NFC and RFID   Leave a comment

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is becoming commonplace in everyday life these days. From tap-and-go payment cards and transit passes to E-ZPass devices used on toll roads to the tags stuck on and sewn into consumer goods to manage inventory and deter theft, most of us encounter RFID tags at least a few times a week and never think about
what can be done with this technology.

In the past few years, a new term has started to bubble up in connection with RFID: near field communication (NFC).Though NFC readers can read from and write to some RFID tags, NFC has more capabilities than RFID, and enables a greater range of uses. You can think of NFC as an extension of RFID, building on a few of the many RFID standards to create a wider data exchange platform.

RFID

Imagine you’re sitting on your porch at night. You turn on the porch light, and you can see your neighbor as he passes close to your house because the light reflects off him back to your eyes. That’s passive RFID. The radio signal from a passive RFID reader reaches a tag, the tag absorbs the energy and “reflects” back its identity.

Now imagine you turn on your porch light, and your neighbor in his home sees it and flicks on his porch light so that you can see him waving hello from his porch. That’s active RFID. It can carry a longer range, because the receiver has its own power source, and can therefore generate its own radio signal rather than relying on the energy it absorbs from the sender.

RFID is a lot like those two porches. You and your neighbor know each other’s faces, but you don’t really learn a lot about each other that way. You don’t exchange any meaningful messages. RFID is not a communications technology; rather, it’s designed for identification. RFID tags can hold a small amount of data, and you can read and write
to them from RFID readers, but the amount of data we’re talking about is trivial, a thousand bytes or less.

NFC

Now imagine another neighbor passes close, and when you see her, you invite her on to the porch for a chat. She accepts your invitation, and you sit together, exchange pleasantries about your lives, and develop more of a relationship. You talk with each other and you listen to each other for a few minutes. That’s NFC.

NFC is designed to build on RFID by enabling more complex exchanges between participants. You can still read passive RFID tags with an NFC reader, and you can write to their limited amount of memory. NFC also allows you to write data to certain types of RFID tags using a standard format, independent of tag type. You can also communicate with other NFC devices in a two-way, or duplex, exchange. NFC devices can exchange information about each other’s capabilities, swap records, and initiate longer term communications through other means. For example, you might tap your NFC-enabled phone to an NFC-enabled stereo so that they can identify each other, learn that they both have WiFi capability, and exchange credentials for communication over WiFi. After that, the phone will start to stream audio over WiFi to the stereo. Why doesn’t the phone stream its audio over the NFC connection? Two reasons: first, the NFC connection is intentionally short range, generally 10cm or less. That allows it to be low-power, and to avoid interference with other radios built into devices using it. Second, it’s relatively low-speed compared to WiFi, Bluetooth, and other communications protocols. NFC is not designed to manage extended high-speed communications. It’s for short messages, exchanging credentials, and initiating relationships. Think back to the front porch for a moment. NFC is the exchange you have to open the conversation. If you want to talk at length, you invite your neighbor inside for tea. That’s WiFi, Bluetooth, and other extended communications protocols.

What’s exciting about NFC is that it allows for some sophisticated introductions and short instructions without the hassle of exchanging passwords, pairing, and all the other  more complicated steps that come with those other protocols. That means that when you and your friend want to exchange address information from your phone to his, you can just tap your phones together. When you want to pay with your Google Wallet, you can just tap as you would an RFID-enabled credit card.

When you’re using NFC, your device doesn’t give the other device to which it’s speaking access to its whole memory—it just gives it the basics needed for exchange. You control what it can send and what it can’t, and to whom.

 

Posted October 22, 2014 by Anoop George Joseph in Internet

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Outdoor Navigation and Indoor Navigation   Leave a comment

Navigation, in the context of this post, is defined as movement of people from one location to another. Navigation assistance is a means by which people can be provided with information about their navigation needs and preferences.

Since these two navigation environments, i.e.,  outdoor navigation and indoor navigation, share common characteristics and have differences. The advent of computers, among other technologies, paved the way for the development of digital navigation devices and tools. The digital navigational device GPS has had a tremendous impact on the development of modern navigation technology. The impact has been in threefold. One is that GPS has allowed ubiquitous, anywhere, anytime, positioning, with a level of accuracy and reliability suitable for a wide range of land-based navigation activities. Second is that as GPS has been used in numerous existing and new applications,
people have realized its benefits, especially for land-based navigations.

Outdoor Navigation

The evolution of outdoor navigation technology is divided into four generations.

The first generation of navigation technology (~1985 – ~1995) offered basic features and functions; was available for very limited geographic areas (selected cities); offered limited routing options (mainly shortest route); was only available as in-car gadgets (they were installed as luxury gadgets by the automobile manufactures on selected cars); and provided navigation assistance to the general population.

The second generation of navigation technology (~1995 – ~2000) offered basic features and functions. However, as advanced techniques were developed and feedbacks from users were incorporated, the features and functions in the second generation were the improved version of those in the first generation. The second generation of navigation technology was made available for various geographic areas (many cities); supported limited routing options; was available as portable devices; and provided navigation assistance to the general population.

The third generation of navigation technology (~2000 – ~2005) offered advanced features and functions; provided (optional) wireless connection (primarily to obtain real-time data); was available on mobile devices and personal digital assistants (PDAs); and offered routing options that met the preferences by the general population. Figure 1.5 shows an example of outdoor navigation systems in the third generation.

The fourth generation of navigation technology (~2005 -), which is the current trend, offers navigation services with a variety of new features addressing personalized navigation needs and preferences anywhere, anytime and for any user. Navigation technology in each of the first three generations can be characterized as generic and system-oriented, assisting with general navigation activities, and are either incar navigation systems or portable navigation devices. The fourth generation of navigation technology is characterized as personalized and service-oriented, assisting with navigation activities at individual level, where services are provided by navigation service providers.

System-oriented navigation assistance and service-oriented navigation assistance can be distinguished by data storage, computation, and communication. Navigation systems are stand-alone devices that can provide navigation assistance without connection to external services where they contain all the required data and can provide all the required computations. Navigation services are provided through mobile devices (e.g., smartphones) where most of the required data and most of the required computations are provided through remote servers maintained by service
providers.

Geo-positioning is at the heart of navigation systems/services for outdoors in that most navigation activities are dependent upon position information provided by geo-positioning sensors, primarily Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS). GIS contributes by providing core static data including maps and core navigation functions such as routing in navigation systems/services. Wireless communication contributes by providing real-time (dynamic) data, such as traffic, in navigation systems/services for outdoors. As shown in this figure, while wireless communication can be used as a geo-positioning sensor (e.g., WiFi), its geo-positioning role is not as dominant as GPS is for navigation in outdoors.

Indoor Navigation

Compared to outdoor navigation systems/services, the evolution of indoor navigation systems/services has a much shorter time span. This is perhaps due to the fact that navigation in outdoors is much more complex than navigation in indoors. Navigation in outdoors imposes certain constraints, such as real-time decision making (especially when driving), requiring solutions to navigation problems in a much larger space (geographic area) and finding optimal routes from a very large solution space (number of options). For example, a trip may require an optimal route among
many possible options between a pair of origin and destination locations in a large city, and while enroute to the destination a new route may be needed due to change in weather or traffic or occurrence of accidents.
The evolution of indoor navigation technology can be divided into two generations

the first generation of indoor navigation technology, which debuted in the mid-1990s, only a few geo-positioning sensors were available. In general, geo-positioning sensors for indoor navigation were scarce and unaffordable.
The second generation of indoor navigation technology, which debuted around early 2000s, has enjoyed new geo-positioning sensors and techniques which offer improved accuracy and are widely available and affordable.
It is important to note that compared to navigation in outdoors, where both navigation systems and services could be utilized for navigation assistance, navigation assistance in indoors is more meaningful and practical through navigation services on ubiquitous devices such as cell phones (increasingly smartphones).

While it is common and practical that people requiring navigation assistance for driving, biking, or walking in outdoors utilize navigation systems or services provided on mobile devices, it is hard to imagine that people would be walking within a building with specialized mobile devices to find a room in the building. On the other hand, it is conceivable to imagine that people would be provided with navigation assistance in indoors through navigation services on smartphones as they are becoming commonplace alleviating the need to carry extra devices for the purpose of navigation.

Like navigation in outdoors, geo-positioning is at the heart of navigation technology for indoors in that most navigation activities are dependent upon position information provided by geo-positioning sensors. However, unlike navigation systems/services for outdoors which are predominantly based on GNSS (e.g., GPS) for geo-positioning, GPS does not play a significant role in navigation systems/services for indoors. Instead, wireless communication (e.g.,RFID, WiFi), whose role in outdoor navigation is primarily for receiving real-time (dynamic) information, is the predominant geo-positioning sensor in indoors. For the reason that indoor navigation is not affected by environmental factors, such as weather condition, there is really little need to receiving real-time data by wireless communication. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Model (BIM) contribute by providing core static data including maps. As shown in this figure, navigation functions, such as routing, could be included as separate modules into navigation systems/services for indoors.

 

Posted October 22, 2014 by Anoop George Joseph in Internet

HTML5 Audio and Video   5 comments

Audio and Video

Over the past decade, video on the web has exploded. As bandwidth has increased, and more people have access to high speed internet connections the likes of YouTube and Vimeo have gripped the imagination of web users. Before HTML5, the most common method for including video on a webpage was to render it using Adobe Flash. YouTube and Vimeo continue to use this approach by default, but both have started migrating to a more accessible and standards friendly HTML5 version <video> tag. The HTML5 <video> tag, <audio> tag are fast becoming the method for presenting rich media content in a way that is compatible  with all devices,  including smartphones.

More recently, many vendors including Apple dropped support for Flash from their mobile devices. The HTML5 specification has long proposed native video and audio in the browser, as part of its aim to reduce the amount of code and work required to deploy common media types to the web. As with other HTML5 enhancements, direct embedding offers numerous accessibility benefits, and search engine indexing improvements over Flash.

The usage is simple: use a <video> tag to embed video,  and an <audio> tag to embed audio, and nest within the tag links to the different formats in which you have encoded your media.  There are two competing standards H.264 and WebM and many more for audio.

In order to use HTML5 to render video, you need to encode your video and audio into multiple formats and link to each format within the <audio> and <video> tags ensure every HTML5 capable browser will be able to render your media. For older browsers that do not support HTML5, it is also safe to use H.264 encoded video only and provide Flash as a fall back for those who don’t support H.264 files.

Both new tags allow for fallback content, which makes it a simple process to upgrade your existing Flash embed code to make use of HTML5 without excluding older browsers and no direct need for browser sniffing scripts.

Geolocation

The growing market for location-aware applications, where content is specifically oriented towards both the user and their current position. These apps take advantage of a hardware enhancement common to most smartphones running software from Apple, Google and Microsoft.  HTML5 offers us the ability to query the user’s location and tailor our web content accordingly.

The geolocation element of HTML5 is made available through an API, accessible with Javascript. The location isn’t dependant  upon the device accessing the page having a GPS chip, so any HTML5 capable browser with support for the geolocation API will attempt to locate the visitor using available means Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth, RFID etc. The user has to explicitly choose to share their location through the API before any results are returned to the browser.

Current smartphones and tablets devices are typically running HTML5 engineered browsers, so are the most common devices able to use this functionality. You can request the user’s location with a few simple lines of Javascript code. The data is only useful if you do something with it like, a customised map that shows the location of nearest public convenience or a set of driving instructions to the office locations.

Translating the user’s location into something meaningful is made easier with the likes of OpenLayers, OpenStreetMap, Bing Maps or Google Maps, and each of these offers an API allowing you to pass in a location expressed in latitude and longitude.

Video in Email   5 comments

How important is video in digital marketing? Has including video in email become a standard practice?

Brand sites and social media sites are the most popular channels for distributing video content, but just over half of those surveyed were actually using video content within their email campaigns.

Video is a powerful way to move prospective buyers through the conversion funnel. Video within email has a positive impact on campaign performance and email generate a higher click-through rate. Now a  whole new crop of email service providers and technology vendors now offer solutions that give marketers the ability to provide users with a richer experience within the inbox.

To make the most of video within email, marketers must understand the value proposition brought by open standards. Since HTML5 , is built into most modern Web browsers as well as most modern mobile devices, many mail clients (e.g. Hotmail) are actually now capable of displaying video directly in the body of the email when users view that email in an HTML5 compliant Web browser (e.g. IE9+, Chrome3 and Firefox3.5+).

To include video in email, it is necessary to use the HTML5 video tag. While the rate at which your own recipient list will be able to view and play video directly within email will vary,  it is imperative that your email service provider also offers the ability to “fall back” and provide either an animated .GIF/.PNG or a static image to the recipient, depending on the mail client in use.

Solutions from email service providers should be sophisticated enough to automatically know where videos work and provide fall-back support in real time as the message is opened. For example, while an email  with video won’t play in Gmail, it does support animated .GIFs ; whereas in Outlook 2007 or 2010, neither video or animated .GIFs will work, so you need a static image fall-back.

Many best practices remain that should be employed to ensure that video within email carries value for the campaign. Sending videos relevant to your audience should be given, as would indicating the contents of the email- in this case , that there is in fact a video.

Supporting copy should be included, along with some information about what will happen when the video is clicked.

HTML5 Semantics, Structure and Forms   5 comments

The new semantic tags and structure that form part of HTML5  specification are the biggest new features that’s fully ready to be used regardless of your visitor’s browser. The semantics are important for better search engine optimization, more accessible content, easier to understand structure and improved maintainability.

Semantics is the study of language meaning. In HTML the  language meaning relates to the tags we use to mark-up our content. the <p> tag means that the marked-up content is a paragraph.

HTML has a limited number of tags. As designers we tend to use <div> to mark-up navigation menus,  sidebar, page header and so on. So in HTML5, rather than create a header using the code <div id=”header”></div>, you can now use the semantic <header> tag.  Similarly, tags have been introduced for <footer>, <aside>, <article>, <section> and <nav>.

From a  search engine optimization point of view, having universal tags that describe content is a big plus; using these tags helps search spiders to determine the most important content on the page and index accordingly. Using a semantic approach to you code also helps with screen-readers, allowing disabled visitors to get to your content more easily.

HTML5  forms

One of the challenges associated with designing web forms is helping the use to complete the form correctly. Dates have to be checked to ensure they are in the correct format, email addresses need to be validated and so on. Each time a form is deployed , therefore, we are compelled to use client or server-side validation , writing own routines to provide date picker, validate input etc.

HTML5 solves these problems with the introduction of new input types, browser- native user controls and input validation.  The new options use the same core tag that you are familiar with, <input>, but add content specific features. Examples include the email input, number, tel, date and url. Crucially, because <input> remains the primary tag, older browsers will simply ignore the new type declarations and fall back to type=”text”, allowing these enhancements to degrade gracefully.

The syntax for new input options is the same. Rather than use the code <input type=”text” name=”email”> you can now use <input type=”email” name=”email”>. In addition, there are some new attributes and CSS pseudo classes that allow you to make the most of native browser controls and validation. The required attribute will tell an HTNL5 ready browser to validate and require a field, while the CSS invalid pseudo class allows styling to be used to provide visual feedback to the user without the need for any external scripting at all. Elsewhere, the placeholder attribute allows you to specify some example content that demonstrates the type of input you’re expecting from the user. This will typically render as light grey text inside the form field which disappears once the field gains focus on the page.

Older browsers will simply fall back to treating each of the new types as standard text field, and will totally ignore any attributes they do not recognize.  For the time being you will need to provide your own validation.

Twitter Microblogging for Business   6 comments

Social media skills are increasingly important for business. Twitter is an ideal resource for companies, celebrities and anyone who feels a need, to build an online presence and engage with customers or fans.

Being able to provide instant feedback on products or direct complaints to a listening ear is an invaluable service. Simply registering with Twitter isn’t enough. You also need to properly manage your presence, and ensure that you are responding to any tweets directed to your company.

(A) It is possible to see what other people are tweeting without becoming a member. Twitter is free to join. Register at Twitter.com. Choose your Twitter account name carefully – you want customers to be able to find you.

(B) Publicise your Twitter account to attract more followers. Key areas include your website, blog and email signature, but you should also add your Twitter address to your company letterhead, business cards, advertising and any other marketing materials you may produce.

(C) Make the most of your Twitter Feed. Provided that majority of tweets are relevant, consider adding a feed to your blog or home page. If you use WordPress, you can drag a Twitter widget into your blog.

(D) Link your company’s feed using the @ tag. You can also use the @ tag to grab the attention of particular Twitter users.

(E) Squeeze as much information as possible into your tweets. Although URLs will appear shortened, the longer version still uses upto 20  characters of a tweets 140 character limit. A URL shortening service like bit.ly will leave you more characters for your tweet.

(F) Use generic terms that other users may be searching for.

(G) If your company is showing off its wares at an event , use hashtags to attract people who are interested in or visiting that event. A hashtag is a generic search term prefaced with a ‘#’ symbol. Clicking a hashtag within a tweet will call up all tweets that contain it.

(H) Crosslink your website and Twitter feed. Regularly mention  your blog or website, as well as any products of particular interest. However, your followers are likely to drop you if they think you are only interested in marketing.

(I) Tweet regularly. If you want to keep hold of your followers and hopefully attract new ones, you must maintain a strong presence.

(J) Schedule your tweets. Rather than uploading a number of tweets at once, spreading them out will help your company stay at the top of your followers’ feeds for longer.

(K) Engage with your followers. Respond to your followers tweets regularly. If someone complains about your service or products, or asks for help, a response is essential.

Save Streaming Videos and Audio   2 comments

You can save a lot of time and bandwidth by downloading and storing your favourite streaming videos which you would like to watch repeatedly. You can use various utilities and websites to snag your own copy of videos or audio. Show you how to convert flash videos for iPhone, iPads and other devices.

Online videos are unreliable: Most popular video sharing sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, Metacafe and Vevo
you need an internet connection to view their streaming videos. You will need a reliable broadband connection with speeds of at least 512 kbps to make these sites usable. Even if you have an ultra-fast connection, there is no guarantee your favourite  videos will always be available online. Videos may be removed due to takedown notices, URLs may change, or the poster might decide to stop sharing  the video.

Benefits of Offline Videos: If you can download streaming videos, you’ll be able to view them even if you have no internet connection. You can also “pre-download” important videos if you are planning to work or vacation in locations where internet access is unreliable or very expensive. And of course, if the original video should disappear from video sharing sites, you would still have your own copy safely stored in your hard drive. If you are planning to use a video from the internet for a demo or presentation, it would be better to have your own copy stored on your computer instead of relying on an internet connection.

 Easy YouTube Downloader: Firefox users who mainly go to YouTube for your videos, then the aptly named Easy YouTube Downloader (http://tinyurl.com/ezyoutubedl) might be all you need. After you install this add-on, you will see a direct download button within YouTube pages. Click on it, and you will get a selection of video and audio formats  for that particular clip which you can download.

Chrome YouTube Downloader: If you use Google’s Chrome, try the Chrome YouTube Downloader (http://tinyurl.com/chromeyoutubedl) extension which works similarly. After you install this extension, you will see a direct download button within YouTube pages. Click on it, and you will get a selection of video and audio formats  for that particular clip which you can download.

Video Download Helper:  The Video Download Helper (http://tinyurl.com/45w8438) is aFirefox add-on which allows you to save videos from most of the other popular video sites, in addition to YouTube. When you install Video Download Helper, Firefox will restart and you will be taken to an “installation successful” webpage. All you will see is a in your browser is a greyed-out button with three circles in it, near the navigational toolbar. Once you surf  to a webpage with a  video, the button changes colour and animates, and you will see a small arrow next to it. Click on the arrow, and you will see the filename for the video. Click on that, and you will see a menu with various options. Click on download and save the video to a location.

Clip Converter: is a free online media download and conversion website allows you to save web videos. You do not need to install add-ons or extensions, and you can use any web browser. You will first nedd to copy the URL of the webpage which contains the video. Go to your browser’s address bar, click on the URL, press Ctrl A (select all) and Ctrl C to copy. Now surf to clipconverter.cc, and under Media URL to Record, paste the URL (Ctrl V). Then click on the download button under Conversion format. Now click the continue button. You should now see the conversion window. When the process is finished, you will see another download button which you can click on. Save the file to a location.

Playing Downloaded Videos: Many online videos these days use MP4 file format. The latest versions of  Windows Media Player should be able to handle this format. WMP may try to update itself by downloading a codec from the Net. If that fails, try installing the codecs manually by downloading the Codec Installation Package from Microsoft (http://tinyurl.com/msoftcodec). If you find that you have downloaded Flash video (.flv) files and can’t play them, get a copy of the KMPlayer (kmplayer.en.softonic.com) or VLC Media Player. The KMPlayer is only available for Windows, while the VLC Media Player is cross-platform and also available for Mac OS X and Linux and Ubuntu.

Convert Flash Videos for Apple Devices  (A): New owners of iPads, iPhones and ipod Touch will quickly discover their devices will not handle Flash. Apple is unlikely to support Flash in their devices. Luckily,  most of the popular YouTube videos are available in both Flash and H.264/MP4 formats; YouTube should detect if your computer can’t play Flash and will usually stream MP4 instead. But some of the less popular videos on YouTube are still available only as Flash video. If you try to play them on iPhone or iPad, you might get an error message “server malfunction”. You can get around this by using the Clip Converter website which can convert online Flash video to MP4 video format playable on Apple’s devices. However, you cannot download the converted file directly on your iPad / iPhone, because its file system is not directly accessible. Everything on these devices has to be associated with a app.

Convert Flash Videos for Apple Devices  (B):  On your computer, surf to clipconverter.cc and under Media URL to Record, paste the URL of the online video. Click on the MP4 button under Conversion Format. Set the Audio Bitrate to 128 kbps and the Video Bitrate to 256 kbps, and leave the other settings to their defaults. Click on Continue button. You should now see the conversion window. When it has finished, you will see a download button which you can click on. Save the file  to a location of your choice.

Convert Flash Videos for Apple Devices  (C): You can now transfer saved video to your Apple device. Plug in your iPad, iPhone, or  iPod Touch, the launch iTunes on your computer. In the Devices section, select your device, then click on the Movies button on iTunes’ top pane. Next, drag the newly converted video files to the library window. The new window should be automatically transferred to your device. If it is not automatically transferred, you can do a manual sync by checking the box next to the video.

Commercial Options: Sometimes, downloading web video can be difficult. For YouTube, Easy YouTube Downloader works well, while Video DownloaderHelper and Clip Converter can probably handle other major video sites. Some  streaming videos require commercial programs which capture anything playing on your PC screen, including web videos, webinars and Skype or live chats.

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