Hardware requirements of the Consumerium project
Hardware requirements arise from several functions in the network. Read Consumerium Service access for the full range of access requirements.
- Requirements of consumer terminal, typically a worn device
- Friendly retail infrastructure's requirements, e.g. retail shelf, checkout counter
- Computer hardware requirements of the Consumerium server software.
- low-volume product ad product
- additional hardware that could be integrated
We'll describe each case in detail. Note Consumerium maintenance must deal with keeping all this junk running, so the less of it there is, the better!
 Consumer's terminal device(s)
Consumer's terminal is usually a worn device carried in the consumers pocket or hand bag. It might be a PDA with suitable wireless networking ability but is more likely a cell phone with a headset attached. All serious cell phones have a headset jack. This should be the minimum required hardware. There is also potential to use a walkman style FM radio receiver to deliver the Consumerium buying signal in some cases. This is optimal as no ewaste is created by "requiring" advanced devices.
However, we might assume that these existing delivery devices will not satisfy all Consumerium Service access requirements, e.g. for mobile purchasing agents applying institutional buying criteria. It might further be assumed that markets will direct development into such a state that in approximately the year 2005 there will be on the mass market a mobile phone that offers the following features:
- The headset (of course)
- Short-range wireless network technology built-in. Our presumption is that this technology is Bluetooth(tm). Bluetooth v1.1 can network devices without revealing the device's identity (BD_ADDR in the case of Bluetooth)�to other parties. This anonymity is an unconditional requirement for a networking technology suitable for Consumerium because if the user's identity or his/her terminal's identity were to be exposed to the merchant, it would be possible to gather data about the consumer's behaviour and tastes without his/her permission and knowledge, and to utilize this data in target marketing or pricing.� This would help retail management and brand management, but at too high a price for the consumer privacy in our view. There is usually some privacy risk with new networking technology.
- A programming environment that is open to developers, so that Consumerium's Consumer Agent or one component of it can be installed on the phone to fully participate in a healthy buying infrastructure and possibly later a more general healthy signal infrastructure. The w:J2ME platform based on Java seems at first glance to have all the right features on paper, but Python is also now gaining a broad support among phone manufacturers. It is reported by Nokia that 11 lines of Python can replace 1000 lines of C++. Perhaps however this is very good Python and very bad C++?
The features described above are the only features that would enhance the consumer terminal. To enhance the usability of the system, consider:
- A built-in digital camera, e.g. as on the Nokia 7650 and 3650 models, with VGA resolution cameras. The focusing and resolution properties of the phones were maybe just a little bit too poor that one could use the pictures to barcode scan the numerical representation of EAN-codes (barcodes). But it came very close, so hopes are high that OCRing the code will be possible in the near future. OCR could alternatively be done from retail shelf tags, which usually contain the product name in a fairly big font with uniform typeface. Also using image recognition of the packaging graphics, e.g. for brand logos and standard labels may be possible.
- Update: There is now available an additional lense package (CC-49) for Nokia 3650 that snaps in place of the rear cover offering lenses for focusing to 10 and 5 centimeter distances in addition to the standard 30cm to infinity focusing, which would be just the thing. Unfortunately the Nokia models don't enable TCP/IP traffic over Bluetooth - it is quite common to find such limits built into phones as part of a planned obsolescence strategy. One of the more important Consumerium goals is to avoid such junk to cut e-waste.
- The device could have within it a general purpose scanner. This could be used to read the bar-code or the numeric representation directly. The usefulness of having a small (4-5mm width) general purpose scanner embedded in your phone is apparrent:
- Scanning business cards or frequent buyer cards
- Scanning the telephone book
- Making a quick note of a newspaper article or just-off-the-press quaterly report
- Storing open hours, addresses, contact info from adverts
- With advanced enough reading techonology the scanner could be adapted to read straight off a CRT or TFT display
- The device could have a dedicated barcode scanner - ideal for Consumerium usability at point of sale. It would boost speed and precision of using Consumerium and possibly other healthy signal infrastructure services.
However this doesn't seem one of the likeliest gadgets to be integrated into a mobile phone, unless Consumerium Service access on the move becomes itself a major selling feature. So, it's more likely to be an adjunct device such as:
- The Bluetooth barcode scanners with CCD and Laser reading which are available from the folks that brought out the First Ever Bluetooth Barcode Scanner, The Baracoda Pencil, by Baracoda Wireless Technologies, which will play a major role in the ease-of-use of Consumerium.
- Adaptation of Near Field Communication Technology is of very high interest in making product identification a snap by embedding NFC-devices into the shelf.
- There are reports saying that RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) might be surpassing bar codes even in retail stores as a means of product identification. In such a case an integrated w:transceiver would be optimal.
 Friendly retail store's infrastructure's requirements
A store that wishes to support Consumerium Services directly, e.g. seeking a strategic advantage like the Big Carrot or equivalents in other cities, must provide some hardware in order to start providing the Consumerium-service to their clients. This might include a very low overhead in-store radio system to carry what amount to positive advertising for desirable green light products. Or, it might be a higher tech solution:
- Wireless network (Bluetooth), so that consumers can connect to the system with their terminals.
- Internet access, so that information can be fetched from outside of the store's own datasystem and to deliever the consumer's feedback to the producers.
- Consumerium server software that contain the data about products sold in the store. To save costs it makes sense that retail chains place the data about products that are sold in all stores on it's central servers and then cache the data onto the store servers whenever it's requested.
- One possibility for providing the needed core-servers for the system, is to require in the software-license that the retail chains that wish to provide Consumerium-service to their clients must provide a certain amount of host and network capacity (to store, process and transfer information that is not in the store's servers) This capacity could be bound to eg. the amount of floor space, parking lots or customers in the store, or some other scheme specified in the Consumerium License. Optional hardware for the stores might include:
- Mounted Bluetooth keyboards so that consumers can better send feedback and otherwise interact with the system.
 Requirements of the Consumerium-information system
- Servers that contain the data inserted into the system and references to documents (external docoments) outside of databases, scattered around the Internet and of course network connections for the servers.
- Software to integrate with the servers will be assembled from other open source projects. What doesn't exist already will be coded by the project-team.
At this early stage it is unclear how we will arrange the needed hosts, network connections and software. This costs money, so sources of financing are needed, see healthy signal infrastructure for how that might be managed, especially the self-funding requirement.
If hosts are personal computers running OpenNIC then they will be cheap, interchangeable, and be able to read data sources banned by The Empire. If the Empire tears one up, the data can move to another one. This is probably part of Distributed Consumerium, a later phase of the project.
 low-volume-product video advertisement production
- A DV camera
- A computer with video editing software or professional DV edit station
- Video Encoder for the formats supported by consumers terminal
 Other Hardware that could be integrated
- Skannerz Have you perhaps seen adverts for this toy called "Skannerz". The basic idea is to scan barcodes from products that translate to some kind of monsters and then you connect your toys to each other and fight with the monsters ... or something. It'd be interesting to know what these gadgets cost. Sold in Walmart, K-mart and some other stores.
- Search for "Translator Pen" on Google turned up the following http://www.tvdate.com/translator/qt/ for about 168$/piece. I've seen these advertised on TV-shopping channel quite sometime ago but somehow failed to mention these. Contains Scanner, OCR, Display, Memory, Processor, Data and Some UI and of these the only thing not in Mobile Phones at the moment is the Scanner.