News Stories

There's a Spy in Granny's Slippers

Engineers who work for giant telecommunications companies or small start-ups are inventing products that can send messages--from a diaper that lets parents know their baby needs changing, to slippers that can tell when your grandmother might be about to fall down and break her hip. Finnish engineer Jari Arkko connected his house to a wireless network so he can get updates on his computer or cell phone when the front door opens, the laundry is dry or his toast pops up. It took him only 20 minutes to connect his toaster to Facebook.

When it comes to wireless connections, your cell phone isn't enough. In the Wall Street Journal, Shayndi Raice quotes A T & T's Glenn Lurie as saying, "From our perspective, we don't think anything is off limits." AT&T is running is selling "SmartSlippers," which are aimed at the elderly. They will cost about $100, along with a cellular plan for $25 a month that allows the slippers to send messages to your cell phone, so you know when Mom is in trouble. If the wearer gets wobbly, an "accelerometer" in the sole will sense trouble, and the slipper will then send a text over the carrier's network to a family member or the wearer's physician. Raice quotes inventor David Schieffelin as saying, "Think of what can be gathered just off your feet. Why shouldn't something as innocuous as a data device be placed into fuzzy slippers?"

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