COMMENTARY - This beast of a vehicle dwarfs the largest SUV made and unless you have military connections you aren't going to find a better or more comprehensive tactical command center on four wheels.
OK, so you are cruising down the Interstate doing the speed limit and the Global Positioning System map with a green arrow moving slowly along assures you that you are going the right way, on the right road, and that their are no construction detours ahead. Suddenly a synthesized voice announces, "Approaching I-85, 1 mile. Exxon gasoline, diesel fuel. BP gasoline, diesel fuel." The driver casually touches the screen and the Microsoft Media Player overlays and partially obscures the GPS map. A second touch begins to play a jazz MP3 selection previously downloaded from the Internet. In another corner of the screen, a video image is being recorded giving you the State Trooper through the windshield perspective of the trip. "What else does it do", I ask? The driver touches the Microsoft Internet Explorer icon, points to a wireless keyboard and says, "Surfs the web." In a few seconds his hotmail screen comes up. I said, "You've got to be kidding." He says, "No. Send an email to my watch." He gave me the number @skytel.com and I sent "Testing, testing. Hello Atlanta." In less than a minute his Microsoft watch starts beeping. Cool!
Does this sound like some sci-fi channel sequel to Mad-Max? Not so. An engineer at NCR has put an NCR web kiosk computer in a Hummer. Why NCR? Several reasons: NCR makes ATM machines, web kiosks, and point of sale equipment that has to be reliable under extreme conditions. While other companies make similar products, they wouldn't survive this extreme environment for long. And while the Hummer is an extreme vehicle, vehicles in general are considered extreme because the heat inside them during the day with the windows rolled up will quickly kill a lesser computer but the NCR 7401 can work even up to 176 degrees and that's almost as hot as your car's radiator. Another requirement not easily met is that the NCR 7401 is whisper quiet because it uses passive cooling. There is no fan running since its heat is dissipated by convection into its patented bezel. Not that there is that much heat to begin with because it uses laptop technology pumped up on steroids. Some of the 7401's installations require it to dispense cash while baking in the sun all day and chilling in the night air over and over again for its entire lifecycle. It is the Hummer of ATM's.
Yes, it does engine systems anomaly reporting. The truck doesn't have a printer, so the parallel port is used with an analog to digital converter that takes up to 8 inputs. It silently monitors speed, fuel level, engine temperature, oil pressure, charging system, door-open, tire pressure, and alarm status. Its screen is reminiscent of the sick-bay patient status display panel on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Should any of those inputs fall outside of establish parameters, it flashes the screen with a large white letters on a red background, announces the malfunction through the sound system, and writes a record to the system database. This also lets the truck send an email for help, reporting longitude and latitude in degrees, minutes, and seconds should it be stolen. No Lo-Jack required.
By my calculations, the automotive industry must be so afraid of lawsuits that they can't even think of doing this... putting full blown Windows 2000 touch screen computers in a car. "Somebody might have a wreck because they are looking at the screen instead of the road." Yeah, my grandmother said the same thing when the speedometer was invented. You don't need this if you swerve in you lane trying to use a cell phone. It's not for everybody. It is in your future though. Keep waking up. This industry is going to get huge quickly. For several generations, Americans have expressed their love affairs with their cars, and now with a second generation in love with computers, it should be intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer that the two will eventually mix. Do the math; major search engines find over 700 references to "MP3 Car, Car Camera, and Car Computer." This one using NCR ATM technology not only does MP3, MPG, GPS, and Webcam, but it also has the nicest packaging and most rugged of any "MPEG car installation" we have seen.
Other benefits include an 11 megabit wireless Ethernet connection. That connects to the Windows 2000 Server when the truck pulls into the parking lot and is within a 900 foot radius of the wireless hub there. An auto-dial cell phone connects the system to the Internet through the Verizon Network while on the road. There is also a USB hub to attach other devices, a 100 M/bit Ethernet jack for the occasional laptop connection, and a CD burner for making an emergency burn of some critical music selection that a friend must have.
A 10 Gig disk drive has room for almost 2000 CD quality songs before hearing the same one twice. Music videos are almost ten times the size of ordinary music files so that would restrict ones variety or force a larger drive purchase. The 7401 can easily play CD's, or DVD's but it is so much cooler too store them on a large hard drive so that way you can just touch what you want on the screen and have it play like a high tech magical jukebox.
Where do I sign for one of these things to go in my Astro Mini-van?
By Ron Bolar