This week on WDD’s HotSpot:

'Hello, World!'

Recently, NASA beamed a high-definition video message, “Hello, World!”, 260 miles from the International Space Station to Earth using a new laser communications instrument.

The message was the first 175-megabit communication for the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), a technology demonstration that allows NASA to test methods for communication with future spacecraft using higher bandwidth than radio waves.

According to NASA, optical communication tools like OPALS use focused laser energy to reach data rates between 10 and 1,000 times higher than current space communications, which rely on radio portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Because the space station orbits Earth at 17,500 mph, transmitting data from the space station to Earth requires extremely precise targeting. The process can be equated to a person aiming a laser pointer at the end of a human hair 30 feet away and keeping it there while walking.

Shatterproof Smartphone Screens

Dropping a cell phone can be a pretty traumatic experience. As soon as it hits the ground, you already know you’re most likely going to have a shattered screen once you pick it up.

Well, researchers at the University of Akron have developed a transparent electrode that could change the face of smartphones, literally, by making their displays shatterproof.

In a recently published scientific paper, researchers demonstrated how a transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface could be extraordinarily tough and flexible, withstanding repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests.

HTTP with Accountability

Researchers in the Decentralized Information Group (DIG) at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are developing a new web technology that would allow you to track how your private data is used online.

The new protocol, “HTTP with Accountability,” or HTTPA, will automatically monitor the transmission of private data and allow the data owner to examine how it’s being used.

According to MIT, with HTTPA, each item of private data would be assigned its own uniform resource identifier (URI), a key component of the Semantic Web, a new set of technologies, championed by W3C, which would convert the Web from a collection of searchable text files into a giant database.

Remote access to a Web server would be controlled much the way it is now, through passwords and encryption. But every time the server transmitted a piece of sensitive data, it would also send a description of the restrictions on the data’s use. And it would log the transaction, using only the URI, somewhere in a network of encrypted, special-purpose servers.

NFC: The Critical Link

Last week I visited Schaumburg, IL to learn more about NFC technology from NXP Semiconductors. During the tech day, I learned about smart devices and how they really work, security issues that NFC helps to prevent, how to control counterfeit products, and where the market is headed.

I also downloaded a few apps, and learned how to program a few tags that NXP provided during the demonstration.

According to NXP, as more things get connected, concerns over data privacy and security will emerge. Utilizing NFC as a communication method can help address some of these concerns, because it is specifically designed and engineered to provide zero power operation and maximize privacy at a very affordable price.

To learn more about NXP and how NFC is the critical link for the Internet of Things, go to