Saturday, September 08, 2007

That Place We Went

A few months ago, I was talking to my friend Brad about a Google Earth-based wiki that would be organized around buildings. I thought it would be perfect for the real estate business, and maybe even disintermediate commercial brokers from property. A few discussions with my commercial broker friend Bob dissuaded me of that notion, and after Brad started working on his new horror film, Brad and I stopped thinking about the wiki idea.

Of course, that didn't mean other people weren't thinking about the same thing. Last week I saw a presentation on Global Motion, which is pretty close to the wiki I had in mind. It doesn't have a notion of street addresses, but it is a Google Earth-enabled, geocentric wiki. It's just launched, so it doesn't have nearly as much content as Wikipedia ... yet. Wikipedia has lots of location specific entries, so maybe all the location-specific information will end up on Wikipedia. But I believe the simple introduction of a Google Earth navigation system will encourage more location-specific information on Global Motion than on Wikipedia.

I just found the TransAmerica Pyramid on Global Motion, and got a link to display the local map.

Transamerica Pyramid at GlobalMotion

Map created using GlobalMotion, the free location wiki

Inserting the map into this post was a simple cut-and-paste operation. So, if you want to document your blog posts with maps and links to information on buildings, monuments, and other locations, it's simple to do.

My hunch is that Global Motion will be used primarily by travelers who want to document their journeys, or virtual travelers checking out locations they want to visit. Another application might be the history of a building or location, including all the former tenants or future visitors (future history?). It would be simple to create a tour of an architect's work, or of a famous person's homes.

One mash-up feature I like lets you search for geotagged pictured on flickr and other photo services when you write about a location. So, without a camera, you can populate an entry with photographs of a location.

I love it when someone makes the service I was thinking about making!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Programming Web Services

I've wondered when we would be able to program web services. Teqlo is a service that allows you to create scripts that automate workflow between web services. All the programming is done graphically, so there is no code. There's a good video intro to the service here. I haven't tried this yet, but I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Online Transaction Services

I have been too busy to blog recently, but enjoying twitter. It looks like Google has a service similar to twitter, but in the form of shared notebooks.

I ran across this blog post about Amazon's new FPS service. The post looks at the API for the service, and also discusses the broader implications for the service.

Other than those two issues, FPS is extremely robust. It allows you to create what looks like a very secure structure (called tokens) for giving permission to vendors to access your account. Tokens can be one-time use or multi-use, they can be a precise amount or more flexible. Basically, as the customer, you have full control over what the vendor is able to do with your money (how much and when they can take). All account activity is hosted by Amazon, you can go to your Amazon account at any time and see what transactions have taken place.
Vendors can set up payment systems with Paypal very rapidly, but this system appears to give vendors and customers more control and the ability to implement micropayments. As more of these infrastructure services come online, expect to see a new wave of services available on the Internet.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

LED Fiat

Lux fiat may become LED fiat.

From a total cost of ownership (TCO) measure, LEDs have beat other lighting technologies for a while. Not surprising since solid state devices almost always win economically over time. Now LED prices are dropping to the point that they can compete with the purchase price of other lighting technologies.

An emerging idea is to use LED in streetlights and street signs. In the streetlight market, the energy winners are low power sodium and LED lights. However, because LEDs last 10-15 years, with the right timer controller, an LED streetlight requires no maintenance for at least 10 years. That gives LED streetlights the clear advantage over low power sodium lights.

The following table lists annual power consumption and operating costs for commercially available streetlights. It does not include initial cost and installation of the streetlight pole and light, but those costs differences are negligible over ten or twenty years of use. It makes many assumptions about energy and labor costs and typical bulb life. However, it is fair to say that, of all these lighting technologies, LEDs are dropping most quickly in price.

Energy Use and Cost for Residential Streetlights
Light kW-hrs Per Year Operating $ Per Year
Mercury Vapor1,104$108
Metal Halide690$94
High Power Sodium460$63
Low Power Sodium345$65

There are something on the order of 10 million streetlights in the United States. Add street signs (like the signs you see on the side of the freeway giving mileage to the next few exits), and the number of fixtures probably doubles.

As with traffic lights, where LED usage has reduced energy consumption and operating costs, expect to see LED streetlights and street signs near you soon.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Vote for Ham Sandwich

Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough." -- Noah Cross to Jake Gittes in Chinatown.

Is this the future of politics?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Standard Innovation

I had dinner a few years ago with the founders of Woven Systems, Dan and Bert, to help them with their business plan. It's nice to see their press release today. The analysts are excited about Woven's Ethernet Fabric Switch, and now the bloggers are weighing in, too.

If it all works, Woven's innovative ethernet switch implementation will replace Fibre Channel. While innovation within a standard is hardly an emerging idea, Woven is an exceptionally good example of standards innovation. The business plan focuses on the problem of data center network congestion, and employs ASIC-based data traffic management algorithms that work with off-the-shelf ethernet to re-route traffic through congestion quickly enough that computers don't notice.

Recently, researchers have suggested scrapping the Internet and starting from scratch. Since early Internet designers were not concerned with issues like data center congestion, security, or financial transactions, the thinking goes, a fresh start will bring enough benefits to warrant the gigantic replacement of existing Internet infrastructure.

Innovations like Woven's data center switch prove that established standards like ethernet, with all their attendant R&D, grow harder and harder to displace. If you want to create a great start-up, find a pervasive problem caused by a standard and innovate within that standard.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sony OLED at CES

OLEDs have been emerging for decades, but Sony showed some stunning (and thin) OLED screens at the 2007 CES show.

Lots more videos of Sony's OLED technology at youtube. Too bad there are no high def videos to reveal the detail of these displays.

Small OLEDs are showing up on cell phones products already. Large OLEDs will not only replace traditional screen technology with cheaper, more efficient displays, but also enable new applications. How about a building with OLED window shades that reduces thermal load as the sun passes by?