Be on the wave or under it
The News – 01/30/02
Just Some Short Ones
This time, we've got several shorter articles on topics of interest.
But first, this word from our sponsor.
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- Memory Goes 3D: Thomson Multimedia announced
it will use three dimensional write-once memory from Matrix
Memory in memory cards that can be used to store digital
photos or music.
Matrix Memory's patented technology allows them to build 3-dimensional
memory by stacking memory arrays vertically, like towers of
blocks. The resulting structure can store data for more than
100 years. The technique promises even higher memory density
in the future as Matrix adds more layers onto the same chip.
Using existing technology, you can already plug a half a gigabyte
of memory into the same PC slot that used to hold 36MB or 64MB.Things
will really get interesting when you can plug a terabyte in
the same slot. (Don't worry. Software developers will find a
way to fill all that memory.)
I've written before
about carbon nanotube memory and Nantero, which has a patented
process for producing it. If commercialized, this technology
will leave silicon-based techniques, like Matrix's, in the dust.
So even an innovation like the Matrix card could have a short
Although the Matrix cards plug into cameras, Thomson is working
on card readers that will allow consumers to view digital
photos on a television as well as in cameras and computers,
said David Geise, Thomson's vice president of accessories
products. Plus, the cards will cost about $10, which is less
than a third of the price of similar flash memory cards. The
advantage of flash memory, however, is that you can erase
and rerecord data on them, unlike the Matrix cards, which
record the data permanently.
- Cute Intel: The CIA's own technology
"accelerator", In-Q-Tel, is getting more and more
involved in technologies that can process massive amounts of
data and highlight potential terrorist activities. In-Q-Tel
(the Q honors James Bond's gadget master) was started by the
CIA in 1999 to find new technologies that might be useful to
the Agency's mission. It's not the biggest VC in the world,
with about $30 million a year to invest, but post-9/11 it has
shown increasing interest in technologies that can make connections
in massive amounts of information. For example, search engine
Northern Light has teamed
with In-Q-Tel to develop an advanced multilingual search system
that will crawl Web sites identified by classification experts,
create a database of relevant information and employ Northern
Light's multiple-factor relevance ranking algorithm to order
The CIA is also experimenting with data analysis software
used by some casinos that tracks gambling cheaters. The Company
will use the software to detect suspected terrorists and their
associates when they make airline, hotel or rental-car reservations.
The software, developed by Systems Research & Development
Inc. (SRD), searches major computerized reservations and global
distribution systems looking for non-obvious relationships.
SRD said it can check a passenger's name, address, phone number
and other identifying information against those of suspected
terrorists. The largest prototype examines data from 4,000
sources with information on about 1 million people.
If this sort of application doesn't make you shiver, consider
other potential uses, such as finding tax cheats, or contributors
to unpopular causes, or people critical of government policies.
- Faster Wireless: Intersil Corporation
has announced the first chip set designed to support the IEEE
802.11g draft standard. Big deal, you say? Well 802.11g
is way faster than 802.11b, AKA Wi-Fi, which pokes along
at a measly 11Mbps.
The new chip set, operating in the 2.4 Ghz band, will enable
data transmission speeds of up to 54Mbps. That's more than half
the speed of the fastest widely-deployed wireline LANs, which
run at 100Mbps, and 1,024 times as fast as a 56Kbps modem. As
if that's not enough, the new chip sets will have a 30 percent
range advantage over similarly speedy 802.11a systems
and will consume less power.
This technology will first be seen in PC Card-based systems
for laptops, but it won't be too long before the chip set is
built into more-portable devices, like PDAs and cell phones.
Lest we get too excited, the new standard is still a short-range
connectivity solution; coverage is likely to be about 100 feet
vs. 300 feet for 802.11b.
- New Jargon - Digital Hubs: These days
hardly a week goes by without a new buzzword. Well, here's the
latest: digital hubs. These are home-based wireless transmitters
that let consumers manage, store and distribute a vast amount
of content, including TV broadcasts, movies, audio and Web information.
These devices, typically 802.11-based, will let you distribute
on-demand content to anywhere in the home, and, intentionally
or not, to your immediate neighbors, or, if you like, over the
Of course, there's trouble in paradise, in the form of content
owners who foresee another Napster disaster. (OK, I won't argue
at this pointwhether Napster really was a disaster or not).
The Copy Protection Working Group, a consortium of TV networks,
Hollywood studios, and consumer electronics firms, wants all
content tagged, supposedly invisibly and inaudibly, so TVs,
DVD players, personal video recorders, and other devices could
prevent a broadcast from being stored digitally. They want to
use a Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme similar to the
Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) method created
by Intel, Hitachi, Sony, Toshiba and Matsushita. DTCP, however,
is focused on wireline connectivity.
Although many in the entertainment device industry think that
encrypting and decrypting wireless transmissions might be too
large a computational challenge for consumer grade equipment,
unfortunately, RSA, a leading security firm, recently announced
Fast Packet Keying, a technique that allows individual wireless
data packets to be encrypted and decrypted rapidly. So it won't
be long before Disney gets to say whether you can transmit the
latest *NSync concert up to Junior's computer so you don't have
to watch it in the living room.
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14, 1928 - July 5, 2003
Jane C. Ellsworth
20, 1928 - July 20, 2003