GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / September 2, 2004
The UK government is testing "e-plates" to identify vehicles instantaneously. E-plates use embedded, battery-powered radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to positively identify any vehicle, anywhere -- stationary or mobile -- anytime and in all weather.

E-plates are the same size and shape as conventional plates and are permanently fitted to a vehicle. Each e-plate contains a unique encrypted identification number, which the tag transmits for detection by RFID readers. Multiple tags can be read simultaneously by a single RFID reader at speeds of up to 200 mph and up to 300 feet away. -- Identec Solutions

Highway Wi-Fi
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) plans to equip 84 rest stops with Wi-Fi access for road-weary drivers.

TxDOT began experimenting with wireless Internet service in fall 2003, providing free Wi-Fi at twin rest areas on U.S. 287 in Donley County. Free wireless service also is available at two rest areas on the same highway in Hardeman County.

The agency wants to expand the service to all of its rest areas and 12 Travel Information Centers, and is seeking vendors to provide free Wi-Fi for travelers with wireless equipment and fee-based Internet access at kiosks. It's envisioned that computers in the kiosks would be available in 15-minute increments by swiping a credit card through a reader.

Universal Sound
Mark Whittle, an astronomy professor at the University of Virginia, has perfected what he calls "Big Bang Acoustics" by making the cosmic background radiation of the universe into a series of sounds.

On his Web site, Whittle said the basis of "Big Bang Acoustics" is the ability of modern cosmology to measure and analyze tiny fluctuations seen in the cosmic microwave background radiation -- the omnidirectional wall of hot glowing gas, which dates from when the universe was only 400,000 years old. Cosmologists also have discovered that sound waves moving through the hot gas are seen as peaks and troughs when they cross the glowing wall.

To listen to these sounds, visit Whittle's Web site.

Uncle Sam Goes Open Source
The U.S. Department of Labor's recent release of Workforce Connections -- a free software package used for Web-based education and Web site construction -- marks a milestone: the release of an open source software package under the GNU general public license by a Cabinet-level federal agency.

According to the Open Source and Industry Alliance, alliance member Devis, of Arlington, Va., developed the code under government contract and transferred its copyright to the Department of Labor at the department's request.

Looking Backward
The British Library is digitizing more than 1 million pages of fully searchable text and associated images from out-of-copyright 19th century newspapers.

The vast majority of newspapers in the British Library collections remain in print form and only accessible to researchers who visit the Newspaper Library in Colindale, North London. Under a project known as British Newspapers 1800--1900, the library will digitize the material and put it on a public Web site.

It is anticipated that national papers to appear on the site will include The Morning Chronicle, a reformist newspaper with a young Charles Dickens as a reporter and W.M. Thackeray as art critic, and the Morning Post, which featured writers such as Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth. -- The British Library

WiMAX in China
In early June, Intel said it reached agreements with the Dalian and Chengdu municipal governments to install broadband wireless technology in the Chinese cities.

The memoranda of understanding outline plans to deploy network infrastructure to take advantage of next-generation WiMAX broadband wireless technology, which provides a wireless alternative for last-mile broadband connectivity to businesses and homes.

Dalian is a port city in China's northeast region with a population of 5.9 million. Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province and has a population of more than 10 million. -- Intel

Humdinga Time
Gibbs Technologies has launched its "Humdinga" concept vehicle -- a four-wheel drive high-speed amphibian (HSA) vehicle capable of doing 100 mph on land and 40 mph on water. The company already makes a commercially available HSA car called the Aquada.

The Humdinga goes from land to water at a touch of a button -- its wheels retract and the power train switches from the wheels to a jet propulsion system. Though the Humdinga won't go into production, the company said it anticipates vehicles ranging from passenger cars to SUVs to buses and trucks becoming HSAs as the result of future research. -- Gibbs Technologies

Feeling Safe
Forty-seven percent of Americans say the United States is safer today than it was on 9/11, according to the Council for Excellence in Government, which also found that 49 percent of Americans say they're not concerned about an attack in their neighborhood.

Ready, Willing and Able
In promoting a safe and secure homeland, 60 percent of Americans see roles and responsibilities for themselves, and 62 percent would be willing to volunteer time in homeland security planning, training and practice drills, according to the Council for Excellence in Government.

Gamin' Girls
In May, more women ages 35 to 49 visited online game sites than teenage males, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Those women accounted for 15.2 percent of all online gamers. Of the 46 million online game users, 51 percent were male and 49 percent were female.

Wiretapping Regulations
The Justice Department told a Senate committee in June that voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service should be subject to the same wiretapping laws as regular phone service. If it is not, a department spokeswoman said, criminals could use the service without fear of getting caught. Some senators have voiced concerns about applying such regulations to the fast-growing VoIP market without evidence that such a problem exists. -- eMarketer Inc.
Shane Peterson Associate Editor
Jessica Jones Managing Editor