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Volume 5, Issue 444: Friday, January 10, 2003
- "Graduate Study in Sciences, Engineering Fell During Decade"
SiliconValley.com (01/09/03); Heim, Kristi
A recent study by the University of Washington found that the number of college seniors intending to enter mathematics graduate programs declined 19 percent between 1992 and 2000, while those who planned to become engineering graduates slipped 25 percent. Meanwhile, there was almost a one-third increase in the number of students awarded master's degrees in business administration over the same period. University of Washington researchers also learned that the number of science majors who were not planning to study science and engineering in graduate school rose from 9 percent to 19 percent between 1984 and 1998. The only real optimistic estimate from the study was a 59 percent increase in biological sciences. A National Science Foundation report released this week found that science and engineering doctorates fell by 7 percent between 1998 and 2001, although there was an increase in enrollment in science and engineering graduate programs in 1999 and 2000. In contrast, the number of doctorate degrees awarded in China, India, and Russia is climbing, and there are more foreign graduates of American science and engineering Ph.D. programs. "One must wonder how successful the United States can be in the technological age without a dependable flow of homegrown talent," mused University of Washington study co-author William Zumeta.
- "White House to Fill Cybersecurity Posts"
Washington Post (01/10/03) P. E5; Krebs, Brian
Government and industry technology sources say the White House intends to nominate former Defense Intelligence Agency director James Clapper as head of the Department of Homeland Security's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division, and John S. Tritak of the Commerce Department as his subordinate. Clapper's responsibilities would include IT security as well as persuading competing intelligence agencies to share information. Meanwhile, a senior congressional source indicated that Joan Dempsey of the CIA is a strong contender for the head of the Homeland Security Department's Information Analysis unit, who would be responsible for convincing spy agencies to pool their resources. This will be difficult, because "Each [agency] has this defensive posture and doesn't want to show or share all their cards, and it's vital that you have someone who understands this and can work through the various bureaucracies," explains Kim Dougherty of the Chamber of Commerce. Steven Cooper has already been elected as the CIO of the new department, whose job it is to integrate the dissimilar IT systems of the 24 agencies being consolidated into Homeland Security. An undersecretary of science and technology has yet to be found. A chief privacy officer will also be nominated in order to satisfy civil libertarians, legislators, and others who do not want the war on terrorism to compromise citizens' privacy; possible candidates for the position include Nuala O'Connor Kelly of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration and presidential cybersecurity advisor Donald A. Purdy Jr. Technology lobbyists and an administration official say that Richard A. Clarke will not join the Homeland Security Department, but instead continue to serve as chairman of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board.
- "E-Waste: Dark Side of Digital Age"
Wired News (01/10/03); Mayfield, Kendra
In its third annual computer company report card, the Computer TakeBack Campaign (CTC) found that U.S. computer firms trail their counterparts in Japan in terms of worker health and safety, recycling programs, and hazardous materials, using research furnished by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. SVTC founder Ted Smith says, "The fruits of our high-tech revolution are pure poison if these products improperly disposed of at the end of their useful life." The U.S. generated 4.6 million tons of e-waste in 2000, according to the EPA, by that amount is expected to increase four-fold in the coming years. Although Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, and Dell have recently launched plans to collect obsolete or old equipment, only Fujitsu among the 28 firms studied by SVTC received a passing grade. Dell Computer was criticized for its deal with UNICOR, a U.S. government contractor that recruits prison inmates to recycle discarded computers, although Dell says that its recycling program is environmentally responsible. The National Safety Council estimates that as many as 680 million computers will be discarded in the United States over the next five years, and only 10 percent of those machines will be recycled or overhauled. The CTC report lauded the European Union, which recently enacted policies that make electronics manufacturers responsible for recycling, while Japan passed similar legislation two years ago. Meanwhile, efforts are underway in the U.S. to develop recycling programs, but "progress has been slow," says California Integrated Waste Management Board member Mike Paparian. However, many states are not waiting for federal action, and Smith says as many as 15 states may introduce e-waste bills this year. California and Massachusetts already have outlawed the disposal of CRT monitors and TVs due to their lead content.
- "Gentlemen, Start Hacking Your Engines"
New York Times (01/09/03) P. E1; Dixon, Chris
Tech-savvy car enthusiasts who love to race are taking advantage of their automobiles' onboard computer systems to boost engine performance, and this in turn has created a market for high-tech software, gadgetry, and other vehicle add-ons. One supplier is Venom Performance, which offers products such as a speed-enhancing nitrous oxide injection system that can be controlled by a Palm Pilot. Furthermore, the ubiquity and sophistication of engine control units (ECUs) in vehicles allows mechanics to diagnose problems via a computer connection. Younger mechanics are also becoming familiar and comfortable with electronics, observes Venom's Grant Downing. Venom director Wes Lakey says the sport import and compact car market comprises the fastest-growing segment for his company's wares. ECUs contain chips that can be hacked and reprogrammed for better performance, an example of which is demonstrated by the recent enhancement of Alex Rascon's 1992 Honda Civic by Church Automotive and Hondata. The car was hooked up to a dynamometer, while a Windows program created by Hondata furnished a 3D map of the interaction between fuel, air, and timing. Peak performance settings were established through such analysis, and a replacement chip was built so that the engine would permanently run at those settings. Church Automotive owner Shawn Church notes that the Honda is a very popular model among young hot rodders today. He says, "I think the real genius was that they designed things to be easy to replace, easy to modify, and they always leave room in their engines for more power."
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- "High Tech's Latest Bright Idea: Shared Computing"
USA Today (01/09/03) P. 1B; Kessler, Michelle
Experts predict that shared computing technology, which allows companies or researchers to tap into and combine the processing power in all machines so they can carry out major computing chores rather than relying on expensive supercomputers, will revolutionize computer use and restructure the tech industry. Computers that would otherwise sit idle once their users stopped using them can be connected and recruited to solve problems through shared-computing software. IBM, Gateway, Dell Computer, and Microsoft are just some of the companies making significant investments in shared computing. Companies are making such investments in order to boost storage capacity and squeeze more efficiency out of existing computing resources. Robert Hollebeek of the University of Pennsylvania predicts that, thanks to shared computing, one day "You will plug into the wall [to get computing power] the same way you do to get electrical power." Meanwhile, universities are busy building shared-computing networks that could be used to simulate weather or train rescue personnel, among other things. However, shared computing still carries security risks and buggy software that need to be ironed out, according to companies. And researchers say shared computing is not the answer for all computing tasks; sequential tasks such as tracking sales data by the hour is more efficient when done on a single computer. Still, the technology promises to save companies and organizations money, particularly those with limited resources, and boost efficiency.
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- "Keeping Ahead of DNS Attacks"
ZDNet (01/08/03); Mockapetris, Paul
The domain name system (DNS) mapping Internet addresses requires a coordinated defense against attacks, such as the denial-of-service attack last Oct. 21. Paul Mockapetris, inventor of the DNS, writes that the attack on the 13 root servers was not complex technically, but was successful because entities participating in the DNS did not all use the best defense techniques. Particularly, networks that filtered excessive packet requests related to the denial-of-service attack were able to maintain their views of the root servers, while root servers seemed inaccessible to those networks that did not filter traffic. The root servers themselves, and any end-target of such an attack, can use rate-limiting methods to discard extraneous data packets, Mockapetris notes. Root servers are difficult targets to attack via the Internet because of caching mechanisms that require successful attacks to take some time--about 1 percent of the Internet is affected for every two hours of a denial-of-service attack. The October incident lasted just one hour, probably to make it harder for investigators to track the culprits. In addition, root server database lists are relatively short, easy to copy, and updated about every week, all of which means any successful root server attack must have multiple targets. However, top-level domains such as .com or .fr are much harder to defend because commercial and privacy interests limit how their owners share list information. In any single organization, administrators should create individual DNS views for their extranet and intranet, and send DNS updates to partners via virtual private networks signed with transaction signatures (TSIGs), Mockapetris recommends. In the future, digital signatures for DNS messages will protect against counterfeiting, such as has already occurred in China.
- "Cheap Chips Seen Driving Next Tech Wave"
Pervasive computing will drive technological innovation in the coming years, predicted Institute for the Future director Paul Saffo, speaking at the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International Industry Strategy Symposium on Tuesday. Saffo also predicted the emergence of new consumer devices with cheap, powerful chips. Examples he cited included sensors and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags; Saffo and RFID advocates believe the technology will one day supplant bar codes and be used to track merchandise and product inventories. Saffo also said the advent of embedded chips will make services, rather than products, the chief source of revenue for businesses--he pointed out, for instance, that cell phone providers already make most of their money from services, and forecast that the automotive industry will make a similar transition. Meanwhile, Saffo expects pervasive computing devices to trigger a revolution in biology and the medical industry that will overshadow the impact of the IT revolution. Currently under development are handheld, pocket-sized X-ray devices for emergency personnel, while athletes are already making use of consumer cardiac monitors.
- "Palo Alto Scientist May Fend Off Big Brother"
Oakland Tribune Online (01/06/03); Hoffman, Ian
Along with its controversial Total Information Awareness project, the U.S. government is also spending money to develop sophisticated privacy safeguards. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded established intrusion detection specialist Teresa Lunt a three-year, $3 million contract to safeguard citizens' privacy while the Total Information Awareness project ferrets out terrorists. She worked for 20 years securing sensitive government information and is commended by her peers in academia and elsewhere for technical skill and integrity. Privacy advocates and technologists are especially worried about the Genisys component of the Total Information Awareness project, because it would pull data from government, commercial, and other databases together in an unprecedented manner. Lunt is charged specifically with creating technology that will allow federal agents to track potential terrorists on the system while not being able to identify any individuals. Her team is currently working with simulated data to find out if there are ways insiders could abuse the system. Besides blanking out obvious identifiers, such as credit card numbers and names, Lunt says she intends to make it difficult for human agents to logically piece together people's identity using scraps of evidence. Steven Aftergood, director for the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, says the effort is laudable, and is especially impressed that DARPA plans to deploy "red teams" who will try to subvert Lunt's privacy measures as a test.
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- "W3C Releases Scripting Standard, Caveat"
CNet (01/09/03); Festa, Paul
The Document Object Model (DOM) Level 2 HTML scripting specification the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released on Thursday will simplify the creation of Web pages with more dynamic and functional elements, such as spur-of-the moment style changes, pop-up menus, and form processing. However, staff members noted that alternative methods recommended by the organization are more efficient and accessible than the new standard, and suggested that scripts be used sparingly. The W3C has been developing the DOM standard for more than five years--Level 1 was released in 1998, while the majority of Level 2 followed two years later. The recommendation for DOM Level 2 HTML was postponed while glitches were ironed out. W3C editor Ian Jacobs explains that declarative languages such as SVG and SMIL, which the W3C is also developing, boast more transparency and are more machine-readable than scripts. He says, "From the accessibility perspective, if everything is buried in a scripting language, then it's hard to find an alternative presentation of information." The consortium issued a statement strongly recommending that developers and authors comply with the new DOM Level 2 standard, which is incompatible with its earlier iteration, Level 1.
- "Wi-Fi: Still Room for Improvement"
Tech Update (01/06/03); Kim, Sarah
Wi-Fi technology, despite its fast rise to dominance in the wireless LAN space, is still undergoing significant changes as new flavors emerge and are improved upon. Although the original 802.11b standard will remain the dominant specification for about three more years, the marketplace will determine which of the other emerging Wi-Fi specifications will take 802.11b's place. The expectation is that 802.11g and 802.11a standalone products will be technological dead-ends because they do not offer the backward interoperability that dual-band equipment does. These new standards' speed, about 54 Mbps, will come along with more uses of Wi-Fi, beyond high-speed connectivity for laptops. Cars, home entertainment devices, and PDAs will all increasingly find Wi-Fi applications available. For enterprises, adopting new Wi-Fi technologies depends on interoperability with legacy WLAN deployments and bandwidth requirements. Vendors, for their part, need to clarify the capabilities of each specification and make Wi-Fi technology more user-friendly in order to spur both consumer adoption and to lessen the burden of IT support in companies. Wi-Fi also needs to stay ahead of the game in terms of personal connectivity, since new wireless technologies are emerging all the time that could supplant it. In this regard, mesh networking and intelligent switching architectures promise to improve scalability and lessen complexity, while new government regulations and 5 GHz products promise to improve performance in the presence of other wireless technology, especially Bluetooth.
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- "Macworld's Look at the Year Ahead in Macs"
Macworld UK (12/31/02); Michaels, Philip
A panel of a dozen experts expressed their thoughts on notable Apple products and developments that will emerge or unfold in 2003. Macworld UK editor-in-chief Simon Jary does not expect a spectacular rise in Apple's market share, and foresees problems in its relations with developers as the company releases more of its own applications; he also expects Adobe InDesign software to be a significant release. Macworld contributing editor Tom Negrino anticipates the release of additional consumer gear, and believes people and companies seeking an alternative to Microsoft will choose the OS X platform. "Your Mac Life" host Shawn King expects Power Mac towers to be retooled and upgraded, while Final Cut Pro 4, ITunes 4, IMovie 3, and other products will receive upgrades as well--and all of this will make 2003 a very profitable year for Apple. Macworld contributing editor Henry Bortman predicts that either a digital photo album or a Mac-controlled digital-video recorder will make a big splash in the hardware sector, while Apple's Web browser will be a major software release; furthermore, he says 2003 will be the year that Intel processors will feature support for OS X, and Bluetooth-enabled hardware will be increasingly available. Another Macworld contributing editor, Adam C. Engst, predicts a proliferation of liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), the inclusion of peer-to-peer networking technologies in OS X, additional Mac support for wireless technologies, and the release of an Apple cell phone. MacCentral.com news director Jim Dalrymple forecasts that Apple's market share in all areas--including education, retail, and enterprise--will increase significantly. Five experts believe that an OS X version of QuarkXpress will be brought out in 2003.
- "Aligned Fields Could Speed Storage"
Technology Research News (01/08/03); Patch, Kimberly
A team of German and Russian scientists has made a discovery that could link magnetic and electronic data storage and increase the flexibility of both techniques. The breakthrough involves the simultaneous imaging of a material's electric and magnetic domains by bouncing light waves off the sample, in this case yttrium manganese oxide. Dortmund University scientist Manfred Fiebig explains that the method has a lot in common with holography, and "allows us to tell the difference between the very similar electric and magnetic domains in our...samples and image them as bright and dark areas." The experiment demonstrated that the material's magnetic and electric domains line up. Fiebig says that such materials could allow information to be stored on magneto-optical disks faster by using electrical properties to change magnetization, and pave the way for devices that could be applied to spintronics. The properties of samples as tiny as 1 nanometer can be measured with this method. One of the technique's drawbacks is that measurements can only be taken at a very low temperature, so practical applications will not emerge until materials are found that exhibit aligned domains at higher temperatures, according to Fiebig. He adds that the researchers are currently attempting to demonstrate that the material's electric state can be controlled via its magnetic field, and vice-versa.
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- "Computer Linguists Mix Language, Science"
Dallas Morning News Online (01/05/03); Rivera, Patricia V.
The job of computer linguists involves teaching computers to comprehend spoken language, speak, and translate text, according to Dr. Gary F. Simons of SIL International, formerly the Summer Institute of Linguistics. The Internet has spurred interest in text and speech processing, which has created opportunities for professionals with computer linguistics expertise. Demand for computer linguists is especially high in companies that publish multiple-language catalogs and are seeking ways to reduce spending while still maintaining quality. Mary Pope of inlingua Dallas explains that more and more customers want their material to be available in multiple formats and softwares, not just multiple languages. In addition to text-to-speech, speech recognition, and machine translation programs, computer linguists also focus on developing applications that enable computers to answer questions in natural language, conduct Web-based information searches, and help people learn foreign languages. Another potentially lucrative application Simon mentions is a program that automatically screens email. The holy grail for many computer linguists is to teach computers to understand natural language, but scientists are worried that such a development could lead to the replacement of telephone operators, airline reservation agents, and other service professionals. The ideal computer linguist would be familiar with linguistic theory and artificial intelligence, proficient in a procedural programming language, and skilled in the areas of natural language processing or neural networks.
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- "Cybersecurity Plan May Pose Privacy Problems"
IDG News Service (01/08/03); Gross, Grant
A White House internal draft of the National Plan to Secure Cyberspace obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday reportedly cuts most private-sector recommendations, reduces the number of proposals from 86 to 49, and makes the Homeland Security Department chiefly responsible for ensuring a secure Internet. Critics who took an earlier draft of the plan to task are concerned about what the revised draft omits. Wayne Madsen of the Electronic Privacy Information Center says he is worried that the White House is trying to skirt controversy by keeping the plan ambiguous, which would give the Homeland Security Department license to authorize government monitoring of citizens. He comments, "The danger is not what's said, but what's not said." Madsen adds that one proposal not included in the original draft was a recommendation to "deputize" both public- and private-sector computer security personnel, a situation that could create tension between their desire to protect the privacy of co-workers and their loyalty to the government. Deputy chief of staff for the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board Tiffany Olson reports she has no knowledge of the licensing proposal, and adds that the current draft contains no regulations for private industry. She also refutes published reports' assertions that, under the new draft, the government will not consult with civil liberties organizations over privacy issues. Olson insists that the working draft outlines the appointment of a privacy officer in the Homeland Security Department, and makes privacy a "common thread" throughout the plan.
- "Studios Using Digital Armor to Fight Piracy"
New York Times (01/05/03) P. 1; Harmon, Amy
Hollywood and the music industry are fighting digital piracy with digital means--content controls that regulate how people consume and use media. Industry executives worry that, as they release their movies and television shows in digital form, it will be pirated widely over the Internet, as music is currently via file-trading networks. But the technology they have already put in place would restrict the way in which consumers enjoy and use content so that Universal Music Group's Larry Kenswil says people will be buying a key rather than the song or movie itself. Using digital rights management technology, the entertainment industry says it can operate under different business models, charging people to copy and share cable TV broadcasts, for example. However, consumer rights groups and technology firms are in an uproar over the proposed and existing limitations for many reasons, but mostly because they say excessive digital rights management prevents consumers from exercising traditional fair-use rights. And technology firms are especially worried that digital rights management would take away the primary benefits of digital media, such as being able to easily consume content from different rooms in a home or on different types of devices. Universal Music Group, for example, recently began selling digital music singles for 99 cents that can be burned onto a CD but not transferred to a portable media player such as the iPod. Consumer Federation of American research director Mark Cooper says that even if the majority of people are kept from copying digital content themselves, just a few hardcore hackers will still be able to supply the masses with unprotected media over the Internet.
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- "Disruptive Technologies"
InfoWorld (01/06/03) Vol. 25, No. 1, P. 1; Schwartz, Ephraim; Yager, Tom; Connolly, P.J.
A series of disruptive technologies that will increase people's access to information and trigger beneficial change that will dramatically impact business and economic evolution are starting to take root; their proliferation will translate into increased global competition, growing corporate sophistication, and a shift in the balance of power. The open-source movement has changed the commercial development landscape for Apple, Microsoft, IBM, and Sun Microsystems--the popularity of Apple's Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD has increased as companies adopt open-source software in an attempt to save money and get a head start on new projects. Open-source software creates benefits for everyone--IT executives, administrators, and users--and will make access to the Internet's store of free software easier. IT departments are expected to deploy a wireless infrastructure in order to boost productivity and broaden employees' freedoms, but successful implementation involves a heavy emphasis on security and radio communications; keeping an infrastructure up to date will help lower costs and the degree of disruption. The integration of virtualization and wireless networking will establish a ubiquitous connection between employees' work spaces and the Internet. Companies that wish to save money on customer support and improve customer satisfaction at the same time can turn to self-service customer relationship management (CRM) applications, which can be deployed using an array of technologies, including portals, advanced search engines, and intelligent voice and text-recognition solutions. Marketing can also benefit from self-service CRM, which can be used to generate profiles of visiting online customers and their habits. When used together, Weblogs (blogs), Web services, and digital identities can be disruptive, and the Weblog network is an excellent platform where simple, URI-addressable services can be developed and distributed.
- "L1s Slip Past H-1B Curbs"
eWeek (01/06/03) Vol. 20, No. 1, P. 46; Vaas, Lisa
The H-1B visa program that allows companies to import foreign workers for IT jobs has attracted intense scrutiny, regulation, and criticism from American professionals arguing that they are losing jobs to people willing to work for less money. The controversy also draws attention away from another visa, the L1, which in some respects is easier to secure than H-1Bs. Only 195,000 H-1B visas can be issued each year, while L1s have no cap; furthermore, large numbers of foreign workers can be brought over on an L1 visa in one go. Laxman Badiga of India-based Wipro Technologies notes that L1 visas can be approved in four to eight weeks less time than H-1Bs. As a result, Wipro and other Indian IT services companies have enjoyed steady growth amid the economic recession. The L1 allows American firms to bring in employees from overseas parent companies, affiliates, or subsidiaries. Although the number of L1 visas granted is nowhere near H-1B figures, there is evidence of an increase in approvals: According to the INS' latest estimates, approved L1s rose from 112,124 in 1995 to 294,658 in 2000. The growing use of L1s is also causing anxiety among some H-1B visa holders, reports Analysts Express CEO Norm Petereit.
- "The Next Plastic Revolution"
Wired (01/03) Vol. 11, No. 1, P. 36; Behar, Michael
Scientists are developing the next generation of display technology that uses electrically charged organic polymers to emit light. While the special plastics lack the superconductive qualities of the best silicon and other non-organic materials, they are cheap to produce and could allow flexible displays, such as a laptop screen that rolls up like a newspaper. Plastics can be made conductive by straightening out normally tangled polymer chains. Alan Heeger, who received a Nobel prize for his work creating electrically conductive plastic, continues to labor at the University of California, Santa Barbara's Institute for Polymers and Organic Solids. He is currently working on polymer biosensors that light up when in contact with specific DNA sequences, such as those that signal genetically influenced ailments such as Parkinson's disease. Eventually, the polymers would allow for on-the-spot genetic testing. Heeger predicts that the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) market he helped spawn will first introduce the technology in products that use small, two-color screens, such as PDAs or mobile phones. In the future, scientists hope to use inkjet processes to spray polymer liquids on surfaces, creating large and cheap displays on billboards, wallpaper, or windows. Printed disposable circuitry would also make digital displays viable for everyday items such as soup cans. Another organic polymeric material, called Pedot, is being created by British firm Plastic Logic for use in memory chips, smart cards, and anti-counterfeit devices.
- "Panel Finds that R&D Relationships Need to be Remodeled"
R&D (12/02) Vol. 44, No. 12, P. A3; Studt, Tim
At R&D Magazine's 4th Annual Independent R&D Organization (IRDO) CEO Roundtable, panelists discussed how developments in the past year and a half--the terrorist attacks, the economic recession, and so on--have affected commercial research and development, what opportunities exist under the current circumstances, and how commercialization of new products can be accelerated once the economy bounces back. Mickey McCabe of the University of Dayton Research Institute said that falling levels of private R&D investment means fewer opportunities to commercialize innovative technologies. There was also a shift of certain product development processes from large R&D organizations to smaller firms, and these smaller companies' resources have tightened dramatically because of the recession; this adds up to fewer, less innovative products in the pipeline. TIAX President Kenan Sahin observed that the R&D organizations of small firms have plenty of enthusiasm, but suffer from a dearth of infrastructure and sustainability typical of larger, more entrenched companies. William Borger of the Air Force Research Laboratory noted that his organization's solution was to tweak the preliminary steps of product development by focusing on products that have a definite customer demand, and carry out applied research. The panelists generally agreed that industrial-IRDO partnerships could be beneficial--provided that each partner makes a dedicated investment, according to Sandia National Laboratory's David Goldheim. Overall, the IRDO participants saw the homeland security push as an opportunity, although the technology transfer protocol has yet to be worked out; Ray Jusaitis of Los Alamos National Laboratory said, "In areas such as computer security, infrastructure modeling, and bioterrorism, there is an enormous treasure trove of technology in the private sector that could contribute." Sahin suggested that when the economy recovers and customer demand picks up, many companies may decide to move away from outsourcing and establish in-house R&D facilities.