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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Awhile back, Steve Wozniak was said to have founded a new company—Wizards of Zeus—that was developing a product that would use GPS. No further details were released and the company went into what venture capitalists call “stealth mode” (though I’ve always thought “whisper mode” would be better, a quiet nod to one of the first geek movies, Blue Thunder). Well, that details embargo has been lifted. And in a big way with an article in the paper of record.

It’s still too soon to tell how widespread this will be or how it’s going to work beyond the technical aspects, but it sounds like a real winner. The feature that intrigued me the most was the ability to daisy-chain base stations so as to create a neighborhood-wide tracking zone. If the interface were right, I could picture a web server in every base station that could superimpose the things-to-be-tracked on to a map of the neighborhood with legends that differentiated among things. At a glance, you could see that you children are over at Jenny’s house playing in the backyard. If the API is exposed so that people can create their own tracking applications, you could even create an alert that would immediately page you if your child got into a car on the street—perhaps indicated by lack of movement in the street area followed by rapid and consistent acceleration in a more or less straight line.

At any rate, if these devices could also track RFID-tagged items as well, then I could see an amazing synergy created that would also subvert any privacy objections to widespread rollout of RFID. You could immediately see what’s in the refrigerator (or a smart refrigerator could list its contents on a display in the front), how many cans of corn are in the pantry, or whether it’s time to buy more milk. Or you could tag valuables in an embedded way so that you could write a program (or purchase one) that alerted you whenever something wasn’t there any more.

This new venture of Woz’s looks very promising. I can’t wait for next year when it’s unveiled.

[UPDATE: Slashdot discussion ensues.]

[UPDATE 2: AppleLinks has a nice rant on the matter. Their objection to the WozNet is that it bespeaks a lack of trust and appeals to the control freaks. I guess that it could, but I can see this as a safety net for otherwise careful parents. Or as a neighborhood safety net.]