GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon

by / February 12, 2001 0
Not Just An Outlet Anymore

SAN RAMON, Calif. -- Looking to tap into a network that already exists in just about every home, the electrical lines that feed power into individual homes, the HomePlug Powerline Alliance said that a power-line standard could be announced as early as March 2001.

The idea of using homes internal electrical networks as a medium that would allow a single Internet connection to be shared with multiple PCs plugged into wall sockets has been around for some time, but companies experimenting with the technology kept running into roadblocks.

Some of the initial difficulties are lack of specifications and trouble with electric "noise" that interfered with communications among electronic devices. Home wiring was not designed for communicating data signals, and the physical topology of the home wiring, the physical properties of the electrical cabling, the appliances connected and the behavioral characteristics of the electric current contribute to the technical obstacles.

The alliance said its proposed standard and research into mathematical algorithms will solve these difficulties, and it plans field trials in more than 500 U.S. homes early this year to test the proposed standard and products that could make use of power-line networking.

The HomePlug Alliance now has more than 50 members, including such tech heavyweights as 3Com, Cisco, Compaq, Intel and Motorola.

Let Your "E-Fingers" Do The Walking

SAN FRANCISCO -- A gaggle of companies is very interested in the creation of a sort of giant Yellow Pages for online businesses.

The Universal Description, Discovery and Integration Project (UDDI) has just put a beta version of its business registry online. The registry is being billed as a "Web service designed to accelerate the adoption of business-to-business (B2B) integration and commerce on the Internet" in press releases.

According to the "UDDI Executive White Paper," typical e-commerce-enabling applications and Web services currently use disparate paths to connect buyers, suppliers, marketplaces and service providers, which ultimately holds e-commerce back.

"Registering with UDDI will enable a company to publicly list a definition of itself, its services and methods for engagement," according to the white paper. "Registered companies will then be accessible in searches by potential buyers and marketplaces. As registrants, integration will be significantly easier and more dynamic for partner companies."

The UDDI includes information about which type of technology each company in the registry uses, whether it is XML, EDI, fax or phone. The UDDI project was started by IBM, Ariba and Microsoft and now has more than 130 members.

IP Telephony Hits Dallas

DALLAS -- Itll take a year, but Dallas is among the first major cities to take the plunge into IP telephony. The city plans to scrap its archaic communications infrastructure for a new network that will integrate voice and data delivery.

"Dallas current communications foundation is cracked. It is full of outdated equipment and software and does not allow us to serve the citizens effectively," said Dan McFarland, Dallas CIO. "The new network will enable city employees to work more efficiently and will be a solid foundation on which we can build e-government services."

At the heart of the new network, which will be built over the course of the next two years, is IP telephony, which transmits phone calls as data packets over the network.

One of the networks perks will be unified messaging, which will integrate voice mail, e-mail and faxes into a single messaging program. With unified messaging, users will be able to attach voice mails to e-mails they send or have the system read e-mail to them over the phone if theyre calling in while away from the office.

IP telephony is expected to take off in coming years, and analysts suggest that many organizations, both in the public and private sectors, will implement communications systems that rely on IP telephony.

The number of IP PBX lines sold annually is projected to overtake the number of traditional, circuit-switched PBX lines sold by 2005, with more than 11 million new extensions shipped, according to the Yankee Group.

The Thumb Knows

Security is always a concern, and it will become more of a concern as the Net becomes the accepted medium for doing business with government agencies and retailers. Passwords, long a mainstay for identifying people and allowing access to networks and their data, will likely be supplanted by biometrics.

Oceanside, Calif., installed mouse-sized fingerprint scanners at desktop PCs nearly two years ago to regulate access to the citys network. City officials say the scanners paid for themselves through time savings, both on the part of network administrators, who reported getting up to 30 calls a day about lost or forgotten passwords, and staff.

In early 2000, Bank United of Texas installed ATMs in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth that recognized customers by patterns in their irises and reported that customers liked the technology.

Biometrics should become more accessible to government agencies as prices drop, and several vendors were already promoting biometrics technologies at Comdex in late 2000. The most reasonably priced device came in at $179 and debuted in a laptop computer. The fully functional optical fingerprint reader was located inside a single type II PC card. Users simply pressed the side of the PC card and a fingerprint reader slid out of the card.

Another biometrics technology that could gain ground is voice-recognition software. One companys product comes in both client and server versions and enables voice checks over telephones, PDAs and the Net.

States Looking To Register Internet Charities

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With charities embracing the Net as a way to raise funds, public officials are wondering what steps should be taken to make sure the "charity" isnt just lining someones pockets.

This year, Ohios attorney general, Betty Montgomery, is requiring Internet charities to register with her office, a trend that other states may follow.

The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) has been examining the issue and issued a set of "Charleston Principles" to guide states in their decision-making process.

As with other areas of public policy, the Internet is forcing officials who regulate charities to reconsider existing statutes, said Daniel Moore, president of NASCO, who described charity solicitations as "essentially a promise."

"You solicit funds based on a promise to do something," Moore said. "If you buy a toaster and it doesnt work, you can go back to the store and say, Hey, this doesnt work. The promise to provide some sort of charitable mission is directed to other people, and the services are delivered to other people, not to the donor. When you combine the unique aspects of a charitable appeal with the Internet, it raises the possibility of abuse."

The "Charleston Principles" are simply a set of guidelines for states to consider, Moore said, noting that all states are free to set their own laws. Also, the responsibility for regulating charities or enforcing charity laws rests with different agencies from state to state, Moore said.

More Than Just A Power Plant

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Utility companies in Nebraska want to parlay their excess fiber-optic capacity into increased information services for residents and businesses but are running into potential policy roadblocks.

A resolution offered earlier this year, LR 447, authorized a study of the "issues surrounding the use of excess fiber-optic cable capacity and other telecommunications assets by public entities."

The utility companies said their dark fiber-optic capacity could be used to roll out information services to rural customers. Utilities envision leasing the extra capacity to private businesses that would provide the services, but lawmakers have some concerns about the proposal.

At a public hearing held by the Nebraska Legislatures Transportation and Natural Resources Committee, several ISPs testified that this sort of arrangement would help them greatly, said Gary Hedman, general manager of the Southern Public Power District and second vice president of the Nebraska Power Association.

"There were three ISPs there that basically said, We cant get what our customers want and we need something done," Hedman said. "Our pitch was that weve got fiber-optic capacity in the shield wire of our transmission lines, and heres a public asset thats under-utilized. If we could utilize that, it would help get the bandwidth to the areas that the private carriers dont want to invest in."

Nebraska is the nations only all-public-power state, and lawmakers said they are worried that the public/private partnerships resulting from the leasing of excess fiber-optic capacity would open the door to privatization.

Taxation issues -- how much the utilities would wind up paying the state for leasing the capacity -- and the nature of the new business have lawmakers worried that the utilities may be trying to get into the telecommunications business.

Motorola Making DNA Chips

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Motorola and Compugen, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based biotechnology firm, have teamed to make and market DNA microchips, tiny microcircuits loaded with bits of genetic material rather than electronic circuits.

The DNA "probes" allow scientists and biomedical professionals to perform large numbers of tests in a fraction of the time needed to carry out the same experiments using conventional means.

"Putting one of these probes on a piece of glass or other medium allows you to compare normal tissues with genetic material from people affected by disease and determine the mutations by seeing the differences between the two," said Compugens Dr. Michal Preminger.

These comparisons, Preminger said, can be used in the study of immune-system disorders, cancer, diabetes and even the effects of aging.

He said Compugens DNA chip-design tools and its LEADS platform -- an algorithm-based technology that analyzes genomic and protein-sequence data -- will enhance researchers ability to pinpoint genes for study and also to splice variants of the genes.

The potential of biochips has been touted for some time. About a year ago, a survey of market research and brokerage firms reportedly put the immediate biochips market at as much as $1 billion -- with the potential to expand to $40 billion by 2010.

Compugen combines mathematics and computer science with molecular biology in a field called computational genomics to develop products that speed up drug development, therapeutics, diagnostics and agricultural products.

This is not new for Motorolas BioChips Systems subsidiary. In the past, the unit has partnered with Packard BioScience, the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory and the Russian Academy of Sciences Englehardt Institute of Molecular Biology. -- Newsbytes

Security Lapse

The dearth of IT talent across the United States is giving both the private and the public sectors fits as jobs go unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants.

d or have the system read e-mail to them over the phone if theyre calling in while away from the office.

IP telephony is expected to take off in coming years, and analysts suggest that many organizations, both in the public and private sectors, will implement communications systems that rely on IP telephony.

The number of IP PBX lines sold annually is projected to overtake the number of traditional, circuit-switched PBX lines sold by 2005, with more than 11 million new extensions shipped, according to the Yankee Group.

The Thumb Knows

Security is always a concern, and it will become more of a concern as the Net becomes the accepted medium for doing business with government agencies and retailers. Passwords, long a mainstay for identifying people and allowing access to networks and their data, will likely be supplanted by biometrics.

Oceanside, Calif., installed mouse-sized fingerprint scanners at desktop PCs nearly two years ago to regulate access to the citys network. City officials say the scanners paid for themselves through time savings, both on the part of network administrators, who reported getting up to 30 calls a day about lost or forgotten passwords, and staff.

In early 2000, Bank United of Texas installed ATMs in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth that recognized customers by patterns in their irises and reported that customers liked the technology.

Biometrics should become more accessible to government agencies as prices drop, and several vendors were already promoting biometrics technologies at Comdex in late 2000. The most reasonably priced device came in at $179 and debuted in a laptop computer. The fully functional optical fingerprint reader was located inside a single type II PC card. Users simply pressed the side of the PC card and a fingerprint reader slid out of the card.

Another biometrics technology that could gain ground is voice-recognition software. One companys product comes in both client and server versions and enables voice checks over telephones, PDAs and the Net.

States Looking To Register Internet Charities

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With charities embracing the Net as a way to raise funds, public officials are wondering what steps should be taken to make sure the "charity" isnt just lining someones pockets.

This year, Ohios attorney general, Betty Montgomery, is requiring Internet charities to register with her office, a trend that other states may follow.

The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) has been examining the issue and issued a set of "Charleston Principles" to guide states in their decision-making process.

As with other areas of public policy, the Internet is forcing officials who regulate charities to reconsider existing statutes, said Daniel Moore, president of NASCO, who described charity solicitations as "essentially a promise."

"You solicit funds based on a promise to do something," Moore said. "If you buy a toaster and it doesnt work, you can go back to the store and say, Hey, this doesnt work. The promise to provide some sort of charitable mission is directed to other people, and the services are delivered to other people, not to the donor. When you combine the unique aspects of a charitable appeal with the Internet, it raises the possibility of abuse."

The "Charleston Principles" are simply a set of guidelines for states to consider, Moore said, noting that all states are free to set their own laws. Also, the responsibility for regulating charities or enforcing charity laws rests with different agencies from state to state, Moore said.

More Than Just A Power Plant

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Utility companies in Nebraska want to parlay their excess fiber-optic capacity into increased information services for residents and businesses but are running into potential policy roadblocks.

A resolution offered earlier this year, LR 447, authorized a study of the "issues surrounding the use of excess fiber-optic cable capacity and other telecommunications assets by public entities."

The utility companies said their dark fiber-optic capacity could be used to roll out information services to rural customers. Utilities envision leasing the extra capacity to private businesses that would provide the services, but lawmakers have some concerns about the proposal.

At a public hearing held by the Nebraska Legislatures Transportation and Natural Resources Committee, several ISPs testified that this sort of arrangement would help them greatly, said Gary Hedman, general manager of the Southern Public Power District and second vice president of the Nebraska Power Association.

"There were three ISPs there that basically said, We cant get what our customers want and we need something done," Hedman said. "Our pitch was that weve got fiber-optic capacity in the shield wire of our transmission lines, and heres a public asset thats under-utilized. If we could utilize that, it would help get the bandwidth to the areas that the private carriers dont want to invest in."

Nebraska is the nations only all-public-power state, and lawmakers said they are worried that the public/private partnerships resulting from the leasing of excess fiber-optic capacity would open the door to privatization.

Taxation issues -- how much the utilities would wind up paying the state for leasing the capacity -- and the nature of the new business have lawmakers worried that the utilities may be trying to get into the telecommunications business.

Motorola Making DNA Chips

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Motorola and Compugen, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based biotechnology firm, have teamed to make and market DNA microchips, tiny microcircuits loaded with bits of genetic material rather than electronic circuits.

The DNA "probes" allow scientists and biomedical professionals to perform large numbers of tests in a fraction of the time needed to carry out the same experiments using conventional means.

"Putting one of these probes on a piece of glass or other medium allows you to compare normal tissues with genetic material from people affected by disease and determine the mutations by seeing the differences between the two," said Compugens Dr. Michal Preminger.

These comparisons, Preminger said, can be used in the study of immune-system disorders, cancer, diabetes and even the effects of aging.

He said Compugens DNA chip-design tools and its LEADS platform -- an algorithm-based technology that analyzes genomic and protein-sequence data -- will enhance researchers ability to pinpoint genes for study and also to splice variants of the genes.

The potential of biochips has been touted for some time. About a year ago, a survey of market research and brokerage firms reportedly put the immediate biochips market at as much as $1 billion -- with the potential to expand to $40 billion by 2010.

Compugen combines mathematics and computer science with molecular biology in a field called computational genomics to develop products that speed up drug development, therapeutics, diagnostics and agricultural products.

This is not new for Motorolas BioChips Systems subsidiary. In the past, the unit has partnered with Packard BioScience, the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory and the Russian Academy of Sciences Englehardt Institute of Molecular Biology. -- Newsbytes

Security Lapse

The dearth of IT talent across the United States is giving both the private and the public sectors fits as jobs go unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants.



However, according to a recent Business Week report, a lack of information-security personnel could prove to be even more troublesome. Some companies are estimating a shortage of between 50,000 and 75,000 security professionals in the coming years.

The biggest problem, according to Business Week, is a lack of educational institutions emphasizing information security. Only a handful of academic programs are targeted specifically at information security, and those programs crank out fewer than 200 graduates each year.

As the report notes, the National Security Agency has recognized only 14 universities for specializing in information security. In addition, one of the top programs, the International Information Systems Security Certifications Corporation, has issued only 3,000 certificates over the past four years.

Another problem facing potential information-security personnel is that the few programs that do exist dont train students particularly well across platforms, protocols and devices.

Some companies are resorting to simply hiring intelligent people and then investing in the appropriate training, the Business Week report notes, rather than waiting for that perfect resume to arrive.

On the public-sector side, the coming lack of information-security personnel could pose problems with the increasing number of governments rolling out electronic government applications. Without adequate safeguards, the public likely wont trust electronic government applications.

Sams In The Sewers

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- As jurisdictions look to beef up their telecommunications infrastructures, how to get additional fiber to businesses and consumers clamoring for broadband is proving to be a dilemma.

Ripping up streets is no fun, and choking the conduits carrying the necessary fiber-optic cables with more fiber means theres no room for expansion.

A Maryland company has hit on an unusual solution for this growing problem: Robots in a sewer near you.

The company, CityNet Telecommunications, uses robots developed by a Swiss company to deploy fiber in sewer systems. The Sewer Access Modules (SAMs) are custom designed and patented robots capable of installing fiber-optic networks in sewer pipes as small as eight inches in diameter.

The company has purchased 38 robotic systems from its Swiss supplier and is planning to deploy 62 additional systems next year in multiple cities.

Company officials said a deal was signed with Omaha, Neb., last October and another deal was negotiated with Albuquerque, N.M.

The computer-controlled robots are equipped with cameras and traverse designated sewer pipes to inspect them for damage or leaks. Next, the robots install stainless-steel alloy rings in the sewer pipes. The robots then attach small conduits to the rings. Lastly, fiber-optic cables are run through the pre-installed conduits.