J7TV powered by StreetSide Media

25 October 2005

FutureTrek: The coming of the MobiTerm

I was looking at PCSintel.com where there is a story talking about wireless giant Sprint-Nextel's plans to sell the Nextel iDen network to the US Government, and use the cash to help pay for launching WiMax, and other wireless technologies. Also Google has been buying up mass amounts of dark fiber lately, and all without a public reason to do it. Ive also been noticing all the cool new wireless devices coming out. Putting all this together in my mind, and using my imagination, I went on a imaginary trip some years into the near-future where a device I call the MobiTerm® has replaced wallets, keys, credit cards, IDs, cellphones, and even the PC as we know it today.

The MobiTerm will have all the capability of a light-duty notebook has now. In fact, it may be the only computer you have to own because of all the different technologies packed into it. It will be the size of a Treo 650, Blackberry, PPC-6700, etc. It will have tens of gigabytes of storage in flash ROM, have a large RAM space to actually run programs, and will have several external storage options like SD, transflash, CF, or whatever is available at that time. For my preference, one that had SDcard and CF storage and device operability would do me just fine. The MobiTerm would have a built-in keyboard much like the Treo does today, but most commands can be done via voice. At least a 2 megapixel camera would come standard, and would be removeable for users that work in sensitive areas. Of course as your main communication device, it would be ruggedized, drop-proof and waterproof. So this sounds like some sort of glorified PDAphone at this point, right? Well yes, but here's the interesting part...

The MobiTerm is an InfiConnect™ device. InfiConnect is a term I use to mean that a device can use just about every available standard at the time to connect to the Internet, local networks, and other devices directly. What will make this easier is when (notice I said when, not if!) WiMax and WiFi become the de-facto standard for all wireless packet-based communicatons. Think about that. WiFi is already used throughout the world to connect computers together wirelessly, and is already in places where even I never thought I'd see it. My local bar proudly proclaims itself as being a free WiFi hotspot, but did you know that you could stroll through some parks and campgrounds and pick up a signal too? And even KFC and McDonalds have jumped on the bandwagon. Now if you live on top or next to one of these locations, you never have to pay for broadband; just point your WiFi card to these networks permanently. WiMax will take it one step furthur because its signal can go for up to 31miles in ideal conditions. All cellphone companies have to do is replace their cell towers with WiMax towers and provide handsets that do VoIP, and you can imagine what could happen. Throw in a few other technologies like Bluetooth, WirelessUSB, USB on the go, QR-code and RFID, and it can become a "superdevice" that will become as upbiquitous as your wallet and keys... In fact, it will likely replace all of them!

So how would this seemingly innoucious device weasel its way into every facet of life? Well take a look at my senario:

In the year 2012, you wake up to an mp3 of "Wake me up!" from Wham! (I still like some 80's music!) As you roll outta bed, you glance at your MobiTerm which has been sitting on its charging pad all night. Batteries are now made from organic gel compounds, and are charged via a transducer that just needs to be at most 6" away from the device; these pads are found built into tables, car consoles, and other places. The batteries themselves only take a mere 5 minutes on average to go from dead to fully charged. "Start morning routine." The MobiTerm then switches on your TV in the bedroom and kitchen and puts the morning news on them, while simultaneously transcoding the broadcast to your HomeServer for later playback. It then signals the coffeemaker to brew some java through your in-home WiFi network. In this age, just about all home appliances have some sort of wireless and/or bluetooth connectivity. Most homes have a space somewhere to plug in a HomeServer-- These devices combine WiFi, WiMax, Bluetooth and more with powerful processors and terabytes of storage. Instead of having multiple computers in your house, you just have your HomeServer, and your MobiTerminal to act as its remote control. While you are in the shower your HomeServer does a refregerator check and scans all the RFID tags of the food inside. Bad news, you let the milk spoil again, so a notice crawls on every video monitor in the house telling you to toss it, and "Go get some milk" gets input into your MobiTerm's task list for the day. You get dressed, and get the offending product out of the fridge and into the trash. "Move new task item back 3 days." You're going outta town today, so you put that off. As you walk out the door, all video monitors, appliances, and lights switch off, and your MobiTerm locks all doors after you leave, setting the HomeServer into secure mode.

You walk to your car and the bluetooth sensor inside senses your mobiterm and unlocks the doors. You push the ignition button and head off to the commuter train station. You set your MobiTerm in the console chargepad, and the car's computer automatically uses the device as a modem via Bluetooth. Immediately a link is set up between you and your HomeServer and the program you were watching (or listening to) picks up where it left off in the house, being streamed via WiMax now as you drive. Just then you remember that you need to call your boss and tell him you're going straight to the airport. "Call Bossman" The MobiTerm then goes into VoIP mode and starts looking for your boss. I say looking, because there are no longer telephone numbers. All email adresses have been made to be the default method of reaching someone. Because MobiTerms are pervasive and IP data-centric, its all you need. So your boss could be in Siberia and you'd still call him at "bossman@incontrol.com" The MobiTerm and the network will do the rest. He answers and says he is about to go into a confrence call and you'll need the notes he takes to use for the meeting you have later that day when you get to Chicago. You then hang up and pull into the commuter lot.

You park the car and walk to the turnstyles and place your MobiTerm on the RFID pad on top and a green light comes on ushering you through; the fare is deducted from your transit account, and the new balance is sent via text message about 10 seconds later. On the train you see a music video by an artist that you like and want to get their latest album. You use your bluetooth headset to listen to the audio to conifrm this. At the lower right corner of the video monitor is a QR code that you point the camera in the MobiTerm at and scan. Up pops the artists website along with an area to download their album. You confirm that you want to pay for and download the album by swiping your thumb across the biometric reader built into the device. Your account is then automatically debited and the album downloads to your MobiTerm and your HomeServer.

As you arrive at the airport, the MobiTerm's SMS box goes nuts because of all the location-based ads for the restaurants and stores in the terminals are vying for your attention. You tell the MobiTerm "silence all SMS messages coming from this area" to avoid the confusion. Proceeding to the automated ticket counters (ATC), you say "look up SpeedAir ticket information for today" The screens show you your digital ticket, and also throws out a bluetooth beacon that connects to the ticket window you're standing at. The screen on the MobiTerm then changes to a large RSA encrypted QR code that changes every 5-7 seconds in concert with an algorhythm that only the ATC can understand. You swipe your MobiTerm across the reader and the ATC also uses RFID to make doublely sure you're you. The MobiTerm then shows your boarding pass complete with gate location, and service advisories.

Once through security (which was sped up because your MobiTerm is also your ID, so all info was exchanged, verified, and processed via a wireless USB link, and took only 6 seconds to confirm) you look at the SMS ads that came in from the various restaurants and decide to go to Pizza Joint. There are no employees at most fast food places anymore; all the cooking, maintainence and ordering of supplies is automated. Same goes for quickie marts and a large amount of other discount stores. For example all gas station is now is a row of pump lanes, and a dispenser window like a bank. When you want a slurpee, you scan the QR code on the window with your MobiTerm and a website comes up listing items you can get. Select items on your MobiTerm, pay, and then they come thru the conveyor belts to the window next to the gas pump you're at. Of course you paid with the RFID on your MobiTerm.

On the plane, you pull the tray table down exposing a keyboard and LCD monitor. You place your MobiTerm on the chargepad (told ya they are everywhere!) which then activates the wireless USB links to the keyboard and monitor. You check your emails, and your boss has emailed you a webcast of the conference call he was on, along with all the files needed for your meeting. You then map out your notes and add things to your presentation you'll be giving. Yes I know you're on a plane, but now all planes have WiFi access points.

Once landed, you hop the shuttle to pick up your rental car. Instead of standing in long lines, most rental car agencies now just have a garage with numbered spots where you walk to your car and the RFID transponder in the MobiTerm senses the RFID chip in the car and sends a bluetooth signal to the car unlocking the doors. Opening the glovebox, a handheld scanner is used to scan the QR code that is on your mobile terminal's screen, to add a double layer of security to this process just like in the airport. Once confirmed, the car and terminal automagically pair via bluetooth so whenever you're in range of the car, it will work like the car you drive at home. Now you simply push the ignition button on the car and go! The rental car charges accumilate in real time, and you can check your balance online.

All the technology to make this vision a reality exists, and in some parts of the world (Japan, Korea for instance) you can already do this... I have SMSed vending machines and had a Coke charged on my cellphone bill... I paid my gas bill with the QR code on the bill over there. I even saw phones newer than the one I had with embedded RFID chips in them-- they were used just as above for getting onto the subway. All thats needed is some sort of catalyst so that instead of the wireless "tower of babble" and alphabet soup that CDMA, GSM, GPRS, EVDO, UMTS, HSPDA, LMNOP have become. Wifi/WiMax can do this.
Share |