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WOZ’s Tracking System

January 9th, 2004 · No Comments

WSJ writes about the new venture of Steve Wozniak (who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs) – Wheels of Zeus (WOZ), which will “help build an unusual wireless network to help people keep track of things.”

WOZ — is developing a system that uses low-cost radio tags that could be attached to objects, people or animals. By combining satellite location-finding technology with radio base stations, the tags could help consumers or companies protect goods against theft and ensure the safety of children and pets, Mr. Wozniak said.

Motorola’s broadband-communications unit, which makes products such as modems and television set-top boxes, will be a “prime partner,” Mr. Wozniak said, licensing WOZ’s technology and developing components of the system. He said he expects the collaboration to bring initial products to market this year.

Many other companies plan to deploy another kind of electronic tagging system known as radio-frequency identification, or RFID, for uses such as tracking goods in warehouses and stores. But those tags have an estimated range of only about 30 feet, Mr. Wozniak said, and in practice have much shorter range.

By contrast, Mr. Wozniak said WOZ’s base stations will have coverage zones as large as 10 square miles. The company’s technology is designed to send data at relatively slow rates, which helps to conserve battery life.

If the tags are inexpensive enough, Mr. Wozniak said, companies could attach them to all kinds of assets, such as vehicles or computers. So could consumers, and parents who want to track their children’s whereabouts.

Each tag receives GPS signals to help track its location, Mr. Izzo said, and also sends signals to the base station. A consumer might buy a tag and a portable base-station device, with a display, that would alert them if a pet or child exceeded a designated area, he said.

WOZ has discussed with groups of parents or homeowners setting up networks of base stations on a voluntary, collaborative basis, to extend their coverage area. But Mr. Wozniak said he now also expects partner companies will help set up such devices, similar to the way wireless “hot spots” have sprung up in many businesses using a technology called Wi-Fi.

I’d love to track lots of things: my books which I lend and forget (and at times so do the borrowers), the TV remote (keeps getting lost), my baggage when I am travelling…

Tags: Emerging Technologies

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