GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by / May 11, 2004
Plant Knowledge
After years of research, Danish scientists of Aresa Biodetection said it is now possible for them to engineer a plant that can change color from green to red within three to five weeks of growth if the plant's roots detect specific soil compounds in the ground.

The biodetection system has potential for a variety of applications, the company said, including the detection of explosives present in landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in soil, and the detection and removal of heavy metals in polluted soil.

The plants should significantly speed the removal of landmines and UXO in cultivatable areas to allow for agricultural use, Aresa researchers said. The plants will be tested and gradually introduced in landmine and UXO removal operations as the technology matures. -- Aresa Biodetection

Executive Dashboard
Ambient Devices' new Executive Dashboard is a unique blend of the analog and digital worlds -- providing one with the fastest and simplest way to stay tuned to important information.

Through wireless broadcasting technology, users can tune in to basic "channels," including stock market trends, weather forecasts or traffic. The Dashboard works like a radio, continually listening and updating information wirelessly.

There's no buzzing or complicated user interfaces -- the Dashboard displays digitally updated information by using the simplicity of analog displays. Swappable faces make choosing the information displayed as simple as inserting a new card to monitor incoming e-mail, upcoming meetings and more.

Knock, Knock?
"Port knocking" is a method of connecting to a networked computer with no open port. Ports are opened with the use of port knock sequences -- a series of connection attempts to a series of closed and logged ports.

A remote user possessing the authentication secret, which generates knock sequences, manipulates the server's firewall rules to render specific ports open. The manipulations are mediated by a server-side port knock daemon, which monitors the firewall log file for correctly formatted knock sequences. Once the desired ports are opened, the user can establish a connection and begin his session. Another knock sequence is used to close the port.

This firewall-based user authentication system is ideally suited for hosts that are not running public services, such as SMTP or HTTP, but require that specific users connect to particular services, such as SSH. --

New Broadband Player
Nextel said it launched a market trial of a new wireless broadband technology in North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham/Chapel Hill area in February. Nextel said its wireless broadband service is a secure mobile service that uses new technology, FLASH-OFDM.

FLASH-OFDM technology, an air interface technology designed for the delivery of advanced Internet services in a mobile environment, originated in Bell Labs in early 1998.

The technology is based on the OFDM airlink, a wireless access method that combines the attributes of its two predecessors -- TDMA and CDMA -- to address the demands of mobile users of broadband data and packetized voice applications. -- Nextel

Munching on Free Wi-Fi
In mid-February, Schlotzsky's said it is expanding its popular free wireless Internet access from its Austin, Texas, delis to include 38 restaurants in six states. The expansion is part of Schlotzsky's business model.

"Free wireless is great for business," said Monica Landers, spokeswoman for Schlotzsky's Inc.

Schlotzsky's has tested free Wi-Fi in Texas for more than a year, and the early results are in: More than 40 percent of customers say free Wi-Fi or the free use of in-store computers are factors in choosing Schlotzsky's, and 6 percent say free Wi-Fi is the key reason they chose to come to the deli that day.

Friendly MADMEN
SpaceWorks Engineering Inc. (SEI) is using a grant from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts to research new techniques to deter threats to Earth posed by near-Earth objects (NEO), such as asteroids. SEI will analyze a new approach to protect against planetary impact -- using hundreds or thousands of small, nearly identical spacecraft to intercept the target NEO.

The proposed spacecraft, called Modular Asteroid Deflection Mission Ejector Node (MADMEN), will be nuclear powered and can be pre-deployed outside of low-Earth orbit. They would use chemical propulsive boosts to quickly intercept an incoming NEO.

Once landing on the NEO, each MADMEN spacecraft will begin to drill into the NEO's surface, ejecting small amounts of mass to, over time, alter the NEO's heliocentric orbit, so impact with Earth is avoided. -- SpaceWorks Engineering

Can We Talk?
NEC Corp. said it has developed a robot capable of Japanese-English/English-Japanese speech translation. The company has been refining a compact automatic translation function in its personal robot PaPeRo (Partner-Type Personal Robot).

PaPeRo is a small robot capable of listening and seeing, created to act as a personal partner to family members within the home. The robot has been programmed with 50,000 Japanese and 25,000 English travel/tourism-related words that enable automatic Japanese-English/English-Japanese conversation. -- NEC
Shane Peterson Associate Editor