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Editorial pointers

Editorial Pointers

Last month we featured a series of articles on technology that tracks and records where you go and what you do online. This month the focus is technology that can track where you go and what you do in the real world, including what you ate, what you purchased, what you're wearing, and where you are at any given moment. In fact, it can track anything, anytime, anywhere.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is overtaking the once-innocuous bar code as the most efficient object- (and eventually people-) tracking technology—and extends that capability to ubiquitous platforms as beneficial to business as they are potentially scary to consumers. A tiny silicon chip, or tag, holds a unique ID number or tracking information for whatever object it is attached to or embedded in; be it a human finger, a library book, a warehouse pallet, a carton of milk, or the cow it came from.

Guest Editor Gaetano Borriello points out this collection of articles does not examine RFID in terms of its use in supply chain management, acknowledging no shortage of literature on that topic. The authors, rather, explore what may happen as the process of tagging the world intensifies; as RFID tags, readers, and databases storing information from sensor-based networks become commonplace. The articles cover an array of emerging RFID options, including the uses of and challenges in building systems, collecting data from sensor-based networks, personal privacy, data security, and what retailers, consumers, manufacturers, sensor network researchers, and technologists must consider as we move toward a world where literally anything (and everyone) is traceable.

Also this month, Shah and Kesan illustrate how software products are inherently influenced by the institutions that developed them. Jiang et al. introduce applications for multimedia-based interactive advising (MIA) technology to improve consumers' choices. Hai Zhuge offers a detailed account of the creation of a cooperative research and management environment for public health inspired by China's SARS epidemic. And Wood and Ow present an SQL extension that joins corporate databases to information on any corporate or external Web site.

Planning a software project is always fraught with the unexpected. In "The Business of Software," Phillip Armour wonders if it might be more effective to create two plans instead of one. In "Staying Connected," Meg McGinity Shannon examines the benefits (and dangers) posed by the potential of nanotechnology. Anthony Gorry offers a "Technical Opinion," that technology alone cannot create knowledge-sharing communities. And David Patterson's "President's Letter" laments the public's inaccurate perception of computer science and asks IT professionals and educators—particularly pre-college teachers—to rally the next generation to the field.

Diane Crawford

©2005 ACM  0001-0782/05/0900  $5.00

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The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2005 ACM, Inc.


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