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Wozniak Unveils WozNet 490

dki writes "Steve Wozniak's WozNet is covered in an article at the New York Times today. His company Wheels of Zeus, mentioned previously on Slashdot last year, plans to create wireless networks that use GPS to track clusters of electronic tags within a 1- or 2-mile radius of a base station. The tags "will be able to generate alerts, notifying the owner by phone or e-mail message when a child arrives at school, a dog leaves the yard or a car leaves the parking lot.""
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Wozniak Unveils WozNet

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  • tracking everything (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ianmalcm ( 591345 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:20PM (#6492283)
    Big Brother at a consumer level.


  • by dirvish ( 574948 ) <dirvish@fo u n d n e> on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:20PM (#6492291) Homepage Journal
    The tags will only cost about $25 and I am sure that price will go down w/ time. I would really like a nice small tag for my car keys...
  • Not a bad thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raindance ( 680694 ) * <> on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:23PM (#6492323) Homepage Journal
    So, I was a little distressed that Woz, the archetype of the computer good guy, invented a way to track things- shadows of the 'digital angel' system, et cetera.

    But this is local tracking, not global tracking, and that makes all the difference. It doesn't lend itself to big databases, cross-correlation, et cetera, and all the big evil things which are made possible with global tracking; it just helps you keep track of your own stuff.

    Very cool Woz.
  • yay, tracking! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by feed_me_cereal ( 452042 ) * on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:23PM (#6492327)
    notifying the owner by phone or e-mail message when a child arrives at school

    Yeah, it's a good thing kids don't have those pesky "rights" granted to other americans. God, I'm glad I didn't grow up in woz's brave new world...
  • by kremvax ( 307366 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:24PM (#6492340) Homepage
    Although the description lists tenuous "Good" uses (tracking Children, the elderly, the insane )

    the insidious uses outweigh these 10000 to 1.

    Total (location) information awareness.

    I feel safer already...

  • by plover ( 150551 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:34PM (#6492475) Homepage Journal
    What if that something is a 17-year-old daughter?

    It's different if it's a dog, or your wallet, or your handgun. But what if it's a person who maybe doesn't want Mommy to know she drove to her boyfriend's house and has been parked at the local park for the last three hours instead of at the library with her study-buddies?

    The lines get grayer.

  • by mark_lybarger ( 199098 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:42PM (#6492592)
    i'm not so sure there's a grey line there unless this is of a state where 17 is considered legal age. parents are responsible for their kids up till the age they leave the house. they're responsible to feed them and responsible for when they run a car into someone's mailbox. i believe they have an intrinsic right and responsibility to monitor their kids whereabouts, even if they need to use such discrete methods as this.
  • Re:Not a bad thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by superdan2k ( 135614 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:43PM (#6492601) Homepage Journal
    ...It doesn't lend itself to big databases, cross-correlation, et cetera, and all the big evil things which are made possible with global tracking...

    Sure it does...if you missed it, some of the coverage mentioned that multiple base stations can be linked together to provide a "neighborhood watch" function, which is pretty cool. From the sound of it, there's not much to stop you from linking up base stations on a nationwide network...the trick there, of course, is knowing which items you're looking for. Something like this would be great for tracking stolen bicycles, for example. A WozNet tag in the down tube makes it impossible to fuck with, short of cutting apart the frame, thereby ruining it.

    You could do some other really cool shit, like keeping track of where bike racers are on a course at any given moment -- which would make more sense to Joe Average than telling him that Lance Armstrong (Vive Le Lance!) has a 35 second lead over Jan Ullrich.

    Everyone gets all worried about Big Brother, of course, but Jesus Christ, do you think that the U.S. Government really gives a fuck about where your Trek Madone 5.9 or your limited edition X-Men #500 with the supermegaholographic RealPlatinum(TM) has run off to? Of course not.

    If you want your Libertarian minimal-government-involvment society (as many Slashdot posters/readers seem to), you need to have a system in place to police yourself and your belongings. WozNet is one of those.
  • by TwP ( 149780 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:46PM (#6492642) Homepage
    Put one of these in your laptop and it will become "location aware". When you are at home and login, your home settings will be automatically loaded by the machine. When you are at work and login, your work settings will be automatically loaded. At the local coffee shop? Same thing.

    It will also function as a lo-jack device for small and expensive personal stuff: laptops, ipods, cell phones, etc.

    Did they figure out weak signal GPS though? If not, then the device will not work indoors and will severely limit its applications.
  • Re:yay, tracking! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by feed_me_cereal ( 452042 ) * on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:47PM (#6492655)
    I would guess that you don't have kids.

    Kids right to privacy from their parents ends where the parents responsibilities to ensure their safety and well being begin.

    I would guess you don't know many other parents.

    What you mentioned is all fine and good, and perhaps it would be nice to see your kids make it to school all safe and sound from your pc, but don't make the mistake that all parents are as altruistic as you may be. I imagine a great deal of parents will use these as house-arrest devices, tracking every movement of thier kids all the way through 18 years of age. I've met plenty of people who would, so don't tell me that's bullshit. Remember, "Parents responsibilities to ensure safety" are defined by the parents, and there are plenty of morons/assholes out there who will use these devices to some pretty sick ends. I've met some strange people who grew up under very repressive households; I could only imagine how much grief these devices would have added.
  • by Machine9 ( 627913 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:50PM (#6492684) Homepage
    I am much more concerned about people placing these tags on/in your property -without- you knowing it.

    I mean, it'd be ridiculously easy to stick one under a car with some duct tape for example.

  • by stienman ( 51024 ) <[moc.scisabu] [ta] [sivada]> on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:52PM (#6492711) Homepage Journal
    A device I saw which claims to do the same thing (could be the same) was a watch that is locked onto the persons arm - it can be unlocked manually or remotely, but requires a key of some sort or an unlock command for central.

    Just wrap tinfoil around it, or better yet, slam it against every wall you walk past. Eventually it'll get too expensive to replace, and the old fashioned methods of checking up on your own kids yourself and becoming involved in their lives will again become common.

  • by foyle ( 467523 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:56PM (#6492741)
    With something like this I may finally be able to find out just where it is that the cat goes when he demands to be let out at 4am.

    And for only $25, I won't care too much when he loses it.
  • by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @03:30PM (#6493127) Journal
    I wonder if this could be included on firefighter equipment to track firefighters inside a burning building. How expensive are the receivers? Surely $25/tag isn't too much for a department to spend. But maybe the receiver would cost too much. How well do they work indoors? I'd imagine the GPS part is useless indoors.
  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <> on Monday July 21, 2003 @03:30PM (#6493128) Homepage
    I think all of us, including the Woz, know the answer to that.

    Sounds perfect for Homeland Security funding.

    Well, if one is going to sell out, it's reasonable to get the best price one can.

    Apparently Wozniak was far more unhappy about not becoming a billionaire like others far less talented in technology than he ever told the press.

    I remember looking into an IWM (integrated woz machine) on an Apple II design and seeing a work of engineering art.

    Times have changed.

  • by Kombat ( 93720 ) <> on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:04PM (#6493499) Homepage
    What if a paedophile managed to hack into the system, and then had instant access to the exact locations of thousands of children ?

    You mean like cracking open a phone book and looking under "Schools?" Or did you mean picking up a local tourism brochure and flipping to the "Playgrounds" section? Perhaps even something as evil and insidious as looking up daycare centers on the Internet using []?

    Maybe he can find one on their own, somewhere quiet.

    Near enough that he/she won't be gone by the time the pervert arrives? "Hey, there's one by itself (boy or girl?) in the trees near Seattle. If I catch the 7:00 commuter flight out of San Diego and make the connection in Chicago, I can be there by ... " Sure.

    Given the level of fear over people using their credit card numbers on computers connected to the internet,

    Bad example. Those "fears" are nothing more than irrational, uneducated, paranoid FUD. The Internet is a far safer place to exercise your credit card than virtually all physical retail outlets.
  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#6493507) Homepage
    Given this whole wireless thing, how difficult would it be to rig a device that just checks to see how many WozNet devices there are in the immediate area-- say, 10 feet-- and where they are?

    That way paranoids or children could just scan their cars/backpacks/whatever for WozNet trackers, and if they find one present, they can pinpoint its location for removal.

    I wondered the same thing about RFID tags-- i wouldn't care at all about the privacy problems if once i'd bought it i could take it home and use some handscan device to scan to see where the RFID is, then barrage it with microwaves or something until it stops responding.

    However, I am pretty sure with RFID that there's no way an RFID could be designed such that it would have any choice but to broadcast its presence-- it just discharges energy collected from radio waves, so it seems like there's no way you could tag something with an RFID such that the purchaser would be unable to find the RFID just by sending out hellos on low-frequency radio, but the tagger can talk to the RFID by sending out a secret code or something. Right?

    I don't know if the same applies to WozNet. They haven't really given much information on how these devices work and talk to each other. Is there info somewhere on how they communicate? Would just rigging something up to a laptop that universally identifies what all the nearby woznet devices are be easy? I don't see anything on their site that would indicate either way...
  • So.. I'm a bad boy.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @05:42PM (#6494362) Homepage
    I get "tagged" by my parents... its not making sure *I* get to school.. just that my tag does.. so I pay (or bully) someone to take the thing to school for me.
  • by Suidae ( 162977 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @05:57PM (#6494482)
    As a parent of small children, I plan on addressing this by equipping them with cell phones with GPS receivers and requiring that they answer that phone any time it rings, and that I can receive their GPS coords at any time. In return they will be allowed to go where they want, when they want (within alloweable hours regarding curfews and school, etc), and I won't badger them about what they were doing. All the better if the phone supports some kind of clandestined 'are you there' signal that would not be easily fooled in the case of abduction or other seperation of the phone from the correct person.

    I would have taken this deal myself, gladly. I'm not so much worried about them doing stupid stuff (I did, and I've still got all my limbs and most of my brain cells) as I am about them doing something stupid, getting hurt or stranded, and not having an option for rescue.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers