TECHKNOW: Lessons from Web Alley

TECHKNOW: Lessons from Web Alley - WAKE UP AND SMELL THE WEB

by RHYMER RIGBY
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE WEB

California-based firm digiscents has been working on technology that allows computers to generate the aromas associated with whatever they are displaying at the time. The company recently brought in Cooksey Thomas (a big name from Sega) and hopes to launch its iSmell box by Christmas. Household names like Procter & Gamble are said to be, er, sniffing around. Potential applications are interesting. Video gamers can hear the cries of a dying enemy as they smell the napalm; online perfumiers could offer a sniff before you buy service. And as for the pornographers (always early adopters), well, the mind boggles. As yet, though, the company is casting around for funding. Ambient smells (in cinemas, for example) don't have a great track record. Even low-tech aroma-based products like scratch-and-sniff stickers bear little resemblance to the real thing. We wish digiscents well, but it could come up smelling of roses - or something much less agreeable.

A WORM IN YOUR EAR

First there was the Melissa virus, then the far more virulent 'love bug' variants. What next? The recent viral nightmares could be but a taste of things to come. The reason? Those computers that more and more of us are carrying around - internet phones. A virus sent to a WAP phone could then dial out, spreading itself to dozens of mobile phones; and the phone need not even be WAP - viruses could attack even primitive phones via the SMS messaging system. Once inside, the bug could destroy address books, pilfer financial information and worse. Because of the connectivity that mobiles offer, the spread would be quicker and harder to contain than anything seen before. And when almost every device is linked via wireless networks, the potential for disaster will be alarming. As well as infecting others, your phone could tell your washing machine to boil-wash delicate fabrics and your fridge to order a gross of haggis from the online supermarket. Imagine. MT fondly remembers the days when viral infection involved physically carrying a disc from one PC to another.

OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

Six months ago City firms and consultancies were watching their best and brightest leave in droves, lured to web start-ups by stock-options that (at some unspecified IPO in the future) would be worth millions. No longer: the 1999 cult of equity is over. Many employees find themselves working at reduced salaries, with options whose value is eroding. There have been winners - those who stayed and boosted their salaries by threatening to leave, and City firms that can now re-hire their prodigal sons and daughters on salaries lower than when they left.

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