Software-Defined Radios

New Scientist writes:

A device capable of skipping between incompatible wireless standards by tweaking its underlying code has been given world’s first go-ahead for outdoor trials in Ireland.

Ireland’s communications regulator Comreg has issued the licence for publicly testing a “software-defined radio” device, which has been developed by researchers at the Centre for Telecommunications Value-Chain Research (CTVR) in Dublin.

The device can impersonate a multitude of different wireless devices since it uses reconfigurable software to carry out the tasks normally performed by static hardware. “I’m interested in a future where a single device can use every possible frequency,” says Linda Doyle, who heads up the CTVR project, which is one of several competing projects worldwide.

The technology promises to let future gadgets jump between frequencies and standards that currently conflict. A cellphone could, for example, automatically detect and jump to a much faster Wi-Fi network when in a local hotspot. Devices could even decide for themselves which standard to use and might even be able to tease information from overlapping, or interfering, signals.

The Ethanol Option

Fortune writes:

Whatever the source, burning ethanol instead of gasoline reduces carbon emissions by more than 80 percent while eliminating entirely the release of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide. Even the cautious Department of Energy predicts that ethanol could put a 30 percent dent in America’s gasoline consumption by 2030.

We may not have to wait that long. After decades of being merely an additive to gasoline, ethanol suddenly looks to be the stuff of a fuel revolution — and a pipe dream for futurists. An unlikely alliance of venture capitalists, Wall Streeters, automakers, environmentalists, farmers and politicians is doing more than just talk about ethanol’s potential. They’re putting real money into biorefineries, car engines that switch effortlessly between gasoline and biofuels, and R&D to churn out ethanol more cheaply.

Mobile Payments

Carlo Longino writes:

The thing is though, most mobile payment systems are still a product in search of a market. Who needs PayPal-style mobile payments, really? The idea of using your phone to PayPal a merchant for purchases really isnt that compelling when youve got credit and debit cards and good old cash, and reverse billing to a mobile phone bill works pretty well for mobile content.

In emerging markets, however, theres a huge opportunity. People are already using airtime as currency in some places, and Globes G-Cash system in the Phillippines is probably the best example of a mobile micropayment system. The opportunity for this type of m-banking, whether its official and run by a bank, or a more de facto or improvised system is huge. Several companies are already working in these areas, and theyll find much more success than PayPal, or anybody else, pushing mobile payments in Europe and North America.