Effective Software Solutions Under the Radar

14 May 2014

Grabbing a good book might be a pleasant way to spend an hour or too of free time, but in some places storage of more than a couple of books might be impossible. The US Navy admits that for submariners there have been few options until now. The rise in e-readers may have seemed an answer to the problem, but security being paramount traditional e-readers are not permitted on many Navy vessels as their GPS, wi-fi and roaming data features can give away their position to the enemy.

The US Navy's answer is to produce their own secure device. The Navy eReader Device (or NeRD for short) will allow capacity for up to 300 books on a portable device, but these will have no ports, wi-fi or roaming data capabilities. In the first roll-out there will be 5 devices, paid for by the Navy, for each submarine, with plans to roll them out to all vessels in the active fleet. 'It will take time as each collection will be tailored for specific audiences', said Ms Moffitt, manager of the Navy General Library Programme.

The absence of communication ports means that books cannot be added or removed from the device, but there will be a range of authors from Shakespeare, Jane Austen and James Joyce, to popular classics such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.

Another group that requires specialist tailored options when it comes to eReaders are the blind. Leicestershire based Pera Technology looked into the idea and even went so far as to build a prototype called Anagraphs.

E-Reader for Navy

Using software-controlled thermo-hydraulic micro-actuation to expand paraffin waxes in its screen, it turns the material from liquid to solid and in turn controls which of its 6,000 Braille dots are raised. One test user described the machine as 'the Holy Grail for the visually impaired and blind Braille users'.

'Affordability was one of the top priorities from the outset with Anagraphs,' says Peter Fowell, Anagraphs Project Manager at Pera Technology. 'Braille pin devices... are not cheap. Our aim was to drive down cost through the use of wax actuation to ensure as many people as possible have access to the device, and Anragraphs is currently of a lower cost than current single line Braille pin devices.'

The project is in its final stages of development, and was backed with a £1.23m grant. However funding petered out and the project is in danger of being mothballed permanently.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People estimates 96% of books published in the UK aren't made available in alternative formats. 'Let's just hope we can get over the finishing line by securing the final stage of funding we need to bring the project to fruition,' says Fowell.

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