CSC releases new tracking tool, targets military customers

Computer Science Corp. (CSC) has unveiled new technology that aims to help organizations track people, vehicles and infrastructure anywhere on Earth, allowing them to better protect and account for mobile assets, Government Computer News reports. The global Location Object Field Tracking (LOFT) system offers a contextual, user-friendly view of objects tracked from three sources including overall perspective, current data reports and historical background. In addition, LOFT employs a variety of standard connections, such as cellular, satellite, Wi-Fi and WiMax. LOFT also uses Web 2.0 methods for analysis and presentation. According to the chief technologist at CSC, “LOFT delivers a four-dimension, contextual, Web 2.0 interface through combining the bird’s eye view perspective of GPS with associated historical attributes and the context of real-time information on location, motion and status.” Based on the defense community’s other visibility technology adoptions, CSC officials expect LOFT to be a good fit for military customers (Beizin, GCN, 2/14/08).

Online tool helps Obama campaign track voter interest

RightNow Technologies is managing the “Answer Center,” a database of questions and answers on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign Web site, Government Computer News reports. The Answer Center enables users to search questions and answers by category including general, feedback, policy, scheduling/invitation or volunteering, as well as suggest new questions. RightNow’s service solution also contains a self-learning knowledge base that uses artificial intelligence technology to learn how users and contact center staff search for information and automatically applies that insight to make it easier for them to find what they're looking for, according to RightNow’s senior account executive for the public sector. He adds that, since launching in April 2007, 1.3 million people have accessed or used either the Answer Center or Online Invitation solutions on Obama’s site(Yasin, GCN, 2/14/08).

Loma Linda University creates mapping tool to monitor vector-borne disease

California-based Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health recently developed a mobile mapping tool to help counties improve their vector-borne disease control capabilities, Government Health IT reports. The Vector Control Surveillance System (VCSS) allows local public health workers to better monitor the growth and movements of vectors including rats, mosquitoes, fleas and ticks, which helps track the potential spread of health threats such as West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease and encephalitis. As part of the system, vector control inspectors enter data in the field into digitized forms and a geographic information system on a laptop computer. The information is then automatically loaded into a centralized database that combines the data with county data sets, including local weather reports, demographic information and historical data on disease outbreaks, for further mapping and analysis. The tool will be tested this spring in San Bernardino County, Calif., before being made available to other public health officials (Hayes, Government Health IT, 2/13/08).

Congressional panel calls for creation of national emergency broadband network

The Joint Advisory Committee on Communications Capabilities of Emergency Medical and Pubic Health Care Facilities (JAC) recently issued a report calling for the creation of a national, interoperable broadband network to bolster coordination between emergency responders and health care facilities, AHA News Now reports. Calling existing communication technologies outdated and fragile, the panel outlined a strategy that considers the unique needs of each member in the emergency response chain. Specifically, the group recommends creating a network on a standardized Internet platform that could facilitate the rapid transmission of health-related information in a reliable, secure format. According to the plan, the platform also could foster interoperability through improved interagency communications and the use of common protocols; create “virtual hospitals” at the scene of an accident or disaster; and spur the advancement of telemedicine, remote monitoring, and telecommuting. To meet these goals, JAC recommends that Congress establish a federal interagency committee to provide guidance and develop standards to ensure compatibility. Additionally, the panel recommends that the federal government finance the network’s development and tailor contract and grant criteria to reflect “its commitment to develop, harmonize and ensure widespread adoption of shared standards and protocols” (AHA News Now, 2/13/08; JAC report, January 2008).

EHR adoption is low among small physician groups, survey finds

According to the latest data from a nationwide survey, the rate of electronic health record (EHR) adoption remains low, especially among physicians in individual or small group practices, Modern Healthcare reports. Presented Tuesday to the American Health Information Community's Electronic Health Records Workgroup, the survey, based on responses from 2,458 doctors, indicates that 14 percent of physicians have adopted a "minimally functional" EHR, meaning the system can capture clinical notes, record prescription orders and perform other basic functions. The percentage was unchanged from earlier survey results, though it was based on a sample size roughly one-third smaller than the others. Among physician groups of 10 or more, the rate of EHR adoption was 36 percent, compared with 6 percent among solo practitioners, according to the survey. In addition, data suggests that 30 percent of multispecialty practices have adopted a basic EHR system, compared with 10 percent of single-specialty groups. According to an assistant in health policy at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Policy, the low rate of EHR adoption among small physician groups is not surprising largely because "they don't have the resources" to adopt the technology (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 2/13/08 [subscription required]).

UN working group aims to boost IT in Latin America

The United Nations recently created a commission of information and communication technology experts to help Latin American and the Caribbean countries leverage technology to combat poverty and foster development, InformationWeek reports. Part of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development, the group last week convened 100 experts for two days in El Salvador to discuss policies and strategies for achieving the Millennium Development Goals; using innovation to curb poverty; tapping e-government to promote citizen participation, accountability, transparency, and efficiency; and bringing technology into the mainstream. After the meeting, members made several recommendations to the Second Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean. First, according to InformationWeek, the group suggested “coordinating telecommunications regulations and universal access with social policies to evaluate the value of subsidies. To combat poverty, it recommended developing content and applications in mobile telephony; directing universal access funds to expand infrastructure and capacity; and measuring network coverage, access, and spending.” In addition, the group called for improved interoperability and, finally, members also urged support for private-sector innovation and a mechanism to encourage coordination. InformationWeek notes that the group “will continue to assess the needs and resources in the region and establish links among stakeholders to create and promote an agenda for action” (Jones, InformationWeek, 2/12/08).

Disney park to open “House of the Future” in Tomorrowland

Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., plans to revive an old exhibit called the House of the Future this year, the Associated Press reports. The updated attraction is being developed by The Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., software maker LifeWare and homebuilder Taylor Morrison. Slated to open in May, the $15 million, 5,000-square-foot home will look like a regular suburban home from the outside, but the inside will feature innovative hardware, software and touch-screen systems connected through a network that makes the house “smart.” For instance, lights and thermostats will automatically adjust when people enter a room; closets will help pick outfits for the day; countertops will identify groceries set on them and offer menu suggestions. As part of the attraction, visitors will experience the future by watching Disney actors play a family of four preparing for a trip to China (Flaccus, AP/Yahoo! News, 2/13/08).

FBI warns of Valentine’s Day Internet threats

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Tuesday cautioned that Valentine's Day electronic greetings from strangers could deliver viruses including a destructive "Trojan horse" that hijacks computers, the AFP reports. In a statement, the FBI warned Internet users to "be on the lookout for spam emails spreading the Storm Worm malicious software (malware)." Officials added that "the Storm Worm virus has capitalized on various holidays in the last year by sending millions of emails advertising an e-card link within the text of the spam email. Valentine's Day has been identified as the next target" (AFP, 2/12/08).

U.S. researchers to test RFID in social environment, tracking people via the Web

University of Washington researchers are predicting the creation of the "Internet of things," in which people and objects are connected by a virtual network, United Press International reports. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Microsoft Research and the university's college of engineering, the research is based on the idea that today the Internet offers many resources for information, but not for locating a person or thing. To improve the Internet as a resource for these actions, volunteer students, engineers and staff beginning next month will wear electronic tags on their clothing and belongings that will sense their location every five seconds. The information will then be transmitted to a database, published to Web pages and used in various custom tools. According to the researchers, the project aims to explore the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in a social environment. Ultimately, researchers aim to determine the benefits of the technology and how to protect privacy while maximizing its social use (UPI, 2/13/08).

Georgia researchers find new way to link computer chips, boards

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers recently unveiled a new, improved type of copper connection for the world's high speed computers, United Press International reports. Specifically, the improved signal transmission line links high-speed signals between computer chips, an improvement that increases the amount and speed of information that can be sent through a computer, researchers say. According to UPI, the vertical connections between computer chips and boards are currently created with melted tin solder and glue. The latest research, however, suggests that replacing the solder connections with copper pillars enables stronger connections and the ability to create more connections. Researchers add that copper can tolerate misalignment much like solder, but is more conductive (UPI, 2/12/08).

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