Cell phones can boost health care delivery, researchers find

Researchers are finding that cell phone technology can help boost health care delivery, the Boston Globe reports. For instance, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Nokia Research Center Cambridge are using existing wireless networks to create technology that could connect specialists and emergency responders. With the technology, specialists could guide emergency responders in beginning treatment and better prepare themselves for when the ambulance arrives. The researchers hope to launch a field trial of the technology this year. Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless last month announced plans to offer a service called Pill Phone that would allow people to access drug interaction information over their phone and schedule medication reminders. In another study, researchers at the Center for Connected Health in Boston and area hospitals sent daily text messages to dermatology patients informing them of the weather and reminding them to apply sunscreen. Researchers then used a special monitoring cap for sunscreen that is wired to send a time-stamped text message to a database every time the tube is opened to measure compliance. In San Francisco, meanwhile, SexInfo, a sexual health hotline that targets teens in the city, helps teens locate clinics and basic information via text messages (Johnson, Boston Globe, 5/18/08).

Tech firm taps RFID to boost surgery safety

Pittsburg-based ClearCount Medical Solutions is using RFID to automate the process of tracking surgical sponges, marking what could be one of the first RFID systems to debut in an operating room setting, the EE Times reports. The startup's Smart Sponge system aims to eliminate the problem of sponges left inside a patient, a mistake that occurs as often as once in every 1,000 surgeries, according to various studies. The ClearCount technology, however, has the combined capabilities of RFID to keep a count of sponges and track the position and number of any sponges left in a patient. In addition, the RFID can include data programmed by the vendor and the hospital. Thus far, the system has passed inspections from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as the Federal Communications Commission. It officially debuted in April at a conference for operating room nurses (Merritt, EE Times, 5/19/08).

New passport features LED display

Korean electronics vendor Samsung SDI and German security technology provider Bundesdruckerei GmbH recently unveiled a passport that features an AMOLED active matrix organic LED display capable of visualizing all internal information including moving passport images, EE Times Europe reports. Slated for presentation at the current SID DisplayWeek 2008 in Los Angeles, the passport includes a display that is just 300 microns thin. The companies add that, including the protecting layer, the passport page that contains the display still is not thicker than 700 microns. Implemented as an active matrix color display, each pixel is driven by an electronic circuit embedded in the thin material. In addition, the passport does not contain any power sources; rather, the display is activated via the power provided by a contactless reader (Hammerschmidt, EE Times Europe, 5/20/08).

New technique sorts nanotubes by length

U.S. government scientists have developed a technique that sorts batches of carbon nanotubes by length, using high-speed centrifuges, United Press International reports. According to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientists, many potential applications for carbon nanotubes depend on the lengths of the microscopic cylinders, and one of the most important features of their new technique is that it should be easily scalable to produce industrial quantities of high-quality nanotubes. In the new study reported in the journal Advanced Materials, a team of NIST researchers demonstrated a variation of a technique discovered in 2006 that can separate nanotubes by length. According to UPI, scientists in 2006 discovered nanotubes could be separated by "chirality" -- a measure of the twist in the carbon atom sheet -- by spinning them in a dense fluid in an ultracentrifuge tube because of a relationship between chirality and buoyancy. The new technique, meanwhile, basically involves running a race, according to one researcher, in which "the longer [nanotubes] move farther in the same amount of time. Eventually they get separated enough in position that we can just pull off layers and get different lengths" (UPI, 5/20/08).

Pakistan offers to share nuclear technology with Bangladesh

Pakistan's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Alamgir Babar on Monday said that his country was ready to share nuclear technology for civilian purposes to help tackle the massive energy crisis, The Times of India reports. Babar said discussions over the matter could take place within the parameters of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), even though Pakistan is not a part of it, adding that Bangladesh is a signatory to NPT. Meanwhile, Foreign Adviser Iftekhar A Chowdhury recently discussed nuclear energy cooperation with Russia and China after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had cleared Bangladesh to use nuclear power for civilian use (The Times of India, 5/20/08).

New York tech college, U.S. army partner for anti-terrorism research

The University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is partnering with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Maryland to develop new technologies to improve anti-terrorism efforts, The Business Review (Albany) reports. Under the partnership, called the "Center for National Nanotechnology Innovation & Commercialization," researchers also will create technology to improve the overall safety and efficiency of equipment and uniforms worn by soldiers stationed in the field. Officials note the research will start in the next two weeks, and will likely take place periodically to jive with the Army's research schedule ( The Business Review (Albany), 5/20/08).

Code analysis indicates open source software quality, security improving

Tech analysis group Coverity on Tuesday released a code analysis report suggesting that the quality and security of open source software continues to improve, InfoWorld reports. In its "Scan Report on Open Source Software 2008," Coverity across two years analyzed more than 55 million lines of code on a recurring basis from more than 250 open source projects. Overall, Coverity found that open source developers are interested in code quality and are taking efforts to make it better and more secure, officials said. Among other findings, the analysis suggests that the quality and security of open source software is improving; specific defects are more prevalent, including "null pointer reference" as the most common defect and "user before test" as the least common; and there has been a 16 percent reduction in overall static analysis defect density, reflecting the elimination of more than 8,500 individual defects (Krill, InfoWorld, 5/20/08).

Google rolls out Web-based personal health record to consumers

Google on Monday launched its much anticipated Web-based personal health record (PHR) system, which enables consumers to upload, store and manage medical records from a variety of sources, the New York Times reports. Under the new password-protected service, available at www.google.com/health, users can create an online health profile by culling medical records information imported from organizations such as pharmacies and lab testing companies, as well as personal information on medical history or drug allergies. In addition to connecting users with online research about health conditions and notifying them about potential drug interactions or other safety risks through a “virtual pillbox” feature, the site also directs consumers to links for physician searches, major U.S. pharmacies, medical groups, and other health information. Moreover, customers through the site can schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, receive online diagnostic test results and add their physicians’ e-mail addresses to their contact lists. Thus far, more than two dozen partners and institutions are participating in the Google Health initiative, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, CVS Caremark, the American Heart Association and Walgreens. Meanwhile, the company in February also announced it had forged deals with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, health insurer Aetna, medical testing company Quest Diagnostics, Wal-Mart and several others (Lohr, Times, 5/20/08; Metz, Associated Press, 5/20/08; Auchard/Beck, Reuters, 5/19/08; Vascellaro, Wall Street Journal 5/20/08 [subscription required]). 

NASA device helps detect biohazards

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has developed a nanotechnology-based biosensor that can detect trace amounts of biohazards, United Press International reports. Developed at the NASA's Ames Research Center in California, the device can detect specific bacteria, viruses and parasites. NASA said the biosensor will be used to help prevent the spread of potentially deadly biohazards in water, food and other contaminated sources. According to the chief scientist for exploration technology and former director of the Center for Nanotechnology at Ames, "the biosensor makes use of ultra-sensitive carbon nanotubes which can detect biohazards at very low levels." Researchers add that, "when biohazards are present, the biosensor generates an electrical signal, which is used to determine the presence and concentration levels of specific micro-organisms in the sample. Because of their tiny size, millions of nanotubes can fit on a single biosensor chip." Early Warning officials, who received the license for the technology, said food and beverage companies, water agencies, industrial plants, hospitals and airlines could use the biosensor to prevent outbreaks of illnesses caused by pathogens -- and do so without needing a laboratory or technicians (UPI, 5/20/08).

Online game aims to discredit myths, raise HIV/AIDS awareness

The New York Times on Monday profiled a new Internet game, called Pos or Not, that aims to increase HIV/AIDS education and awareness. Launched in late April by mtvU, MTV's college network, and the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Web site features a matching game in which users are asked to determine based on photographs and short biographies of men and women ages 21 to 30 which ones are HIV-positive. According to the Times, the "message is that you can't judge someone's virus status by looks, occupation or taste in music." mtvU officials note that the game was played about 5.1 million times by 400,000 people during its first three weeks (Stelter, New York Times, 5/19/08).

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