Israel’s Scribbler turns the fridge door into high tech communicator

The Scribbler brings the kitchen – or any other room in the house – into the 21st century, by connecting it remotely to your computer.Another long-standing kitchen tradition is about to become a thing of the past, thanks to a …

The Scribbler brings the kitchen – or any other room in the house – into the 21st century, by connecting it remotely to your computer.Another long-standing kitchen tradition is about to become a thing of the past, thanks to a new Israeli innovation. Your fridge notepad, the one where you write yourself reminders about picking up milk or juice, is about to go high tech.

That’s right: No more messy notes on the refrigerator door. Instead, Jonathan Levy, president of Winbond Israel, wants savvy milk and juice drinkers to use the new Scribbler, a device that brings the kitchen – or any other room in the house – into the 21st century, by connecting it remotely to your computer.

It’s all part of what Levy calls the ‘Vista revolution’ – referring to the Microsoft operating system introduced last year on all Windows installations. Among the innovations Vista has introduced is SideShow, which lets a Vista-equipped PC use a ‘secondary screen’ for applications or information.

A secondary screen on a laptop sounds like a nice feature, but nothing to write home about. But what if you were to combine that feature with Windows’ communications capabilities – like, for example, having the secondary screen not on a laptop lid, but on a separate device, that communicates with the main computer using wireless networking protocols – for example, Bluetooth?

Well, if you did that, says Winbond’s Levy, you’d have a very innovative product – like the Scribbler, with technology developed in collaboration with Microsoft and Ricavision, in the company’s Herzliya headquarters, using technology adopted from its mother company in Taiwan.

“The Scribbler is the first SideShow device that takes full advantage of the technological ‘mashup’ of SideShow technology and Bluetooth wireless technology,” Levy told ISRAEL21c.

The result? A device with a small screen you stick to your fridge, front door, or anywhere else, that can display information, including e-mail, weather reports, recipes, or anything else you have on your main computer, and that lets you input data that automatically gets updated on the main PC. It’s like having a second PC that does Web and e-mail – for about $100, which Levy says is likely to be the Scribbler’s price when it hits the stores later this year.

So, for example, if you’re at work and you want to remind the kids of their (ugh!) dentist appointment at 4 pm, you could send an e-mail to your home account. That message would automatically sync downstairs to the Scribbler, which, with its magnet on the back, is on your refrigerator door.

You could set the Scribbler to set off an alarm every couple of minutes – so, when the kids come open the door for their after-school snack, the device will give them a gentle reminder of where they have to be, and when. It’s not just a “Scribbler” – it’s a foolproof errand reminder system.

Same goes for writing an address in your Outlook address book, making sure the kids remember to take their heavy coats by setting a weather forecasting program to communicate with the device, or 1001 other tasks that you would usually use a sticky note, SMS, or phone call for.

You input data on the Scribbler with a stylus and it gets written to the appropriate application on the PC; and whatever the “mother ship” receives via the Internet, that needs to be updated on the Scribbler, like e-mail, gets synced onto the device automatically.

While this kind of innovative thinking is usually associated with scrappy startups, Winbond Israel is anything but. It’s part of a worldwide Taiwan-based conglomerate, Winbond Electronics Corporation, one of the largest manufacturers of semiconductors and allied products worldwide.

But despite the relatively staid corporate culture, Levy says that the Israeli crew still retains that “startup spirit” that allows them to come up with new and better solutions.

“That’s an Israeli characteristic – always innovating, always developing new technology,” Levy says, and it’s a characteristic that’s a part and parcel of the Israeli high tech culture. Indeed, he says, the main office in Taipei deserves a lot of credit for realizing this and assigning the Israeli office the Scribbler project – considering that they could have sent the development to China, Japan, or the US.

And Scribbler is just the start, says Eyal Farhi, marketing manager for Winbond Israel’s line of SideShow based devices. “We have several other products in the pipeline, including one called the Chatter, which will let users of instant messaging programs like Live Messenger access their accounts and send messages on the device – like a ‘Home Blackberry’ using Bluetooth,” he says, only a lot cheaper.

“And, there’s also a remote control in the works, which will sync up with Windows Media Center – letting you control your WMC-connected TV, stereo, MP3 player etc. from a SideShow-based remote device. Actually, with SideShow and its standard interface, the sky’s the limit – we can develop devices to do anything that a computer’s functionality can help with,” adds Farhi.

Right now, Levy says, the company is concentrating on Bluetooth-based devices to keep costs down – but it’s just a matter of time before Winbond Israel-developed SideShow devices will be found all over town. For now, though, the company’s Scribbler promises to turn the kitchen into a high tech communications center – and that’s a pretty big innovation right there.

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