Uganda’s Wireless Healthcare Network

A Wired article talks about how Uganda is planning to build a nationwide, wireless network for its healthcare-system based “on the cheap” using “the country’s existing cell-phone network, Palm handhelds and new battery-powered, wireless Linux servers.”

Satellife’s system will be based on 3,000 to 5,000 Palm handhelds given to doctors and health-care workers in the field. The handhelds will be used for routine health administration, ordering and tracking medical supplies, delivering new treatment guidelines and, of course, communication.

In the field, the handhelds will connect to inexpensive, battery-powered Linux servers set up across the country.

Built by WideRay, a San Francisco startup, the Jack servers have built-in GPRS radios, which afford them an always-on connection to Uganda’s near-ubiquitous cell-phone network.

About the size of a thick hardback textbook, the Jack servers act as “caching” servers, storing content sent to them over the cell network from the administration’s computers in Kampala. In turn, reports and e-mail received from the handhelds are relayed wirelessly back to the capital. The servers communicate with handhelds using an infrared link.

The servers are powered by industrial-grade batteries and a single charge lasts up to a year.

I would love to get an idea of the costs for such a project.

UPS’ Next-Generation Wireless Computer

UPS Press Release:

The fourth generation of the Delivery Information Acquisition Device, or DIAD IV, incorporates new radio communication links that allow it to communicate almost anywhere, anytime; dramatically expanded memory, and a color screen that allows alert messages to be color-coded for drivers.

The incorporation of three different types of radio communication links in each unit will ensure that package delivery information is available to customers almost instantaneously. The color screen will make life easier for drivers as well as customers signing for deliveries. Urgent customer pick-up messages, for example, can be color-coded to alert the driver. And the 128 megabytes of memory – 20 times that of the DIAD III – positions UPS to provide future features, like customer preference notes, to enable drivers to personalize service even more.

A Slashdot thread adds that the device is based on “Symbol’s Fourth Generation hardware. Color screens, 128 megs of RAM, and uber-connected (GPS, GPRS, CDMA, WiFi, Bluetooth, Infrared, Analog modem), and, of course, the familiar barcode scanner.”

Open Innovation

IdeaFlow (Renee Hopkins on Corante) has an interview with Henry Chesbrough, the author of “Open Innovation” [1 2 3], whose thesis is that “the traditional model for innovation–which has been largely internally focused, closed off from outside ideas and technologies–is becoming obsolete. Emerging in its place is a new paradigm, ‘open innovation,’ which strategically leverages internal and external sources of ideas and takes them to market through multiple paths.”

He has this to say about better innovation, as opposed to more innovation:

I think of “more” as a quantity. I think of “better” as a quality of something. In this case, better innovation enables people to solve problems that are important to them. In business terms, these solutions are worth more to the consumer than they cost to provide, so the consumer is willing to pay what it costs for the solution, and gets more value than they pay in return. Better innovation not only enables people to do their tasks faster or easier, at its best it can enable people to do new tasks.

Blogging and Ideas

Elizabeth Lane Lawley has this to say about blogs and ideas:

Most of the blogs that I read regularly go well beyond link-and-comment. If they link to an idea du jour, the do so because they have something to add, a new direction to explore. As a result, its not so much an echo effect as it is an opportunity to watch an idea emerge, grow, diverge, expand, be refuted, etc…The interlinking of ideas and content on weblogs, particularly given the linear time-based nature of the form, provides a fascinating window into the evolution of an idea.

This draws a comment by Renee Hopkins:

Link-and-comment blogs are great because by and large they are updated so often (drive-by blogging!) that theres generally a lot of *there* there, in terms of numbers of posts. Even if the poster hasn’t necessarily added much to the original idea, by doing the drive-by thing they are at least pollinating the idea to someone who may have time to comment.

One particularly blog-specific method of building on ideas that I like to read and often use myself is to link to the original citation, add a comment, then use other links to related ideas to start fleshing out the divergent path suggested by the comments. I do this because Im at heart a researcher–though I wouldnt call myself obsessive about it (some have, though!). Research is the way I make sense of the world and ferret out connections. I dont necessarily have to see every single citation of a post before Ill comment on it, but I do like to dig a little into the subject, and/or related subjects, and see if a new connection presents itself–what would you call this, search-blogging?! Except that I generally dont link to the search results, but examine some of them and see if they suggest other maybe more productive search strings. The idea is to see if I can find any connections that might further the conversation around a particular idea.

This also captures the way I tend to look at blogging. It helps in creating a flow of ideas, and at the same time a personal repository of interesting items, which can help in connecting up different strands together.

TiVo’s Early Adopters

Why TiVo Owners Can’t Shut Up is the title of the NYTimes story: “Not since the PalmPilot debuted in 1996 has a new electronic contraption sparked a cultlike following and so many zealous proselytizers…TiVo has around 700,000 subscribers a tiny fraction of American television viewers, 70 percent of whom have never even heard of TiVo, according to Josh Bernoff, an analyst at Forrester Research. But, Mr. Bernoff said, TiVo’s fans are a vocal minority.”

TiVo is a personal video recorder, a kind of VCR on steroids that hooks up to a television and can record up to 80 hours of programming on a hard drive. Much of the media coverage about the device has focused on viewers’ ability to skip commercials at the touch of a button. But TiVo worshipers say that is only part of the gadget’s allure.

Press a button, and TiVo will record every episode of “Six Feet Under,” or any other show, for a season. TiVo viewers can pause when the phone rings, or speed through the boring parts. By fast-forwarding through commercials and those dull conferences at the mound, a TiVo viewer can watch a baseball game in 40 minutes without missing a pitch. Sit-coms take about 22 minutes. “Saturday Night Live” and “60 Minutes” can be viewed back to back on Monday.

Like early adopters of cellphones and the Internet, the first wave of users of personal video recorders swear that the devices have fundamentally altered their lives changing domestic routines, making it possible to live a life free of commercial interruptions and even providing the satisfaction of a rebellion against network goliaths.

The devices also make it easier to watch a lot more TV. Studies by Next Research, a media consulting firm, show that TiVo users watch an average of five to six additional hours of television per week, the company said.

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So Much To Do, So Little Time

I was just thinking looking at the flow of emails and conversations I am engaged in – life wasn’t so complicated and fast-pacd just a decade ago. The number of people I was in touch in (or knew), the number of things I had pending at many given point of time, the number of ideas floating around, the number of bought books to read – all seem to have gone up by a factor of 10 in the past 10 years.

And yet, we are essentially the same people and have the same amount of time. We do have a lot of technology to help us, but that only seems to have compounded the issue! What are the tips and tricks to managing in this new era? One of the things I’ve been thinking (which has been part of the motivation for the current tech Talk series on the Memex) is the ability to find people who are experts and trust their judgements and opinions (perhaps, where blogs came in). This is because we will simply not have enough time to go deep into a topic as we could have.

The Net, weblogs and email essentially weave a web around us where people, ideas and information are separated by a few degrees. While it is easy to think of all of us separated by six degrees (that is, we are no more than six connections away from anyone), in reality, our universe is perhaps no more than two degrees — if you aren’t a friend of a friend, you are essentially unknown to me. This could also apply to ideas.

Going ahead, I think we will build an ecosystem around us – of people, websites, blogs, ideas, information. When we want to find something or verify something, it is this group we will want to “search” first. This is the “context” of our life. The Memex needs to enable this.

TECH TALK: Constructing the Memex: First Memories

For much of human civilisation, we have had a single memory device our own brain. The world around was what we remembered, or at best, what others around us remembered. Part of the reason was that it was, arguably, a much less complex world, but more importantly, it was difficult to connect with others beyond a geographical vicinity. Our memory has served as well, in general. Of course, the problem is that we will never know what we arent aware of or cannot remember.

In the past decade, the Internet has extended our world by making accessible a vast quantity of information that was unimaginable earlier in our lives. It started in the early days with bulletin boards and newsgroups, pooling together a collective of documents on a single server, and then the ease of hyperlinking combined with directories and search engines made the physical location of information irrelevant. If it was out there on the Internet, it could, in theory, be found.

For many of us, our first Internet website memories are probably linked to Yahoo. Navigating through its hierarchy of categories or doing a search across helped us get to what we were looking for. Altavista and Excite started providing search within pages, allowing us to type a word or phrase and know that there were tens of thousands of matching documents.
Google then came along and refined the process to perfection by using its PageRank algorithm, giving us results very much relevant to what we were looking for. In effect, Google became our other memory.

This is an important development. Googles relevance and consistency in returning search results has ensured that we no longer need to communicate web addresses to each other in order to find specific information. If it is out there, Google will find it for us. Just like My Yahoo helped personalise news, stock quotes and the weather for us and thus became a utility for many, Google has become a utility when it comes to helping is find information that is out hidden in the billions of pages of the Web.

Google does a great job in searching the Web. But there are still some things which it does not cover. Our own information space comprising of emails and documents is still hard to search the irony being that it is easier to find information out on the Internet than on our own hard disk! We do not have tools to search our space, but these are not integrated. There are also a large number of news sites like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal which have restricted access via subscription or registration that Google does not search.

In its efforts to provide uniformity and consistency, Google has become a mass-market search utility which is a good starting point for becoming our other memory. But it is not enough. What is missing is the context that each of us have this is embedded in the web we browse, the documents we chose to save (or email to ourselves), and the subject-matter experts we know (or would like to know).

First, let us survey the current state of the search industry.

Tomorrow: From Yahoo

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