Innovation and Technology Weekly – No. 22, 2004

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Issue 22, 2004

This week's headlines:

Breakthrough reported in quantum teleportation
June 16, 2004

In a step toward making ultra-powerful computers, scientists have transferred physical characteristics between atoms by using entanglement. Two teams of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, and at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, report similar results.

Teleportation between atoms could someday lie at the heart of powerful quantum computers. The US team's work involved transmitting characteristics between pairs of beryllium atoms, while the Austrian work used pairs of calcium atoms. Each atom's 'quantum state', a complex combination of traits, was transmitted to its counterpart.

Key to the process was a phenomenon called entanglement. Researchers can use lab techniques to create a relationship between pairs of tiny particles. After that, the fate of one particle instantly affects the other; if one particle is made to take on a certain set of properties, the other immediately takes on identical or opposite properties, no matter how far away it is and without any apparent physical connection to the first particle.

Full story: CNN / AP / Nature Back to top

Russian firm reports first mobile phone worm
June 14, 2004

Russian antivirus company Kaspersky Labs said it discovered the first-ever computer virus capable of spreading over mobile phone networks. Cabir is a network worm that infects phones running the Symbian mobile phone operating system. No infections have been reported.

Cabir spreads between mobile phones using a specially formatted Symbian operating system distribution (SIS) file disguised as a security management utility. When the infected file is launched, the phone's screen displays the word 'Caribe' and the worm modifies the Symbian operating system so that Cabir is started each time the phone is turned on.

Once it has infected a mobile phone, Cabir scans for other vulnerable phones using Bluetooth wireless technology, then sends a copy of itself to the first vulnerable phone it finds, Kaspersky said.

Full story: The Industry Standard / IDG Back to top

Company claims patent for software downloads
June 15, 2004

A UK company claims to own a number of patents that relate to the process of downloading software and virus-protection updates over the internet. British Technology Group (BTG) said that it is in discussions with several companies in the hope of getting them to pay royalties.

BTG is seeking both down payments and future royalties from 'a number of companies' that it claims have already produced products that infringe its patents.

BTG, which represents inventors and patent owners who want to protect and enforce their patents, will not reveal which companies it is in negotiations with. Its patents may cover some of the free virus update services that are available, which could become difficult to operate if royalties had to be paid to BTG. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Microsoft is one of the companies being pursued by BTG.

Full story: CNET News / ZDNet UK Back to top

Norwegian city government switches to open source
June 15, 2004

In a move that echoes an earlier high-profile migration by the German city of Munich, authorities in the Norwegian city of Bergen have opted to replace existing core Windows and Unix systems with Linux.

The two-phase roll-out will see the 20 existing Oracle database servers running on HP-UX that support the City's health and welfare applications replaced with SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 running on HP Integrity Itanium 64 bit servers. The second part of the implementation will see the city's educational network migrate and consolidate from 100 Windows application servers to about 20 IBM eServer BladeCenters running Linux.

Bergen's decision to migrate to Linux follows similar projects across Europe, with authorities in Paris, Munich, and, most recently, the German Federal Finance Office signing up with Linux - a deal thought to be one the largest Linux-based mainframe deployments in Europe. The Bergen project is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Full story: / ZDNet Back to top

Lasers turn beam on TV recycling
June 15, 2004

A laser technique to separate materials in cathode ray tubes (CRT) from TV and PC monitors has been developed to help recycle the useful elements in them. The laser system, made in Finland, means no lead and pollutants are mixed up with useful recyclable elements.

Finnish company Proventia Automation has developed the automated laser technique to extract reusable and waste material from CRTs five to 10 times faster than conventional methods.

In a CRT, there is funnel glass which contains lead material and graphite, as well as the panel glass. The panel glass can be reused, but only if it is not contaminated with the lead.

The laser method makes the separation process much more accurate, quicker and efficient. A single unit can be cut apart in 30 seconds. Besides, the system is a 'closed loop one'. This means no waste material or by-products make it into the environment or landfill sites at all.

Full story: BBC News Back to top

New phones could replace wallets
June 16, 2004

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile phone operator, on Wednesday unveiled a line of four mobile phones that can be used as an electronic wallet at 9,000 locations including restaurants, hotels, convenience stores and department stores. Other companies plan to use FeliCa phones in place of membership cards or electronic plane and train tickets in what will be first service of its kind in the world.

The phones, which are equipped with Sony's FeliCa smart chip, can store money and personal information and are ultimately intended to replace the mess of cash, credit cards, identification cards and electronic plane or train tickets that people on the move have to carry around.

The launch of the new service is part of DoCoMo's plans to transform itself into what it calls 'a life infrastructure company', which it sees as the next phase of big change in the mobile industry after the widespread adoption of the mobile internet.

Full story: MSNBC / Reuters Back to top

Spying on spyware
June 16, 2004

EarthLink and Webroot Software released a report Wednesday, revealing that nearly one of every three computers scanned in April for Trojan horse programs or system monitor spyware was infected.

The companies scanned nearly 421,000 computers for their April Spy Audit report. Trojan horses and system monitors accounted for 133,715 pieces of the spyware found on those computers - representing almost one in three machines. System monitors track users' computer activity, capturing virtually everything they do online while Trojan horses aid hackers in stealing computer data.

When adding all four types of spyware found on the scanned computers during April, the Spy Audit Report found 11.3 million instances of spyware on the computers. That averaged 26.9 pieces of spyware per machine.

Full story: ZDNet / CNET News Back to top

New liquid crystal promises faster LCDs
June 15, 2004

Researchers have observed a new type of liquid crystal - long theorised, but not observed until now - that promises faster and cheaper liquid crystal displays. The team used a small-angle X-ray diffraction technique to discover the biaxial nematic liquid crystal.

In very simple terms, LCD displays function because electrical current can control the luminance of the crystals. The displays can be either passive or active: the active displays have transistors at each pixel point, so less current is needed to control its brightness. The rate at which the current can be switched on and off determines the screen refresh time, and so the quality of the image.

This new crystal phase has the potential to speed the refresh rate a further ten times, the researchers say, as the crystals reorient more quickly in response to a voltage.

Full story: The Register Back to top

'Black box' cam for total recall
June 15, 2004

A wearable camera full of sensors could help people with memory problems. The prototype SenseCam takes an instant snap every time it spots changes in movement, temperature or light.

Currently capable of storing 2,000 images on a 128MB memory card, the cam could help people record their days. The technology has been developed by the Microsoft Research laboratories in Cambridge, UK, and is to undergo tests at Addenbrookes Hospital this summer.

The camera uses accelerometers to detect motion, passive infrared to detect another human being, and digital sensors for light and temperature monitoring. All the sensor data which triggers the camera is recorded and fed into a system called MyLifeBits, another Microsoft project based in San Francisco. It organises all the captured images like a filmstrip which can be watched back and easily searchable.

Full story: BBC News Back to top

Danish scheme optimises light chips
June 16, 2004

Researchers from the Technical University of Denmark have borrowed a design tool developed for mechanical engineering to improve the efficiency of nano-size optical waveguides. The method could be used to manufacture cheap, efficient optical components for telecommunications that could potentially increase data transfer rates by three orders of magnitude. The devices could also be used to make minute lasers, lower-power light-emitting diodes and tiny, efficient sensors.

The researchers' method uses topology optimisation, a method for solving the mechanical and civil engineering problem of finding structures with optimal stiffness-to-weight ratios, to design photonic crystals.

Traditionally, topology optimisation algorithms add material where stresses are high and subtract material in regions that are not loaded. Rather than distributing holes to obtain a optimal transfer of forces, the researchers' method distributes holes in a material to find a structure with the optimal light transfer.

Full story: Technology Research News / Optics Express Back to top

Technology takes the chance out of chance encounters
June 09, 2004

Imagine the person sitting next to you in the theatre happens to share your avid interest in antique trains. How would you ever know? Until now, we have relied on chance. But this may not be so in the future, thanks to Serendipity, a mobile phone application that can instigate interactions between you and people you do not know-but probably should.

Serendipity, a form of next-generation networking developed at MIT, uses Bluetooth. The system depends on profiles that users write about themselves. It also allows the user to 'weight' his or her profile to emphasise interests that are of greatest importance to the user's current social situation.

Serendipity also has potential as a tool for knowledge management, with people using the database not only for social purposes but also to find someone who can solve a particular problem, or perhaps to connect within a large company. By tracking interactions, it could also be used to show companies or planners how people are using space.

Full story: MIT News Back to top

Inventor plans 'invisible walls'
June 14, 2004

The inventor of an 'invisibility' cloak has said that his next project will be to develop the technology to allow people to see through walls. Susumu Tachi said he was hopeful of realising a way to provide a view of the outside in windowless rooms.

Professor Tachi's cloak works by projecting an image onto itself of what is behind the wearer. A computer generates the image that is projected, so the viewer effectively sees 'through' the cloak. The key development of the cloak, however, was the development of a new material called retro-reflectum, which allows you to see a three-dimensional image.

There are many potential uses of the cloak, ranging from espionage and military purposes to helping pilots see through the floor of the cockpit to the runway below. However there are massive questions of potential misuse too, particularly surrounding the huge crime implications. It would become incredibly difficult to spot thiefs, for example, if the items they were taking were simply disappearing under the cloak.

Full story: BBC News Back to top