Cruiser Control

By way of gizmodo, the Detroit Free Press reports:

Now anyone can breeze through congested intersections just like the police, thanks to a $300 dashboard device that changes traffic lights from red to green, making nasty commutes a thing of the past and leaving other drivers open-mouthed at your ability to manipulate traffic.

But what if everyone had one?

That's the fear of traffic control officials, who believe chaos would take over the roads. That's also the potential facing communities from Troy to Washington Township as Internet-marketed knockoffs of the device -- originally intended only for police and fire vehicles -- have become available to the public.

The knockoffs have traffic engineers investigating whether lockout measures will work against the copycats and whether hundreds of thousands of dollars in traffic technology investments will become obsolete.

Police are worried about the possibility of intersection chaos if people
duel over control for lights. But even more fundamentally, the dashboard device may be impossible to detect even from a police car right next to it, and it may be perfectly legal anyway.

"The potential for chaos is enormous," Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said.

The traffic light changer, called the MIRT for mobile infrared transmitter, emits a beam with a 1,500-foot range to a receiver installed at the intersection, which changes the light immediately, allowing an intersection to clear before a fire or rescue truck approaches.

Neat! Doctors, of course, should have this. Actually since the government owns the streets and the lights it can do whatever it wants. But I think this should be like insurance -- if you behave, you get rewarded. Reeeeally good drivers should get this priviledge, for those late night empty street drives, and if they abuse it they lose it.

Or we could approach the ultimate in traffic control -- intersections that tabulate votes from the idling cars. It might be more efficient, if everyone had one and the software was properly written. It has to be better than the intersections in Worcester, timed for rush hour at 10 PM and timed for Senior Citizen's Crosswalk Day every morning at 8 AM.

Or, if it was pricey, it could showcase and simultaneously widen the gap between the haves vs. have-nots. Fastlane doesn't do this because it's so cheap. But I bet people heading to work in South Natick, waiting for the lights to change on 27, would start to resent the Lexuses on Rte 9 heading to their office park, with their traffic control modules and their urgent lifestyle.

Enough rambling! Can tech like this even be stopped when it's for sale already? Like radar detectors, it will become something you use with some benefit and some risk.

UPDATE: On May 3, 2004, I coined the term "grapeshit" -- when occurrances are apeshit in a great way. Spread the word.


... do they oppose the federal do-not-con list?

they just get worse, I tell you.

60 Minutes ran a report on 10/26 about these urban buzz generators, hired by companies not to sell products but just to increase recognition and word-of-mouth. People on the street asking you to take their picture with a glitzy new cameraphone. Or people at starbucks playing a videogame with a new VR controller.

The company gets the word out, the buzzer gets paid, the public sees a cool demo and has a pleasant interaction. What's not to like?

Well, the public's pleasant interaction is a sham. It's like getting hit on by a hot babe, only to find she needs $50 to make you holler. Which is kind of what happened to Spector and me with the Lithuanian vodka buzzer.

The Tipping Point's Malcolm Gladwell thinks once people find out they've been duped, backlash will kill the customer-product relationship. I wonder, though, if people blame the gizmo or the agent?

I think if the buzzer is good enough, and works some honesty in at the end, it might work. Obviously a lot of people hate telemarketers, or mall-salesmen, etc. But if the caller/seller/buzzer is actually fun or entertaining, the sell can turn into a cocktail-party story. It's hard to find actors good enough.

It all comes back to the Lithuanian vodka lady at the bar -- very cute, very seductive, and she gave me a coupon. What's not to like? Yeah, I was out with my friends, but now we had a topic of conversation.

Like all new forms of ads, I guess when the novelty wears off, it's another story. One or two of these subtle sells is an experience -- a dozen a day is a nightmare of false pretenses that could drive civilization to schizophrenia.

I remember thinking spam was quite benign.


... do they oppose the federal do-not-scan list?


I can make more puns, I'm sure.

There was a great article in the 10/26/03 New York Times Magazine that introduced the term, and really showed how far MRI research has come. I knew researchers had moved into the realm of identifying areas of increased brain blood flow during meditation or thinking about romance, but I had no idea the forces of business were pushing MRI into recognizing brand awareness and self-identification.

I guess the truth is that marketing, economics, and politics are all deeply interested in how people make decisions, and so any light that neuroscientists and MRI machines can shed on this process will be pursued. Maybe this isn't NIH-fundable, but if Madison Avenue is picking up the tab, and the results are peer-reviewed, who cares?

Here are some key quotes from the article:

Montague tried to gauge the appeal of Coke's image, its ''brand influence,'' by repeating the experiment with a small variation: this time, he announced which of the sample tastes were Coke. The outcome was remarkable: almost all the subjects said they preferred Coke. What's more, the brain activity of the subjects was now different. There was also activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that scientists say governs high-level cognitive powers. Apparently, the subjects were meditating in a more sophisticated way on the taste of Coke, allowing memories and other impressions of the drink -- in a word, its brand -- to shape their preference.
Pepsi, crucially, couldn't achieve the same effect. When Montague reversed the situation, announcing which tastes were of Pepsi, far fewer of the subjects said they preferred Pepsi. Montague was impressed: he had demonstrated, with a fair degree of neuroscientific precision, the special power of Coke's brand to override our taste buds...

...Joey Reiman is the C.E.O. of BrightHouse, an Atlanta marketing firm, and a founding partner in the BrightHouse Institute; over years of producing marketing concepts for companies like Coca-Cola and Red Lobster, he has come to the conclusion that focus groups are ultimately less about gathering hard data and more about pretending to have concrete justifications for a hugely expensive ad campaign. ''The sad fact is, people tell you what you want to hear, not what they really think,'' he says. ''Sometimes there's a focus-group bully, a loudmouth who's so insistent about his opinion that it influences everyone else. This is not a science; it's a circus.''

Kilts plans to publish the BrightHouse research in an accredited academic journal. He insisted to me that his primary allegiance is to science; BrightHouse's techniques are ''business done in the science method,'' he said, ''not science done in the business method.'' And as he sat at his computer, calling up a 3-D picture of a brain, it was hard not to be struck, at the very least, by the seriousness of his passion. There, on the screen, was the medial prefrontal cortex, juggling our conscious thinking. There was the amygdala, governing our fears, buried deep in the brain. These are sights that he said still inspire in him feelings of wonder. ''When you sit down and you're watching -- for the first time in the history of mankind -- how we process complex primary emotions like anger, it's amazing,'' he said. ''You're like, there, look at that: that's anger, that's pleasure. When you see that roll off the workstation, you never look back.'' You just keep going, it seems, until you hit Madison Avenue.

It's just neat that we're getting better and better at characterizing the physical manifestations of thought. It's been a long time coming. I remember wondering about this when I was in grade school -- could emotions have physical effects? This was before I knew about palpitations, fight-or-flight, anorexia, lie detectors, etc.

Is an MRI lie detector far off? Or MRI psychology? We might build up a library of images to show people in the machine -- how they respond (which brain centers light up) can go on to classify their personality type, their coping mechanisms, etc. Meyers-Briggs and multiple-choice questions look primitive in comparison. Anything that requires people to think and respond is inherently less trustworthy.

How about future school quizzes? You could be shown an image of the Krebs cycle, and if you self-identify with it, that means you've studied biochem long enough and you pass.

The Red Sox Relationship

I think how your view the 2003 Red Sox says a lot about how you view relationships. There were highs and lows, it was a good ride, it didn't have to end like it did, and it would have been great to go all the way.

David Prior says as much on "There was a lot that was good about this year, this series, and this game. It was a lot of fun. My heart was broken yet again but in the end it has been an autumn I will remember fondly for the rest of my life. I'll remember leaping 5 feet in the air as Trot Nixon's homerun cleared the center field wall in game three in the ALDS. I'll remember the ups and downs; how every time it seemed like the Sox were out of it, they came storming back. I'll remember the nightly debates about which bar we were going to watch the game from. And yes, I will remember where I was when Aaron "f-ing" Boone broke my heart... Go ahead and be miserable. As for me, I enjoyed the ride."

But there are people who are devastated, like the Sports Guy's friend Hench, who remarked "I guess I have to think about the good things in my life to get through a time like this."

Obviously, I was shocked when the Sox managed to blow it. And the worst part is knowing, now that the Pats have shown us, just how happy the town would have been if we had beaten the Yankees and won the championship. There will be no spring in my step for a few days, but c'mon people, get over it.

It's like, I'm viewing it as a fling that ended prematurely. Others, I guess, thought this was the One. But maybe my depressed friends are right. After all, they tend to be married, and I tend to be 28 and single.

Disney vs. Thinking

Gregg Easterbrook just got fired from, for some poorly-phrased comments he made in a movie review for the New Republic.

Go figure.

Easterbrook is a Brookings Scholar and a wonderful writer. His wit and clarity of thought on politics, space policy, and football has been of great value to many. Better yet, he's not shilling for any agenda that I can identify, other than the truth. He is persuasive because he approaches topics like a true scholar, and reports on the facts that persuaded him.

You can get more on the circumstances of his dismissal at or his own blog at

He joins Bill Maher as independent thinkers fired by Disney/ABC/ESPN in recent years. Both had a witty, incisive and uncommonly independent voice. Both were actually fired for views that, with a little bit of polish on the delivery, were actually not controversial and quite defensible.

People will quickly compare Easterbrook to ESPN's recent Limbaugh firing, but the better comparison is to Maher. Limbaugh
was out of line, bringing his one-note social commentary into a sports show. Easterbrook's only error was to post an awkwardly-phrased indictment of Miramax and Disney leaders for the violence of Kill Bill, on TNR's website. Not ESPN.

It seems like an overreaction from ESPN, but they're probably conscious of the Limbaugh firing. Still, they're losing a great writer for what even the aggrieved parties are calling a minor gaffe. The principle guiding Disney here seems to be avoid controversy at all costs, even if, in the case of Maher and Easterbrook, there is no bigotry or malevolence behind the comments.

Intelligent, nuanced commentary cannot survive when your boss has one finger on the trap-door button, and another finger looking to see which way the wind is blowing.

Actions like this push blog writers to be more polished and more simplistic in their posts. They may have to take on editors (like Daniel Weintraub at the Sacramento Bee). The immediacy and intimacy of the writing will be replaced with more canned, party-line commentary -- noncontroversial but not particularly insightful. The readers lose.

Passive Radar

Gizmodo reports: "Fascinating article in BusinessWeek about Celldar, a 'passive' radar system that sort of piggybacks on the whole cellphone network to track almost any moving object anywhere. It works by using complex signal-processing software to interpret how signals from cellular base stations bounce off of and interact with boats, planes, cars, and maybe even people, and costs considerably less than traditional radar systems. "

This is news to me. Just making a note of it. More from Business Week:
Celldar's implications are exciting -- but also troubling to some. Even though the technology can't be used to identify cell-phone users, since it "sees" only radio waves echoing off hard surfaces, it and similar approaches are evolving quickly. In addition to Celldar, which is sopping up $1.5 million a year for development, a dozen other passive-radar projects are under way in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. As the technology bears fruit, it should give the world's police and homeland security agencies new tools for monitoring shipments of illegal weapons and drug smuggling operations. Highway officials could gain a detailed window on traffic flows, helping them to minimize congestion. But because passive-radar systems could be cheap enough for hobbyists to buy -- or cobble together themselves -- the technology could also become the next fad among people who own police-radio scanners or who enjoy snooping on their neighbors' comings and goings. late October, radar researchers from around the world will gather in Seattle to discuss recent advances, including passive systems that use FM radio or TV broadcasts instead of cell-phone signals. The invitation-only meeting will be hosted by John D. Sahr, a University of Washington electrical engineer. Since 1997 he has operated a passive-radar system unshrouded by military secrecy. It harnesses an FM station's signals to study particles in the ionosphere -- the top layer of the atmosphere, over 300 miles up. Sahr decided to go with passive radar, he says, "because it's incredibly cheap" -- $20,000 vs. $25 million for a comparable active system. "You could probably do an amateur system for under $5,000," Sahr adds. A system for small airports might cost as little as $15,000. That's important because of the 5,280 public airports in the U.S., only about 300 currently have radar.

STRONG SIGNALS. Lockheed-Martin Corp. (LMT ) is perhaps the best-known passive-radar champion, but others include Avtec Systems, Dynetics, and ONERA, the French counterpart of NASA. Lockheed-Martin's system is dubbed Silent Sentry. Last fall, in a demo for the U.S. Air Force, a third-generation Silent Sentry radar tracked all the air traffic over Washington, D.C., by picking up FM and TV echoes. Because FM and TV transmissions are more powerful than their cell-phone cousins, Silent Sentry can detect planes as far away as 135 miles, roughly 10 times the reach of an individual cell-phone tower.

However, because cell-phone towers are scattered far and wide in many countries, an airborn Celldar system "could covertly monitor a whole country" by flying along its borders, says Lloyd...

Despite Celldar's military potential, Lloyd predicts the first applications will come in the civilian sector. He says transportation officials are eager to use Celldar to monitor road traffic because it would avoid the expense of installing either sensors in roads or TV cameras overhead. And police cars equipped with Celldar could follow a car driven by a suspected crook or terrorist from a safe distance, without danger of being seen.

TRACKING MADE CHEAP. Celldar might also provide an alternative to the global positioning satellite (GPS) systems now being explored by insurance companies and governments for monitoring vehicles. Their goal is to set premiums individually, based on how much and how fast each car or truck is driven -- or to levy a road-use toll determined by the distance a vehicle travels, over which types of roads, and at what times of day. In Ireland, AXA Insurance is testing a GPS gadget called Traksure. It continuously checks a car's speed and location, then compares that data with the local speed limit, obtained from digital maps. But Celldar might do the job more cheaply.

And it might support schemes by Oregon and other states regarding "pay-for-use" road taxes. Many transportation experts assert that taxing actual driving distances would be a more equitable way of funding highway upkeep than today's tax on gasoline and diesel fuels. That's why the European Commission wants every vehicle in Europe to be fitted by 2010 with a black-box device that can be tracked by satellite. Germany is now testing such a system on trucks, and Britain plans to require it on trucks by 2006...

An Ounce of Prevention, a Pound of Nanny-State

Just got back from a WDMS meeting in which the idea of medical errors was expressed commonly as a "can't-happen-to-me" type of problem; the kind of willful ignorance of statistics that so many people use when speeding, when driving unrestrained, unhelmeted...

Trauma really hurts those libertarian notions of freedom uber alles. I choose to speed now, but it's getting harder as the patients keep rolling in. They made the same mistake I do, but statistics caught up with them. Freedom, rah, rah. Risk the family. Risk the insurance. Risk the lifetime of living in a persistent vegetative state.

Bottom line: I could never, ever do it to my family. Getting in an unrestrained accident would pretty much invalidate my parents' existance, rip a hole from here to Sparta, and pretty much guilt-trip any of my surviving brain tissue into ischemia.

Dr. P notes our society is comfortable with a Vietnam-level of trauma casualties EVERY YEAR (50k deaths). Either stop grousing about the youths lost 30 years ago, or start grousing about the lives claimed by the highway lifestyle.

Nader makes so many people crazy because he actually wallows in these numbers and tries to change them. And remember the old pearl that, if you really want to help people, get into preventative medicine... Once you really immerse yourself in that field, can you view the mall, McDonalds, and the roads in between as anything but a toxic affront to your life's mission? Wouldn't you get to be as loopy as Nader?

From Cursors to Arms

The Boston Globe (via WaPo) reports on monkeys moving a robotic arm with their thoughts alone:

The device relies on tiny electrodes, each resembling a wire thinner than a human hair. After removing patches of skull from two monkeys to expose the outer surface of their brains, Nicolelis and his colleagues stuck 96 of those tiny wires about a millimeter deep in one monkey's brain and 320 in the other animal's brain.

...Then came the training, with the monkeys first learning to move the robot arm with a joystick. The arm was kept in a separate room -- "If you put a 50-kilogram robot in front of them, they get very nervous," Nicolelis said -- but the monkeys could track their progress by watching a schematic representation of the arm and its motions on a video screen.

The monkeys quickly learned how to use the joystick to make the arm reach and grasp for objects and how to adjust their grip on the joystick to vary the robotic hand's grip strength. They could see on the monitor when they missed their target or dropped it from having too light a grip, and were rewarded with sips of juice.

While the monkeys trained, a computer tracked the patterns of bioelectrical activity in the animals' brains. The computer figured out that certain patterns amounted to a command to "reach." Others meant "grasp." Gradually, the computer learned to "read" the monkeys' minds.

Then the researchers did something radical: They unplugged the joystick so the robotic arm's movements depended completely on a monkey's brain activity. In effect, the computer that had been studying the animal's neural firing patterns was now serving as an interpreter, decoding the brain signals according to what it had learned from the joystick games and sending the appropriate instructions to the mechanical arm.

At first, Nicolelis said, the monkey kept moving the joystick, not realizing her brain was now solely in charge of the arm's movements. Then, he said, an amazing thing happened.

"We're looking, and she stops moving her arm," he said, "but the cursor keeps playing the game and the robot arm is moving around." The animal was controlling the robot with its thoughts.

..."John P. Donoghue, a neuroscientist at Brown University developing a similar system, said paralyzed patients would be the first to benefit by gaining an ability to type and communicate on the Internet, but the list of potential applications is endless, he said. The devices might allow quadriplegics to move limbs again by sending signals from the brain to various muscles, leaping over the severed nerves that caused their paralysis.
'Once you have an output signal out of the brain that you can interpret, the possibilities of what you can do with those signals are immense,' said Donoghue, who cofounded a Foxborough-based company, Cyberkinetics Inc., to capitalize on the technology."

It really seems that neuro has the most exciting advances right now. Every other field is serving up incremental improvements, next-generation drugs, etc. This neuro stuff -- the TMS, these cyberkinetic implants -- is not just about extending life or even restoring function, but potentially expanding the realm of human ability.

Scary / cool

Gizmodo GPS tracking reports keep coming:
"There's a new service for GPS-enabled cellphones called uLocate that makes it possible to easily keep tabs on your friends and family, allowing you to see their exact location on a map, 24 hours a day; review everywhere they've gone throughout the day; and set up and automatic alert if the person goes outside of a pre-defined area. Right now uLocate only works with a few select Motorola phones and Nextel's Total Connect cellular service, but support for more phones and carriers is in the works."

Yeah, this is every teenager's nightmare. But the thing is, it's also pretty cool. I think I'd let some friends track me, at least while it's still novel. They'd see nothing but trips back and forth from my apartment to the hospital. Every now and then they'd see a late-night dunkin' donuts run.

I guess if you were trying to go somewhere sneaky, you could always turn the phone off to travel unwatched. When I first got my phone, I tried to keep it off most of the time, only using it to originate calls when necessary. This was mostly a $ consideration, but gradually I was impressed with the convenience and connectivity -- now it's always-on. But it might be necessary to return to the days when we weren't always reachable...

Maybe people will start getting two phones, one to turn off when their spouses are tracking them, and one with which to call their secret fling on the side.

Has this happened before? Has a product become so successful, so laden with features, that it actually became an intrusive burden? Maybe television fits this bill.

Besides cells, the other big communication avenues -- landlines and mail, never became so clogged with unsolicited communication that people stopped using them. With email, the jury's still out. I can imagine some kids are forbidden from getting accounts because of x-rated spam, and I imagine many newbie adults are turned off by the whole thing, too.

The Smart Vote

V reminded me about Doogie Howser's end-of-episode musings on his computer (in the MS-DOS editor, if I recall). No, this is not supposed to be like those short, naive-but-wise encapsulations of the episode's events. These are naive-but-uninformed. And not so short, either. With a tendency to ramble.

An example (two, actually) of what I'm going for is below. This isn't much like a personal diary as it is a writer's notebook. Half-baked notions and streams of consciousness that could someday, schedule permitting, make it into a 700-word op-ed. It's an exercise in developing a voice, keeping current, and get faster/better at jotting commentary. It's really not meant for public consumption, which is why it's not advertised on Blogger's directory. But the web address is still accessible from anywhere, so I don't put anything about my friends or family on it.

Andrew Sullivan nails down a phenomenon I had only recently observed:

Fantastic quote from a "feminist" activist at the anti-Arnold rally yesterday. Film producer and Codepink activist Patricia Foulkrod explained why she was so fervently pro-Clinton and so outraged by Arnold:
"The difference is that Clinton was so brilliant... If Arnold was a brilliant pol and had this thing about inappropriate behavior, we'd figure a way of getting around it. I think it's to our detriment to go on too much about the groping. But it's our way in. This is really about the GOP trying to take California in 2004 and our trying to stop it."
Ah. The principles of liberalism today. I'm constantly amazed at how so many of the new class left believe that intelligence is the supreme human virtue. I guess this is because being smart has been their own ticket to power, wealth, etc. If I had a dollar for every liberal friend who couldn't vote for Bush because he's so "dumb", I'd be as rich as Terry McAuliffe. And during the Clark boomlet, I kept hearing, "But he's so smart." As if that were a sufficient argument for electing a president. And then when you ask the same liberals if they approve of intelligence testing or whether people sould get into college on the basis of test scores, they look horrified. Go figure.

I first noticed this over the summer, when a far-left buddy got drunk and privately mused that people who don't read the NYTimes (or at least their local paper) shouldn't be allowed to vote. Or their votes shouldn't count as much. Or they should pass some kind of quiz first.

The point was, he wanted extra power because of something he does in his (ample) free time. It never occurred to him that some people don't need to know the latest CPI numbers to vote their conscience, or may not have the time or money for news commentary. And the hubris of a government-subsidized student, who takes out far more than he puts in, advocating that his vote should count for more than an overworked middle-class taxpayer -- well, that was lost on him.

I do wonder, though, if the Left would hate Bush as much if he were articulate or well-read. His advisors -- Rice, Powell, Cheney, Rumsfeld -- are all perceived as extremely smart but tained for serving a jock-type. If any of them had been in charge from the get-go, would their be such vitriol against the war?

Maybe not.

I'm just glad that no one in my clerkships so far has advocated anything less than the standard-of-care (equal treatment) for even the most abusive, self-destructive patients. I know it probably comes up occasionally, but I have yet to observe it.

And Wanda, Doogie's girlfriend -- what a voice she had.

Tracking News

Gizmodo reports: "It's a little disturbing, but next year Coca-Cola is planning to give prizes to people who buy special cans of Coke by tracking them down using GPS tags embedded in the cans and bottles and presenting them with prizes including a Hummer H2 and one million dollars in gold."

And the Las Vegas Sun reports:
TOKYO (AP) - Stunned by the kidnapping of a teenage girl, a rural Japanese city plans to use a satellite-linked tracking system to help parents find their children. The northern city of Murakami has asked two security companies to provide the service for the families of 2,700 elementary and junior high school students, said Kenkichi Kimura, an official on the city's Board of Education.

The abduction of a 15-year-old girl last month prompted the program. A 26-year-old man took the teenager to his home on a nearby island, where she was rescued 11 days later. With the new service, students will carry devices that will send out signals allowing their parents to pinpoint where they are through a Web site on the Internet, Kimura said Thursday.

It will use a combination of technologies provided by mobile phone companies and the Global Positioning System, a U.S. satellite navigation service used by everyone from hikers to ship captains. The device also will be equipped with a button that can be pushed to call for help.

"If you are in a big city, people will come to help if you call for help," Kimura said. "But here, students walk to school in the mountains and rice fields. We need the latest device." The city will pay a small part of the fee for the device. An anti-crime buzzer not linked to a security service will also be offered. Kimura said he believed Murakami would be the first community in Japan to offer a citywide anti-crime service for children. If approved by the city assembly, the service could be in place by year's end.

I guess I should just keep a running tally of these stories. Two things are happening at once: the satellite receivers are getting smaller (now SD sized) and receiver-transmitters are coming out, sending the GPS data over wifi, phone, or radio frequencies.

This tech is more impressive than the current receive-and-log stuff out there now, in which a snoop would have to confiscate and review your GPS location log to know where you've been. The new stuff enables remote monitoring, in short.

What will this change? Maybe not too much. My hospital uses pagers extensively, for instance, and I can't see that proven 10- to 15-year old technology giving way to fancy GPS transceivers (which won't work as well indoors regardless (unless cell signals are used to augment)). I see this new GPS stuff working well for truckers, taxi dispatchers, delivery people, cops... maybe farmers and warehouses. And the military, natch.

Right now people-controllers need to call up their far-flung people, ask where they are, and coordinate movements. GPS s/r will let computers give orders to coordinate more complex movements, and faster. OK, so what else? When they get cheap enough, GPS s/r will let computers track non-human things, like the aforementioned coke bottles and really any product. Would Home Despot like to know if their hardware ends up in a suburban garage or an industrial site? Would LL Bean like to know how many of their backpacks hike the AT?

Eh. Maybe these companies would like that info, but not at great cost. Maybe a decade from now. The real cash cow -- I keep coming back to this -- is tracking people in malls and sending ads to their phones. This can't be more than a few years away, and will pay for itself quickly.

Also -- and there are crude variations on this right now from AT&T and some dating services -- you can subscribe to be notified when you walk by someone with similar interests. Scorpios, say, or Bjork stalkers. You get the signal, look around, and decide if you want to meet the similarly-inclined person within 20 feet. That might be cheaper to implement than the GPSpam concept, but not as lucrative.