Back to School: Technology Advancements Offer Smart Start

Contributed by Mike Stanley

Originally posted on Freescale’s Smart Mobile Devices Embedded Beat Blog

Most kids heading back to school this month in the U.S. are returning to an environment far different than the one I had growing up in the 60s and 70s in the “hollers” of southern Indiana. Back then, our parents didn’t worry when we disappeared for hours on end, exploring the woods and streams for miles in every direction. Today’s next generation is under a bit more scrutiny.

Having trouble keeping track of your small children at the park or ballgame? Outfit them with a wireless tag and yourself with a child locator from Brick House Security. The unit will alert you if they stray too far, and its guidance features will steer you right back to your wayward offspring. Need to keep track of your teenage driver? Brick House has a product for that too. Just put one of their Spark Nano Real-Time GPS Tracking Devices in your car’s glove box. You can track them in real time on the internet, or get email alerts when they leave designated areas. You can even outfit the family dog with a DC 30 GPS Dog Tracking Collar from Garmin. Within a 7 mile range, you can ensure that Fido finds his way home again.

Do you have athletes at home? Worry about their well-being? There are now football helmets outfitted with sensors to record the direction and magnitude of impacts on the field. Data can be downloaded wirelessly to a PC during or after the game. If you live in the Arizona desert like I do, you may be more concerned about heat stroke. The H.O.T. (Heat Observation Technology) system by hothead sports allows a player’s body heat to be monitored in real time, allowing the player to be pulled from a game before things get too hot.

That old wooden desk that you grew up with just doesn’t cut it anymore. The classroom desktop is evolving into an intelligent display with multi-touch capability. Check out the Smart Table interactive learning center from SMART Technologies for an example.

I lugged around a notebook and bulky cassette recorder to some of my college lectures. Today’s student can use an iVistaTablet to capture scribbled notes, automatically creating an electronic record with links to an audio recording of that boring stats or biology lecture, so they won’t forget it on the way back to the dorm. Alternately, they might use the Amazon Kindle for ‘book like’ reading of textbooks or an Apple iPad for both note taking and hosting textbooks, lightening that heavy backpack that would otherwise have to be dragged around campus. Or, they can dispense with the campus entirely by taking courses online. MIT’s Open CourseWare site is an excellent example of how advanced learning has evolved.

I used to phone home every few weeks when I was away at college. Today, Mom and Dad can be much more in touch, and those requests for money can now come in real time thanks to email, Skype and Facebook … well maybe some things haven’t changed that much.


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