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Volume 6, Issue 729: Friday, December 10, 2004

  • "Bills to Thwart Piracy Falter"
    Los Angeles Times (12/09/04) P. C1; Healey, Jon

    Congress concluded this year's session without passing measures designed to discourage the piracy of copyrighted music and films, such as harsher penalties for digital pirates and movie bootleggers. Several bills were tentatively approved by the House and the Senate, but none were enacted partly because Republican lawmakers failed to reach a consensus due to fervent lobbying by the opposition. Both sides of the issue are claiming a win: Gigi Sohn of the Public Knowledge advocacy group says the entertainment cartels failed to obtain the legislative changes they were after, while Recording Industry Association of America CEO Mitch Bainwol asserts that industry solicitation increased the realization of "enormous theft...that is compromising the vitality of important American industries." He cites Congress' authorization to fund three new high-level positions to coordinate federal copyright law enforcement initiatives and overseas anti-piracy efforts in the White House, the State Department, and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The House passed bills that would have simplified the prosecution of people who distribute copyrighted works on file-sharing networks and given the Justice Department the authority to sue people over violations of copyright law, but these measures were blocked by opposition within the Senate. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) says, "We do think we have a pretty broad consensus" favoring a ban on camcorders in cinemas and increased digital piracy prosecution, but Sohn is confident that the opposition is big enough to effectively block any sweeping copyright bills proposed next year. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court must decide whether to hear an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision that the creators of the software used on the Grokster and Morpheus file-sharing networks were not liable for its use in illegal file trading.
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  • "Tech Groups Praise Parts of Intelligence Bill"
    IDG News Service (12/09/04); Gross, Grant

    Some sections of the intelligence overhaul legislation passed by Congress this week have earned plaudits from technology trade organizations, although groups such as the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) are disappointed at the omission of language that would have established the post of assistant secretary for cybersecurity in the Homeland Security Department. They view the creation of such a post, which would carry more authority than a director-level position, as critical to making cybersecurity a priority goal for both the public and private sectors. ITAA's Bob Cohen praises other provisions of the intelligence reform bill that would help accelerate security clearances for IT vendors and contractors collaborating with intelligence agencies and the Defense Department. He notes that most intelligence agencies currently perform their own security clearances, but the reform bill sets up a National Intelligence Directorate tasked with developing background-check procedures. The group's deputy director will make background investigations the responsibility of a single agency, yet still have the authority to grant waivers to specific agencies that need to carry out their own probes for security or efficiency reasons. The Business Software Alliance cheered the legislation for creating a director of science and technology to act as advisor to the new national intelligence director on matters of technology usage. BSA also gave high marks to provisions that modernize the FBI's infrastructure to spearhead digital anti-terrorist initiatives, secure U.S. borders and airports with technology, and deploy advanced travel screening.
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  • "EU Patent Decision Postponed Till 2005"
    ZDNet UK (12/08/04); Marson, Ingrid

    Belgian minister Marc Verwilgen told the Belgian parliament on Dec. 7 that the European Union Council has decided to push back its decision on software patentability until next year, citing a Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) report indicating that a shift in the voting weights of EU members has left the EU Council without a qualified majority supporting changes to the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive. On its Web site, the FFII states that it believes "March will be a likely candidate for a formal approval date," and notes the delay could simply be caused by the Christmas season. Anti-patent Web site founder Florian Mueller says the proposal could still be accepted by the EU Council, although the postponement may be a indication of increasing political pressure against a loosening up of the software patenting legislation, especially as the EU just finished translating the associated documentation into 20 languages. "I think what we are seeing is that the proposal of May 18 is really dying a death--there has been a sequence of events that has destabilized the majority," Mueller argues. Such events include the Dutch parliament's July resolution urging the government to amend the Netherlands vote from support to abstention; the October mobilization of German political parties opposed to patents; and the Polish government's withdrawal of support for the directive in November, along with a warning to the Austrian Minister of Commerce and Industry that the draft directive on software patentability could have a detrimental effect on small and mid-sized IT companies.
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  • "Intel Research Seeks Ways to Put Computer Intelligence Into Everyday Objects"
    Seattle Times (12/09/04); Heim, Kristi

    Intel Research director James Landay leads a research team in a "ubiquitous" computing effort to embed computer intelligence in everyday objects; Landay says his facility's collaborative relationship with the nearby University of Washington will help researchers "see [new technologies] earlier by being closer to the ground." Among the projects Landay is focusing on is Place Lab, which has developed software that helps a mobile device determine its location by monitoring for surrounding radio beacons, such as uniquely numbered wireless access points that deliver Internet service and signals from cell phone base stations; Place Lab can recognize a specific beacon and localize it within 50 to 75 feet by comparing it with a set of access points stored in the mobile device. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology may be more accurate, but Place Lab director Anthony LaMarca says Place Lab has the advantage of being able to operate indoors and in urban environments where GPS cannot function. Another initiative of interest to Landay seeks to develop sensor networks that can anticipate human behavior, an example being radio-frequency identification tags attached to everyday objects that register a specific action when someone picks an object up, for instance. The action is linked to a computer program with steps required for 20,000 different activities, and which can deduce that tasks have been completed if the person follows the proper steps. The project's goal is to enable Alzheimer's sufferers to lead more independent lives by allowing caregivers or relatives to remotely track their activities, and training programs could also benefit. The open collaboration and information-sharing model supported by Intel Research and UW means that both Intel and the university jointly own projects, and thus equally benefit. Former UW Computer Science and Engineering Department Chairman Ed Lazowska notes that he was able to attract many professors to the school thanks to Intel's presence.
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  • "Artist/Scientist 'Dream Team' Assembles With Goal of Capturing, Displaying Gigapixel-Sized Images"
    Sandia National Laboratories (12/09/2004)

    Researchers and artists of diverse backgrounds are convening this week at New York University to start work on the creation of a photographic system that can capture and visualize 1 billion pixels, or 1 gigapixel, of visual data from a single image. Sandia National Laboratories is co-hosting the Big Picture Summit at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Summit organizer and artist-photographer Clifford Ross says the purpose of the conference is to gather people who can help make his dream of a "you are there" photographic experience a reality. Sandia computational scientists think the level of detail of Ross' proposed system will dramatically improve their ability to display and extract new understanding from vastly complicated data sets such as physics simulations and high-resolution satellite images. The project is split into two phases: Phase 1 involves the design and construction of a new camera that can capture a gigapixel of digital data in 1/15th of a second or faster; phase 2 spans the development of the display system, which would yield an extremely large-scale, yet finely detailed view of images while boasting 16 times more data display capabilities than a system employed at Sandia. Sandia computational scientist Carl Diegert says the project could have significant ramifications for all sectors where precise imaging plays a key role, such as homeland security, telecommunications, space exploration, and environmental science. "The group [of talent gathered at the summit] is skilled in virtually all the necessary elements of hardware and software design for a high resolution imaging project of great ambition," notes Red Burns with the Tisch School's Interactive Telecommunications Program. A solid agenda and working group is expected to be organized by the summit's end, after which interested individuals, foundations, government agencies, and others would provide funding.
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  • "Multimedia Goes Multichannel for Producers and Users Alike"
    IST Results (12/09/04)

    The IST-funded SAVANT project has developed a platform for concurrently transmitting multimedia content over broadcast and broadband channels, according to project coordinator Takebumi Itagaki of Brunel University. He notes, for instance, that some project partners are public broadcasters who are legally bound to provide sign language and other kinds of alternative media to viewers who comprise less than 5 percent of the actual audience; but because such services devour part of the broadcast spectrum, SAVANT opted to employ IP and synchronized Set Top Box (STB) delivery, which led to a platform that allows TV providers to supply enhanced scalable digital services. "Some of the items could be sent over the Internet but for some items like video and compressed audio this can be difficult to do," Itagaki reports, and this requires the synchronous transmission of TV and multimedia content over the Net, with integration taking place on the STB. The STB boasts SAVANT software that enables users to easily access massive volumes of archived material anytime, thanks to metadata-tagging. Title, content summaries, format, time of broadcast, and related content are examples of metadata elements provided by broadcasters, along with device-specific elements that allow content to be translated into suitable formats for the target device. The STB can also function as a server to send content to any Internet-enabled device--PC, Tablet PC, PDA, etc.--which can then employ the STB installed services from virtually any location. SAVANT project partner Wolfgang Putz of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Publication and Information Systems says this classification "means that you have an archive of all the news stories of the day, with different access possibilities for the end user."
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  • "Java Stir Puts Sun in a Spot"
    CNet (12/07/04); Kawamoto, Dawn

    Problems related to a recently disclosed security flaw in Sun Microsystems' Java virtual machine (JVM) software illustrate a trend in which more and more Web users, many of them tech neophytes, are looking to Sun for support. The vulnerability could allow PCs running both Microsoft Windows and Linux to be infected by malware because it affects Sun's plug-in for running Java on multiple Web browsers and operating systems. A patched JVM version is available for download on Sun's Java.com Web site, but Sun says that certain Firefox users who tried downloading the new software ended up with the buggy version instead; Sun attributes the problem to a lack of opportunity to update the download features for Firefox, and its decision to prioritize patching for more widespread browsers. However, some users claim Sun's Web site does not provide clear instructions on how to obtain and utilize the patch. A Java.com overhaul is planned by the middle of next quarter to accommodate greater numbers of people turning to Sun for updates, while Sun's Laura Ramsey says the company intends to polish its auto-update feature when it issues a new update feature for Firefox users, although the auto-update will require user input before it downloads the patched software. Java.com program director Craig Miller says this feature is being provided to protect users' security and privacy. Still, industry analysts such as IDC's Roger Kay observe that Sun is less comfortable contending with novices than with major companies and tech-competent customers. "I would say that they still have a lot to do to improve the whole user experience," reports Kay.
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  • "Obsolete Software Drains Billions From IT Budgets"
    Network World Fusion (12/08/04); Bednarz, Ann

    U.S. companies are spending billions of dollars annually on software that is not producing adequate value, according to the BPM Forum, an industry group that promotes business performance management methodology and technology. In a survey of 226 IT and business executives, the BPM Forum found a widespread lack of awareness about software that was at the end of its lifecycle among respondents, who were instead more focused on acquiring new software. Few companies had systems in place to monitor the value of their old software: Just 25 percent of survey respondents conducted software audits once a year and 73 percent said they have no established processes for retiring obsolete, unused, or unnecessary applications. Without software assessment disciplines, businesses accumulate and support too much software on their corporate networks. The BPM Forum found 70 percent of those surveyed believed there was unnecessary software maintained on their systems, with 35 percent of respondents saying such applications consumed between 5 percent and 15 percent of their IT budget; 23 percent of respondents said unnecessary software ate up more than 15 percent of their IT budgets. In contrast to the little attention paid to retiring software applications, the survey found companies were very active in acquiring new software, with one-third of respondents claiming more than 10 software deployments each year. The BPM Forum report is available for download at www.bpmforum.org.
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  • "In Network Security, 'To Beat the Clock' Is No Longer a Game"
    Investor's Business Daily (12/09/04) P. A4; Howell, Donna

    The window between the discovery of software vulnerabilities and their exploitation by hackers is shrinking, so companies have less time to come up with patches. Gartner predicts that 30 percent of all online exploits in 2006 will occur within a month of patch availability, and Gartner analyst John Pescatore says such developments are forcing companies to explore and implement different security measures, such as intrusion prevention and network access control. Examples of host-based intrusion prevention include software from MIT spin-off Determina that analyzes how applications employ computer memory and warns when a worm is attempting to break those basic conventions--a capability that allows the software to handle both known and unknown worms, according to Determina CEO Nand Mulchandani. "You install the software agent on a server and it immunizes the core operating system and the applications on top," he says. Symantec announced a collaborative venture with Nortel Networks on Dec. 7 to develop techniques to block worms on high-speed networks before they can infect servers, and a prototype product integrating Symantec's attack signatures with a Nortel network load-balancing device exists. Nortel's Peter Cellarius claims the prototype can identify threats unleashed upon a network in close to real time. Pescatore anticipates a greater deployment of "in the cloud" security in which ISPs sift through traffic further upstream to stop worms before they reach corporate or home users. AT&T is applying this strategy to its managed security service, which installs a firewall within its own network, and is using the knowledge gathered from worm outbreaks so that worm traffic expected early next year can be examined, and safeguards can be automatically applied to customers' data traffic.

  • "Inexpensive 3-D Technology Starting to Look Real"
    The Pitt News (12/08/04); Fleming, Adam

    Researchers at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center plan to use stereo visualization to make it more cost-effective and convenient to display images and movies in 3D for large groups. Stuart Pomerantz and Joel Stiles are using a stereo visualization process that includes two separate projectors, each with a linear filter in front of its lens that polarizes the projected images, and both are shown on one screen specially designed to depolarize the images. The scientists have added new content and playback software to the strategy of connecting polarizing images to projectors. "What we needed to do was create a pipeline for creating content in the form of movie files," explains Stiles. Stereo visualization is already being used in the classroom at the University of Pittsburgh, but improvements in the storage capacity of portable disks for the size files of feature-length films would be needed to bring the 3D technology to movie theaters. Stiles notes, "We wanted to be able to show what we do in stereo, but do it, more or less, at the drop of a hat, or at very high quality, but very low cost compared to one of these gigantic, multi-projector, multi-screen systems."
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  • "Needed: Self-Configuring Networks"
    Government Computer News (11/22/04) Vol. 23, No. 33; Jackson, Joab

    Army Col. Timothy Gibson, who serves as a program manager in the Advanced Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), believes the protocols currently employed on the Internet and other public networks cannot sufficiently address the military's future requirements for network-centric warfare. Gibson says, "We need secure and reliable systems that can scale to large sizes on their own, particularly in the wireless area," noting that his agency would like to reduce the percentage of forces deployed for network and communications support from over 10 percent to no more than 2 percent. Gibson says Internet Protocol lacks precedence levels that would give priority service to higher-priority network users, which is a desirable capability among military commanders. He says DARPA has devised mobile ad hoc networks as a step toward self-configuring systems, although their scalability needs to be increased to support thousands of devices rather than just 200--their current limit--while still providing automatic configuration. Gibson says he is launching the Control Plane program, an effort to embed control in the network that is modeled after the operations of a separate signaling plane in the Signaling System 7 protocol. The program's goal is to make the hosts communicate with the network infrastructure in order to map out the routes between themselves and the end points so they can select the most appropriate path and structure their traffic to maximize network efficiency. The hosts "should be able to multiplex traffic across multiple paths to dramatically increase throughput or the probability of having the message delivered," Gibson remarks. He says DARPA is considering having the control plane piggyback on top of IP, which makes interoperability with IPv4 and IPv6 a requirement.
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  • "BT Develops 'Minority Report' Light Interface"
    VNUNet (12/08/04); Jaques, Robert

    A wireless, gesture-controlled ambient-light display interface that recalls the futuristic technology of the movie "Minority Report" has been developed for home use by BT Group. "We set out to find a way of creating a knowledge source in an integrated but unobtrusive way, bringing everybody easy, relevant and up-to-the-minute information," explains Adam Oliver, BT Group's head of information access. The interface employs animated light sequences and sounds on unobtrusive devices to alert users to important data such as weather reports or emails. By waving their hand over the front of the device, users would trigger BT's Laureate text-to-speech software to read out the information highlights in a natural-sounding voice. The device contacts an "ambient service portal" employing a Wi-Fi LAN access point with a broadband link; users can select the types of data the portal watches for, and tailor how that information is visualized on their device. In addition, the device can monitor for vocal commands, delivering requested information via speech recognition software. The interface is expected to make possible new services for BT's broadband users by enabling customized online information to be piped directly into their homes without the need to actually go online. Oliver says the technology is designed to accommodate older or disabled users, noting that "The fact that you do not need keyboard skills or the ability to use complicated software to get information from the unit is fantastic."
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  • "Libraries Reach Out, Online"
    New York Times (12/09/04) P. E1; Gnatek, Tim

    Libraries across the country are building out their Web presence by offering downloadable e-books, audiobooks, tutor chat sessions, and other digital services. In libraries themselves, wireless Internet access is leveraged to attract more users. The New York Public Library now offers some 3,000 titles online for check-out; patrons who have installed the free reader software can download the e-books onto their home computer or PDA; when the e-books are due back, the programs automatically lock up and the e-book is made available again to other users. Online check-out systems replicate the traditional library format exactly, with libraries owning limited numbers of e-book licenses, except that users can access systems round the clock and librarians spend less time shelving books. Check-out patterns match those for physical books, though the electronic format is especially beneficial for guides and workbooks that often suffer patron abuse in physical form, says Cleveland Public Library technical services head Patricia Lowrey. The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), an international cooperative of approximately 50,000 libraries, offers several online services for libraries, including a chat service called QuestionPoint where over 1,500 librarians around the world offer reference help anytime of the day; another OCLC project expected to launch this month will let libraries tap a downloadable audiobook program and other online services that replicate traditional library functions. OCLC cooperative initiatives director Patricia Stevens says libraries are moving toward remote self-service over the Internet. British Columbia's Richmond Public Library offers personalization features on its Web site similar to the recommendations Amazon.com makes for its customers, while King County Library System in Washington State recently added 634 audiobooks to its online collection of 8,500 e-books and lets visitors view film trailers on its Web site.
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  • "Get That Team Spirit"
    InformationWeek (12/06/04) No. 1017, P. 52; Claburn, Thomas; Babcock, Charles

    Software development will increasingly involve teamwork and automated development tools supporting collaboration, according to experts. As the complexity of business applications grows, so does the need to work in larger teams and use automated code-generation tools. Major software tool vendors are already moving in this direction; in three to five years, programmers can expect development tools that understand the desired change in business processes and help automate that change in code. IBM is even working on technology that would allow business users to program application modifications that reflect conceptual business processes, though IBM distinguished engineer Alan Brown admits that such advanced capabilities are still years away. Microsoft realizes that software development teams need to work more collaboratively and in larger, more distributed groups; in this sense, software code automation helps by facilitating these goals, not necessarily producing code with factory-like automation, says Microsoft senior product manager Prashant Sridharan. Automation is also necessary to adequately address quality control as the size of projects increases, and to let companies with less-experienced programmers make the most of their staff resources. Major tool vendors are introducing features such as shared debugging, which allows programmers in different locations to view the same code simultaneously, and other functions that address problems earlier in the development process, says Borland Software product operations senior director Bill Pataky. Even with increased productivity, programmers should not worry about these new functions threatening their job security, says Gartner research director Michael Blechar.
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  • "Move Over, Big Brother"
    Economist (12/02/04) Vol. 373, No. 8404, P. 31

    The increasing sophistication and proliferation of surveillance systems is giving rise to fears of an Orwellian society in which the government can eavesdrop on all aspects of citizens' lives, but security expert Bruce Schneier argues that a "democratization" of surveillance is taking place thanks to the shrinking size of surveillance technologies, falling digital storage costs, and increasingly advanced data-mining systems. The wide distribution and availability of digital systems is putting surveillance in the hands of ordinary citizens. For example, there have been numerous reported incidents in which criminals were caught in the act by bystanders with camera-equipped mobile phones. Another benefit is enhanced accountability and transparency, while traditional news media have started to embrace citizen surveillance to augment documentation of news events. However, this trend has also sparked concerns about industrial espionage and increased voyeurism, and occurrences of the latter have prompted the passage of new laws designed to bolster people's rights to their personal image. Other crimes that inexpensive surveillance technology supports include identity theft, bank card counterfeiting, and account siphoning. David Brin, author of "The Transparent Society," thinks that a surveillance society could regulate itself, following the maxim that "A photographically 'armed' society could turn out to be more polite." But he does not dismiss the possibility that omnipresent surveillance technologies could help spread conformity by discouraging citizens from displaying their individualism.
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  • "Take a Chance"
    Science News (12/04/04) Vol. 166, No. 23, P. 362; Klarreich, Erica

    Simulating natural and man-made phenomena for scientific research and encrypting credit card numbers in online transactions are just a few examples of tasks that employ thousands, millions, or even billions of random numbers; but only recently have scientists attempted to create algorithms that generate true random numbers instead of pseudorandom numbers. Pseudorandom-number generators, a core enabler for computer models of complex physical systems (such as weather and protein folding) can be unpredictable enough to satisfy numerous tasks, but the sequences produced by such algorithms inevitably repeat. Cryptographically strong algorithms, such as those used to encrypt credit card numbers, are thought by mathematicians to be closer to true randomness, but both pseudorandom generators and cryptographically strong algorithms can be cracked if a hacker learns the starting seed number that users must input. Furthermore, a seed cannot be chosen randomly without a pseudorandom-number generator, which must start out with a random seed, thus ensuring the existence of an exploitable first seed. To eliminate this shortcoming, researchers are trying to generate truly random numbers from outside sources, such as the motion of a computer mouse, radio static produced by weather systems, and lava lamps monitored by digital cameras. More exotic randomness sources are being tapped to accelerate the generation of random numbers. Perhaps the most promising algorithms are those that harness intrinsically random quantum physics. Switzerland-based id Quantique has developed a commercial device that generates numbers by beaming photons at a semitransparent mirror; quantum theory prescribes that each light particle has a 50-50 chance of being reflected or passing through, and the generator produces 4 million random numbers per second.
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  • "Riding the Grid Wave"
    Computerworld (12/06/04) Vol. 32, No. 49, P. 30; Anthes, Gary H.

    MCNC's Wolfgang Gentzsch forecasts a three-stage evolution for grid computing: In the first stage or wave, which is already moving forward, the chief users are academics; the second wave will add corporations to the user mix; and the third wave will bring individual consumers aboard, by which time the Internet and "the grid" will be one and the same. Gentzsch says the current emphasis is on the enterprise grid because research grids lack a financial incentive, and IT vendors such as Oracle and IBM have established a grid infrastructure for next-generation products. He expects companies to cut costs and simplify their operations with grid computing, but notes that the adoption of grids has not accelerated because the technology still lacks maturity and standards, while legal, political, and social issues are also significant obstacles. Gentzsch anticipates the emergence of a next-generation Internet with the integration of increasingly generic grids and the conventional Internet: "The current Internet is just information," he explains. "The grid adds things like collaboration, computing and other things that make it three-dimensional." Gentzsch speculates that the third grid wave will enable multitudes of consumers to interact in gaming tournaments and allow health care professionals to respond more rapidly to patients in trouble by eliminating physical distances. He estimates that the consumer wave is five to 10 years away. MCNC will act as a technical support center for the National LambdaRail testbed network, which offers a glimpse of the future grid Gentzsch envisions.
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  • "WiMAX: Broadband Wireless Access and Beyond"
    Business Communications Review (11/04) Vol. 34, No. 11, P. 46; Bellman, Robert

    Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) is being touted as a metropolitan wireless communication and portable/mobile broadband wireless solution, but is positioned in an extremely competitive arena. Technical advances benefiting WiMax include non-line-of-sight transmission and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing technologies, which enable practical broadband wireless access (BWA) in rural and suburban areas; and quality of service (QOS) enhancements beyond the scope of earlier wireless technologies that should come to the fore as customers increasingly integrate voice and data applications and traffic. TowerStream CEO Philip Urso says the appeal of BWA to enterprises stems from the technology's low-cost operations, separation from landlines, and quick installation, while new microwave systems' ability to minimize operating expenses has aroused the interest of municipal governments and school systems. WiMax must be inexpensive and functional in order to attract more business and residential BWA users as well as portable/mobile users, without whom the WiMax market cannot sustain growth. Helping drive WiMax development is the IEEE's standardization of 806.16 in the United States and ETSI's HIPERMAN specification in Europe, which lets the WiMax Forum focus on international vendor interoperability, cheap components, and customer confidence. An industry observer describes a model WiMax service supporting 50 Mbps wireless links with a maximum transmission range of 50 kilometers for a $50 CPE price tag. One research analyst expects WiMax to account for only about one-third of metro wireless equipment sales in 2008, given the many competing portable/mobile applications that will become available as well as the BWA application solutions already available. The appeal of fixed wireless bypass applications could increase even in the absence of standards or compatibility thanks to outstanding QOS and adequate spectrum availability.

  • "The Challenge of Designing In-Body Communications"
    Embedded Systems Programming (11/04) Vol. 17, No. 11, P. 20; Sivard, Ake; Bradley, Peter; Chadwick, Peter

    Nearly every aspect of a patient's health can be monitored or regulated via implanted devices, and it is anticipated that these devices, when coupled with sophisticated ultra low-power radio frequency technology, will significantly improve the patient's quality of life by enabling doctors to wirelessly adjust the devices' performance when necessary. Such systems pose unusual technical challenges, particularly in the areas of communication and control, as well as regulatory challenges. The shared use of the 402- to 405-MHz frequency band for a Medical Implant Communications Service recommended by the International Telecommunications Union is expected to become the globally accepted medical implant device communications standard within a few years, and its suitability for in-body communications networks is supported by its in-body signal propagation traits, interoperability with incumbent band users, and international availability. Any implanted device and the antenna it uses must demonstrate biocompatibility through nontoxicity and passivity to body fluids; titanium is considered the best material for such devices, but the low-resistivity metal needed to maintain effective RF performance can only be platinum or platinum iridium, rather than the preferred copper, silver, or gold. The single most critical factor in the design of in-body communications devices is power consumption and size, a consideration addressed by chip-level design and integration, which is also crucial to resolving cost issues. The designer must achieve a balance between a series of compromises and trade-offs to deliver the performance needs of in-body communications. Simplicity is the rule of thumb when selecting a radio-system architecture that keeps current consumption to a minimum. Further challenges inherent in in-body communications range from competing design standards and standards bodies to the need for extensive testing of any device directly supporting human life prior to approval.
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