Wednesday, June 04, 2003

The Mobile Menace

Reducing traffic congestion by monitoring the location of cellphone users on the road, a cellphone that monitors heartbeat and blood pressure and another that has a projector to project web pages onto large screens - these are some of the new patents issued for cellphone-related inventions recently, as reported in the New York Times and highlighted by Smart Mobs author, Horward Rheingold in his blog.

One of the inventions mentioned, which ironically, I think is the most useful and important one, is a system that is able to cut off signals to mobile devices such as cellphones and pagers. This would be extremely useful for restaurants and theatres who have a headache persuading their patrons to switch of their noisy devices. For some reason people seem very reluctant to do so.

It is common nowadays to see people shamelessly answering cellphone calls during meetings and even while doing presentations. Cellphones have become the backdoor to get hold of people who under normal circumstances would be quite inaccessible. In the old days secretaries would think twice before knocking apologetically on the door to interrupt a meeting; and it had better be something important. But these days it seems that even one's babysitter has a right to trigger an eruption of the Ketchup song in the middle of a million-dollar deal negotiation.

It is therefore timely indeed to have a system that could cut off signals to all these irritating mobile devices whenever necessary. People need to realise that not all calls are important and warrant the same attention. It is alright to switch off the phone. OK, OK. Maybe I can accept a system that sends out SMS warnings to everyone first before cutting off the signal.

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