5 lab technologies that could reinvent cell phones

Academics are pushing the boundaries of cell phone technology beyond calling, messaging and Internet access.


Researchers at universities around the world are looking at improving cell phone technology, not only to make it safer but also as a tool to address larger problems.

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Quiz: Which universities produced these huge technology advances?


PathForge: Because cell phone networks constantly track the movement of phones, researchers at the University of Konstanz in Germany came up with this plan to mask users from the network and preserve user privacy. Under PathForge, cell phones pass off their unique identifiers to each other so the phone company can’t link the position of the phones to the holder of the account for that phone. That way, looking at the positioning records won’t reveal where an individual traveled with the phone. PathForge includes a mechanism for outbound calls being billed to the right account and for incoming calls to reach the right parties.

How to keep Big Brother from tracking cell phone


Epothecary: With SMS, a cell phone client, a central server, GPS and a set of bar codes, Epothecary can track pharmaceutical transactions to assure consumers in third-world countries that the drugs they buy aren’t counterfeits or expired. As shipments change hands from manufacturer to retailer, the server uses positioning data, bar-code images and SMS messages to authenticate that the shipment and the parties involved are registered and that the goods changing hands are verified. If counterfeits slip in, the system will indicate where, say researchers at New York University.

Cell phones can help weed out counterfeit drugs

PhonePoint Pen

PhonePoint Pen: Holding a cell phone like a pen, users write in the air, making motions that software on the phone interprets as letters. Accelerometers in the phones pick up the movements. The notes can be forwarded to e-mail accounts as reminders. Also, for more lengthy writing, PhonePoint developers at Duke University envision a phone - with its camera pointed at a keyboard printed on a sheet of paper - being able to record what users “type” on the paper keyboard .

Scientists write software that turns wireless phones into free-space pens


VUPoints: Cell phones at a social event cooperate to create video highlights of the event. The phones share ambient sound and visual data with a server that deduces which phones are near each other and are therefore in a common group. Based on cues from the phones, the server figures out where the most interesting things are happening and commands nearby phones to start video recording the incidents . Researchers at Duke University came up with a signature for laughter that VUPoints uses to help determine when and where to record.

Software can direct cell phones to shoot video coverage of events

Cell phones as bugs

Cell phones as bugs: This research from the University of California at Davis and Sprint reveals some bad news: it’s nearly impossible to eliminate the threat that snoopers could gain access to microphone, camera and GPS systems on cell phones to eavesdrop on users and figure out where they are. But they did suggest areas for more research , such as locking down sensors or blocking transmission of data gathered from them until the user can determine that a legitimate application is gathering it.

Software that turns cell phones into bugs is tough to beat

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Quiz: Which universities produced these huge technology advances?
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