Issue No.10 - Oct. (2012 vol.45)
Published by the IEEE Computer Society
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MC.2012.350
Topics include a jury ordering Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion because of patent infringement, a biometric bracelet for patients with implanted medical devices, a plan to use home Wi-Fi routers as communications networks during public emergencies, a design tool that lets users make shapes via hand gestures, a new technique for finding the sources of spam and malware, and lions "sending" text messages to help conservationists track their locations.
Biometric Bracelet Helps Patients with Implanted Medical Devices
Dartmouth College scientists have designed a biometric bracelet that uses a unique physiological signature to identify people who have implanted or wearable medical devices, such as heart defibrillators or insulin pumps. The scientists say this improves the collection of data for monitoring these patients.
Developed by researchers from Dartmouth's Department of Computer Science, Thayer School of Engineering, and Geisel School of Medicine, the sensor measures the unique electrical properties of a patient's body to establish his or her identity. This identifies the patient so that doctors will know whose data is being sent to them from applications that collect information from an implanted or wearable device for monitoring and analysis.
Implantable medical devices increasingly use wireless communications technologies so that doctors can conveniently monitor them without having to perform surgery. Typically, though, patients must identify themselves to the monitoring system via potentially difficult tasks such as entering lengthy passwords into a tiny interface.
The Dartmouth bracelet automatically and securely connects to medical devices that are implanted, ingested, or carried. The bracelet and devices discover each other, determine that the same person is hosting them, and passively identify that patient via bioimpedance. This technique applies a small shock to the skin and then measures how body tissue responds.
Theoretically, each person's response is unique. The Dartmouth system has correctly recognized people wearing the bracelets 85 percent of the time; the recognition rate was 90 percent when it also used wrist circumference as an identifier.
In addition to identification, the bracelet could help eliminate problems such as patients in the same household accidentally using each other's wearable medical devices.
The Dartmouth researchers are also working on technology that utilizes heart rate, galvanic skin response, or other physiological data to identify and protect the privacy of medical device users.
Jury: Samsung Infringed on Apple Patents
A US jury has ruled that Samsung willfully infringed on six of Apple's iPad- and iPhone-related patents in 21 of its products.
The jurors, who deliberated for three days, determined that Apple should receive $1.05 billion in damages. Because they found that the infringement was willful, US District Court Judge Lucy Koh could award Apple triple that amount: $3.15 billion.
The jury found that Samsung infringed on Apple patents in areas such as pinch-and-zoom technology, which lets people use their fingers to make objects on the screen bigger or smaller; and bounce-back technology, which causes an image or text box to snap back into place when someone tries to scroll beyond its edges.
Samsung, which is based in South Korea, says it will appeal the ruling because it did not infringe on Apple's patents.
A hearing was slated for 20 September to review the jury verdict and address matters such as whether any errors were made and whether the judgment should be modified. Some legal experts speculated that the judge would overturn at least part of the verdict.
Based on the jury's findings, Apple has asked Koh to prohibit Samsung from selling eight Galaxy and Droid smartphones—the Droid Charge, and the Galaxy S 4G, S2 AT&T, S2 Skyrocket, S2 T T-Mobile, S2 Epic 4G, S Showcase, and Prevail—in the US. Most of the other products ruled to be infringing are no longer on the market.
Samsung asked the court to lift an injunction against sales of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer because the jury found it did not infringe on Apple's iPad design patents.
In the wake of the recent court decision, questions remain as to what Samsung will have to do to remain active in the US market. The company is trying to develop ways to adapt its products so that it can't be accused of infringing upon Apple's patents and claims it already has workarounds for two offerings.
Some experts have said that Samsung has more than enough money to pay the awarded damages and should be able to make changes to its products that will allow the company to sell them in the US. The company could also try to license Apple's protected technology.
Many observers called the court ruling important for the future because it upheld Apple's patents and it showed the company's willingness to successfully defend them.
Some expressed concern the jury findings could cause mobile-product vendors to avoid many innovative product developments out of fear that Apple will sue them.
Apple originally sued Samsung for $2.5 billion in damages. Samsung countersued for $399 million, claiming Apple infringed on its patents. The jury ruled against the countersuit.
Using Home Wi-Fi Routers as Emergency Networks
A group of German researchers has developed a way to connect the Wi-Fi routers that people have in their homes to a mesh network for use during emergencies when wired and wireless telephone networks aren't functioning.
The Technical University Darmstadt scientists say the routers could be linked to form a network backbone for use by emergency-services workers.
Driving through central Darmstadt, the researchers used a computer to record the location, number, and signal strength of Wi-Fi routers, and determined that they could form a robust mesh network. In mesh networks, nodes communicate directly with one another because each can act as both a transmitter and receiver. The researchers had determined that an effective mesh network would require adjacent Wi-Fi routers serving as nodes to be within 30 meters (about 98.5 feet) of each other.
Some of the surveyed routers were secured and might not be accessible for use in an emergency network.
The Darmstadt researchers said this might not be a big problem because many of today's routers have a channel that users could make available for open access, separately from their secure communications. However, the owners would have to agree to do so.
Design Tool Lets Users Make Shapes via Hand Gestures
In a new twist on the way people interact with design equipment, Purdue University scientists have developed a tool that utilizes gesture-recognition technology to let users create 3D objects with their hands.
The Handy-Potter tool (video at https://engineering.purdue.edu/cdesign/wp/?p=1221) would enable people who aren't engineers or design professionals to work with CAD applications simply by using hand motions, which are more natural for many people, explained Purdue professor Karthik Ramani.
Ramani said that his research team's overall goal is to develop more natural computer interfaces. The US National Science Foundation-funded Handy-Potter project utilized this approach with CAD technology that creates geometric shapes.
"Traditional tools require procedures so complicated that it is difficult to become an expert," Ramani said. "Handy-Potter is more of an imagination tool. You create the shape while you are completely focused on the idea rather than bothering about the right use of the tool."
"For example, there are very intuitive gestures for pulling and bending a shape," Ramani said. "You learn the gestures naturally, without any user manual."
Handy-Potter, for which a patent is pending, works via a depth-sensing Microsoft Kinect camera, originally designed for use in games and PCs. The application also employs advanced algorithms—based on machine learning, geometric modeling, and human-computer interaction—that recognize and interpret hand movements in relation to shapes. They then modify the shapes accordingly.
The tool could be used in areas such as games, architecture, art, and engineering design.
New Technique Could Find Sources of Spam, Viruses
A new approach could help security experts locate spammers and malware sources. This could make it easier for network providers to find and shut down the computers being used to cause such problems.
Researchers with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne's Audiovisual Communications Laboratory developed an algorithm that locates malware and spam sources by checking a relatively small number of network connections.
It's not practical to track all Internet nodes to trace problems because that would be time-consuming and require millions of sensors, say the scientists.
Instead, they designed an algorithm that can estimate the source of such problems from data collected by sensors at just 5 to 20 percent of all nodes in a network. The algorithm examines the network structure to identify the connections among nodes and then factors in data such as the time a virus has arrived at a sensor.
The Swiss Federal Institute scientists said the algorithm could be used to find the sources of problems within network-like systems other than those affecting computers, such as cities or countries experiencing epidemics.