Never lose a sock again

Well, never a left sock; the right sock is still in beta

The developerWorks Players mockcast this innovative foot-sock security tool — SockTag.

Scott Laningham (scottla@us.ibm.com), developerWorks Podcast Editor, IBM developerWorks

Scott LaninghamScott Laningham, host of developerWorks podcasts, was previously editor of developerWorks newsletters. Prior to IBM, he was an award-winning reporter and director for news programming featured on Public Radio International, a freelance writer for the American Communications Foundation and CBS Radio, and a songwriter/musician.



02 February 2010

VOICE FROM ABOVE: The following developerWorks players podcast is pure fiction. Names of guests have been changed to protect the guilty.

[BEAUTIFUL HARP MUSIC]

developerWorks: Today we talk with the inventor of the RFID or Radio Frequency Identification product that is sweeping the market, SockTag. Merv Capalone, thanks for joining us.

Listen to this podcast.

The players:

  • Mark Cappel as Mervin "Merv" Capalone, inventor of SockTag
  • Denise Ruterbories as Dennie "One Sock" Fromage, possessor of more orphan socks than anyone else in the world
  • Scott Laningham as Himself (seriously, he tried to get someone else to play him, but no one would)

Capalone: You betcha. Good to be here, Scott.

developerWorks: Now, Merv, why don't you tell us about the process that resulted in SockTag.

Capalone: Well, Scott, RFID has so much potential but has up until now been somewhat controversial technology for some people.

developerWorks: Right.

Capalone: But with SockTag, don't you know, we put RFID to a practical and non-controversial use. We set out to identify some universal challenge people face ... something destructive with no real solution to date ... and see if RFID offers an answer.

And then as I was dressing for work one morning, don't you know looking for the left sock to match the right one in my sock drawer, I realized I'd found it: Not the sock, but the problem to solve.

developerWorks: Oh, brilliant. I'm just amazed at how the entrepreneurial mind works.

Capalone: Oh, me too. So we developed an RFID tagging system to solve the wayward sock problem. SockTag Lavis ("Lavis" being the Latin root for the word "left").

developerWorks: You mean it's just the left sock solution?

Capalone: Correct. We'll be coming out with SockTag Ragel in about six months ("Ragel" being the Latin word for the word "right").

developerWorks: Okay. You mean the technology for a right-footed sock is all that different from that for the left?

Capalone: Oh, you betcha. We need a mirror image technology that's similar to SockTag Lavis and it takes more time and development and testing to make sure it's safe. We also need some time with marketing to learn if people are as interested if finding right socks as much as they are the left. We have focus groups set up next week to answer that question.

developerWorks: Okay. I see. Now, I'm getting into some sensitive marketing stuff there with that question so I'll just leave that one alone.

Let's bring on our second guest now to join in this discussion, Dennie "One Sock" Fromage, has been cited by SockWorld Magazine as the owner of the most orphan socks in the world today. Dennie, thanks for joining us.

Fromage: Oh, thank you, Scott. Hello Merv.

Capalone: Hey there, how are you doing there Dennie?

developerWorks: Now Dennie, I understand that you keep six chest of drawers full of individual unmatched socks. Is that correct?

Fromage: Why, yes.

developerWorks: Why?

Fromage: Well, Scott, they're all good socks and have hardly been worn, but I cannot bring myself to throw them away because I don't know when one might show up on my doorstep or stuck to the back of the dress I'm wearing. And that has happened.

developerWorks: Which one happened?

Fromage: Both. I was saying good night to a gentleman friend of mine on the porch one evening and he pulled a white tube sock off the back of my dress where it apparently had spent the entire evening.

Capalone: Don't you know, Scott, that's the kind of public humiliation that we at SockTag are trying to alleviate. And I think Dennie can attest to the fact that SockTag works. Am I right, Dennie?

Fromage: Oh, oui, oui. I have located six or seven missing socks in just the past month from the 97 new sets that I purchased recently. I tagged the left socks with the RFID tags as soon as I buy them and I release them into the wild along with all that anxiety which can was keeping me up at night.

developerWorks: So you found some missing socks then with SockTag Lavvis, Lavis, whatever it is?

Fromage: Yes, I have. If I look in the new chest of drawers that holds my new sock sets and find one missing I just go to my PC, pull up SockTag tracker software ... I'm running version 2.00013 ... by the way and then I locate the tags pair in my queue, I put my ID password, my mother's maiden name, then I do a quick thumb scan and a retinal scan, and submit the request for sock location.

developerWorks: Oh, well, I mean, that sounds simple enough.

Fromage: Oh, yes. And then I get a call from the SockTag operator. They ask for my ID and password again. I like that focus on security. And then they email me with a Word attachment that includes the link to a Google Map showing the location of my sock. The whole thing only takes about 24 hours.

developerWorks: That's amazing. I guess there's still a few missing socks though from the new set since you've only found six or seven missing from, what, 97 sets. Is that right?

Fromage: Well, yes. But some of the sets are still complete, but there are 12 missing right-footed socks that I was unable to tag since SockTag Ragel hasn't been generally released yet.

Capalone: That's still in beta down by the lab, don't you know. We're working out a few snags in the tag placement.

developerWorks: What do you mean, Merv, snags? How does the right tag differ from the left tag?

Capalone: I don't mean snags with the tag, I mean, test snags ... the test tags are snagged to the test socks and we're working through some software and some safety issues with the SockTag Ragel. It is technical.

developerWorks: Now, how much does this thing cost?

Capalone: Oh, it's $149.95. And with that, you get 50 tags, the software package and desktop interface with receiver, a three-year subscription to SockWorld Magazine and some coasters.

developerWorks: $150? I mean, you could buy a whole lot of socks with that.

Fromage: Oh, wait. No, the coasters are very nice. They're tagged as well so you can find them in case they get knocked under the couch or something.

developerWorks: Well, I want to thank you both for joining us today, Merv Capalone, CEO and founder of SockTag, and Dennie One Sock Fromage, a satisfied user of SockTag's RFID solution for missing socks.

Dennie, I forgot to ask, why all the chest of drawers full of socks if you've got SockTag?

Fromage: Oh, Scott, those socks are still missing their matched pairs and I just can't turn them out, especially after the way that little one scared sock was clinging to me on the porch that time.

Capalone: Yah-yah, Scott, and we feel that the learning term solution is some legislation to require RFID tagging technology in all new socks. That's the only way we're going to solve the situation. But we're having problems getting the members of Congress to take us seriously, don't you know?

developerWorks: Well, I can't imagine why. Well, that's all for this time. We'll see you in the funny papers.

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