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March 02. 2014 10:33PM

Shintaro 'Sam' Asano: Revisiting texting while driving, Bitcoin


 


 

OVER THE last two weeks I introduced three different schemes to prevent texting while driving. One is through hand positions of the driver on the steering wheel. The second one uses a special app for iPhone communicating with a dashboard device to inhibit texting.

The last scheme was mine, and it requires a modification to the automobile as well as writing a special app for smart phones. This scheme is a longshot, and it may never happen unless a governmental body such as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopts it. One undisputable strength of this scheme is that it is fail-safe, and the system cannot be bypassed by any means by the driver.

In short, there is an infrared beam shaped like a wide shower that covers the driver's area fully. The beam is transmitted from multiple LED elements hidden behind the car's headliner above the driver's seat. The beam radiates behind the headliner, and the driver cannot stop the beam by covering the headliner.

As in FIG 1, the infrared beam can have a signal superimposed on it. The infrared beam can be modulated to incorporate various messages to control the cell phone features. The purpose of the infrared beam is to stop the driver's cellphone from functioning. However, imbedded signal in the infrared shower can carry control commands to the driver's cellphone such as totally disabling texting while driving and all phone traffic, accepting incoming phone calls, and other multitude of combinations.

Meanwhile, other passengers on three other seats, one passenger in the front seat, two (or three) passengers in the rear seat, and optionally two or three passengers on the third seat are unaffected from the control via infrared shower. These passengers can use their own cellphones, voice or text or even the Internet access regardless of the speed of the car.

FIG 2 shows the subsystem built in the cell phone. This is a new app that needs to be written. Its function is to receive the infrared signal from the headliner, interpret it, and follow the instruction accordingly. Because the cell phones must be built with multiple receptors of infrared spectrum to have space diversity, some physical alteration is necessary. This is because drivers may wish to cover the infrared receptor so the cell phone could not be disabled. To prevent it, there has to be a multiple number of infrared receptors on the surface of the cellphone. This design change has to be forced upon the cell phone manufacturers, and thus a longshot unless required by the federal government.

When the subsystem of infrared signal emission and the subsystem of infrared reception at the cellphone are built and become functional, this system of texting while driving prevention will be pretty much the fail-safe system. Drivers will not be able to cheat the system.

FIG 2 shows the entire system. The infrared emission section built in the car and controlled by the command box, and the cellphone receptor built-in with modified cellphone. Ideally these subsystems will be standardized and mandated by the government. If this system becomes accepted and used nationwide, there will be at least a 5,000 reduction in highway deaths per year.

Bitcoin revisited

A major upheaval is happening in the world of Bitcoin. The virtual currency's largest and the most influential exchange, Mt. Gox in Tokyo, has stopped its function of being an exchange. People who had invested in Bitcoin cannot get their money back.
 
Bitcoin is not backed by any solid asset, such as gold, and belongs to a group of nationless currencies. There have been more than 70 such currencies in the short timespan from the onset of the Internet. The brilliant economist Friedrich Hayek (Austro-Hungarian economist, Nobel Award recipient, 1899 to 1992) originally proposed the concept of a borderless truly international monetary system. His theory was based on his dislike of currency systems based on nationality. He wanted currency systems to be truly free from any political boundaries. Many people of high ranking positions in the economically powerful nations seem to favor the concept. Only recently Germany's Bundesbank has indicated that it approves the use of Bitcoin, while ex-U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke expressed his favorable feeling toward it.It is difficult to make such systems function with stability. Bitcoin was born in the thinking environment of many economic scholars who held the idealistic and conceptual viewpoint of borderless currency with which the entire world can trade. Twenty years ago, the Internet became reality, making a borderless currency more of a possibility. Many bright mathematicians and computer programmers started to work on the idea. Out of many proposals Bitcoin succeeded to being a significant currency. It consists of highly secure cryptographic program spread out among many computers. Each entrant has a computing power, and any new trade goes through a multi-digit cryptographic key so that it is impossible for any hacker to observe. They thought the system will be perpetually safe from any errant deed such as hacking.
 
It seems that the scheme has somehow been hacked by a group of very skilled hackers. Roughly $300 million worth of Bitcoin have been missing, and Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy. No investor will get any refund.

It is too bad that Bitcoin seems to have been incapacitated. I am not sure it can regain its prominence in the near future. Its weakness must have been its over reliance on computers.

In other words, all computers are hackable.

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Shintaro "Sam" Asano of New Castle, who speaks and writes English as a second language, was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century who improved our life. He is a businessman and an inventor in the field of electronics and mechanical systems, who is credited as the original inventor of today's portable fax machine. He also developed a data tablet used in the retail point of sale to capture customer signatures when credit cards are used. Write to him at sasano@gmail.com.


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