makers of the popular Eudora e-mail client, is offering
its pdQ Smart Phone. The pdQ combines state-of-the-art Code-Division
Multiple Access (CDMA) wireless communications with 3Com’s Palm
computing platform to yield a high-end digital cellular telephone and
Web-enabled computer in one device (http://www.qualcomm.com/pdQ).
And with the Sharp Color Digital Camera Card for their Mobilon CE-based
computer, users can instantly take a color picture and send it anywhere
via e-mail (http://www.sharp-usa.com).
a Web user, you can enable Internet access from anywhere using just
about anything. Hardware, software, and connection infrastructure are
advancing at breakneck speeds, trying to keep up with end-user
expectations. So get used to the phrase “Internet appliance” -
you’ll be seeing a lot of them real soon.
you next month.