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You Won't Believe How These People Are Texting

You Won't Believe How These People are Texting
Most of us know texting's being used for just about everything these days, but some of the new ways texting is being applied to our lives still manage to surprise us. For instance, have you ever twirled a piece of hair to send a text, or brushed away a rogue strand to take pictures on your cell phone? Or imagined one day dairy cows might text their farmers to let them know how they're doing? Neither had we, but new technologies have allowed these seeming absurdities, and more, to become realities.

One strange way SMS has been used is to improve household items we might view as inherently simple and mundane. Rentokil, a pest control company, has developed a high-tech mouse trap called RADAR complete with texting capabilities. RADAR attracts rodents with infrared lights, uses sensors to measure and deliver an appropriate amount of carbon dioxide gas (which Rentokil assures causes rats both a "quick and humane" death), and texts the resident of the home under pest-siege when the deed is done, sparing them anxious waiting and fruitless treks to check empty mousetraps.

As advanced as RADAR may be, the prospect of tech-savvy hair extensions really makes us feel like we're living in the future. Beauty tech designer Katia Vega, the creator of several beauty technologies including conductive makeup, chemical eyelashes, and tech-enabled false nails, teamed up with Marcio Cunha to create a wearable product that can allow the wearer to subtly command their phone without ever touching the device. The result is Hairware, a promising new cell phone technology bearing the tagline, "the conscious use of unconscious auto-contact behaviors."

Hairware extensions look like regular hair extensions, but have been chemically metalized to allow them to conduct electricity. The touch-sensitive extensions allow their wearer to touch the extensions in various places, something many do unconsciously to their natural hair, and these different touches are translated into commands for the wearer's cell phone, such as texting, recording, or taking pictures. While the technology might seem silly or trivial, its uses can range from practical to important. Wearers may record important information at a meeting, copy PowerPoint slides photographically, or text a friend on a first date to ensure their safety without ever taking out their phones.

While these applications of texting are far from conventional, the use of SMS to advance our personal lives isn't exactly shocking. However, some of the organizations that are embracing texting as a medium have surprised us, and presented promising, if bizarre, new ways to use texting to the advantage of many.

While complaints that ease and accessibility of voting are diminished pile up in the U.S., Switzerland has taken an innovative approach to this problem across the pond. In the Swiss town of Bulach, the local government introduced a tech-friendly option in a 2005 election on local speed limit measures. For this election, voters were offered the option to vote by SMS, and those who opted in were mailed a user ID and PIN to use when texting in their vote.

While previous experiments with vote by SMS in the U.K. were written off as not significantly beneficial, the Swiss government continued to consider the promise of SMS voting, and ways the medium might be improved and made more secure. Regardless of the conclusions of these governments at the time, these forays into texting to vote create an interesting precedent, particularly for a time a full decade later when cell phones enjoy even greater popularity and wider used.

Perhaps more surprising than the government's embracing texting is the application of SMS to religion. But, you guessed it, it's been done. Placing a note bearing a prayer or request in the Western Wall in Jerusalem is an old and significant Jewish tradition, but one that is not possible for everyone. While a handful of services have allowed people to send prayers via email that a Rabbi would then print and place in the wall, a new program called SMS2Wall offers the same service with the convenience and increased access of letting users send their messages and prayers via text. Much as we tend not to associate texting with worship, programs like SMS2Wall use texting to make religion more accessible.

Another group to begin to embrace texting is farmers-- and their cows. New technology that sends texts containing data from cows holds great promise for the farmers who provide us with our dairy. Born from robotic milking machines that could call the farmer when the device wasn't working, SMS technology in dairy farming has come a long way; updates not only on the status of milking machinery but on data like milk yield can be texted to farmers as it becomes available, or at certain intervals the farmer has designated for receiving update.

SMS technology is also being used to keep tabs on cows when they are not being milked. Special collars gather specific, detailed information for each cow and texts the data to farmers, so that farmers can keep tabs on a cow's activity, location, health, and its normal routine and any deviations from it. While relatively few farms use this technology at present, numbering no more than 200, more and more farmers are likely to deem the data it offers worthy of a text as the technology becomes more refined.

Do you feel like you're in the future yet? We sure do. With text messaging being used to do seemingly anything and everything, right now is an exciting time to work with SMS technology.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net


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