Hack Your Own Wireless Leash

Turn a Nike + iPod sensor and Arduino into an inexpensive system to track belongings

4 min read
Hack Your Own Wireless Leash
Photo: David Schneider

All my life, I’ve misplaced things. I’ve stopped counting the number of umbrellas and jackets I’ve lost. So it’s comforting that technology has finally caught up with this common human foible. Owners of recent-generation iPhones can now purchase a variety of low-power radio beacons that they can attach to their clothing, bags, wallets, or whatever they fear leaving behind. When the item gets out of range, their phones will alert them. But there are places where cellphone use is forbidden, such as schools and locker rooms. And the beacons are a little problematic for keeping track of multiple items, because each one can cost US $50 or more. Then there are people like me, who don’t have an iPhone and don’t plan to have one anytime soon. So I decided to build a phoneless loss-prevention system.

Not wanting to start completely from scratch, I decided to see if I could press the Nike + iPod system into service. This uses a $19 wireless transmitter, designed to be inserted in certain Nike shoes to keep track of your running.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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