GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / March 28, 2005
Radio Experiments
When the old Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, D.C., was demolished, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted experiments aimed at improving emergency radio communications for first responders.

First responders who rely on radio communications often lose signals in environments such as basements or elevator shafts of buildings. It also is very difficult to detect radio signals through the dense rubble of a collapsed building.

NIST is using "laboratories" like the convention center for its experiments to investigate new tools for improving communications in disaster environments, such as methods for detecting weak radio signals and using improvised antennas made of metal found in debris to boost signals. -- The National Institute of Standards and Technology

Holographic Data
A consortium of companies backing new storage technology created the HVD Alliance in early February to spread the word about holographic versatile discs (HVD).

Holographic recording technology records data on discs in the form of laser interference fringes, enabling discs the same size as today's DVDs to store more than one terabyte of data, 200 times the capacity of a single layer DVD, with a transfer rate of more than 1 Gbps, 40 times the speed of DVD. -- Optware

Can You Feel Me Calling?
Until recently, visual cues and ring tones were the only ways to interact with cell phones. Immersion Corp.'s TouchSense system will allow cell phone users to operate the devices with their sense of touch.

TouchSense controls a phone's vibration motor through software and custom actuator technology to deliver varying strengths and frequencies of vibrations.

A person in a quiet meeting could discern who is calling through distinct vibrations. A person could also use different vibrations assigned to particular functions of the phone to scroll through menus, select features or connect a call. -- Immersion

New E-Waste Bill
The National Computer Recycling Act, recently introduced in Congress, would direct the EPA to develop and implement a national electronic waste (e-waste) recycling program.

The average life span of a computer has shrunk from five years to two, and approximately 50 million computers are discarded every year. Without a national law, states are creating a patchwork of different laws from coast to coast, making it difficult and expensive for manufacturers and retailers to adhere to 50 different laws, according to the measure's sponsors.

The bill -- introduced by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. -- directs the EPA to develop a grant program to encourage municipalities, individuals and organizations to start e-waste recycling programs; conduct a comprehensive e-waste study; and assess a fee of as much as $10 on new computers to fund the grant program. Manufacturers and retailers with existing recycling programs would be exempt from the fee. -- Rep. Mike Thompson

The U.S. military wants smarter soldiers. It wants smarter machines too. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to investigate key issues associated with learning and reasoning, including developing algorithms and representations for machines with artificial intelligence.

The project is called "Poised-for-Learning." The Poised-for-Learning intelligent machine is in the design phase and will be based on Multi-Agent Reasoning and Mental Metalogic, a machine reasoning system based on Athena, a system developed by a Rensselaer scientist in previous work. -- The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Government Open Source
Red Hat, one of the dominant providers of enterprise open source solutions, has formally put out a shingle for its new government business unit.

The company isn't a stranger to the market -- its U.S. government customers include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. General Services Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Defense Department.

The next major release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is set to contain the first enterprise-ready implementation of Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux), developed through Red Hat's collaboration within the open source community and the National Security Agency. -- Red Hat

Virus Resistance
According to Evans Data Corp., 92 percent of Linux systems have never been infected by a virus.

Dissatisfaction Reigns
More than half of U.S. consumers said they are not satisfied with their mobile telephone service and give the lowest ratings to cellular providers involved in large mergers, according to a Consumer Reports survey. Poor call quality, difficulty in comparing service plans and poor customer service were problems cited in the magazine's September survey of 39,000 people in 17 major cities. -- Reuters

Cell Phone Frenzy
The number of subscribers to cellular phone services in Russia increased by 8.3 million in December 2004, giving the country a total of 73.9 million subscribers at the start of January, reported AC&M Consulting, a market research company. The December 2004 increase was almost twice the figure for November 2004 and triple that for December 2003.
Shane Peterson Associate Editor
Jessica Jones Managing Editor