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Video CES: Automatic Plant Monitoring Through Your Computer or iPhone (Video) Screenshot-sm 44

Timothy Lord starts this video with these words: "Sensors are a big deal at CES this year. They are small devices that track everything from the location of your pets to how many steps you have taken today." And so he chatted with Phillip Bolliger, founder of Swiss company Koubachi AG, which makes Wi-Fi sensors that help you give your plants the right amount of water and light and to keep them at the right temperature. As of this writing, the prices on their online store are in Euros, not dollars, but the sensors are now available through Amazon with U.S. pricing. Koubachi also has a free app for your iOS device, and a Facebook app for your computer or Android device, that will help you give your plants the right amount of fertilizer and other love even if you don't buy a Koubachi sensor.

US Department of Homeland Security Looking For a Few Good Drones 92

coondoggie writes "The U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week issued a call for unmanned systems makers to participate in a program that will ultimately determine their safety and performance for use in first responder, law enforcement and border security situations. In a twist that will certainly raise some eyebrows, the results of the program — called the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) — will remain unavailable to the public, which, considering how involved the actual public may be with these drones is unfortunate."
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Man Physically Assaulted At McDonald's For Wearing Digital Eye Glasses 1198

RockoW writes "Steve Mann, a long-time researcher of computer vision systems, (i.e. Augmented reality, Digital Eyeglass) had an incident at a McDonald's in Paris, France. He was assaulted by three men during his visit to get food with his family. They had a problem with his digital eye glasses and tried to take them off his head. 'The eyeglass is permanently attached and does not come off my skull without special tools.' The men also tore up Mann's documentation and a letter from his doctor explaining the device's use. Fortunately, the rough treatment of the device caused it to keep recent images in its memory, instead of quickly overwriting them, so Dr. Mann has pictures of the men who assaulted him."

Kinect: You Are the Controlled 156

theodp writes "GeekWire reports on a newly-surfaced Microsoft patent application for 'Targeting Advertisements Based on Emotion', which describes how information gleaned from Kinects, webcams, online games, IMs, email, searches, webpage content, and browsers could be used to build an 'Emotional State Database' of individuals' emotions over time for advertisers to tap into. From the patent application: 'Weight-loss product advertisers may not want their advertisement to appear to users that are very happy. Because, a person that is really happy, is less likely to purchase a self-investment product that leverages on his or her shortcomings. But a really happy person may purchase electronic products or vacation packages. No club or party advertisers want to appear when the user is sad or crying. When the user is emotionally sad, advertisements about club parties would not be appropriate and may seem annoying or negative to the user. Online help or technical support advertisers want their advertisements to appear when the user is demonstrating a confused or frustrated emotional state.'"

FAA Bill Authorizes Surveillance Drones Over US 294

fyngyrz writes "Congress passed a bill this week that makes it easier for the government to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace. From the article: 'The FAA Reauthorization Act, which President Obama is expected to sign, also orders the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations for the testing and licensing of commercial drones by 2015. Privacy advocates say the measure will lead to widespread use of drones for electronic surveillance by police agencies across the country and eventually by private companies as well.'"

TomTom Satnavs To Set Insurance Prices 605

nk497 writes "TomTom has signed a deal with an insurance firm that will see its satnavs used to monitor drivers. Fair Pay Insurance, part of Motaquote, will use monitoring systems built into the TomTom PRO 3100 to watch for sharp braking and badly managed turns, rewarding 'good' drivers with lower premiums and warning less skilled motorists when they aren't driving as they should. 'We've dispensed with generalization's and said to our customers, if you believe you're a good driver, we'll believe you and we'll even give you the benefit up front,' said Nigel Lombard of Fair Pay Insurance."

Computer Program Reconstructs Heard Words From Brain Scans 147

sciencehabit writes "In a new study, neuroscientists connected a network of electrodes to the hearing centers of 15 patients' brains and recorded the brain activity while they listened to words like 'jazz' or 'Waldo.' They saw that each word generated its own unique pattern in the brain. So they developed two different computer programs that could reconstruct the words a patient heard just by analyzing his or her brain activity. Reconstructions from the better of the two programs were good enough that the researchers could accurately decipher the mystery word 80% to 90% percent of the time. Because there's evidence that the words we hear and the words we recall or imagine trigger similar brain processes, the study suggests scientists may one day be able to tune in to the words you're thinking."

Mandatory Automotive Black Boxes May Be On the Way 619

Attila Dimedici writes "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to announce a new regulation requiring all vehicles to contain a 'black box.' Not only that, but the devices would be designed to make it difficult (possibly illegal) to modify what information these devices collect or to disable them even though the courts have ruled that the owner of the vehicle owns the data. The courts have also ruled that authorities may access that data (to what degree and whether a warrant is necessary depends on the state)."

Submission + - iPhones found secretly tracking users' locations (

EmagGeek writes: "Apple devices appear to be tracking their owners' locations and storing data about people's whereabouts without their knowledge, according to a report posted Wednesday on a site called iPhone Tracker.

The unauthorized surveillance started in June 2010, when the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system was released, according to two researchers who say they discovered a hidden tracking file and posted it out of concern for users.

Apple has not responded to the allegations."


White House Releases Trusted Internet ID Plan 229

angry tapir writes "From the Computerworld article: 'the U.S. government will coordinate private-sector efforts to create trusted identification systems for the Internet, with the goal of giving consumers and businesses multiple options for authenticating identity online, according to a plan released by President Barack Obama's administration.'"

NYPD Anti-Terrorism Cameras Used For Much More 400

An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from the NY Times: "The Police Department's growing web of license-plate-reading cameras has been transforming investigative work. Though the imaging technology was conceived primarily as a counterterrorism tool, the cameras' presence — all those sets of watchful eyes that never seem to blink — has aided in all sorts of traditional criminal investigations. ... 'We knew going into it that they would have other obvious benefits,' Mr. Browne said about the use of the readers in the initiative. 'Obviously, conventional crime is far more common than terrorism, so it is not surprising that they would have benefits, more frequently, in conventional crime fighting than in terrorism.'"

US Contemplating 'Vehicle Miles Traveled' Tax 1306

dawgs72 writes "This week the Congressional Budget Office released a report saying that taxing people based on how many miles they drive is a possible option for raising new revenues, and that these taxes could be used to offset the costs of highway maintenance. The proposed tax would be enforced through the use of electronic metering devices installed on all vehicles. The mileage tax is being considered instead of an increase in the gas tax in order to tax hybrids, EVs, and conventional automobiles equally."

US Ed Dept Demanding Principals Censor More 493

Toe, The writes "Education Department officials are threatening school principals with lawsuits if they fail to monitor and curb students' lunchtime chat and evening Facebook time for expressing ideas and words that are deemed to be harassment of some students. Under the new interpretation of civil rights laws, principals and their schools are legally liable if they fail to curb 'harassment' of students, even if it takes place outside the school, on Facebook or in private conversation. When children are concerned, where is the line between protection and censorship?"

Iris-Scan ID Cards For Children In Mexico 114

An anonymous reader writes "Today the first ID cards that include iris and fingerprint biometric information were registered and issued in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. (Original article in Spanish.) The juicier part of the story is that for now, only children will be enrolled in this national biometric database. It is intended that by December 2012 all children in the country will be registered. The alleged purpose of the new ID card is to hinder the abduction of children and prevent child exploitation. The first ID cards are being issued in the same city that last year started implementing a mandatory iris scan for convicted felons and voluntary members of the public in a Minority Reportesque plan to combat delinquency that features iris readers in public transport and ATMs. This comes from the country that last year attempted and failed to create a national database of mobile phone users, again with the purported intention to tackle extortion and kidnappings."

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