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HP's Cooltown gives a glimpse of the future


If you want to see what cities and homes will look like in the future, you should head down to the appropriately named Cooltown, Singapore, an installation from HP that features some of the coolest gadgets and servers (with ultra-efficient cooling fans designed from airplane jet engines) and offers a glimpse of what's to come in the future. Our host for a recent evening visit to Cooltown was Mark Manners, director of mobility and Cooltown innovation, HP Asia-Pacific and Japan.

According to the visionaries within HP, the home of the future will be a connected hub of web service-enabled smart devices. Manners' alarm clock was connected via web services to his diary, airport information and weather. He demonstrated how his alarm clock woke him up half an hour early that day because the weather web service had forecast rain and increased traffic.

He also showed off HP's vision of augmented reality and its usefulness in the home. Books or pieces of paper could have certain symbols on them which, when viewed through a screen or even a mobile phone through its video live-preview mode, would turn into 3D images, multimedia feeds or even interactive animations, floating just above that symbol.

"Just think of how much we spend on pop-up books for our children. This is much better than a pop-up book," he said.

Next up was Cooltown's hospital. In many hospitals, doctors fill in paper forms which have to wait days, weeks or in many cases even months before the records are digitized and updated. Many attempts at getting doctors and nurses to use online solutions have failed as changing the way they work is difficult.

Aside from the cool stipple dot forms, the hospital was a hive of activities for RFID (including beds with RFID scanners) and mobile PDA scanners. "Hospitals have operated on the wrong patients, and one mistake with a blood transfusion can lead to death," Manners explained, adding that any help in reducing such errors would be welcomed by overworked hospital staff.

Revving up RFID

Cooltown's track and trace was a showcase for how RFID, GPS and the national mobile phone network could be used for logistics and national security. One application allowed you to draw virtual fences around parts of town, and a car crossing the fence would either trigger off an alarm or be disabled.

But what was perhaps most amazing was just how Cooltown continued to amaze in this day and age. True, we all know that there exist pen scanners and RFID tags, but it was still intriguing to see what these technologies can do to augment our way of living rather than force their way into our lives.
The future is coming, the future is coming. No matter how safe you want to play it. What isn't described here is the combination of RFID, GPS and mobile phone networks in the service of creating a consumer augmented reality environment. This is when location-based services take the next step. And then, the world changes. The internet goes three dimensional. Information content is all around you, like the air itself.

It remains my core belief that Microvision eyewear displays will be the fundamental component of this next phase of the internet, the location-aware internet, the 3D web, the metaverse. The reasons why Microvision should own this space have been cataloged numerous times over the life of this blog.

My belief is that augmented reality for consumers will come into being, as the next-generation of what we now consider location-based services -- which we primarily think of as turn-by-turn directions. It must be understood that while these seem impressive and neat on our little hand-held phone, these services are just the tiniest seeds of what will grow to become a pervasive metadata layer, the next phase of the internet as we will know it.

Microvision's truly extraordinary market opportunities such as consumer augmented reality are seemingly totally discounted by the market. Maybe that's because the rest of the infrastructure to support this is a few years off. But that doesn't mean it's not coming. I believe that Microvision's technology is going to be the core component of that infrastructure.

That's why I own this stock. I'm excited about Microvision laser scanning HUDs for upcoming model year vehicles. Apparently, Audi and Bosch are excited about them too. I think cell phone laser projectors will be a huge hit as they can serve to unlock some of the value of digital networks for content owners, service providers and device manufacturers by providing the big experience for mobile gaming and mobile multimedia such as photos, movies and TV.

These applications alone would be enough to bring Microvision to billions in annual revenue over the next several years.

But the biggest opportunity is where RFID, GPS and mobile networks converge. When we're out and about, and need information content that's tailored to where we are and what we're doing. When we want to leave virtual 'tags' on the sides of buildings that are visible only to our buddies.

The glanceable mobile metadata layer needs to be unobtrusive. It needs to be helpful and fun while never a distraction. It needs to be fashionable and hip, a status symbol. It needs to be totally see through so your vision is not obstructed, but rather enhanced. Most importantly, it needs to be drop dead sexy.

Microvision has market opportunities far beyond the astonishing mobile phone market or in-vehicle HUDs. It has the ability to become an indispensable component of the next generation of the internet itself, the man-machine interface for a pervasive, always-on internet that assists us wherever we go.

That's why I'm here, and why I've been writing this site, and why I get so fired up about this company and their technology.

I believe it's all going to happen. While we're suffering some pretty painful price volatility, each day we are still one day closer to the first design win, that first domino to fall which starts the chain reaction.

From the spark, the conflagration!

Here's to you guys.


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