GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon

by , / July 28, 2005
Book Smart?
The Public Library System in Naperville, Ill., signed a contract in late May to install fingerprint scanners on 130 computers with Internet access or a time limit on usage.

The decision, according to the American Library Association, makes Naperville the second library system in the country to install fingerprint scanners. Library officials say the added security is necessary to ensure people who use the computers are who they say they are. Officials promise to protect the confidentiality of the fingerprint records. -- Chicago Tribune

Eat Right, Get iPod
Students in Glasgow, Scotland, happily play the role of guinea pigs in a new plan to reward secondary school pupils for eating healthily.

Glasgow's school meals service, Fuel Zone, rolled out its Fuel Zone Points rewards program to all 29 secondary schools in the city over the last 12 months. The program allows 30,000 pupils to earn points for eating healthy foods.

At the end of each term, students redeem the points they've accumulated by smart eating for rewards ranging from free books and movie tickets to the latest in gadgets like the iPod and Xbox. -- Glasgow City Council

California Quakes
It's nice to know when the big one is going to hit. A new Web site gives nervous Nellies a real-time map assessing the probability of a strong earthquake at any location in California within a 24-hour time frame.

Scientists with the Swiss Seismological Service and the Advanced National Seismic System developed a system that quantifies the increased likelihood of future shaking from earthquake clusters in California.

The system considers all earthquakes, large and small, recorded by the California Integrated Seismic Network, the California element of the Advanced National Seismic System. -- United States Geological Survey's Earthquake Hazards Program

Space Tickets
Talk about an ambitious business plan -- Planetspace said in May that it intends to offer space flights to the public within the next two years.

Geoff Sheerin, president of Canadian Arrow -- a company that competed for the recent Ansari X-Prize to send a privately built and financed ship to space -- and Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria joined forces to create the company, which is constructing and testing its first suborbital rocket, called the Canadian Arrow.

Planetspace said it wants to fly almost 2,000 new astronauts in the first five years of service. Fares will start at USD $250,000 for a suborbital flight, including 14 days of training. -- Planetspace

Bare-Bones Phone
Vodafone got back to basics in May when it launched Vodafone Simply, a new mobile service designed for customers who only want a mobile phone with voice and text services.

The company surveyed customers to see what their ideal phone would look like, what services it should offer, how these services should be accessed and how the phone menus should be structured.

Customers choose between two phones, appropriately named the VS1 and VS2. Both sport large screens with legible text and symbols; three dedicated buttons for direct access to the main screen, contacts and messages; a button on the side to control ringer volume; and a switch to lock the keypad. -- Vodafone

IP Addresses
Facing a lawsuit over its practice of storing customers' dynamic IP addresses, Lycos, a German ISP, decided the best way to fight the suit is to quit storing the dynamic IP addresses entirely.

A Lycos customer, who also happens to be a lawyer, asked Lycos to tell him its practices concerning IP address data the company stores or commissions third parties to store.

When Lycos refused, the man filed suit against Lycos to force it to yield the information, requesting to know to what extent the IP addresses were not only stored by the provider itself but also by the Internet backbone operators associated with Lycos. -- Hesie Online

On the Map
Kauai County and Hawaii have purchased DigitalGlobe's QuickBird high-resolution satellite imagery for more effective digital mapping in Hawaii. The imagery was purchased along with RMTC/URS -- a joint venture that provides flood hazard engineering and mapping services to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency. This imagery of Kauai County and Waimea Canyon will allow local, state and federal entities to more effectively pursue flood plain mapping projects and disaster mitigation initiatives.

IT in China
The Chinese IT security market produced revenues of $265 million in 2004, growing 31.2 percent over 2003, according to the International Data Corp., which forecasts that the market will achieve a high compound annual growth rate of 28.3 percent over the next four years, reaching $921.4 million in 2009.

IT to the Rescue
Faced with diminishing budgets and staff shortages, building departments are using IT to make their programs more efficient and effective. Typical of such savings are the following examples:
  • Chicago reduced permit-processing time from 45 minutes to 30 minutes for the city, and from an average of 8 hours to 2.5 hours for its clients.
  • Ventura County, Calif., saved $1 million in costs and three staff positions over six years by applying IT to permit issuing and inspection processes during a time when its workload increased by 80 percent.
  • Louisville, Ky., reduced processing time for contractor licensing from 1.5 hours to 30 minutes for the city, and from 30 minutes to 20 minutes for the contractor.
  • Clackamas County, Ore.'s online permit process saved the county two staff positions and more than $40,000 each year, and cut clients' time by 70 percent by making the service available to them 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Forsyth County, Ga., reduced inspection scheduling time from 10 minutes to less than one minute for the jurisdiction with reduced waiting times for their clients.
    --National Conference of States on Building Codes and Standards
    Shane Peterson Associate Editor