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Pages: pp. 20-22

Apple Is Now the World's Most Valuable Brand

Apple is now the most valuable brand in the world, displacing Coca-Cola from the top spot it has held for 13 years, according to a recent report.

Interbrand—a large corporate identity and brand consultancy that has compiled its Best Global Brands report since 2000—said the Apple brand's value is now US$ 98.3 billion, up 28 percent from last year, when it ranked second.

Six technology-related companies ranked in the top 10 global brands, and 12 were in the top 100 including Cisco in 13th place, Hewlett-Packard in 15th, Oracle in 18th, and Amazon in 19th. In fact, technology is the most valuable sector overall, with a total brand value of $443.15 billion.

Of all companies in the top 100, Facebook's brand value increased the most—by 43 percent. This put it in 52nd place, up from 69th last year.

However, not all technology com-panies did well. BlackBerry and Yahoo fell out of the top 100 this year, while Nokia experienced the largest value decline—65 percent—in the Best Global Brands list's history.

Interbrand calculated a company's brand value based on the overall financial return to its investors, the part of a consumer's decision to purchase a product that is based on the brand relative to other factors such as price, and the brand's ability to create loyalty and keep generating demand and profit.

Table . Top 10 companies in terms of brand value.

The criteria for a company to be included on the list were:

  • at least 30 percent of its revenues must come from outside its home region;
  • it must have a presence in at least three major continents, as well as emerging markets;
  • sufficient publicly available data on its financial performance must be available;
  • its economic profit must be expected to be positive over the long term; and
  • it must have a public profile and awareness beyond its own marketplace.

Hackers Hit Major Data Aggregators

Hackers have gained access to systems run by several major consumer and data aggregators that contain US Social Security numbers and considerable additional private personal and corporate information, according to an information-security investigator and blogger.

Brian Krebs said the hackers, who run an identity-theft service known as SSNDOB, have compromised major data aggregators such as LexisNexis, Dun & Bradstreet, and Kroll Background America at least since April of this year.

According to Krebs, SSNDOB made money by selling Social Security numbers, birth records, credit reports, and other confidential information.

In his recent investigation, Krebs accessed SSNDOB's database and found that the group has sold about 1.02 million Social Security numbers and 3.1 million birth records—acquired from numerous sources—since it began operations in 2012.

Krebs subsequently analyzed SSNDOB administrators' networks, network activity, and credentials, and determined that they ran “a small but very potent botnet” with access to at least five infected systems run by major data aggregators.

He also found an unauthorized program on LexisNexis's system that established an encrypted communications channel to the botnet controller. A study of the program showed that it was designed to avoid detection by antivirus tools.

According to Krebs, LexisNexis told him that its servers were indeed compromised but that there was no evidence that the hackers compromised any data.

All three major aggregators have contacted US authorities to help investigate the incidents.

New Technology Brings Cell Signals to Hard-to-Reach Locations

A longtime frustration for cell phone users is the inability to make or receive calls inside some office buildings or other structures.

Ericsson has developed a technology to deal with this problem.

The company's Radio Dot System includes a base station that serves as an antenna that picks up cellular signals from outside the building. The base station then transmits them via network cables to various Dot transceivers installed within structure. The Dots provide the signals to users inside the building.

The Dots, which each weigh 0.7 pounds, are powered via the Ethernet. This means they draw their power from the network cable and thus either don't need batteries or don't have to be plugged into an outlet.

Ericsson says the Radio Dot System will initially support data rates up to 150 Mbps—more than enough to work with many 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) cellular systems—and could be modified to support even faster speeds.

In addition, a user could start with a few Dots and add more as needed, up to 96 in a single system.

According to Ericsson, the technology works with all celular approaches and can handle signals from multiple carriers simultaneously.

Ericsson plans to make the Radio Dot System available to customers in the second half of 2014.

Researchers Build First Carbon-Nanotube Computer

Stanford University researchers have created the first working computer built exclusively using carbon-nanotube transistors.

The computer can run a basic OS, perform calculations, and switch between multiple processes operating at the same time.


Figure    Ericsson has developed the Radio Dot System to enable or improve cellular reception inside buildings. The system consists of a base station that relays signals from outside a structure to Dot radio transceivers, shown above, which are installed at various places inside. The Dots then provide service to people within the building.


Figure    Stanford University scientists have designed the first computers built completely with carbon-nanotube transistors. This wafer contains a number of these tiny computers.

This development is significant because researchers are looking for ways to replace silicon in transistors to create faster, more energy-efficient processors, which could lead to higher-performing computers.

According to experts, the Stanford system will encourage efforts to find materials for chips other than silicon. They say this is important because physical limitations—such as heat generation and power leakage—could soon end efforts to continue building smaller, faster silicon-based chips.

Carbon nanotubes are long chains of carbon atoms that are efficient at conducting and controlling electricity. They are so thin that switching them off requires very little energy. All this makes them suitable for use as transistors, Professor H.-S. Philip Wong explained.

The first nanotube transistor was developed in 1998. Researchers worldwide have been working to overcome problems inherent in growing carbon nanotubes and using them in computers.

For example, carbon nanotubes frequently don't grow in the straight lines that have been necessary for proper functionality. To overcome this, the Stanford researchers designed an algorithm that maps out a circuit configuration that will work even if nanotubes are misaligned.

Some nanotubes act like wires that always conduct electricity rather than like semiconductors that can be switched on and off. To bypass this impediment, the Stanford scientists first turned off all the properly functioning nanotubes in one of their nanotube circuits, then applied enough electricity to destroy the other ones.

The researchers—led by Associate Professor Subhasish Mitra and Professor Wong—made their initial system on a single wafer with 197 dies, each containing five computers. Each computer consists of 178 carbon-nanotube transistors.

The device was made with standard chip-making techniques and design tools, which would make the systems suitable for production in today's fabrication facilities.

“People have been talking about a new era of carbon-nanotube electronics moving beyond silicon,” said Mitra. “But there have been few demonstrations of complete digital systems using this exciting technology. Here's the proof.”

Survey Says Computer-Related College Majors Lead to Higher Salaries

A recent study of 129 college majors determined that several in computer-related areas offer graduates the potential of high starting and mid-career salaries.

PayScale—an online salary-, benefits-, and compensationinformation company—conducted the study by surveying 1.4 million US civilian, full-time employees with bachelor's degrees.

It then ranked college majors based on the median mid-career earnings of graduates in the various fields. The typical mid-career worker in the survey is 42 years old and has 15 years of experience.

Computer and electrical engineering tied for sixth in pay potential, with salaries of $106,000 at mid-career. Their average annual starting pay is $65,300 and $64,300, respectively.

Other computer-related majors ranking in the top 30 were

  • computer science in eighth place, averaging $59,800 at the start and $102,000 in mid-career;
  • software engineering in 12th place, averaging $60,500 at the start and $99,300 in mid-career;
  • management information systems in 18th place, averaging $53,800 at the start and $92,200 in mid-career;
  • electrical engineering technology in 24th place, averaging $57,900 at the start and $87,600 in mid-career; and
  • information systems in 26th place, averaging $51,900 at the start and $87,200 in mid-career.

The three majors ranking highest in the PayScale survey were petroleum engineering, actuarial mathematics, and nuclear engineering.

System Uses Patients' Heartbeats to Protect Implanted Medical Devices from Hackers

In recent years, vendors have enabled medical implants such as cardiac pacemakers to operate via wireless technology.

This lets doctors and technicians program and access health-related data from the devices without having to surgically remove them from a patient. The equipment generally doesn't have passwords because healthcare professionals might need to access information from it in an emergency.

Many people have expressed concern that hackers could attack the devices, with disastrous consequences for patients.

In 2011, late security expert Barnaby Jack demonstrated how he could wirelessly gain control of an implanted insulin pump and cause it to deliver fatal doses of the hormone.

This year, the US Food and Drug Administration warned medical-device manufacturers about potential hacking problems and the need for security.

Researchers from Rice University and RSA Laboratories—the research arm of RSA Security, a division of technology vendor EMC—have developed a system that promises to address these concerns. Their Heart-to-Heart technology essentially uses a patient's heartbeat as a password.

The system includes software that runs in an implanted medical device and touchsensitive equipment that a medical technician operates.

When doctors or technicians touch a patient, their equipment detects the electrocardiogram signature of the patient's heartbeat. The system then compares it with the EKG that the implanted device has independently detected.

If the signatures match, the system determines that the healthcare worker is with the patient and allows access to the implanted device. If not, it assumes a hacker is involved and blocks access.

The system's security is based on the constant changes in the human heartbeat's rhythm. These changes keep a hacker from accessing a patient's rhythm pattern at one moment and using it again later to try to break into an implanted device.

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