Archive for the ‘SYSTEMS’ Category

The pocket radar: Get ready for phones that can look through walls

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

How the $149 Walabot is already sparking the interest of developers, who plan to use it for everything from collision detection in cars to honing their martial arts skills

walabot-pocket-radar-image www.freepnonelink.net

The Walabot Pro.
Image: Vayyar Imaging

Fancy looking through walls using your phone? Well soon it will be possible using a handheld radar.

The Walabot is a radar unit that attaches to smartphones and can be used to scan the world around you.

While radar-imaging technology typically costs at least thousands of dollars, the cheapest Walabot will cost $149, thanks to Vayyar Imaging shrinking the necessary technology down to a phone-sized system on a chip.

As proof of what the Walabot can do, the Pro version of the device will come with an Android app that can peer through walls — allowing the user to find pipes and wires, for instance.

“Since Walabot can sense minute changes and very small movement, you’ll be able to see when pipes are dripping and other problems,” said Raviv Melamed, CEO and co-founder of Vayyar Imaging.

The device can see through about 7cm to 10cm of concrete, enough to allow it to look through a typical wall and can penetrate more deeply through less-dense obstacles, such as drywall. Melamed says Walabot can see through almost any material other than metal, which Melamed describes as the Walabot’s kryptonite.

walabot.jpg
An Android app uses the Walabot’s radar to see pipes through a section of wall.
Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic

But the uses of the technology go far beyond locating a leaking pipe, Melamed foresees a host of applications being developed for the device after it launches at the end of April. These apps will not only take advantage of Walabot’s ability to “see” through solid objects, but to track people and objects in 3D space.

For instance, collision detection and avoidance in vehicles — with a Walabot-connected app letting you know when you get too close to the car in front.

“You could put this on the dashboard connected to your phone and get an alert.”

Smart homes could be another potential use, with the Walabot providing the imaging for an app that watches over people and things. The Walabot attaches to the back of the phone via magnets but it could be attached to any metallic surface in a home, such as a fridge or air-conditioning unit, and paired with a small computer such as the Raspberry Pi. Melamed gives the example of how the technology could help an app spot when an elderly person had had a fall and was unable to move.

“People fall in their bedroom or in the shower and these are places where you cannot put cameras. For example, I would love to have something that tracked my mother or father without compromising their privacy.”

If the Walabot is pointing at a person the device is sensitive enough that it can track a person’s breathing, for instance, letting you know if someone is in a particular room. That person’s breathing is detected by measuring the movement of the person’s chest, which the Walabot captures by detecting radio waves that it bounces off the person’s body. When used in open space, the Walabot can detect people and things over a range of about four to five metres.

The device is even sensitive enough to measure a person’s heartbeat, said Melamed, by detecting blood vessels pulsing under the surface of the skin.

Intelligent cities are at the forefront of the next wave of the Internet of Things. The goals are to streamline communication and improve the lives of citizens. And save a little money along the way.

These are some of the obvious uses for Walabot, but Melamed says “there are so many things you can do with this technology”, which Vayyar Imaging hopes will emerge once developers get their hands on the device.

“You could do a lot of things with Walabot and there are a lot of smart people out there who should come up with some crazy ideas to play around with.”

Developers are already coming up with ideas Vayyar Imaging would never have thought of – for example, someone from Norway plans to use it to check which logs will burn best in their fireplace by scanning them to detect differing moisture levels. Another developer wants to use Walabot to measure the speed of his kicks when he practices martial arts.

“You can just go wild with it,” said Melamed.

One of the most difficult things to see through is human skin, according to Vayyar Imaging. Even though the technology Walabot relies on was originally developed to detect breast cancer, Walabot’s makers don’t recommend using the device to carry out medical examinations.

“Walabot is not a medical tool, it’s mainly for makers to play around with.”

When it comes to safety, the electromagnetic frequency of Walabot’s radar is “close to that” typically used by wi-fi, said Melamed, but “we are sending signals using more than 1,000-times less power than your wi-fi”.

What is the Walabot?

While Walabot’s imaging capabilities may sound similar to those of Microsoft Kinect, the technology works in a fundamentally different way. While the Kinect uses infra-red scanning to map 3D spaces, the Walabot uses radar to detect people and objects. This contrasting approach means the devices have differing strengths. Whereas the Walabot has a higher detection range and can penetrate solid objects, said Melamed, the Kinect can map 3D objects in finer detail, as the resolution of the captured image is higher.

“When you go further away from the Kinect the resolution gets worse. Where Kinect ends, this starts. So these are very complementary.”

To get the Walabot’s radar technology into a low-cost device the size of a smartphone, Vayyar Imaging developed a “very complex” system-on-a-chip for collecting and handling the radar data. This is paired with a set of algorithms that analyse and make sense of the radar data and also compensate for the distortion caused by Walabot’s casing.

Walabot will cost between $149 and $599, depending on the model. The three models differ in the number of antennas and the range of data they make available to developers via an API. Walabot’s four APIs will expose various data derived from the radar signals, such as 2D range and direction tracking and movement sensing, as well as, for the top-end model, offering access to the raw radar data and spatial sensing in 3D.

“We’re trying to provide a full breadth [of data] so people at all levels can play with it,” said Melamed.

The $599 Pro version is aimed at high-end users, such as businesses or research institutions. “Basically it’s like a lab that lets you do whatever you want,” said Melamed, recommending this model for uses such as collision avoidance, robotic guidance and 3D tracking.

The Walabot will last one to two hours on a single charge and the company are also planning to release a version with an attached battery.

When used with its demo apps, the Walabot can be set up quickly, for example, the Android wall scanning app that comes with the Pro version takes about four seconds to be ready to use.

However, despite shipping with this sample app, the Walabot is primarily aimed at developers who want to build their own applications around it. The Walabot connects to computers and phones via a Micro-USB cable. Various SDKs will be available, initially an Android SDK for the C++/Java programming languages, followed by a C#/VB/C++ SDK for Windows and a C++ SDK for Linux.

The first Walabot devices will ship to Europe from the end of April and the documentation for the API launches today. The Walabot is expected to be available in the US from about mid-May, as the Walabot, while having passed FCC tests, is waiting for official certification.

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Henry Sapiecha

NEW SKYPE SYSTEM FOR PHONE CALLS HAS BEEN RELEASED

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Skype launches global

WiFi hotspot program

By Paul Ridden

05:08 February 14, 2011

Skype has announced that Skype Access users can now benefit from a partnership deal with W...

Skype has announced that Skype Access users can now benefit from a partnership deal with Wi-Fi hotspot providers throughout the globe for pay-as-you-go voice and video calling on the move

Just when you thought Skype couldn’t be any more useful, the company has announced a partnership deal with leading Wi-Fi hotspot providers around the globe. Skype Access, the company’s pay-as-you-go service, will now be available through mobile networks in over 500,000 locations including airports, cafes, trains and offices. And the announcement comes with a sweetener – the company is offering free access throughout Spain during Mobile World Congress 2011.

Skype that it has secured partnership deals with a number of Wi-Fi hotspot providers around the world. The UK’s largest hotspot provider, BT Openzone, has signed up, as has the world’s biggest Wi-Fi network provider, Fon. Others who have joined the scheme include Germany’s M3 Connect, South Africa’s Skyrove, in-flight broadband provider Row 44, Vex, Tomizone and Spectrum Interactive.

Using Skype Credit to get online, Skype Access users will now be able to benefit from one click, mobile pay-as-you-go voice and video calling in 30,000 hotels, 500 airports, and numerous cafes, business centers and trains throughout the globe over partnered Wi-Fi networks.

The latest version of Skype for Mac or Windows will be needed and rates are expected to start at US$0.06 per minute – which in many cases could be a better option than paying day or per hour Wi-Fi access fees.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

VODAFONE DEALERS BENDING THE RULES &…

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Revealed:

How Vodafone dealers

bend the rules

posing as customers

Asher Moses

January 21, 2011 – 12:41PM

Vodafone customers vent their frustration

Vodafone customers give their verdict on connection problems and the standard of service.

    A Vodafone dealer’s staff have been caught posing as customers to cancel the customers’ original accounts in order to sign them up for new contracts with higher commissions.

    The staff members of Communications Direct Pty Ltd have also breached privacy by forwarding detailed customer call records outside the company.

    Evidence seen by this website, including internal emails, shows managers at the dealer initiated and encouraged some of the behaviour. They are still employed with the company, which remains a Vodafone agent despite Vodafone saying in a statement that it had rectified the issues and took “all allegations of unethical business practices extremely seriously”.

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    The Privacy Commissioner is already investigating Vodafone over the security of its customers’ information and said yesterday that the new information provided by this website would be included in its investigation.

    The privacy investigation comes after just under 20,000 customers signed on to a class action lawsuit targeting Vodafone over network issues that caused poor reception, dropped calls and delayed voicemail and SMS.

    The email documents, sent over the first half of last year, show that staff at Comms Direct, which acts as an agent for Vodafone, had top-tier access to the database containing personal details and call records of all of Vodafone’s customers. These sensitive details, contained in a system provided by software maker Siebel, could be accessed by Comms Direct call centre staff without customers giving their permission.

    Comms Direct’s managers instructed staff to use the system to search for customers who were approaching the end of their contracts with Vodafone and to offer to re-sign them with a better deal.

    “Take a look at the spend and usage. See if we can offer a better deal and then close them,” one wrote in an email.

    This method was used to acquire customers from other Vodafone dealers, who may not have the same level of access to Vodafone’s customer database. It was referred to internally as “Siebel farming” and the email evidence includes complaints to Comms Direct from dealers who lost customers as a result of the practice.

    “Other dealers would say we built up the relationship, they fell into our database, you took advantage of the system and accessed it and stole our customers – internally there’s lots of issues that way,” said a former Comms Direct staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The dealer earns more commission from connecting new accounts than upgrading existing ones, so managers encouraged staff to call Vodafone customer care, pretend to be the customer, and ask that the original service be disconnected, sources said.

    The dealer could then sign them up as a new connection, with individual sales staff receiving double the normal commission ($50 instead of $25).

    However, in some cases, Vodafone has failed to disconnect the old accounts and customers were unwittingly left with multiple accounts and multiple charges.

    “Anyone who does a wireless broadband sale to a male customer needs to take ownership of calling customer service to have the old wireless broadband disconnected,” a manager wrote in an email to staff in March last year, adding that by doing so they would earn an additional $25 commission.

    “If it is a woman customer that you are making a sale to, this will be still classed as a new connection as the operations team can disconnect these girls over the phone.”

    Comms Direct’s website says it is “Vodafone’s largest premium partner”.

    This website has also seen evidence that on several occasions last year at least one Comms Direct staff member accessed the unbilled call history of a man and forwarded the details on to a private Hotmail account.

    Other internal Comms Direct emails suggest the dealer engaged in “SIM stacking”, whereby extra mobile numbers are added to a business customer’s account without their knowledge. This helps dealers earn more commissions and hit their monthly connection targets, a source said.

    In one email, a customer emailed a manager to ask why they were given 11 phone numbers when they needed only one. The manager replied that “the rest are spare”.

    Vodafone Hutchison Australia, Comms Direct and the NSW Police have been provided with the documentary evidence containing the above allegations.

    NSW Police said it had assigned an officer to examine the allegations, while Comms Direct said it was drafting a response but this had not arrived at the time of publication.

    Vodafone refused to respond to the individual allegations but said it had “already taken action to address” the issues and some sales staff at Communications Direct who were involved in the activities no longer worked there.

    Vodafone said it had also restricted access to its systems “to prevent this type of unauthorised business practice”.

    “VHA takes all allegations of unethical business practices extremely seriously and as a direct result of issues raised by VHA, a number of staff from Communications Direct had their employment terminated last year,” a spokesman said.

    However, the top managers who were revealed in the email documents to have condoned some of the activities are all still employed at the company.

    “If a blind eye is turned to this kind of chicanery where does it end and who takes responsibility? Does Vodafone just wash its hands and say well it’s the dealer’s responsibility?” said Christopher Zinn, spokesman for consumer group Choice.

    “When consumers go to a shop and it says Vodafone on the outside, they are not necessarily cognisant of the difference between what is a Vodafone store and what is a Vodafone dealer store.”

    This month it was revealed that the personal details of millions of Vodafone customers, including their names, home addresses, driver’s licence numbers and credit card details, had been available on the internet. They could be accessed using generic login details that unscrupulous dealers reportedly gave or sold to people, including criminals.

    Vodafone said it had implemented a number of security measures to prevent similar security breaches in future. It would not detail what these were, but, in an email sent to dealers on Wednesday, Vodafone said it would now require each dealer to provide a static IP address for their internet connection in order to access the customer database.

    This would allow Vodafone to track which stores are accessing particular pieces of information and ensure that they only accessed the database from the store itself.

    However, Elissa Freeman, policy director for the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, said the step came “after the horse has bolted”.

    “ACCAN is concerned that it may in fact not be possible for Vodafone to trace back and uncover which customers have had their privacy breached, by whom, and what information has been passed on to who, for what purpose,” she said.

    “If this is the case then Vodafone needs to be upfront and inform all its customers directly, in writing, without delay.”

    Vodafone claims it has invested over $550 million in its network since June 2009 and will spend a similar amount over the course of this year.

    It says performance has already improved but a significant number of customers have already jumped ship to competing telcos. Many complained that it took in excess of two hours to reach Vodafone’s customer care line and even then they were connected to people in overseas call centres who were not aware of the issues affecting Vodafone’s network.

    Vodafone this week gave dealers a question and answer sheet containing pre-written responses to many customer complaints. It can be found here.

    Adam Brimo, who created the Vodafail.com site out of frustration at Vodafone’s network issues, has today sent a report to Australian regulators summarising the issues affecting the tens of thousands of Vodafone customers who used the site to register their complaints about the telco.

    The 27-page report can be found here.

    The telecommunications industry is self-regulated under the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code. However, ACCAN said holes in the code meant that, even with the current Vodafone issues, the regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), would struggle to find a clear breach.

    And even if it did find a breach, the most it could do was order Vodafone to comply with the code.

    ACMA has been conducting an inquiry into customer service in the telco sector and its findings are due to be released in March.

    Do you know more? asher.moses@smh.com.au

    Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


    CHINA ATTEMPTING TO CURB SKYPE INROADS INTO THE CHINESE PHONE MARKET

    Saturday, January 1st, 2011

    Skype could be

    designated illegal

    in China

    A man uses a Skype internet phone next to a laptop in Taipei November 11, 2005. REUTERS/Richard Chung

    A man uses a Skype internet phone next to a laptop in Taipei November 11, 2005.

    Credit: Reuters/Richard Chung

    By Terril Yue Jones and Jennifer Saba

    BEIJING/NEW YORK | Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:16pm EST

    BEIJING/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The ever popular Internet telephone service Skype could be dealt a major setback in one of the world’s largest markets as the Chinese government cracks down on what it is calling illegal Internet telephone providers.

    A Chinese government circular from the powerful Ministry of Information and Industry Technology called for a crackdown “on illegal VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) telephone services” and said it was collecting evidence for legal cases against them. It did not name any phone companies.

    Skype was still available in China on Friday evening through its joint venture partner TOM Online.

    Skype had not yet been contacted by Chinese government officials, a Skype spokesman said on Friday in the United States.

    The timing of a ban in one of the world’s fastest growing markets could dampen investor enthusiasm for Skype as it prepares a 2011 initial public offering. The Luxembourg-based company, which has around124 million users worldwide, is expected to be valued at about $1 billion in the IPO.

    The Chinese state move appeared to be aimed at protecting three government-controlled phone carriers — China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile — that provide the bulk of China’s phone services.

    The South China Morning Post quoted an unidentified ministry official on Thursday as saying VoIP services could only be provided by the big three Chinese operators.

    China has been known to play hardball with foreign businesses. After a months-long stand-off over censorship, China finally gave Google approval in July to keep operating its Chinese search page.

    Skype has 20 million users in Asia Pacific, or 16 percent of the company’s total users as of the end of June, according to a U.S. regulatory filing. The filing did not break out China’s user numbers and a Skype spokesman in the United States said he did not know how many Chinese users it had.

    No single one country other than the United States represented more than 7 percent of Skype’s average monthly user, according to the posting.

    The latest news is another setback after Skype’s global service outage last week, which cast doubts on the reliability of the service.

    In 2005, Skype was blocked in parts of China as the government sought to ban phone calls made using the Internet.

    Skype, partly owned by Web retailer eBay Inc, has been growing in popularity among Chinese users and businesses to make cheap or free international phone calls over the Internet.

    “Almost 1 in 6 people in the world live in China, and a great many of them rely on Skype to connect with families and friends, run businesses, and call people around the world,” wrote Skype’s Josh Silverman in an October blog post about Chinese privacy regs.

    The Chinese notice, dated December 10, did not state what amounted to illegal services and did not name any VoIP providers it considered to be breaking the law.

    Representatives of the ministry and the ministry’s office gathering information for the campaign did not answer telephone calls on Friday.

    Representatives of China Telecom and China Unicom did not answer phone calls on Friday when approached for comment. A spokeswoman for China Mobile, reached in Beijing, referred calls to the firm’s Hong Kong office. All attempts to reach the Hong Kong office were not successful.

    VoIP calls allow users to make international calls for much less than commercial providers, or even for free if both parties are using VoIP. Many businesses that use VoIP services in cutting down on their international telephone costs could lose out on access to the cheaper alternative.

    Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

    SMART PHONE & PLAYSTATION COMBO BY SONY IN 2011

    Friday, December 31st, 2010

    Sony to launch

    PlayStation phone

    December 30, 2010 – 10:33AM
    A grab from a leaked video purporting to be of the PlayStation phone.A grab from a leaked video purporting to be of the PlayStation phone.

    Sony’s long-rumoured PlayStation Portable smartphone is set to be launched in North America and Europe as early as the first half of 2011, according to  Japanese newspapers.

    The phone gaming device would likely be based on Sony’s handheld PSP Go game console, would be made by Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications and run Google’s Android operating system, said the Asahi Shimbun’s English edition, citing unnamed sources.

    Sony hopes to take on Apple’s iPhone, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry and Nokia devices by offering the first smartphone that is based on a portable game console, with a set of controls that allows very advanced gaming.

    The PSP Go, launched in November 2009, does feature software downloads through a wireless connection, allowing players to also browse the internet, watch movies, play music and read books and comics.

    The new PlayStation handset would similarly work with Sony’s online media platform, Sony’s answer to Apple’s iTunes.

    Sony hopes the phone will stimulate sales in the sluggish videogame console market, said the Asahi.

    Sony called the newspaper report “speculative” and declined to comment.

    AFP

    Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


    AUSTRALIA TO GET SUPER FAST BROADBAND

    Friday, November 26th, 2010

    Brave new world of broadband?

    The seeds of the new internet are being sown right here in Australia, but it’s all dependent on an NBN.

    After five days of parliamentary debate, draft laws that separate Telstra’s retail and wholesale arms have finally passed the Senate.

    The bill, which allows the telco giant to take part in the federal government’s $36 billion national broadband network (NBN), must now go back to the lower house, where it is expected to be approved next week in its newly amended form.

    Communications Minister Stephen Conroy described the NBN as the holy grail of micro-economic reform.

    Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. Photo: Nic Walker

    Senator Conroy said an immediate benefit of the passage of the legislation was likely to be a reduction in access disputes.

    He said the NBN was rolling out 6000 kilometres of cable across regional Australia, opening access to 400,000 Australians and allowing real retail competition in more than 100 towns and cities.

    “These new changes will absolutely end the gaming that has gone on – 152 access disputes in this sector alone,” he said.

    Senator Conroy said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) could now act immediately to end rip-offs.

    “You will see an almost immediate change in behaviour by companies as they realise they can’t use the legal system, the competition system, to behave in the way we have seen in the past,” he said.

    Applause

    Spontaneous applause led by Labor staffers broke out when the legislation was passed by 30 votes to 28 today.

    The Coalition made a number of last-ditch attempts at delaying the vote but were ultimately unsuccessful.

    Following the vote, Senator Conroy said reform of the telecommunications sector was overdue.

    “This legislation is the holy grail of micro-economic reform in this sector,” he told reporters.

    “For Australian consumers, this reform has been a long time coming.”

    The government secured the bill’s passage with the support of all seven crossbench senators: five Australian Greens, Family First’s Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon.

    Senator Fielding declared the draft laws’ imminent passage through Parliament a historic moment.

    “History will show that the Liberal and National parties were on the wrong side of the debate,” he said.

    However, Liberal senator Simon Birmingham criticised the government and crossbench for not scrutinising the NBN more.

    “It is a … phenomenally huge amount of the money the government is committing to the NBN,” he said.

    “And it is committing it with no knowledge whatsoever as to whether it is the best way to deliver fast, affordable broadband services to all Australians, at the lowest cost to taxpayers in a manner that promotes competition in the Australian telecommunications sector.”

    To get the bill passed before Parliament rose for the long summer break, the Senate was forced to sit into the night yesterday, and return again this morning to deal with more than 100 proposed amendments to it.

    No opposition amendments were supported, but a number of changes proposed by the Greens and Senator Xenophon, regarding increased transparency, were accepted.

    They must now be formally approved by the lower house on Monday before the Telecommunication Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010 can become law.

    Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha