HP launches tech research collaboration program

HP's new research director on Wednesday is launching a formal collaborative research program, the Associated Press reports. Under the program, HP will request project proposals from university researchers and select dozens to help fund for as many as three years. In addition, while patents from the work completed at universities could remain in the schools, HP would become first in line to license the technologies. The AP notes, however, that the resulting intellectual property also could become freely available in much the same way that IBM’s 2006 agreement stated under its university collaboration plan (Bergstein, AP/USA Today, 5/7/08).

Microsoft China breaks ground on massive Beijing-based tech facility

Microsoft China on Tuesday began construction on a 280-million-dollar research facility in the middle of Beijing's "Silicon Valley," AFP reports. Slated for completion in 2010 and located in Beijing's Zhongguancun area, the Microsoft China R and D Campus will include two buildings measuring 80 meters and 65 meters (270 feet and 215 feet) and totaling 101,000 square meters (1.1 million square feet) of space (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/6/08).

Cell phones bring medicine to remote areas

U.S. and Brazilian researchers have developed an inexpensive technical system capable of bringing advanced medical services to remote areas, United Press International reports. Led by Harvard University Professor George Whitesides, the research team designed a system using cell phone cameras and paper test-strips to collect and characterize artificial urine samples. To test the system, researchers photographed the color-changing test-strips using the cell phones and electronically transmitted them to an off-site expert. From the test-strip images, the off-site expert was able to accurately measure glucose and protein levels that are commonly used to diagnose kidney diseases. According to researchers, the system also could help conduct similar analyses of teardrops and saliva. They add that, in addition to diagnosing human diseases, the system could also help detect diseases in plants and livestock and be used to test water and food quality. Commenting on the system, Whitesides notes that "the cellular communications industry is, and will continue to become, a global resource that can be leveraged for detecting disease" (UPI, 5/6/07).

MIT building low-cost solar concentrator

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are building a prototype power concentrator that they say could revolutionize the solar energy field, United Press International reports. Under the direction of MIT mechanical engineering graduate student Spencer Ahrens, the student research team is constructing a 12-foot-square mirrored dish that can concentrate sunlight by a factor of 1,000. UPI notes that the toll will be made from simple, inexpensive industrial materials selected for price, durability and ease of assembly rather than for optimum performance. According to Ahrens, the team aims to make a dish that, in mass production, can be competitive in cost with other energy sources and produce heat for space heating and electric power at the same time. He adds that, if placed in the Sun Belt, the dish could make roughly 10,000 peak watts of heat and 3,500 peak watts of electricity (UPI, 5/7/08).

Sun announces plans to release JavaFX

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Tuesday announced that its JavaFX client technology for building rich Internet applications (RIA) will ship in the fall, Computerworld reports. Announced at the 13th annual JavaOne event in San Francisco, the consumer launch will follow a July release of a developer preview version. The toll box specifically includes a runtime, scripting language and media-coded framework for building RIAs for the desktop, mobile television or browser. Computerworld notes that “the technology allows users to ‘drag’ an online application to the desktop, where it can take advantage of local files and storage” (Havenstein, Computerworld, 5/6/08).

New technology can eliminate microchip defects

Princeton University researchers have created a strategy to rid microchips of minute defects, a change that could pave the way to smaller, more powerful nanometer-scale chips, United Press International reports. Published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the study indicates that the new nanotechnology “enables more precise shaping of microchip components than has been possible,” UPI reports. Researchers add that more precise component shapes could help manufacturers build smaller and better microchips. According to UPI, the method “involves quickly melting the structures on a chip and then guiding the resulting flow of liquid so that it re-solidifies into the desired shapes.” Researchers note the process is made possible because natural forces acting on the molten structures, such as surface tension, smooth the structures into geometrically more accurate shapes (UPI, 5/5/08).

CMS launches PHR pilot in South Carolina

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently launched a pilot personal health records (PHRs) program in South Carolina, Government Health IT reports. Rolled out on April 4 and announced on Monday, the one-year voluntary program offers the state’s Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in the fee-for-service plan access to a PHR that tracks hospital and physician claims information. While the PHR does not populate prescription data, users can enter their medication information manually. The system also offers users links to online resources addressing their health conditions. In addition, the portal enables users to designate family members and health professionals as representatives authorized to view the information in their PHRs through their own secure login. CMS officials designed the pilot to help them learn more about how patients use PHRs and plan to encourage more beneficiaries to use the online tools. Meanwhile, CMS will continue offering limited PHRs on its own Web site and is conducting an additional PHR pilot with seven other health plans (Ferris, Government Health IT, 5/5/08).

Google supports open-source security group

Google, a long proponent of open-source software, has joined two other tech organizations in supporting the Open Source Computer Emergency Response Team (oCERT), IDG News Service reports. Launched less than two months ago, oCERT is designed to serve as a clearinghouse for data on security vulnerabilities in open-source products. Specifically, the idea is to keep “open-source distributors on top of flaws and helping small software projects ensure that users of their code are aware of any issues,” IDG reports. Since its inception, oCERT has published four advisories and garnered sponsorship from Inverse Path and the Open Source Lab, in addition to Google (McMillan, IDG News Service/Yahoo! News, 5/5/08).

New computer threat is emerging, study finds

U.S. scientists suggest that malicious hardware could soon become as much of a threat to computing as viruses and worms, United Press International reports. According to a University of Illinois research team led by Samuel King, hackers have the ability to gain control of a computer by adding malicious circuits to its processor. Specifically, King suggests that, because such circuits interfere with the computer at a deeper level than a virus, they effectively operate "below the radar" of antivirus software. However, the researcher note that secretly attaching malicious hardware to a chip is not as simple as installing a virus because the attackers must either have access to a chip during its design or manufacture or be able to manufacture their own chips (UPI, 5/5/08).

Analysts expect slower health IT market growth in 2008

Industry analysts have recently suggested that the health information technology (IT) market will likely see some slowdown in its growth, though they note that hospitals are expected to remain committed to their IT projects, Modern Healthcare reports. One equity research analyst with William Blair & Co. notes that the slowdown in growth has been anticipated and comes after two years of earnings growth. While one example cited suggests that health IT vendors such as Cerner and MedAssets have posted earnings that exceeded expectations, the managing director of health services equity research with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group says that some vendors did not meet their expectations for the first quarter of 2008, and the market has "bifurcated." Modern Healthcare, meanwhile, reports that long-term, strategic clinical projects, such as electronic health record and clinical systems, will likely drive demand for health IT vendors (DerGurahian, Modern Healthcare, 5/5/08).

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