How Digital Jewelry Will Work

By: Kevin Bonsor

The Java Ring

The Java Ring can be programmed to give you access to every door and device.
The Java Ring can be programmed to give you access to every door and device.
Photo courtesy Dallas Semiconductor

It seems that everything we access today is under lock and key. Even the devices we use are protected by passwords. It can be frustrating trying to keep with all of the passwords and keys needed to access any door or computer program. Dallas Semiconductor is developing a new Java-based, computerized ring that will automatically unlock doors and log on to computers.

The Java Ring, first introduced at JavaOne Conference, has been tested at Celebration School, an innovative K-12 school just outside Orlando, FL. The rings given to students are programmed with Java applets that communicate with host applications on networked systems. Applets are small applications that are designed to be run within another application. The Java Ring is snapped into a reader, called a Blue Dot receptor, to allow communication between a host system and the Java Ring.


The Java Ring is a stainless-steel ring, 16-millimeters (0.6 inches) in diameter, that houses a 1-million-transistor processor, called an iButton. The ring has 134 KB of RAM, 32 KB of ROM, a real-time clock and a Java virtual machine, which is a piece of software that recognizes the Java language and translates it for the user's computer system.

At Celebration School, the rings have been programmed to store electronic cash to pay for lunches, automatically unlock doors, take attendance, store a student's medical information and allow students to check out books. All of this information is stored on the ring's iButton. Students simply press the signet of their Java Ring against the Blue Dot receptor, and the system connected to the receptor performs the function that the applet instructs it to. In the future, the Java Ring may start your car.

Mobile computing is beginning to break the chains that tie us to our desks, but many of today's mobile devices can still be a bit awkward to carry around. In the next age of computing, we will see an explosion of computer parts across our bodies, rather than across our desktops. Digital jewelry, designed to supplement the personal computer, will be the evolution in digital technology that makes computer elements entirely compatible with the human form.

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