Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #204
March 2nd, 2008

Sites like Facebook are proving the value of the ‘social graph.’

The idea of a social graph — a representation of a person’s network of friends, family, and acquaintances — gained currency last year as the popularity of online social networks grew: Facebook, for example, claims to have more than 64 million active users, with 250,000 more signing up each day. It and other sites have tried to commercialize these social connections by allowing outside developers to build applications that access users’ networks. Facebook also advertises to a user’s contacts in accordance with the user’s online buying habits. The push to understand the nature and potential value of links between people online has led to imaginative ways to represent such networks.
[Note: this long article shows several of these tools and includes spectacular images.]
Source: Erica Naone, Technology Review, March/April 2008

From tips to clicks: restaurants try e-menus

Enter the e-waiter. Restaurants in Europe, the United States and Japan are testing technology to let diners order their food direct from a screen at their table instead of depending on a fellow human being to note their choice — sometimes grumpily or erroneously. Besides cutting costs, companies that sell the “e-menu” argue the bytes-for-bites approach has a novelty value that can lure younger customers, and boost revenues as tantalising photographs of succulent steaks and gooey desserts tempt diners to order more.
Source: Rebecca Harrison, Reuters, February 25, 2008

Plants that Twitter when they need to be watered

If you thought it was bad enough that all your friends, and even your mother, want you to keep up with them via their Twitter pages, your plants could now do the same. That’s because the folks at Botanicalls, a group that formed at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program that figured out how to get plants to make phone calls when they need to be watered, have now extended that functionality to Twitter.
Source: Daniel Terdiman, CNET’s Geek Gestalt blog, February 24, 2008

Network of TVs talks to cell phones

A little-known private company, Akoo International, is setting up a network of digital screens that can send and receive messages from cell phones. The company aims to transform mobile devices into universal remote controls that can select on-demand content from big-screen TVs in airports, bars, and restaurants. With Akoo’s network, named m-Venue, cell phone users can send a text-message request for a music video, sports clip or fashion show to be delivered to their phone or played on a nearby Akoo television screen, which would act much like a high-tech jukebox.
Source: Claire Atkinson, Reuters, February 25, 2008

STOP terrorism software

Researchers at the University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) have developed the SOMA Terror Organization Portal (STOP) allowing analysts to query automatically learned rules on terrorist organization behavior, forecast potential behavior based on these rules, and, most importantly, to network with other analysts examining the same subjects.
Source: University of Maryland news release, February 25, 2008

ID cards: £1,000 fine for skipping biometric scans

In the latest government ID-card plans, people will face fines of up to £1,000 for skipping biometric scans. Penalties ranging from £125 for not notifying the government of the loss of an ID card to £250 for not applying for a card or missing an appointment for fingerprint and facial scans, were revealed in the Home Office consultation papers. The fines would apply to foreign nationals entering or living in the UK, who will be required to have ID cards from November, ahead of the cards’ introduction for UK citizens next year.
Source: Nick Heath,, ZDNet UK, February 27, 2008

Google partners with homeless shelter

Google is partnering with homeless shelters in San Francisco to distribute free phone numbers and voicemail accounts to those without homes, the company said Wednesday. The Internet giant is expanding a service that was started by Grand Central, a San Francisco-based start-up that Google acquired last year. Grand Central’s technology allows calls to be routed to a home, business, or cell phone using a single phone number. The service offers people a way to organize and unify their communications, a Google spokesman said.
Source: Marguerite Reardon, CNET’s News Blog, February 28, 2008

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