Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Cinematic Watermark
  2. Eye-Opening Education
  3. Roaming Time
  4. Stand By Me
  5. Savings Bonds Fade to Net
  6. Phone Home
  7. Author
  8. Sidebar: The Revolutionary Six

The Motion Picture Association of America figures studios lose more than $3 billion per year from piracy. But as often as industry finds new ways to stop pirates from copying its goods, the pirates find ways around them. No sooner were metal detectors placed outside screening rooms and theaters protected by security guards wearing night-vision goggles than pirates began employing tiny undetectable camcorders and digital pencil-thin recording devices. Now the industry plans to fight back again, this time with a forensic watermark that modulates the light cast on movie screens to create a flicker or pattern that would be invisible to the human eye but picked up by recording devices, making the image unwatchable. Cinea, Inc., of Herndon, VA, and Sarnoff Corp., of Princeton, NJ, will join forces on a two-year, $2 million grant from the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop the watermarking technology for use with digital projectors. Most theaters are expected to go digital by the end of decade.

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Eye-Opening Education

More than 400 school districts across the U.S. applied for grants from the U.S. Justice Department to be part of a study to strengthen school security through iris-recognition technology. Although such technology has a range of applications, this would be the first implementation in a school setting. The DOJ is building a database on school security to determine the effectiveness of iris technology, choosing three schools in Plumsted Township, NJ, as its initial test case. Scanning devices will be used to identify employees and those authorized to pick up children in the 1,800-student district. More than 300 parents and most of Plumsted’s teachers and staff volunteered for the two-month pilot project.

Sidebar. The Revolutionary Six

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Roaming Time

A team of researchers from MIT’s Media Lab Europe created a program that conjoins digital maps with information about walking speeds and destination constraints, thus giving maps a sense of time. BBC News reports the Dublin-based researchers developed the software to overcome some of the shortcomings of conventional maps by giving users an idea how long it would take to get somewhere. Users can give the digital map a constraint, such as "must catch a train by 3 p.m.," and the map would generate a list of, say, restaurants, parks, or shops they can visit in the area and still have time to catch the train. The system could be used in kiosks at hotels or tourist information centers and adapted for handheld systems.

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Stand By Me

Moving up the corporate ladder might get an extra push if there’s a mentor in your corner. Results from a poll of 1,400 CIOs indicate 51% have benefited from having a mentor at some point in their careers. The majority (72%) of those who have gone mentorless say it would have been easier to advance if they had an experienced advisor on their side. "Mentors often serve as sounding boards at critical points in one’s career development. They can provide insight on corporate protocol, make introductions to key industry contacts, and give up-and-coming managers an insider’s perspective on the business," says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, an IT recruiting firm in Menlo Park, CA.

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Savings Bonds Fade to Net

The U.S. Treasury will stop selling paper savings bonds after 2004, requiring all purchases be made exclusively online. Moreover, it is encouraging current holders to convert existing paper bonds into a book-entry or Internet account form. Why? Money. The New York Times reports the annual cost of administering the savings bond program, which had sales of $9.85 billion in FY02 and $5.15 billion so far in FY03, is about $154 million. The marketing program alone, which has already been cut from next year’s budget, is $21 million. The Treasury’s under secretary for domestic finance says the cost of the program was far more than the cost of selling Treasury securities, so his office set up TreasuryDirect ( to sell EE savings bonds over the Net. The Treasury is also exploring ways to enable people who do not have computers or bank accounts to continue to buy bonds.

We’re moving from an era of killer apps to an era of killer systems, killer business models, killer business. Just spending money on IT never creates any value. It’s what you do differently in terms of business processes that matters."
—J. Bruce Harreld, IBM Sr. VP, Strategy, on refocusing business plans to serve the user, not the investor.

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Phone Home

A three-year study found that most cell phone users in the U.K. have become so attached to their devices that many feel they could not live without them. Indeed, cell phones have become essential to managing their private and emotional lives, reports BBC The study, conducted by Henley Management College and research consultants Teleconomy, found that sentimental attachment increases as cell phones are used to deepen relationships, manage friendships, and maintain mental well-being. Over 45% of the 25–34 year olds reported they could not live without their phones, often using them to lift their spirits. Over 55% stave off boredom and 52% prefer gossiping with them. Some respondents said losing their phone would be akin to bereavement.

With increasing pressure to improve cell phone service despite zoning and community opposition to transmission towers, cellular companies have come up with some inventive alternatives, reports the New York Times. The latest trend to circumvent conflict is to hide towers in such unsuspecting spots as church steeples, flagpoles, smokestacks, water towers, and grain silos. Firms are finding new partnerships with local pastors and farmers, among others, who welcome the space-sharing and financial arrangements.

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