GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

Smarter Passports
The United States began issuing electronic passports to diplomats and other government workers in late 2005, and is now expanding the program to include the widely issued tourist passport used by private citizens. E-passports are high-tech documents designed to ease international travel by allowing automatic identity verification, faster immigration inspections and greater border protection and security.

E-passports contain a chip -- protected by shielding material -- which store an encrypted copy of the printed information on the passport, including name, date of birth, passport-validity period and a digital photo of the individual. The digital photo allows the use of facial recognition technology at border crossings to authenticate the passport holder's identity. --

Full Disclosure
Automakers will be required to tell car buyers if event data recorders (EDRs) are installed in their vehicles, under a new rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

EDRs capture crash data in the few seconds before, during and after a crash. They do not capture any data unless a collision causes the airbag to deploy. The agency noted that uniform crash information from EDRs will help investigators re-create crash scenes to determine the causes.

While automakers aren't required to install EDRs, approximately 64 percent of 2005 passenger vehicles came equipped with the devices. This new rule won't require automakers to install EDRs if they aren't already doing so. The rule, which starts with model year 2011 cars, will require automakers who have chosen to install EDRs to note in the owner's manual that the safety monitoring equipment has been installed.

A New Breed of Hybrid?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showcased the first hydraulic hybrid diesel urban delivery vehicle. Initial laboratory testing of a large UPS truck indicates that the technology improves fuel economy by 60 percent to 70 percent and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent. The EPA estimates that the concept could save more than 1,000 gallons of gas per year for each urban delivery vehicle.

Hydraulic hybrid diesel replaces conventional drive trains with a high-efficiency diesel engine, combined with a unique hydraulic propulsion system. The vehicle uses hydraulic pump motors and hydraulic storage tanks to recover and store energy, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in hybrid electric vehicles. Vehicle fuel economy is increased in three ways: Braking energy that is normally wasted is recovered and reused; the engine operates more efficiently; and the engine shuts off when not needed, such as when stopped or decelerating. --

Jigsaw Solved
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) tapped enterprise data integration technology from Informatica Corp. to help power the NYPD's highly successful Real Time Crime Center. Credited with helping detectives solve 74 percent of the city's homicides in 2005, the center delivers up-to-the-minute information regarding emerging crime patterns, potential suspects, and a real-time view of police resources and their availability throughout the city. The Real Time Crime Center equips investigators with valuable crime-solving information even before they reach the crime scene. --

Some Things Are Free
By the end of 2006, San Francisco Bay Area passengers may be able to surf the Web while commuting on MCI-type Transbay buses. Once implemented, this Internet connection system will be the first of its kind on board a public bus system in the Bay Area.

AC Transit's Maintenance Department is now testing routers and wireless gear for a new Wi-Fi system for Transbay buses. Once the test phase is complete, crews will outfit AC Transit's MCI coaches with Wi-Fi equipment, and offer the service to Transbay riders for free. The project team expects the system to be fully operational by the end of 2006. --

The top three countries hosting spam servers -- servers used to relay spam and phishing e-mails through zombie PCs -- are Taiwan: 64 percent, the United States: 23 percent and China: 3 percent. -- CipherTrust Research

Cyber-Crime Jumps
Japan reported 1,802 cyber-crime cases in the first half of 2006, a nearly 12 percent increase compared to the first half of 2005, according to the Japanese National Police Agency.

Mistaken Identity
Many Americans believe technology makes them more vulnerable to identity fraud -- even if that's not really the case. A survey by the Identity Theft Resource Center and Fellowes Inc. found that nearly 40 percent of respondents said identity theft is most likely to occur through online exchanges. In reality, online exchanges represent only 9 percent of the crime, and the majority of identity fraud occurs through paper documents and stolen information.
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