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In the story, "Wireless Broadband Rises to Challenge Land Lines," (James S. Granelli, 9 Sept., 2005) the Los Angeles Times reports that wireless broadband has filled the communication gap for rescue workers before the return of land- and cellular-based technologies. These high-speed Internet connections are carrying voice and data for crews working in New Orleans and the Biloxi-Gulfport areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.
Based on WiMax and Wi-Fi standards, such systems are quick to put up, and technology companies with a stake in these areas are donating equipment to the relief efforts. Intel Corp., for example, is coordinating the donation of more than 2,300 laptop personal computers to the Red Cross for use in its shelters. Approximately 1,500 of those PCs came directly from Intel inventory for its own employees.
With critical network support supplied by Cisco, SBC, and Avaya, Intel has donated 150 wireless Internet access points to enable wireless local area connectivity in priority relief center locations.
WiMax vendors and some industry experts contend that the hurricane's devastation offers New Orleans a chance to build the modern network that phone and cable companies have promised for years. Other analysts are not so sure.
"One of the huge advantages to wireless broadband is that you can get it up and running really quickly," said Lindsay Schroth of research firm Yankee Group. "But how it develops in the long term there depends on how badly the infrastructure is damaged, and we don't know the answer to that yet."
Previous experience with last year's Hurricane Charley also points to the efficiencies of emerging technologies in crisis situations. In 2004, Charley hit VIP Realty in Fort Myers, Florida, taking down its land lines, DSL (digital subscriber line), and all but a small portion of its T1 line. At the time, IT Director Dave Michaud was able to use voice-over-IP service to keep his company's offices connected ("Florida Hurricane No Match for VoIP," W. David Gardner, CMP, http://www.techweb.com/wire/networking/47212180).
Michaud had not purchased the VoIP equipment as a disaster recovery tool. Besides the partial T1 and VoIP service, the company also had use of its Wi-Fi network between buildings.
In a 14 September, 2005 rant on his popular blog, organizer of the VON (Voice on the Network) conferences, took the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to task: "I had hoped that one insight the government might have gained from Hurricane Katrina is the value of promoting alternate modes of communications via IP and the Internet, and not compel all communications services to look alike and abide by identical standards to promote such social goods as emergency response."
Pulver was reacting to an emergency meeting on 15 September. The FCC had invited representatives from BellSouth, Iridium Satellite, and CTIA—The Wireless Association, and others. He thought that Internet Protocol (IP)-based technologies had not been represented, despite the evidence of their helpfulness in the Katrina disaster relief efforts.
On 7 September, 2005, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) told European Union officials that it opposes a plan to require technology and telecommunications firms to retain data on Internet traffic and telephone calls. In a letter to members of the European Commission, Parliament, and the Council of Ministers, the ITAA argued such mandates are unnecessary because companies have cooperated fully and effectively with law enforcement agencies investigating terrorist attacks and other criminal behavior.
"Since the catastrophes of September 11th and Madrid, and through recent terrorist atrocities in London, the communications industry has shaped a positive experience of co-operation with law enforcement agencies," commented ITAA President Harris N. Miller. "In the absence of any breakdowns in cooperation, such mandates are unnecessarily heavy handed and could put Europe at a disadvantage in the global economy."
Recognizing that some European states already have differing mandates, however, ITAA called for legislation that would harmonize standards in a way that reflects current business practices in the industry. ITAA also called for a renewed public dialogue beginning at an informal council meeting planned for 8 September.
The European Commission's inter-service consultation proposal for a "Directive on retention of data processed in connection with the provision of public electronic communication services" would have required companies to retain data on Internet and e-mail traffic for six months and telephone calls for one year. Companies often retain information on Internet traffic, such as IP addresses, for three months and telephone calls for six months, though data on e-mail traffic is rarely retained for any length of time.
A copy of the letter is available on the ITAA Web site ( http://www.itaa.org/eweb/Dynamicpage.aspx?webcode=PRTemplate&wps_key=f7ac88d7-6dde-4c5d-95ff-c9563ce0cbac).
Those who purchase computers for companies, government agencies, and other organizations face the challenge of how to assess the environmental impact of these systems before they buy. IEEE is developing a standard to help resolve this issue.
IEEE P1680, "Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products," will be the first comprehensive US standard to support the incorporation of environmental considerations into institutional purchasing decisions for desktops, laptops, and monitors when it is completed in early 2006. It will encompass criteria in eight categories: environmentally sensitive materials selection, design for end of life, product longevity and life cycle extension, energy conservation, end-of-life management, corporate performance, and packaging.
The working group will base the standard on a draft document developed by a 35-member body drawn from industry, government, academia, and other communities. Balloting on the standard will begin in September.
"The standard responds to a strong call from purchasing agents who want consistent environmental criteria for comparing and selecting computers and monitors," says Holly Elwood, chair of the IEEE P1680 Working Group and Project Manager for the US Environmental Protection Agency's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program. "We expect the standard to foster green product design and reduce the overall environmental and health impacts of these products. In essence, IEEE P1680 sets voluntary criteria for environmental performance and creates a system for identifying and verifying that computer products meet these criteria."
The number of US households with a networked storage device will grow from 300,000 at the end of 2004 to nearly 10 million by 2010, according to "Storage and Management for the Connected Home," a new report from Parks Associates ( http://www.parksassociates.com).
As defined in the report, a networked storage device connects to a router and allows shared access among multiple PCs and other networked devices. The addressable market for these devices includes households with home networks and those with multiple PCs. By 2010, 17 percent of US households with multiple PCs and one-fourth of those with a home network will have a networked storage device.
"Consumers, once they realize the danger of losing their valuable digital assets to hard drive crashes, virus attacks, or other uncontrollable events, feel a strong need for a robust backup solution," said Yuanzhe (Michael) Cai, senior analyst at Parks Associates. "For households with multiple PCs or a home network, a centralized storage that can be shared among multiple platforms makes a lot of sense."
In the July 2005 issue of Cipher, the electronic newsletter of the Technical Committee on Security & Privacy, security researcher Jason Holt talks about the popularity of the open source Tor router ( http://www.ieee-security.org/Cipher/Newsbriefs/2005/071805.html#TOR). PCWorld named Tor to its 2005 list of the best 100 computer products ("The 100 Best Products of 2005," http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,120763,pg,1,00.asp).
Onion routing comes from a US Navy program specifically aimed at anonymous communication systems ( http://www.onion-router.net). The "onion" description refers to the layers of encrypted route information that this type of routing relies on. Each node in the communication knows only its immediate predecessor and successor, permitting greater privacy in today's IP-based networks.
According to Holt, Tor "is like a remailer network for TCP streams. Instead of wrapping an e-mail message in multiple encryption envelopes, which reflect the path of remailers a message should take en route to its destination, onion routing implementations originally worked by creating an onion of envelopes containing session keys and next-hop information for a TCP stream." He estimates that about 30,000 clients currently use the 200 Tor servers around the world.
Tor could facilitate the use of privacy protection schemes based on blind signatures or hidden credentials.
Revenue derived from annual networking hardware shipments and from equipment that incorporates a home networking connection will jump from almost $9 billion in 2004 to over $21 billion in 2009, reports In-Stat ( http://email.in-stat.com/cgi-bin4/DM/y/epcn0HVbJl0K560DHgh0Ex). A push for higher speeds, lower prices, and increasing network areas in the home is driving the market, the high-tech market research firm says. However, one highly touted use, the storage and streaming of multimedia files, may take years to catch on with the mass consumer.
"Our research shows that there is growing interest among US consumers to use home networks to connect their library of digital entertainment audio and video files with their traditional entertainment equipment (stereos and TVs)," says Joyce Putscher, In-Stat analyst. "As consumers become more comfortable and familiar with the idea of bridging their PCs with their traditional analog equipment, interest will pick up."
The report, notes that wireless LAN has now overthrown Ethernet as the desired home network of choice, and multiband 54-Mbps IEEE 802.11g now dominates those connections. The report, Digital Domicile 2005: Wireless Overtakes Ethernet, is available at http://email.in-stat.com/cgi-bin4/DM/y/epcn0HVbJl0K560DbBc0Eh).