Wireless Systems Design

Want To Access The Web Via The Loo?

Just when you think that nothing could surprise you, something always comes out of left field and hits you squarely in the head. That's exactly what happened to me while I was driving home recently. I was listening to the news when I heard a rather bizarre report. It referenced a development effort underway by the MSN division of Microsoft Corp. in Great Britain. Known as iLoo, this effort will provide wireless-Internet access for users of the Loo—otherwise known as the restroom.

My first thought was, "This has got to be a joke." So I made fast tracks to my computer to check it out. As it turns out, Microsoft does indeed have this development effort in the works. In fact, it will be showing off a prototype at festivals around Great Britain this summer. Whether or not the iLoo makes its way to the U.S. remains to be seen.

What exactly is the iLoo? To put it bluntly, it is a portable toilet stall equipped with 802.11b-based broadband Web access. It consists of a Windows XP-powered computer, which resides under the sink, and a connection to six-channel surround audio. A height-adjustable, flat-screen plasma display swivels out from the side of the stall. A waterproof wireless keyboard can be placed on the lap for the user's comfort. The iLoo also features a "Hotmail station" with a waterproof keyboard and a plasma screen on the outside of the stall for those who are waiting in line.

We could debate the viability of such an endeavor all day. After all, the topics of discussion are virtually endless. They include issues of security, good hygiene, typical bathroom habits, and social behavior—and that's just the beginning. I'm not going down any of those roads! Instead, I will just say the following: I don't think that the iLoo is the "killer app" for which the wireless industry has been waiting. At the same time, it does bring us one step closer to realizing a vision of pervasive wireless technology that is accessible anytime and ANYWHERE. Lastly, Microsoft must be given some credit for coming up with what can only be described as an interesting way to promote its brand!

Note: As of the writing of this editorial, Microsoft has announced its cancellation of this project. I guess you might say it decided to "flush" the entire concept down the toilet. While it didn't last long, the idea certainly drew a rash of attention to the possible myriad of applications of wireless technology. As the old saying goes, any publicity is good publicity!

What do you think of all of this hype? Send me your thoughts at [email protected] Or, post your comments at our online chat group at www.planetEE.com.

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