Watch Your Words Swatch Talk allows users to overcome the limitations of time and space by integrating a wristwatch and cellular phone. To dial, just push buttons positioned around the watch case. The watch weighs two ounces and is 2.16 inches wide, has a built-in speaker and microphone, PIN memory and redial function. Swatch Talk should be priced between $250 and $360. Commercial production is planned for next year. Additional information is available by calling Swatch Telecom in Biel, Switzerland, at +41-32-343-95-48.
MetroBook DT MetroBook DT is an ideal notebook for those who want to travel light yet run all necessary desktop applications. Nothing is sacrificed and everything is combined into a slim package just a hair lighter than 10 pounds. MetroBook DT makes mobile computing even easier by including Dragon Systems' Naturally Speaking voice-recognition software. Users can activate the software for easy dictation of letters, reports and e-mail. A full-size keyboard is also included for comfortable keyboarding. The MetroBook DT is equipped with a 233MHz Intel Tillamook chip with MMX technology, a 15.1-inch active color screen, 64MB of RAM and 4GB of hard-drive storage. It includes a 20X CD-ROM, 3.5-inch floppy drive, a 512K cache, a 56K fax/modem, an AC adapter and a leather carrying case. Multimedia capability is not sacrificed for weight. It has a 16-bit sound card with speakers, 4MB video RAM, 3-D audio effects processor, a microphone, a zoomed video port, NTSC/PAC video out-port and an RCA jack for video input. Other built-in ports include two USBs, serial, parallel and ASKIR. There is also a PCMCIA slot for type I, II or III cards with CardBus and zoomed video support. A standard array of ports are also included: serial, FIR/IrDA, parallel, PS/2, USB and SVGA. The smart lithium ion battery can run for about four hours. The unit measures 14.0 inches by 10.8 inches by 1.9 inches and weighs 9.9 pounds. MetroBook offers a three-year warranty and customer support. Additional information is available by calling 888/829-5300 or online at .
Internal-combustion Laptop In spite of rapid advances in battery technology and manufacturer's claims, few laptop computers will stay lit during a five-hour cross-country flight. Portable technology, including cellular phones, camcorders and PDAs, all require heavy batteries that run down before you do. Scientists at MIT are now developing gas-turbine engines that will be the size of a computer chip, run on butane and last twice as long as today's lithium batteries. Microengines could one day power laptop computers, GPS receivers and other hand-held devices. Additional information is available by contacting MIT professor Alan Epstein at .
Pocket Copier CapeShare 910 is a portable scanner that scans up to 50 letter-sized pages in black and white. The device is about the size of a portable CD player. Users simply swipe CapeShare across the page and it re-creates the document in six seconds. The scanned documents can be sent directly to a printer or smart wireless hand-held device via infrared port, or to a PC for e-mailing or faxing. It runs on two AA nickel cadmium rechargeable batteries, weighs 12.5 ounces and has 4MB of memory. Additional information is available online at .
It's All on the Wrist (January) If you have the Swatch Talk phone on one wrist, that still leaves a whole other arm for WristRecord, a portable computer system that can store important medical information on a hospital patient's digital wristband. According to Dr. Frank Overdyke at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, the device provides an accurate and convenient method of recording and supplying patient data, and is an effective tool for reducing mistakes associated with misplaced or difficult-to-find information on a patient's chart. WristRecord consists of a tiny computer memory chip --15mm in diameter with a compressed data capacity of 8KB -- placed on the patient's ID bracelet. Data on the
chip is retrieved or updated by a hand-held personal computer with a Windows CE-based platform. Patient information can be encrypted to maintain privacy and easily integrated with other hospital systems. Upon the patient's discharge from the hospital, the chip is removed from the bracelet, the data is downloaded to a desktop computer, and the chip is erased for reuse. Further development and evaluation of higher capacity (64KB) memory devices and hand-held computers is currently under way. The memory chip costs about $10, and the palm-top computer and reader cost about $500. Additional information is available by calling 803/529-0045 or online at .
Traffic Watch (February) You're running out of wrists fast, but Seattle will be using Seiko's MessageWatch to deliver traffic and transit information directly to drivers. MessageWatch is part of Seattle Wide-area Information For Travellers (SWIFT), a system developed by the Washington State Department of Transportation and several private and public partners. The system operates on an FM-subcarrier-based paging and information system. Traffic updates, sports scores, the time and winning lottery tickets will be transmitted to drivers through Seiko's high-speed data system. MessageWatch is also a personal messaging tool that uses the Web or e-mail. It can take a call from anywhere in the world and has the capacity to display 16 digits for extensions, area codes and international codes. Additional information about SWIFT is available online at . Additional information about MessageWatch is available by calling 800/456-5600.
Ready to Serve (January) To help police find crime-scene evidence, researchers at Sandia National Laboratory are developing an evidence system that detects fingerprints, semen, urine, saliva and other organic substances that can carry clues to a criminal's identity. The system relies on weak fluorescent emissions, invisible to the naked eye, that all organic substances radiate. The system consists of a flashing lamp and a pair of modified 3-D goggles that make the organic glow visible. Researchers plan to test a prototype of the system in 1999 and make it available for licensing and manufacture soon thereafter. The Albuquerque Police Department's crime lab agreed to test a prototype system at actual crime scenes. Additional information is available by calling Sandia National Labs at 505/844-5199 or online at .
Telltale Hearts (January) Seconds count for rescuers trying to locate victims buried under landslides or collapsed buildings or submerged in water. Life Guard, a portable rescuing device developed by DKL, helps rescuers find survivors by detecting ultra-low-frequency electric and magnetic signals naturally generated by the heart. It can penetrate concrete, metal, earth and wood. At short range, it has detected people through a 10-meter-wide earthen barrier. Life Guard's digital display, electronic compass bearing and GPS-compatible metering circuitry provides a visual indication of victims and operates in all weather conditions. It weighs 1.75 pounds., requires four AA batteries and comes in three models. Additional information is available by calling 202/861-8870 or online at .
"Rearview Mirror in my Car, Who's the Fairest Driver by Far?" (May) Tired of singing along to the Top 40 stations? AutoLink has combined a cellular phone and a global positioning system that will let you talk to your car's rearview mirror. Actually, you can talk to your mirror already, but Autolink will let the mirror talk back. Users can immediately determine their exact location, request emergency and roadside assistance, receive driving directions and information on restaurants, hotels or the shortest route to a destination, all from their mirrors. AutoLink's cellular phone features a voice-recognition system that allows drivers keep their hands on the wheels. A small display screen on the mirror also provides compass direction and temperature. Now, if it would just tell that guy back there to stop tailgating ... Additional information is available by calling 800/828-4696 or online at .
A New Kind of Computer Bug (May) Scientists at Syracuse University are using protein
found in bacteriorhodospin -- a bacteria found in salt marshes -- to write and store data. Jeff Stuart, senior research scientist, said that two laser beams are used to access and/or write information on the protein. These beams cause structural changes in the protein similar to how an optical plate is altered. Bacteriorhodospin protein has the ability to store information three dimensionally for up to five years. "Currently, we are working on a storage system that can store up to 10GB of information," said Stuart. Additional information is available by calling 315/443-5908.
Virtual Weightlessness (June) Alien Furniture Technology has developed an ergonomic chair and computer workstation that enables and encourages users to sit, stand and recline while working. According to the company, stress, muscle tension, and neck and back pain disappear while the user and workstation float as one -- all for $5,295. Additional information is available by calling 888/626-3026 or online at .
Take Your Best Shot (August) Early and timely immunizations are the most effective ways to protect children and adults from disease. Computer Data Systems' Enterprise RMS is an immunization-registry program that provides accurate immunization histories and information on immunization-registry development and implementation. The software provides comprehensive immunization evaluations and recommendations, automatic patient recall, secured access and more. The system is currently used by the Hawaii Department of Health and the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Additional information is available by calling 301/548-2160 or online at .
Telesurveillance at the Border (June) Remote telesurveillance by Alpha Systems Lab (ASL) is making round-the-clock U.S./Canada border crossings possible at many small and remote ports of entry. The system was developed to help port inspectors process the rising number of travelers crossing the border. According to ASL, the system allows the video inspection of any portion of a vehicle, zooming in on a driver and his license, passengers, the car's interior and the opened trunk. Audio and video are recorded on a VCR. At selected sites, local residents can apply for a border-crossing permit for use at any time, regardless of whether inspectors are on duty. The applicant's voice signature is recorded, and a personal identification number and photo ID are assigned. Additional information is available by calling 714/622-0688.
Wireless Rescue Beacon (September) Automated Collision Notification (ACN) automatically calls emergency response units when an accident occurs, giving the car's exact location. The system reduces response times for emergency medical personnel. ACN integrates crash sensors, cellular communications equipment, GPS position-location devices and automated map display technologies into its system. Additional communications and display hardware and software are installed in dispatch workstations and contact routing equipment at the Erie County Sheriff's Office and Erie County Medical Center in New York. ACN senses that a crash has occurred and immediately relays information on the accident's severity and location to a satellite. The satellite relays the information to the emergency 911 dispatcher. The computer in the 911 center displays the crash location via a digital map, and the car's cellular phone establishes a phone channel to the dispatcher, who can communicate with the vehicle's occupants. The system is currently being tested on approximately 550 privately owned vehicles in Erie County. The system will be available nationwide in about five years. Additional information is available by calling 716/632-7500 or online at .
Safeguarding Democracy (August) Unisys is providing Costa Rica with a voter-identification system that incorporates the company's BioWare fingerprint-imaging technology. BioWare will help Costa Rica verify the identities of 2 million voters and ensure the integrity of the election process. All eligible voters are enrolled and issued a tamper-proof ID card on which their fingerprints and signatures have been electronically captured. The fingerprint information resides as a bar code on their ID cards. Each applicant's two-finger record is searched against the entire Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) database.
The search ensures that each voter's biometrics card is inserted only once. The system integrates with Unisys PCs and servers, a fingerprint search-match subsystem by Identicator, a Datacard ID-card production subsystem, a Hewlett-Packard optical-image storage jukebox and document scanner, the Oracle relational database, Microsoft Windows, Symbol Technology PDF_417 2D bar code readers, Hitachi video cameras and PenWare signature pads. Additional information is available by calling 215/986-5098, through e-mail at or online at .
But What Do You Lick? (July) In a possible blow to philatelists nationwide, the U.S. Postal Service has approved SmartStamp -- electronic stamps -- for testing in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Bay Area and Tampa Bay, Fla. The post office hopes to make all franking machines operate digitally by the year 2004. SmartStamp allows users with a computer, printer and Internet connection to print their own postage. The system consists of a small piece of hardware connected to the user's computer port that serves as an electronic vault for storing postage. Users establish an account with the E-stamp and download postage into the vault via the Internet. Information printed on the envelope includes E-Stamp's SmartStamp, the postage amount, the source and destination ZIP codes of the mail, the date and time postage was printed, the mailing class, a bar code -- which replaces the old meter-style postage -- a tracking number and a digital ID. At the post office, each piece of mail will run through a scanner that reads the electronic bar code and digital ID on the mail, which will prevent fraud. It is hoped the system will help the U.S. Postal Service eliminate an annual $180 million in fraud. It requires Windows 95, 98 or NT and Microsoft Office. Additional information is available by calling 650/842-6468 or online at .
Simulated Eye Surgery (May) A new surgical-simulation technology was demonstrated at the American Medical Association's Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference. The technology allows surgeons and students to practice delicate opthalmic surgery. During the practice session, the user looked through mounted binoculars revealing a computer-generated eye and manipulated a joystick much like a surgeon's scalpel. Surgeons could "feel" the scalpel as they practiced making incisions on the virtual cornea. The system uses 3-D immersive display binoculars from n-Vision, a SensAble Technologies Phantom 3D Touch device, and it runs on an Intergraph NT workstation with visualization software developed by the University of Colorado Center for Human Simulation. Additional information is available by calling 703/506-8808 x3002 or online at .
Pets with Chips in Their Shoulders (April) A two-year pilot project approved by the city of Los Angeles requires that any pet adopted from a city shelter must have a tiny identification microchip implanted under its skin -- right between the shoulders. If a lost pet is recovered by the city, the chip can be scanned to obtain the owner's contact information. It is predicted that the program will increase the return of pets to their owners and cut down on euthanasia. The city will recover the cost of the chips -- about $15 -- by raising shelter adoption fees. A fee of $25 for the implant procedure is paid by the pet's new owner. Additional information is available by calling 213/893-8400.
Upgrade Your Computer Skill (June) Want to know more about a new software program? ViaGrafix provides more than 500 easy-to-follow training products on video and CD-ROM that teach users how to use Windows 95, NT and 3.1, Excel, Word, the Internet and more. Tutorial materials are available for every skill level. Additional information is available by calling 918/825-7555 or online at .
A Hint of the Coming Network Era (September) CoreBuilder 9000 is a high-end enterprise switching system that provides asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and Gigabit Ethernet switching for high-capacity backbone networks. The system provides routing through
flexible intelligent routing engine (FIRE) technology and speeds data across both ATM and Gigabit Ethernet-based networks. A combination of Layer 2 (exceeding 100 million packets per second) and Layer 3 (56 million packets per second) removes the performance bottlenecks and topological constraints of today's router-based backbones. The CoreBuilder supports 112 OC-12c (622Mbps) ATM ports or 126 GB (1000Mbps) Ethernet ports and all the networking technologies by providing wire-speed interfaces for ATM OC-3, ATM OC-12, ATM OC-48, 100/10Mbps Ethernet, FDDI, and 1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet. It also supports ATM, WAN and multiservices interfaces supporting T3/E3, nxT1/E1 using Inverse Multiplexing over ATM (IMA) and T1/E1 Circuit Emulation Services. Additional information is available by calling 800/638-3266 or online at .
Control Your Car From Afar (March) The CreataLink Control Module, developed by Motorola, is a long-range car pager that enables drivers to control various functions of their cars. Once installed in a vehicle, the driver can turn on the headlights, sound the horn or turn the engine on or off. It can even be activated with thousands of miles separating owner and car. The owner dials a toll-free pager number and enters two codes -- one to identify the vehicle and the other to activate the system. Afterward, the caller selects from a list of functions. Car rental, financing and insurance companies are interested in the system as a means to disable a vehicle driven by a deadbeat customer or a thief. It could also allow entry into a car when the keys are locked inside or lost. The device costs about $100, plus $25 for unlimited paging for a year. There is an additional $50 charge for installation. The range is North America. Additional information is available online.
Too Much Information (April) Massive collections of data can overload a computer system or hide important information from decision-makers. To help the situation, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed a 3-D visualization application to help users examine large collections of information, reveal elusive relationships among data and discover critical details. The system operates on Windows NT and requires a high-resolution graphics card and monitor. The software is already in use by the U.S. intelligence community and is well-suited for other applications, such as medical data analysis, environmental security and current-event monitoring. Additional information is available by calling 509/372-4864.
Chopper Coppers (June) In an effort to fight crime more effectively, the South Bay Police Agencies, a coalition of six Southern California police forces, is using the Robinson R44 police helicopter. The R44 is equipped with the Wescom 12DS gyro-stabilized infrared sensor and a television camera system, as well as a public address/siren system, search light and video recorder. Additional information is available by calling 310/539-0508.
Team Leader (August) During the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson, much of the prosecution's evidence was dismissed as contaminated and poorly documented. To end that problem, Pacific Northwest Laboratory researchers are working on an interactive unit, Team Leader, that enables investigators to accurately capture, store and relay vast amounts of information at crime scenes and other field sites. Team Leader is a small computer system that can be worn by the investigator. It combines the latest geographical information systems with global positioning, multimedia computing and communication. It integrates sophisticated software with data-collection tools, including digital video and still cameras, a voice recorder, a bar code scanner and specialized sensors. Investigators can track their routes and create a detailed map of the scene. Upon the discovery of evidence, investigators can pinpoint its geographical position with laser measurements and positional data, capture still and video images and record detailed audio and text notes. The digitized evidence would be transferred immediately to an evidence custodian and assigned a bar code. Team Leader reduces the number of people needed to assess and prepare a scene for processing, reducing the risk of inadvertent contamination by fingerprints, footprints, hair
or fibers. Team Leader also serves as a portable library, providing access to volumes of stored or online information, such as maps, facility floor plans, databases, reports, forms, investigation protocols and scientific, technical and legal reference materials. The unit will be field tested by police departments in Baltimore, Miami (Metro-Dade) and Los Angeles. Additional information is available by calling 509/375-3688.
Voice Activated Technology for Surgery Rooms (April) Voice-activated robots with great precision are finding their way into operating rooms. The Automated Endoscopic System for Optical Positioning (AESOP) 3000, with voice control, is a surgeon-controlled robotic arm capable of maneuvering and positioning an endoscope -- an optical tube inserted into the body and connected to a video monitor -- in minimally invasive heart procedures. AESOP gives direct control of the laparoscope to the surgeon and provides stable and precise positioning for optimal visualization. The robot's speech-recognition technology gives surgeons direct control over the robotic arm, through simple voice commands. Dr. Randal K. Wolf, a leading cardiothoratic surgeon at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, said, "AESOP effectively provides the surgeon with a third arm, returning direct control of the optical field to the surgeon and providing a motionless image from which to operate. Voice control goes the next step, making the use of the robot seamless and perfectly natural." More than 30,000 procedures have been successfully assisted by AESOP in more than 300 hospitals around the world. Additional information is available by calling 805/968-9600 or online.
Smooth Pass for Emergency Vehicles (September) Emergency vehicles present a serious traffic hazard while hurrying through intersections. The Emergency Vehicle Early Warning Safety System (E-ViEWS) can warn motorists of rapidly approaching emergency vehicles. "More than 156,000 accidents involving emergency vehicles occurred at intersections in U.S. cities from the mid-1980s to 1995 alone," said Jim Davidson, president and CEO of system developer E-Lite Limited. A transponder installed in an emergency vehicle communicates with a receiver on a large visual display deployed on the mast arm above an intersection. As the emergency vehicle approaches the intersection, the signal light turns yellow and then red for crossing traffic, and approaching drivers also see flashing vehicle symbols on the visual displays. The active display, linked to the receiver, informs drivers of the direction from which emergency traffic is approaching or departing the intersection. The vehicle symbols appear to move across the display, synchronized with the movement of the actual emergency vehicles. Additional information is available by calling 818/354-5011 or 818/889-2302.
Infrared Inspection to Prevent Power Outage (October) Power outages can cause serious crises, disrupting air, train and automobile traffic. To reduce the risk of power outages, Pacific Gas & Electric is using specially equipped vans with infrared cameras to find electrical problems before the outages occur. A roving equipment operator scans power lines and equipment with the infrared camera while driving at normal speeds. If the images on the screen show an abnormal temperature differential, or "hot spot," the location is further examined for possible repair or replacement. PG&E is also using a held-held infrared devices to detect hot spots in underground equipment. Additional information is available by calling 415/973-8702 or online at .
Portable Phones for the Deaf (October) Wyndtell's mobile communication system gives people who are hearing-impaired a complete wireless communication service that allows them to communicate from any location. The system allows two-way e-mail with two-way text phone (TTY) messaging, faxing, alpha paging, voice-to-text and text-to-voice communication. The system runs on an interactive palm-size device with a built-in keyboard. It can be activated to alert users in four ways: vibration, light-emitting diode, screen messages and audible rings. A built-in address book simplifies sending messages to TTYs, e-mail addresses, telephones, fax machines and alpha pagers. Additional information is available by calling 800/549-9800 or TTY at 800/549-2800, or online at .
Peeks at Leaks (October) Pacific Gas and Electric is also using pipeline-current mapping (PCM) to locate and repair corrosion in underground natural gas pipes. PCM emits very low frequency electrical signals, creating an electric flow from the pipe into the ground wherever the pipe is damaged. A hand-held receiver detects the current flow and pinpoints the exact location of the breach. Additional information is available by calling 415/973-8702 or online at .
Train Engineered to Have No Engineer (November) New York's JFK International Airport is building a driverless Automated Light Rail System to move thousands of travelers between terminals. The system consists of 8.4 miles of predominately elevated double track with 10 stations and 32 vehicles, and will move passengers between six terminals at the airport. The total capital cost of the project is estimated at $930 million. Additional information is available online at .
December Table of Contents