GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon

by / April 16, 2002
Operating Room of the Future
The University of Maryland Medical Center won a $2.5 million grant earlier this year to help devise an operating room of the future.

The medical center will work with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) at Fort Detrick, Md., to develop new operating-room technology and conduct research on the impact of such technology on patient care and safety.

Some of the proposed research is designed to provide the U.S. armed forces with technologically advanced surgical equipment that is smaller, lighter and faster.

Officials of the medical center said much of the research would also apply to civilian hospitals, such as studies of new ways to prevent medication errors and adverse drug reactions.

An OR of the Future consortium was created to bring together more than a dozen institutions, including other academic medical centers and medical-device manufacturers. The consortium's mission is to help its members compete for research funding in a variety of areas, including operating room suite management, patient safety and advanced surgical technologies.

The consortium also helps its member organizations pool resources to help develop technological advances in the operating room.

The OR of the Future project grew out of a new approach by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command to develop a centralized-research-funding strategy and coordinate the efforts of the many institutions interested in surgical research.

Showing the Way
So you've got your sleek new portal up and you're offering your constituents more applications than they can shake a stick at. Everything's peachy, right?

Well, no, because you've created a whole new problem for yourself: How do you let people know about all these nifty apps without turning your new portal back into a boring laundry list of various functions?

California is taking a categorization approach to solving this problem, working with state librarians to help cluster the applications in the proper category.

"We've got more than 50 applications available through the portal, and we were getting tired of seeing that long list appear," said Arun Baheti, director of eGovernment.

"We've taken all the applications and categorized them so you can actually get through them a little quicker," he said, noting that it's not exactly rocket science; it's just tinkering to find the right way to organize information better.

"We're now in an interesting situation since we have more than a few apps," he said. "Part of our challenge is to figure out how to draw our users in to find the app they want or need that they wouldn't otherwise find. Our challenge is trying to think through how we can help you find out what you're after, based on using our personalization and other features and what the click stream looks like."

One thought is using a person's click stream to make an application box available on the right side of the Web page.

"If we notice you're clicking through tourism stuff and we know we've got some tourism applications, we can automatically have those sitting on the right column for you as a personalized help box," he said.

The other issue is juggling the merits of pursuing a graphical approach or an advertising approach to leading people down the right trail, he said.

"We've got to figure out a way to get this stuff in front of people," he said. "Otherwise, they'll never find it."

Getting Ready for Laptops
Nine schools across Maine get to be guinea pigs in the state's efforts to weave technology into classrooms.

The schools will serve as demonstration and exploration sites for teachers involved
in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative.

The schools will receive an advanced deployment of wireless networks, and one-to-one access to wireless notebook computers for several classrooms of seventh grade students. Each school will also receive extensive support and professional development for teachers.

Officials of the state's Department of Education said the demonstration/exploration schools are a key component of Maine's plan to provide training and professional development to prepare teachers to use technology effectively.

The nine schools will give Maine teachers the chance to observe the effects technology has on teaching and learning.

Officials said the sites would demonstrate effective integration of technology tools in the middle school curriculum. They will also serve as test sites for some of the technical capabilities of the equipment provided by Apple.

As part of their commitment, the nine schools will be open for other districts to visit for an average of one day per week, and schools will share experiences and student products with visiting teachers from the region and at regional and state conference sessions.

The deployment of the networks was to have started in early March, with the balance of the 241 middle schools in Maine scheduled for the start of the 2002-2003 school year.

Maine's Learning Technology Initiative aims to make Maine the first in the nation to deploy universal personal access to learning technology for all seventh- and eighth-grade students and teachers statewide.

In December 2001, the Department of Education signed a four-year, $37.2 million contract with Apple to provide notebook computers, wireless networks, servers, technical support and maintenance, and teacher training for 36,000 seventh- and eighth-grade students and teachers in Maine.

Data Sharing Across Canada
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has begun setting up a secure data-sharing system that will connect several layers of law enforcement across the country.

The RCMP signed a contract with Entrust to deploy the company's secure e-mail, desktop/laptop encryption and VPN products.

"It's going to be rolled out to the RCMP internally this year, and I would expect that the [roll out to] other police forces will begin next year," said Ian Curry, vice president of product management and strategy.

When the data-sharing system is eventually rolled out across the country, approximately 75,000 law enforcement personnel within the RCMP, municipal and provincial police forces will be using the system.

Users will be issued individual digital certificates through a PKI, Curry said.

"They're really leveraging the PKI across multiple applications; they're using [it] to do secure e-mail, to encrypt data on their laptops and they're using [it] for their VPN. In the future, they have plans for secure electronic forms."

In the United States, federal lawmakers are scrutinizing how to bring authentication and security to information sharing between agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

U.S. Rep Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, held a series of hearings on computer crime to examine what government and the private sector are doing to fight such crime, according to an aide of Smith.

Out of the hearings arose the painful fact that even the FBI couldn't communicate securely with field offices, the aide said, a situation that Smith is committed to changing.

"The Internet is information sharing on a massive scale," Smith said. "But sensitive information between law enforcement officials has to be secure and authentic in order to be useful. Law enforcement agents must feel confident that once they push the 'send' button, the information will get to the right person uncorrupted.

"Some FBI field offices have such old computers that they can't even connect to the Internet," Smith said. "Modernizing those offices and securing communications should be priorities."