he said. "Depending on the size of the pool, the surveyors plot anywhere from 250 points of reference to 350 points of reference. These measurements were calibrated into the software system."

Drive Your Message Home

An Australian telecommunications company rolled out a way for drivers to communicate in real time in October.

The service, called DriverSMS, allows Aussie motorists to communicate with each other via short message service text messages. Drivers visit a Web site to register for the service, and their vehicle license-plate number is used as a unique identifier that is converted into an e-mail/SMS address.

According to the DriverSMS Web site, the benefits of the service could include sending and receive messages in real time with other drivers; receiving radar alerts from oncoming cars; getting help from other drivers, such as directions; receiving warnings about accidents or dangerous conditions ahead; or getting a note from a passer-by telling you your parking meter is about to expire.

The company also said personal information is kept confidential and only a sender's license plate number is displayed in the from field of the message. In addition, the company said, recipients can elect to ban unwelcome callers.

Messages can be sent free from the DriverSMS Web site via SMS, or via a WAP-compatible phone or PDA. Because messages are sent and received in real time, it is possible for drivers to communicate with each other via SMS text messages while traveling. Users can also communicate in real time via the chat room on the DriverSMS Web site, the company said.

Putting Networks in a New Light

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - An MIT scientist has developed a way to transmit data through flickering fluorescent lights. The technology, which uses existing light fixtures, quickly creates a medium-bandwidth network capable of broadcasting information throughout a building.

Steven Leeb, an associate professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, calls his invention "Talking Lights" and expects it to reach the consumer market in about a year.

The crux of the Talking Lights system is a mechanism that replaces the conventional ballast in a fluorescent light fixture. "You install a Talking Lights ballast, and that ballast will modulate the arc in the light so that it still looks like a normal illumination source," Leeb said. "But a receiving piece of electronics, basically a little optical radio, can look up at the light and decode the flickering in the light, even though the human eye can't see that flickering."

Some information - perhaps location data for a particular spot in a building - could be permanently burned into the ballasts, he said. Other material could be up-linked to the lights through a building's existing power lines.

Leeb acknowledged that the system wouldn't be blindingly fast. "A good ballpark estimate is that it's the same bandwidth as an analog, regular-service telephone line," he said. "Whatever you're used to being able to do with a modem in your home on a conventional phone line, you could do in a Talking Lights network."

The network will support e-mail applications and Web browsing, Leeb said. Potential uses also include outfitting people with small receivers that would pick up pages and other audio messages from the lights.

Computer-Related Jobs Decline

WASHINGTON, D.C. - August's higher-than-expected unemployment rate was fueled by the first decline in the number of computer services jobs in more than a decade and a similar drop in the communications job market.

The federal government reported that the August jobless rate was 4.9 percent - the highest point in four years and a sharp increase over July's 4.5 percent.

After a growth slowdown over the past several months, the number of computer-services jobs declined by 5,000 in August; the first time that sector has shown an employment loss since the late 1980s, according to the Labor Department.

The category includes computer programmers, software developers, information retrieval services, computer rental services, maintenance and various other positions, said Labor Department economist Rachel Krantz.

The communications sector lost 8,000 jobs during August for the biggest loss in that category since 1995. Telephone services, including mobile communications services, accounted for the largest share of those job losses, said John Mullins, another Labor Department economist.

"I can't say for sure what the reason is for the weakness in communications employment," Mullins told Newsbytes. "It seems reasonable that it might be connected to the decline in the dot-com economy."

While specific figures for high-tech and dot-com job losses in August are not available, those industries account for a fair number of lost jobs, said Allan Hoffman, a tech-jobs expert with Monster.com. - Newsbytes