Lost Packets: Networking news and trivia

Speedy drive-thru makes fast food faster

In order to speed up the drive-thru experience, fast food chains like McDonald’s Corp. are experimenting at some stores with the use of a central call centre to take drive-thru orders. The reason behind this plan is to ensure order accuracy and help in areas where employees have limited English skills. Technology is also playing a role in speeding up the drive-thru process through the use of digital menus, touch-screen computers for order-taking and confirmation screens that display orders back to customers, so corrections can be made before pulling up to the window. Some chains are using a computer system that tells managers how much food they need to prepare by counting the vehicles in line. The intent is to cut down waste from leftovers.

GPS puts car chases on the back burner

The car chase captial of the world has gone high tech to end these dangerous pursuits. The Los Angeles police department will be using adhesive darts with a global positioning system (GPS) that are fired at fleeing cars. Once fired from a patrol car, the GPS dart, resembling a golf ball, is designed to stick to the fleeing vehicle, allowing police to back off from the chase. The technology, called the StarChase system, would allow police to narrow in on a car’s location instead of police pursuing it at 80 miles an hour. In the past, critics have questioned the point of police pursuits, as they can often endanger the lives of bystanders and officers.

Meet your new receptionist — Hello Kitty

Need temporary help on your company’s reception desk? For about US$430 a month you can hire Hello Kitty Robo, a robotic receptionist. She can sense the presence of visitors, welcome them and can hold simple conversations, but she can’t fetch a cup of coffee. Developed by Business Design Laboratory Co. Ltd., Hello Kitty Robo can also express various feelings by either moving her head or arms. As well, depending on the content of conversations, her whiskers can express emotions such as joy, sorrow and delight by flickering in different colours. Hello Kitty Robo joins a long line of other service robots such as Ifbot, an elderly-care robot that chats and poses riddles to train the brain and help avoid dementia. It also quizzes people about their health. On average it would cost about US$2,500 a month for a human to do this type of work.

Cell phones sing to soapy tunes

CBS television network is developing a soap opera, titled “Hey, It’s Me,” that will be exclusive to cell phones. Called mobisoaps, these daily three- to five-minute broadcasts will have their own dedicated cast, writers and production staff. The soap is CBS’s attempt to move into the wireless communications space and meet increased demand in creating video content for mobile phones. CBS isn’t the first broadcast network to offer mobisoaps. Fox created one-minute episodes based on the series “24” called “24: Conspiracy.” These episodes were available on Verizon’s high-speed wireless network. CBS also has a content deal with Verizon Wireless’s Vcast to provide clips from shows like “CSI” and “Letterman” for cell phones.

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