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).

HP to release scalable NAS infrastructure

Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday unveiled a new “massively scalable” NAS infrastructure based on blade servers and storage capacity that targets Web 2.0 cloud computing applications, ChannelWeb reports. Slated for release this fall, the HP StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System consists of three main components which fit in a newly-designed rack. The first is between 4 and 16 HP BL460 blade servers, which include a Linux operating system and run applications directly on the nodes, enabling up to 3.2 gigabytes (GB) per second of throughput, officials note; the second is storage capacity with a density of 12 terabytes per 1U of rack space; and the third is the management software needed to deliver the storage. ChannelWeb adds that officials say the ExDS9100 successfully cuts the cost of storage capacity from an average $15 per GB to roughly $2 per GB, “making it suitable for the kinds of capacity and cost structures customers in the Web 2.0 market require” (Kovar, ChannelWeb, 5/6/08).

InformationWeek names ‘Best of Interop’ products

InformationWeek editors this week ran a story outlining its top choices for the Best of Interop awards. The 181 entries related to the annual business technology event include a mix of “startups and heavyweights,” and winners were selected in eight tech categories, as well as three overall categories: Best of Interop, Best Startup, and Best Green Vendor. Specifically, InformationWeek notes that “the awards strive to identify technologies that will not only change how IT professionals work but also will reshape the day-to-day lives of businesses and end users.” This year’s top honor went to the PA-4000 Series Next Generation Firewall from Palo Alto Networks, which the editors suggest has the potential to accomplish all of those goals. Also earning top honor in the Security category, the PA-4000 “is a firewall that can identify and monitor traffic from more than 600 applications, enabling IT to allow, block, or restrict access to those apps across a company's network,” according to InformationWeek. Other winners include: Mellanox Technologies in the Data Center and Storage category for its ConnectX EN with Fibre Channel over Ethernet and Cisco Systems’ Nexus 7000 Series switch in the Infrastructure category (Wittman, InformationWeek, 5/3/08).

New York RHIO aims to connect broader range of providers

The regional health information organization (RHIO) in Rochester, N.Y., is planning to expand its scope and help local physicians adopt electronic medical record (EMR) systems, Government Health IT reports. Rochester RHIO in March earned two state grants totaling $12.7 million from the Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers (HEAL NY) grant program to support these efforts. Specifically, the funding will help the organization move beyond the hospital-to-physician model and begin considering the entire “umbrella of care that goes on for a patient,” Rochester RHIO’s executive director notes. Under such an expansion, the RHIO hopes to enroll facilities that offer elder services, home care and long-term care, emergency medical services, and other care delivery. In addition, officials say they plan to expand patient-based connectivity to help individuals manage their consents or connect to personal health records. The grants also will support an effort to boost EMR adoption. Managed in partnership with the Monroe County Medical Society and supported by an additional $600,000 grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, the program aims to help physician practices evaluate, select and adopt EMR systems (Moore, Government Health IT, 5/2/08).

IBM to launch online software applications marketplace

IBM on Thursday announced plans to launch a global, online marketplace for software applications under its new Blue Business Platform initiative, InformationWeek reports. According to officials, the marketplace will feature a mix of business applications and services targeting small- and mid-sized companies. Officials suggest that the Web-based model will enable the company to tap smaller businesses worldwide, which it says could represent a $500 billion IT market. Though it has yet to disclose an official launch date, the company says it plans to pilot the marketplace throughout 2008 (McDougall, InformationWeek, 5/2/08).

Samsung, Intel, TSMC partner for next-generation chips

Samsung Electronics on Tuesday announced plans to collaborate with top rivals Intel and Taiwan-based TSMC to develop the next model of bigger silicon wafers, an effort that would boost efficiency in chip manufacturing, Reuters reports. Working in partnership, the companies will transition manufacturing standards from the current 12-inch (300 mm) silicon wafers to 18-inch (450 mm) discs that would yield twice as many chips. Under the cooperation plan, the companies will release a first pilot line by 2012 (Han and Li, Reuters, 5/5/08).

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