U.S. researchers create improved RFID system

U.S. scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have designed a system that can simultaneously measure and test hundreds of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, United Press International reports. According to the lead researcher, Assistant Professor Gregory Durgin, the new system is capable of measuring the signal strength of tags hidden behind other tags. Currently, if several RFID tags are in the vicinity of a reader signal, the reader will likely communicate with the tag transmitting the most powerful signal first and then moves to the next most powerful signal, a process that can be very time-consuming. To speed the process, Durgin says the researcher team "designed a really inexpensive, simple anti-collision system that transmits multiple unique signals back to us simultaneously without this complicated back and forth process." UPI notes that the researchers presented the study last month at the IEEE International Conference on RFID (UPI, 5/6/08).

North Carolina hospital system credits digital imaging with cutting costs, boosting care

The not-for-profit FirstHealth of the Carolinas health network is crediting its online digital imaging system with helping to reduce patients' length of stay and data storage costs, Computerworld reports. Launched two years ago, the McKesson picture archiving and communications system has enabled as many as 300 radiologists and physicians at the network's three hospitals and additional clinics to access clinical images from any location, according to the health system’s director of application support. Officials note the system has enabled physicians to make faster decisions about treatment, which has helped reduce average length of stays for patients in its hospitals. In addition, officials say that the system has helped FirstHealth reduce its annual film budget from an average of $800,000 to roughly $50,000 this year. To achieve these goals, FirstHealth technical officials integrated software interfaces and workflow processes with clinical applications. In addition, the system tapped storage and networking software from NetApp Inc. According to Computerworld, the health system “saw digital storage architecture as a means to increase its operational efficiencies, reduce costs and improve patient care” (Hoffman, Computerworld, 5/5/08).

Grant to help construction workers adopt helpful technologies

The University of Texas at Austin has received a $1 million National Science Foundation grant to create a replicable learning tool to help construction workers incorporate technologies into their work, United Press International reports. Specifically, the funding will allow researchers at the university's Cockrell School of Engineering's Faculty Innovation Center to expand a project that involved incorporating computing and sensing technologies into construction sites. UPI notes that “the team plans to expand their work into a unified learning environment easily copied and customized to local conditions.” According to one researcher, "construction sites are unique, large and dynamic, with lots of worker choice of actions," and they become more complicated because of "the often low education levels of craft workers." He adds that "intelligent job site technologies promise great improvements, but considerable workforce development is needed to speed adoption of these technologies" (UPI, 5/5/08).

NATO establishes cyber-defense team

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) recently created a new Cyber Defense Management Authority to coordinate the safeguarding of its own and member states’ computer infrastructures, Washington Technology reports. Specifically, the new authority will coordinate all NATO cyber-security activities to ensure its information and communication systems are protected, as well as offer assistance to NATO’s 26 member states in North America and Europe. According to Washington Technology, the new organization will likely create a dedicated NATO cyber command center to better manage assistance to states amid cyber attacks, while NATO expects to charge Maj. Gen. Georges D'Hollander, who currently runs NATO’s internal cyber defenses, as the chief of the authority. Meanwhile, as part of its new focus on cyber-security, NATO has established a cyber center of excellence in Estonia. NATO officials add that the group will continue to explore the potential to cooperate with other nations on cyber defense (Lipowicz, Washington Technology, 5/2/08).

IBM, Google partner to advance cloud computing

IBM and Google plan to “exploit their common technological world view and considerable talent to build a worldwide network, or cloud, of servers from which consumers and businesses will tap everything from online soccer schedules to advanced engineering applications,” InformationWeek reports. Across the last few years, the companies had collaborated to build a version of their cloud, and last October the firms allowed several top engineering universities including MIT, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon to test it out. The IBM-Google cloud runs on Linux and includes Xen systems virtualization and Apache Hadoop, which is an open source implementation of the Google File System. According to InformationWeek, the two companies together “could conceivably supply computer users in the business and consumer markets with hosted offerings that range from basic productivity software like word processing and calendaring (such as Google Docs and IBM's Lotus Symphony suite) to sophisticated security and management tools (through IBM's Tivoli products and Google's Postini unit)” (McDougall, InformationWeek, 5/1/08).

Overall Web attacks rise as e-mail attacks decline, report finds

According to a recent study by anti-virus software maker Sophos, Web attacks surged to an all-time high in the first quarter of this year, with no signs of abating, Government Computer News reports. According to Sophos' estimates, just 0.04 percent of all e-mail sent during the first quarter of 2008 was infected, compared with 0.11 percent during the first quarter of last year. Specifically, Sophos identified about 15,000 newly infected Web pages daily across the first three months of 2008. Company officials note that this year their software blocks an infected Web page roughly once every five seconds, compared to once every 14 seconds throughout 2007. Meanwhile, the report notes that 92.3 percent of all first quarter e-mail traffic was spam. According to the authors, "Sophos finds a new spam-related Web page on average every 3 seconds—[or] 23,300 each day. This calculation includes pages registered on 'freeweb' sites, such as Blogspot, Geocities, etc." (Swoyer, GCN, 4/29/08).

Sun unveils OpenSolaris OS

Sun Microsystems Inc. and the OpenSolaris community on Monday released the initial version of the open-source OpenSolaris operating system (OS), Computerworld reports. Previously available only in developer preview releases, OpenSolaris software integrates Solaris technologies and tools with modern desktop applications and applications developed by open-source communities such as Gnome and Mozilla, according to the company. In addition, officials tout the new open-source OS as the first to feature the Zettabyte File System as a default file system, enabling developers to protect their work with its instant rollback and continual check-summing capabilities (Havenstein, Computerworld, 5/5/08).

Kaiser completes electronic records system implementation

Kaiser Permanente recently finished rolling out an outpatient electronic health records system for its 8.7 million members, Health Data Management reports. Launched in 2004, the HealthConnect initiative aims to integrate electronic records across all of its regions. With the latest project completion, its 13,000 physicians have access to patient records across 421 medical offices. According to officials, the records system thus far has enabled the organization to increase its efficiency of outpatient care. For example, data from internal survey suggests that medication administration times and doses have become 85 percent more legible and correct. Meanwhile, Kaiser has launched an inpatient version of the system at 13 of its 36 California hospitals and plans to go live with an additional 14 by the end of 2008 (Health Data Management, 5/5/08).

Off-site data storage use grows among smaller U.S. businesses

According to research analysts at New-York based AMI-Partners, U.S. companies are increasingly turning to off-site data storage, the Dayton Business Journal reports. Specifically, AMI-Partners suggests that medium-sized companies are on track to invest $7.8 billion on data storage and security this year, up 12 percent from 2007. Meanwhile, officials at Springfield-based data-backup provider CFA Networks note that the company has seen interest in remote storage grow largely because Internet connection bandwidths have become more accessible to small and medium-sized companies. In general, experts recommend that companies maintain online-backups to supplement tape drives, which are traditionally used by small- to medium-sized companies but come with greater risk for errors (Dirr, Dayton Business Journal, 5/2/08).

Aetna launches physician alert system to improve care delivery

Health insurer Aetna last week announced a new initiative that will send electronic messages to alert physicians that patients are due for screenings, at risk for drug interactions or in need of other care, Computerworld reports. The program, which will involve 320,000 of Aetna’s member physicians and roughly 14 million patients, will deliver “Care Consideration” messages via a Web portal and alerting technology called NaviNet from NaviMedix Inc. Specifically, the technology will compare claims data and evidence-based clinical guidelines to identify individual patients’ specific needs and potential safety risks. When the system detects a discrepancy, it will send an alert to the physician via fax, e-mail or telephone, as well as through the portal, Officials note the portal method will ensure rapid alert delivery, as physicians already routinely use it to verify patient coverage, and will not involve an easily misplaced paper file. In addition, the portal will ensure targeted security to protect personal data and will enable physicians to instantly provide feedback to alerts via the portal (Havenstein, Computerworld, 4/30/08).

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