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

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