wOzNet: Wheels in the Sky Keep on Tuning — After co-founding Apple Computer and teaching computer skills to fifth graders, what’s next for Steve Wozniak? Last week Woz took the wraps off wOzNet, the project his new company, Wheels of Zeus (wOz), has been working on for the past 18 months. wOzNet is a wireless network composed of miniature tracking devices, intended for use in locating objects, pets, or people. The devices use GPS hardware to determine their position and low-power 900 MHz wireless networking circuitry for broadcasting that position to a nearby base station at a relaxed 20,000 bits per second, less than most modems. The tags will also be able to generate customizable alerts via phone or email. Multiple base stations will be able to pick up the signal from a tag, enabling neighborhood-wide tracking, but optional privacy controls should prevent it from getting creepy. The wOzNet technology is still being developed, but the company plans on releasing consumer products in 2004. The trick for wOzNet is to find a niche between the cheaper, but lower-powered RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags gaining popularity for inventory control, and the high-speed Wi-Fi networking gear that costs more and consumes more power. [JLC]
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