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Location, location, location

Here’s yet more evidence that the next big wave in technology is going to be mobile devices that know where they are — and deliver information based on it. As the New York Times reported in a story yesterday, a slew of patents have recently been granted for location-based tools. Specifically:

An Israeli inventor in Jerusalem has won a patent for using cellphone signals to determine where people are driving in their cars so traffic signals can be timed to reduce congestion. David Myr has invented a system that gathers location information from cellphone signals and uses mathematical formulas to calculate the travel times of those phones’ owners as they drive along roads, through intersections, around corners and while waiting at lights. Those times can then be used to adjust traffic signals to ease vehicle flow. Mr. Myr received patent 6,539,300.

Another inventor working on behalf of I.B.M. has won a patent for using cellphone signals to alert drivers of the speed limit on the roads they are using. Faisal M. Awada’s invention uses a Global Positioning System receiver to detect a cellphone location. It then looks up the speed limit for that location in a database. The legal speed limit is transmitted to the car driver via his cellphone speaker or display. The system can also compare the speed limit to the driver’s actual speed, and set off a warning if the driver is speeding. Mr. Awada, of Round Rock, Tex., won patent 6,515,596.

And dig this: Another guy won a patent for a phone — pictured above — that detects your heartbeat and blood pressure and communicates it to your doctor!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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