Past Issues of Government Technology

GT Spectrum

GT Spectrum

by / March 30, 2001 0
WASHINGTON BUYS NEXT-GENERATION CARS

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington is setting yet another technological precedent.
Seventeen government entities in the state have purchased 28 "green" cars through a contract offered by the states Department of General Administration.

The Toyota Prius is a hybrid, powered by both gasoline and electricity. The car gets about 52 miles per gallon in the city and emits 90 percent fewer emissions than a standard car. The car generates its own electricity so you dont have to worry about plugging it in overnight.

The first agency to buy one of the vehicles was, fittingly enough, the Department of Ecology. Six cities in the state have purchased the vehicles, and even Pueblo, Colo., has put in an order.

The Department of General Administration awarded a contract to Toyota last June. Washington is one of the first state governments in the country to contract for the Prius.

NO MORE MILK MONEY

ARDMORE, Pa. -- Several schools in Pennsylvania are doing away with 20th-century school-lunch cards, opting instead to install fingerprint scanners that deduct a students lunch costs from an already-established account.

Because some public funding for school districts, including E-Rate funding, is based on the amount of students participating in federal lunch programs, the scanners help school districts accurately track the number of students involved in these programs. The scanners also alleviate the potential embarrassment of students having to present free lunch program cards in front of other students.

"Take a school district that would have, across the board, a
30 percent free and reduced lunch [program] participation: At the elementary school level, its more like 40 percent, while at the high-school and junior-high level, its more like 20 percent," said Mitch Johns, president of Food Service Solutions, a company that sells fingerprint scanners to school districts. "Every school district we visit has that decrease. It may not be a 40 percent to 20 percent drop, but its a significant drop off from the elementary to the high-school level."

Although school districts reimbursement from the federal government for school lunches is based on how many students are eating free or reduced lunches, E-Rate funding comes from how many students sign up for the free or reduced lunch program, Johns said.

"Your E-Rate funding is based on how many free and reduced [students] there are in your school district as a percentage of the whole district," Johns said. "If youre doing a poor job on your free and reduced school lunch program in your district and not getting the kids to sign up because they dont trust that system or they know that they are automatically going to be termed poor, they tell their parents, Dont even sign me up for it."

PAPER CELLULAR PHONE

NEW YORK -- A cellular phone made from recycled paper products that will cost a measly $10 is expected to hit the U.S. market in the third quarter of this year.

The device, called the Phone-Card Phone, is made by Dieceland Technology. The phone is disposable, is as thick as three credit cards and comes with an hours worth of calling time and a hands-free attachment, said Randi Altschul, president and CEO of the company.

"Its just the tip of the iceberg of what were planning," Altschul said, adding that her company has 22 patents on the technology behind the disposable phone.

Two versions of the phone are available -- one that allows calls only to be made and one that receives calls as well. When users burn their allotted time, they can either throw the phone away or use their credit card to purchase more time.

Altschul said her initial audience was moms and kids, but she now sees potential for state and local governments to give the phones to at-risk constituents who may need to make a phone call in emergency situations.

Future plans include the development of a paper laptop, which will be available for $20. Currently, the laptop is in the prototype phase, and the company expects it to function as an Internet appliance.

"Every kid in the world could have a computer. Thered be no excuses for this anymore," she said.

PEER-TO-PEER FOR GOVERNMENT?

BEVERLY, Mass. -- Napster may have given peer-to-peer computing a bad rap initially, but peer-to-peer is fast becoming attractive to both consumers and businesses.

Governments, too, could make use of peer-to-peer, said Andre Mahon, director of strategic marketing of Groove Networks, a company that has created a platform and applications for peer-to-peer computing. Groove was founded by Ray Ozzie, the man who created Lotus Notes.

Although peer-to-peer computing may not work well within an established process, such as a business that has to go through a particular chain of events and approvals to get a particular license, peer-to-peer could prove useful in relation to that process.

For example, if something new pops up that isnt addressed by the existing business process, then what happens? Typically, everybody involved has to make a flurry of telephone calls or send out a barrage of e-mails, faxes or overnight letters to handle the new wrinkle.

Peer-to-peer could make that situation much more simple, Mahon said.

"The model for Groove is that users create what we call a shared space," he explained. "Ill create a shared space on my desktop and Ill invite you into that shared space. If you accept, Ill send you an absolute duplicate of this shared space and youve got it on your desktop, too. Any content you put in it gets sent over the network, and I get it. If there are 10 people [in that shared space], every time one person does something, the other nine people get that, too."

The shared space is protected by 192-bit encryption, and only the people who have been invited into the space have access to it.

Mahon sees peer-to-peer computing helping groups of 20 people or less solve problems that involve the sharing of documents or images.

MIRAMAX REELING OUT NETS FIRST FEATURE-LENGTH RENTAL FILM

PARK CITY, Utah -- Video rental is coming soon to a PC near you in the form of the 1999 feature-length movie Guinevere.

Miramax Films and SightSound Technologies said at the Sundance Film Festival in January that they will deliver what they say is the first big-screen rental movie on the Internet. Guinevere was to have been available for download rental starting Monday, Jan. 22.

According to Jennifer Pesci, spokesperson for SightSound, the movie will be distributed in a file that is a little over 500MBs in size, which will take about 30 to 60 minutes to download over a T1 line or via a cable modem. Once the viewer has paid the $3.49 rental fee, there will be a 24-hour period during which the movie can be viewed.

Miramax and SightSound said Guinevere is the first of 12 films the two companies will release on the Internet as part of an agreement announced on April 18 last year. -- Newsbytes

ENTRUST TAKING DIGITAL CERTIFICATES TO WAP

PLANO, Texas -- Digital certificates are coming to the mobile world.

Entrust.net, a subsidiary of Entrust, rolled out a trial digital certificate service in January for WAP developers and service providers building wireless Web applications.

The trial lasted three weeks, and the company sweetened the deal by delivering Nokia phones to the first 100 subscribers that upgraded from a trial WAP certificate to a live production WAP certificate within 60 days of starting the trial.

"The whole goal of the WAP trial certificate program was to try to make it easy for people to test things out," said Richard Kirk, vice president and general manager of Entrusts global wireless solutions group. "It was really intended to try to stimulate the market and to get people to look at it and try it."

Digital certificates via WAP-enabled devices could translate into an increase of people conducting transactions with government agencies via mobile devices, Kirk said.

"People are going to want to [transact with governments], and theyre going to want to have a single identity, whether theyre doing it over the phone or over the PC," he said. "But there are some logistical challenges in terms of how you actually make that work."

One of those challenges is where the digital certificate should be stored, Kirk said.

"What you can do with a mobile phone is you can take [the digital certificate] to the next degree because you can now associate it with the phone, which tends to be something that people have with them at all times," he explained.

BEYOND X-RAYS

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Dr. McCoy could have used this piece of medical technology on board the Enterprise.

Dr. Harvey Eisenberg, founder of the Health View Center for Preventive Medicine, has been perfecting AngioCAT over the last 15 years. AngioCAT is proprietary 3-D rendering software that models the human bodys innards and skeletal structure.

The software is used by physicians at the center to examine the heart and arteries for minute amounts of buildup; the lungs for early signs of emphysema or smoke damage; the breasts for early cancer detection; the spine for osteoporosis or disc disease; and the internal organs for small tumors, stones and cysts.

In addition, the software helps detect aneurysms in the abdominal and chest cavities, thyroid and parathyroid diseases and diseases afflicting the uterus, the ovaries and the prostate.

"Any entity involved in life or health insurance or any business interested in the long-term care
of individuals has to think in terms of early detection/prevention," said Dr. Eisenberg. "The more comprehensive and the more accurate your screening techniques are, the more cost effective they become."

WORLDS FIRST GPRS SYSTEM FOR CLINICIANS GOES LIVE

LONDON -- A mobile services consortium called Magic Ant has developed a high-speed wireless Internet-based service for UK clinicians, allowing them to access news and analysis on pharmaceutical and life sciences industries.

Using technology from Digital Mobility, one of the consortiums members, and working across BT Cellnets general packet radio service (GPRS) network, the service takes advantage of the always-on aspect of GPRS to deliver information to the clinicians quickly and efficiently.

The MedicAnt service, said to be totally secure, revolves around the use of a Compaq Pocket PC and a GPRS-enabled mobile handset.

Clinicians can use the service to gain access to constantly updated medically oriented information from Reuters news headlines and other information sources.

Magic Ant said MedicAnt is the first of a number of vertical-market mobile multimedia applications of GPRS the consortium is developing.

Marcus Taylor, Digital Mobilitys vice president, said that the "ready to run" MedicAnt bundle will be offered to the UKs 37,000 general practitioners, as well as to the estimated 7,000 clinical research associates and 12,000 pharmaceutical sales representatives. -- Newsbytes

WIRELESS CAPACITY GETS A BOOST

MURRAY HILL, N.J. -- Bell Labs, the research arm of Lucent, has discovered a method of increasing the capacity of radio signals to carry data by a factor of six, Nature magazine reported in January.

People who use cellular phones in an urban environment know all too well the problems that afflict radio signals as they ricochet between buildings before reaching the telecommunications equipment that either transmit or receive the radio signals.

However, Bell Labs researchers have come up with a way to use that scattering to beef up the capacity of the radio signals. Essentially, the researchers found that the scattering of the radio signals means that the
signals reach an antenna from all directions, instead of the usual line-of-sight direction between a receiver and transmitter.

According to Nature, three mutually perpendicular antennas can each pick up a signal, and the researchers discovered that "if such a set of antennas are used to transmit polarized signals, each of which consists of the two polarization states for each direction, then a similar trio of antennas can receive and distinguish the separate signals as they arrive after being reflected from surrounding objects.

"Six different signals in total, all at the same frequency can be sent like this -- increasing the rate at which data can be transmitted by six-fold relative to the usual practice of broadcasting a single unpolarized signal."