Stories of microchips embedded in the skin may raise the hackles of the privacy police, but that has not stopped US firm CityWatcher.com from becoming the first to implant radio frequency identification tags in two employees to control access to a room containing security video footage. The company provides security cameras and digital video storage services for government agencies. The employees have tags implanted in their upper right arms and these have to be scanned by readers before they are let in.
US and Canadian slalom skiers are receiving a boost at this year's Winter Olympics in Turin thanks to a futuristic new material designed to limit injury caused by poles lining the high-speed courses. The lightweight, flexible material - d3o - is designed to harden into body armour upon impact, removing the need for bulky arm and leg guards, according to a report in New Scientist. The material is synthesised by mixing a viscous fluid and a polymer. Then, liquid d3o is poured into a mould that matches the shape of the body part it will protect. Under normal conditions, the molecules in the material are weakly bound and therefore flexible. But the shock of sudden deformation causes the chemical bonds to strengthen and the moving molecules to lock, turning the material into a shield.
High-safety sports gear
Swedish ski equipment manufacturer POC is using a material commonly found in aircraft fighters and in the helmets and back protectors used by the US ski team in Turin. The fusion-bonded honeycomb material derives from research at the US aerospace programme, but has proved suitable for high-impact sports, thanks to its shock-absorbing properties. The honeycomb cells have memory and varying resistance, enabling them to instantly resume their original shape, conform naturally to head and body shape without restricting movement, and spread impact over a wide area, the company claims. The cellular design also circulates air and evaporates moisture to help maintain a comfortable body temperature during a competition.
Drug-free treatment for hyperactivity
A British millionaire, Wynford Dore, has discovered a drug-free treatment for the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a BBC report. The treatment is based on a neurological machine used to test astronauts returning from space, known as a dynamic posturography booth. The basis of Mr Dore's theory is that the cerebellum - part of the brain that controls movement and balance - is also instrumental in the learning process, and that ADHD can occur if it does not work well. Mr Dore said dormant parts of the cerebellum were stimulated by a series of balance and eye exercises on the machine. The therapy costs about $23,000, and it takes up to 15 months to complete the treatment.
Giant ship propeller
Onlookers marvel at a 131-tonne ship propeller waiting for its nocturnal transport in Rostock-Warnemuende, Germany. The six-winged ship's screw with a diameter of 9.60 metres is the world's largest fixed pitched propeller, built by the Mecklenburger Metallguss (Mecklenburg Founding) (MMG) in Waren. The manufacturing capacities of the MMG permit the production of propellers up to 140 tonnes and 11.3 metres in diameter. The ship's screw will power a container ship with a 120,000 horsepower engine, considered uncontrollable without a propeller of such scale. EPA
Strong showing for Dell in the mainland
Despite stiff competition from local players, Dell's direct sales operations in China have emerged as one of the strongest in the Asian personal computer market. Stephen Felice, Dell's president for the Asia-Pacific region and Japan, said direct PC shipments to China grew 28 per cent for the quarter to January, which resulted in revenues of around US$2 billion on the mainland for the past 12 months. Worldwide, Dell revenues hit US$56 billion for the year to January. Dell revenues from the Asia-Pacific and Japan reached more than US$6 billion. 'The direct model is working well in China,' Mr Felice said. 'There were 7 million visits to our website in the fourth quarter alone, from home and small business customers.' Mr Felice recently took over the top post in Dell Asia-Pacific and Japan after sharing the regional leadership role for about six months last year with William Amelio, who joined rival Lenovo as its chief executive. Research firm Gartner reported Dell shipments to China grew 39.4 per cent to 1.504 million PC units last year, from 1.079 million units in 2004. That resulted in a market share of 7.8 per cent on the mainland. Mr Felice said Dell managed to cope with rising demand because it started operations at its second manufacturing facility in Xiamen last year. But Lenovo remained the undisputed leader in the China PC market, with a 33 per cent market share from sales of 6.350 million units last year. Gartner said Dell remained the third-leading PC supplier in the Asia-Pacific region, with a 7.4 per cent market share last year.
Huawei, Alcatel cross US$1 billion in sales
Huawei Technologies, China's largest telecommunications equipment maker, and Alcatel were the only vendors to post more than US$1 billion each, in global sales of optical networking gear last year, says research firm Ovum-RHK. It said Huawei and Alcatel each gained more than 3 points of market share last year, while Lucent Technologies and Fujitsu each lost over 3 points. The worldwide market for optical networking equipment reached US$11 billion last year. 'The strength of the market last year derives from the optical network's key role as the foundation of broadband multiservice networks,' said Dana Cooperson, vice-president for optical networking research at Ovum-RHK. 'The capacity and agility of today's optical gear makes possible the economical transport and management of the flood of broadband video and data services that operators around the globe are launching to support residential and enterprise customers.' Huawei last month said its global contract sales last year totalled US$8.2 billion, representing a year-on-year growth rate of more than 40 per cent . It serves 28 of the world's top 50 telecommunications network operators.
Asia Netcom strikes a deal with Asiakomnet
Hong Kong-based Asia Netcom, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Netcom, has won a contract from Indonesian carrier Asiakomnet to provide high-performance, leased network connection between Singapore, strategic markets in North Asia and the United States. The deal is part of Asiakomnet's plan to upgrade its service network and to expand its service beyond South Asia, according to Asiakomnet director Allen Widjaja. The new infrastructure will ride over Asia Netcom's EAC system, a regional undersea network 19,500km long featuring multiple layers of protection and highly secured, independent cable landing stations. 'We can provide fully diversified routing to all key markets in the region,' said Chris van Zinnicq Bergmann, Asia Netcom's director of sales for Southeast Asia and India.