This story is completed in partnership with Temple University’s journalism capstone class Philadelphia Neighborhoods. Students Tracy Galloway and Maria Zankey will cover technology issues through December.
In the basement of the Enterprise Center, located at 45th and Market streets in West Philadelphia, Shu Wen Yang and Natalie Chew are working on a new technology that could transform the meaning of social networking.
Yang and Chew are interning for Human Network Labs, a company that has developed a new technology for localizing persons and objects without the use of the Internet.
“Human Network Labs has come up with its own technology and it is something really different from other companies that I’ve seen so far,” said Yang.
The company’s two interns are students from the National University of Singapore, where some of the company’s technology has already been released.
Chew has only been at Human Network Labs for about a month but is already benefiting from the experience.
“There are a lot of opportunities [at Human Network Labs] for us to express our own ideas,” Chew said. “After one year here I will probably be really well-versed in the technology so hopefully I can contribute back to Human Network Labs,” she said.
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The company was established in 2007 in response to the huge growth in social networking. However, CEO Carlos Garcia wanted consumers to have the ability to use social networking in the real world, instead of just on the Internet.
The technology allows users to localize persons or objects indoors or outdoors without the use of the Internet on their cell phones.
“Having Internet should not be a prerequisite of social networking,” said Garcia.
Based in a city that faces the inequalities of a digital divide, Human Network Labs aims to produce a technology that would be available to everyone.
“This is something that I can give not just to the guys who have an iPhone but also the people who have the $35 cell phones,” said Garcia.
For the employees of Human Network Labs, Philadelphia is an ideal location for the development of this new technology.
“People here work in an environment without really a bureaucracy so we can work and share ideas with one another very easily,” said Yang.
For Human Network Labs, Philadelphia has some key advantages. The company has worked with the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the University of the Arts on several projects relating to its technology over the past couple of years.
Human Network Labs has been awarded a number of contracts and government grants in the United States, Yang said.
In Singapore, the company has worked closely with the government in marketing the technology within the elderly community, Yang said.
“The Singapore government has recognized the fundamental impact that the technology can create among the community and is very supportive of our efforts,” Yang said.
As far as long-term plans go, Garcia said, “We would like to see [this technology] integrated into existing mobile devices.”