GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / September 7, 2006
Read for the Blind
Text-to-speech conversion software that reads Web pages and on-screen documents aloud to the blind and visually impaired isn't new. But a new portable device developed by inventor Ray Kurzweil eliminates the need to be near a computer.

The Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader combines a digital camera and a PDA to create a device that photographs printed material, scans the text and then reads it within seconds using a synthesized voice. Printed pages captured with the device can be saved for later use. It can store thousands of text pages on extra memory cards and can also transfer files to a computer or PDA.

The device can read many document types, including receipts, letters, recipes, book pages, memos and package labels. An audible description tells users how many edges of a document are in range, as well as the angle and distance the reader is from the page so they may take more accurate photos. The device is equipped with a headphone jack for privacy. -- The New York Times

Energy-Efficient Servers
On July 12, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation instructing Americans to "give high priority to energy efficiency as a factor in determining best value and performance for purchases of computer servers."

Higher efficiency not only reduces electricity bills, it offers lower cooling costs, so server buyers have long had a strong market incentive to go green.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., also instructs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a three-month study "of the growth trends associated with data centers and the utilization of servers in the federal government and private sector." -- CNET

Linux on Legs
Four companies in Japan have created a low-cost, user-programmable humanoid robot for educational and research applications. The HRP-2m Choromet uses technology from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and is user-programmable thanks to open software running on a Linux implementation.

The Choromet stands about 13 3/4 inches tall, and can walk upright on two legs. It can also assume supine or prone positions, and stand up from either.

AIST hopes Choromet's ability to run software-based movement programs on a real-time Linux platform will enable researchers and schools to experiment with the effectiveness of humanoid robot motion pattern applications. --

On July 14, 2006, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced that a digital radio system allowing state law enforcement officials to communicate throughout the state during emergencies is fully operational.

The Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System will let more than 6,500 officials from 17 state agencies communicate throughout 59,000 square miles and as far as 25 miles offshore.

Florida's 14,000-radio system was tested successfully during the hurricane seasons of the past two years. Officials predicted it would prove valuable in future storms, as well as in criminal inquiries and possible terrorist attacks. -- The Miami Herald

Dot Matrix
Tailgating is a common cause of rear-end collisions, playing a role in 80 percent of crashes on one stretch of central Minnesota highway.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) is painting big dots on the highway to show drivers safe following distances. The reflective, oval dots are painted 225 feet apart, and are accompanied by signs explaining that a minimum of two dots should appear between vehicles. This provides the three seconds needed to come to a complete stop without rear-ending the vehicle ahead.

The dots will remain on Highway 55 in Wright County for at least a year, giving MNDOT enough time to compare the number of crashes before and during the test. Most of the project is funded by a $25,000 federal grant. The dots were first used in Pennsylvania, and a similar project began in Maryland in May. -- MNDOT

Dodgy Drivers
A new study discovered that, despite knowing the risks, a majority of U.S. drivers still talk on their cell phones while at the wheel.

All the time: 6 percent
Sometimes: 67 percent
Never: 27 percent

-- Harris Interactive, June 2006

The Doctor Will See You Now
Americans make more than 1 billion visits a year to doctors' offices, emergency rooms and hospital outpatient departments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The amount of time a patient waits before seeing a physician in the emergency department increased from 38 minutes in 1997 to 47 minutes in 2004. There was no change in the average time -- about 16 minutes -- a patient spends face-to-face with a doctor in an office visit.

Mobile Money?
More than 95 percent of urban Japanese consumers have a mobile phone, and a new osaifu keitai -- or "wallet phone" -- promises to eliminate cash cards by incorporating a chip into the cell phone that stores everything previously held in the wallet.

Will mobile wallets replace traditional wallets?
Within 10 years: 35 percent
In 10 to 20 years: 18 percent
In 20 to 50 years: 19 percent
Other/never: 28 percent

The perceived changes that wallet phones will bring are (multiple answers allowed):

No waiting at checkouts: 38 percent
Shopping will change: 36 percent
Mobile phones will become even more important than now: 35 percent
Coins will disappear: 34 percent
Have to select which shops one can use: 30 percent
Number of people whose first card is a mobile will increase: 28 percent
Cash will not be necessary: 27 percent
Wallets will not be necessary: 19 percent

Source: NTT DoCoMo; results are based on a percentage of respondents, who are Internet users in Japan

Digital Counties
The Center for Digital Government held its fourth annual Digital Counties Survey, which recognizes counties that use technology to provide a high level of service to citizens. The 2006 winners are:

500,000 or more population:
1st Place: Orange County, Fla.
2nd Place: Fairfax County, Va. (tie)
King County, Wash. (tie)
3rd Place: Montgomery County, Md. (tie)
Tulsa County, Okla. (tie)
4th Place: Oakland County, Mich.
5th Place: San Diego County, Calif.
6th Place: Fulton County, Ga.
7th Place: Sacramento County, Calif. (tie)
Westchester County, N.Y. (tie)
8th Place: Anne Arundel County, Md.
9th Place: Snohomish County, Wash.
10th Place: Miami-Dade County, Fla.

250,000-499,999 population:
1st Place: Richland County, S.C.
2nd Place: Prince William County, Va. (tie)
Washtenaw County, Mich. (tie)
3rd Place: Dakota County, Minn. (tie)
Douglas County, Colo. (tie)
4th Place: Loudoun County, Va.
5th Place: Marin County, Calif.
6th Place: Seminole County, Fla.
7th Place: Utah County, Utah
8th Place: Dutchess County, N.Y.
9th Place: Howard County, Md. (tie)
Placer County, Calif. (tie)
10th Place: Marion County, Fla.

150,000-249,999 population:
1st Place: Roanoke County, Va.
2nd Place: Hamilton County, Ind.
3rd Place: Merced County, Calif.
4th Place: Scott County, Iowa
5th Place: Racine County, Wisc.
6th Place: Clermont County, Ohio
7th Place: Horry County, S.C.
8th Place: Cumberland County, Pa.(tie)
Frederick County, Md. (tie)
9th Place: Dona Ana County, N.M.
10th Place: Yuma County, Ariz.

Less than 150,000 population:
1st Place: Charles County, Md.
2nd Place: Nevada County, Calif.
3rd Place: Olmsted County, Minn.
4th Place: Boone County, Mo.
5th Place: Napa County, Calif.
6th Place: Stearns County, Minn.
7th Place: Sutter County, Calif.
8th Place: Delaware County, Ohio
9th Place: Albemarle County, Va.
10th Place: Randolph County, N.C.
Karen Stewartson Managing Editor