Seeking localizer refs

Michael Wiik (
Fri, 28 May 1999 12:01:29 -0400

Pardon my ignorance, my first exposure to localizers was in Vinge's _Deepness in the Sky_. Recently Bruce Sterling (via his Viridian Green list, not terribly extropic) posted a speech he made at SIGCHI 99 about future household localizers. Here's an excerpt:


This idea is probably best filed under the grand conceptual heading of "tangible cyberspace," i.e., the process in which the products, programs, and innate nature of virtuality spill out of the computer screen and infect the physical world.

People used to talk about "wiring the home." This is old-fashioned rhetoric now. Turn the term inside out, and it becomes "sheltering your network." It all becomes clear if you postulate that the net always comes first. My physical possessions are an aspect of the net.

Today, right now, if you objectively compare my virtual possessions to my actual possessions, it rapidly becomes obvious that my actual possessions are violently out of control. I have all kinds of searching and cataloging devices and services for my desktop machine, and for the Internet. But I've been known to hunt for my socks or my car keys for almost an hour.

My house is an awful mess, because my actual possessions are very stupid. They don't know what they are, they don't know where they are, and they don't know where they belong.

All this could change with a small, cheap, network peripheral which is, I believe, just barely over the technical horizon. The device I imagine is very similar to a common antitheft device, but much smarter. We could call it a "tab," or a "localizer," or a "locator ID tag."

I imagine this locator ID tag having about a hundred k of memory and costing about ten cents. It probably runs on household temperature fluctuations. Its primary activity is to emit a unique radio chirp every two seconds or so. This chirp is triangulated by a network of receivers in my house and my lawn. Basically, the chip says, "I'm what I am, and here's where I am," in other words, "I am Bruce Sterling's left cowboy boot, and here I am under the couch where the cat dragged me."

Fine, you think: you're tagging everything you own, how anal and geeky of you. No, that's not how this works. I'm way too lazy to work that hard. Instead, I pay a professional interior designer to come in and tag everything for me. I pay this guy (most likely she's a very smart woman actually), to catalog and tag everything I own, and put it where it sensibly belongs == and record that data, and embed it in my system for me.

Now I know nothing, but my house knows where all my stuff is. My possessions know what they are, and where they belong. Unskilled labor can enter my home, and restore everything to perfect order in maybe an hour.

And of course no one can steal any of it, because it's all security tagged, automatically.

Searching the web produced no useful hits on localizers. I would appreciate any references. I'm also interested in the intersection of localizer tech, nanofog, and, (as per _Deepness_), the idea of ubiquitous law enforcement, where (paraphrase) 'every object becomes a governing device'.



Michael Wiik
Messagenet Communications Research
Washington DC Area Internet and WWW Consultants