1997 Best of Product News

Government Technology selected the 25 most interesting products of 1997 from the pages of this year's product news. The selection was wholly subjective, based on what was unusual, innovative and potentially useful to our readers. If you know of an interesting product we haven't covered, contact Product News Editor Kaveh Ghaemian at 916/932-1300.

by / November 30, 1997
Government Technology selected the 25 most interesting products of 1997 from the pages of this year's product news. The selection was wholly subjective, based on what was unusual, innovative and potentially useful to our readers. If you know of an interesting product we haven't covered, contact Product News Editor Kaveh Ghaemian at 916/932-1300.

Urban Simulation (JULY)

Urban planners, city designers, developers, investors and government agencies can gain a clear understanding of a project's progress at any stage in the construction with Urban Simulation technology from Coryphaeus Software Inc. and Silicon Graphics.

Urban Simulation allows users to evaluate projects by "flying" anywhere in the scene to see what it looks like and, if necessary, change the location, shape or size of objects and spaces.

"Urban Simulation is democratizing urban planning and construction, making it easy for decision-makers and anyone to see and understand before the building or funding commitments are made," said John Murphy, Coryphaeus' president.

The system was recently used by California's transportation engineers to examine various designs for a proposed San Francisco Bay Bridge.

The system uses Coryphaeus Software's MetroSim Urban Simulation and Silicon Graphics Onyx2.

For additional information, contact Coryphaeus Software Inc., 985 University Ave., Suite 31, Los Gatos, CA 95030. Call 408/395.4537.

Also contact Silicon Graphics, 2011 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA. 94043-1389.
Traffic Control Live (MARCH)

Traffic in 16 separate Los Angeles locations is monitored simultaneously with RGB Spectrum's SuperView 100 multi-video windowing system. The Los Angeles Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control Operations Center's large-screen display can show four live videos at once, a single video expanded to fill the screen or a mix of video and computer-generated graphics.

The system allows traffic engineers to locate and solve problems quickly.

For additional information, contact RGB Spectrum, 950 Marina Village Parkway, Alameda, CA 94501. Call 510/814-7000.
The Hello Download (APRIL)

Scientists from IBM's Almaden Research Center have found a way to transmit data through the human body in a system dubbed the "personal area network."

A device smaller than a deck of cards creates an external electric field that passes a small current (one-billionth of an amp) through the body -- weaker than natural electrical fields already in the body -- transmitting data at a speed equivalent to a 2400-baud modem.

Using this technology, two people can exchange electronic business cards with a handshake. The device should be able to exchange data between personal information and communications devices carried by an individual, including cellular phones, pagers, personal digital assistants and smart cards.

For additional information, contact IBM Research. Call David Yaun at 914/945-3738.
HazMat Hot Rod (AUGUST)

Massachusetts has deployed 15 Hazardous Materials Response Vehicles (HMRV) -- the most sophisticated in the nation -- to local fire departments. The deployment includes six new Technical Operation Modules (TOM) and nine new Operational Resource Units (ORU). "The strategic placement of these cutting-edge units will make these resources available anywhere in the commonwealth within an hour or less," said Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Kathleen O'Toole.

TOM units carry communications and scientific equipment, including computer systems, fax machines, printers, radio, audio and video technology, mapping capability for Massachusetts and surrounding states, a computerized weather station and data on more than 162,000 chemicals. TOMs also feature a plume dispersion modeling tool that can assist in determining the direction and speed of a toxic vapor plume. A remote-controlled video camera atop a 34-foot mast helps personnel view the scene.

For additional information, contact the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office of Public Safety, One Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108. Call Charles McDonald at 617/727-7775 x507.
Virtual Touch (JUNE)

Prosthetic technology has come a long way from the days of wooden legs, hooks and braces. NovaCare Inc.'s Sabolich Research Center in Oklahoma has developed two new technologies that help amputees feel hot, cold and pressure through their artificial limbs.

For example, a mother who has lost both arms can check water temperature before bathing her child. As she dips the artificial hand into the water, sensors in the hand deliver an electrical signal to her upper arm, where it is felt as warm, cold or hot.

Pressure sensors deliver vibrations to the undamaged portion of the upper limb, allowing those with electrically operated hands to sense how hard they are grasping an object. The faster the vibration, the tighter the grip. Patients easily learn to interpret the signals, says the company. This feature is also useful in the lower extremities, where amputees can sense toe and heel pressure and thus balance themselves.

The technology is in beta testing, so it is not yet available to the general public.

For additional information, contact NovaCare Sabolich, 4301 North Classen, Oklahoma City, OK 73118. Call Marge Pittenridge at 800/522-4428.
Follow the Light Rope (JANUARY)

Finding the way out of a burning, smoke-filled building is easier with the LiteLine 360; a rope containing a series of small lamps.

FlexLite's plastic sheathing is water resistant and can withstand temperatures up to 450 F. It costs $1,200 for 100 feet.

For additional information, contact FlexLite Inc., 102 Fernwood Ave., Edison, NJ 08837. Call 800/932-9899.
Dolphins Use Touchscreen Kiosks (JUNE)

Dolphins at Sea Life Park in Hawaii are using an underwater touchscreen -- developed by Carroll Touch -- to interact with computers, giving researchers a firsthand opportunity to study these intelligent mammals.

The system includes an infrared beam grid mounted on a tank window and a monitor screen that faces the dolphins through the window. Infrared beams projected through the tank window are directed parallel to the window by four 45-degree mirrors. When a dolphin's snout interrupts the infrared beams, the touch is detected by the infrared beam grid and relayed to a Macintosh computer.

Carroll Touch has a special Web page devoted to the dolphin touchscreen.

For additional information, contact GTT Communications Inc., 5524 Bee Cave Road, Building L-2, Austin, TX 78746. Call Jean Gardner at 512/347-1010.
Who's Driving This Thing, Anyway? (SEPTEMBER)

In an effort to reduce traffic congestion around and between terminal areas, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is using fully automated trains to transport an average of 15,000 passengers per day.

The system, developed by MATRA Transit, uses a fully-automated computer system to regulate train speed, stations, stops, doors and traffic. Trains are in continuous contact with a control station -- sending and receiving digital data, video and audio.

The 3.5-mile track carries 13 vehicles -- operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week -- between three terminals.

MATRA is also automating subway systems in France and Taiwan.

For additional information, contact MATRA, 25 E. Spring Valley Ave., Maywood, NJ 07607. Call John Marino at 201/843-6687.
"Black Box" for Cars (MARCH)

After every airplane crash, investigators search for a "black box" recording instrument to help determine the cause of the disaster. Now, the Drive Right 130AL serves a similar function for automobiles.

The system monitors and records how a car is driven by keeping track of start and end time, distance traveled, maximum speed, average speed, time and date.

Limits can also be set for speed, and the equipment will sound an alarm whenever the limit is exceeded.

The system is protected by a password that prevents unauthorized changes to data or limits. Data is downloaded to an IBM-compatible computer and can create reports and graphs as well as separate databases for each vehicle or driver. The DriveRight 130AL, with a 130-day log and an accident log, retails for $295.

For additional information, contact Davis Instruments, 3465 Diablo Ave., Hayward, CA 94545. Call 800/293-2847.
Let Their Fingers Do the Talking (AUGUST)

raPID provides mobile fingerprint identification for officers in the field. Matching is either performed against an internal database, or information can be sent via mobile frequencies, cellular communication, etc., to a central automated fingerprint identification system.

raPID captures fingerprints in less than 10 seconds, features a live-scan capture area of 19x19 millimeters, a scan resolution of 500 DPI, a LCD display with backlighting, a 10-digit keypad, a demographic entry via touchscreen, a customized forms-based input and PC-card interface. Options include 1:1 fingerprint matching, integrated card reader and digital radio communication.

The unit weighs 2 pounds and its rechargeable battery lasts about 10 hours. raPID is currently being field tested by the San Francisco Police Department.

For additional information, contact NEC Technologies, 1201 New York Avenue, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20005. Call Christopher Warn at 202/408-4762.
Underwater Scanning (APRIL)

Need to look deep under the water? The LC-100 Side Scan Sonar System is an ideal search tool. Images captured from the sonar are well suited for a variety of applications, such as diving and salvage, bridge inspections, harbor clearance, mine hunting, treasure hunting and marine research.

The LC-100 utilizes two 100KHz transducers, operates at depths up to 100 meters and its display unit delivers high-resolution images (256 colors at 640x480 pixels). It runs on Windows 3.1 and gives the operator control of range, gain, contrast, color palette and navigational input.

For additional information, contact EdgeTech, 455 Fortune Blvd., Milford, MA 01757. Call Darren Moss at 508/478-9500.
Information on the Wrist (MAY)

Timex Data Link watches communicate with personal computers. Users can transfer scheduling and personal information from a computer to their watches.

Information such as dates, times, phone numbers and messages up to 31 characters can be transferred to a user's watch by simply pointing the watch at the notebook adapter or to a desktop's monitor. A light sensor in the watch reads flashing bars of light or data from the adapter or desktop monitor.

The Timex Data Link watch is water-resistant to 100 feet and retails for $134. The notebook adapter is $30.

For additional information, contact Timex Products Inc. Park Rd Extension, P.O. Box 310, Middlebury, CT 06762. Call 800/367-8463.
Video Visits (JANUARY)

The Personal Telemedicine System enables interactive audio and video links between patients and health professionals. The patient's blood pressure, pulse, lung and heart functions may be monitored, or a wound may be examined without the patient visiting a clinic. The link can be initiated by either the patient or the health-care professional.

It is installed easily in the patient's home and uses ordinary telephone lines.

For additional information, contact Frederick Haase, American TeleCare, 7680 Golden Triangle Drive, Eden Prairie, MN 55344-3732. Call 612/897-0000.
Speed Cracker (OCTOBER)

UltraLyte, a laser speed detector, is a powerful law-enforcement tool for catching speeders. Laser beams use the "change of position over time" formula rather than the conventional radio frequency shift. Conventional radar detectors are useless due to the laser's quickness in determining a car's speed.

UltraLyte is very accurate. Conventional radar projects a cone-shaped beam 200- to 400-feet wide with an effective rate of a few hundred yards -- covering the whole road. UltraLyte widens to just 3 feet at a range of 1,000 feet for pinpoint accuracy.

It is waterproof, shock resistant and can easily be used with one hand. It weighs less than 3 pounds and operates on two standard C-cell batteries. The menu-driven LCD display provides easy user operation and is "backlit" for night use. It can fire single beam shots or switch to a continuous readout mode for rapid speed updates. In addition to calculating speed and distance, slope, horizontal distance and height are available with an optional tilt sensor.

UltraLyte is a multifunction laser and can interface with QuickMap, LTS traffic accident and crime scene mapping software, SpeedStat and LTT's traffic statistic package.

For additional information, contact Laser Technology Inc., 7070 S. Tuscon Way, Englewood, CO 80112. Call Jeniffer Schmidt at 303/649-1000.

December Table of Contents