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<nettime> Fear drives tech market
Steve Cisler on Sat, 19 Oct 2002 00:18:44 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Fear drives tech market

I was riding in a van used to transport tourists between favorite
destinations in Guatemala. The man sitting next to the driver was an
American heading for the capital where he hoped to get residency papers
for his young Cuban wife. The stretch of road was one where bandits
(former soldiers and former rebels) targeted tourists or other vehicles
whose drivers looked affluent. We talked about the dangers of life in

However, hee was convinced that much of American life was driven by fear:
of crime, disease, accidents, strangers, change, food, other countries. He
cited the insurance industry, security firms, all sorts of legislation and
regulations put in place to reduce the fear and feeling of insecurity.  
This was in 1997. I wonder what he thinks now.

Five years later the whole country follows the news about the Washington
area sniper(s), mosquitoes spreading West Nile virus to a new state every
week, and weapons of mass destruction (not automobiles or tainted meat--as
John Barlow noted) in countries thousands of kilometers away.  Today's
headline has a strong warning from the head of the CIA, saying that Al
Qaeda has regrouped and the threat to die Heimat , er...homeland is as
great as the summer of 2001.

The San Jose Mercury news includes a personal technology section every
wednesday.  This week the consumer products writer tested GPS devices for
kids.  GPS makes use (free of charge) of a network of U.S. Defense
satellites to give you longitude and latitude of the receiver to an
accuracy withing 10 meters.  There's some talk of Europe building its own
GPS network, the Galileo Satellite system.  These coordinates can be
mapped onto road maps, satellite photos, and other spatial databases.  
for amusement geocaching web sites allow for electronic treasure hunts.  
GPS has been used by soldiers, by hikers who can find out how lost they
really are, and now parents can track their kids.

Wherify Wireless is a start-up in Silicon Valley (yes, there's still VC
available for new firms; 1/10 of all venture capital is going into
wireless firms).  They will sell you a wrist device (cosmic purple or
galactic blue) that will lock on the wrists of kids. It's meant for the
4-12 age group.  You can locate the kid by using your special web page or
by calling the Wherify command center using a toll-free number.  The price
is $399 plus a monthly subscription cost of $25 to $50 a month! It uses
Sprint PCS to make the wireless connection.  The low monthly price point
allows 20 locates a month.  The kid can alert the emergency 911 service by
pressing 2 buttons on the face of the device. Parents can lock it
electronically or unlock it for bathing and swimming.  Mike Langberg
tested it with mixed results.  He concluded, "I love my 2 year old..but
I'm not prepared to pay $400 up front for a location tracking device and a
minimum of $300 a year for service...I'd be willing to spend $100 and $10
a month for service."

A competing firm, Digital Angel, sells a locator for adults but has only
sold 100 units, but it's not doing well financially. If these make
headway, I can see schools being offered site licenses and deals for
parents, much like some computers are being marketed. "If you care about
your child's safety, don't miss out on this special deal..."

The rest of the section has in depth articles about surveillance and the
tradeoffs with this technology.  One great anecdote: a driver was in a
hit-and-run accident. His airbag went off and he fled the scene.  The
airbag had a GPS beacon that was triggered, and the police were given the
location, and he was apprehended.

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