Hoverboards Are Coming Back!

We saw the practical implication of hoverboards in Back to the Future and about decades later, we had been able to get our hands on this latest gadget only for it to be taken off the shelves a few months from the release. US marked hoverboards safe after multiple accident reports due to imbalance and battery bursts were filed. Many people pointed out hoverboard feature fails regarding the safety level of these gadgets that have undoubtedly become the most favorite thing to own by youngsters, not necessarily specific to this category but most popular with them.

Combustible hoverboards were deemed unsafe and thus, taken out of the market even though we still see them on the roads but strictly outside US as Swagway hoverboards cannot be sold or used within US anymore. However this did not stop the company in further developing this device into a better and fully safe version as reports have stated the company is ready to make a comeback with higher safety standards following every rule and regulation set by the US legislation.

The newer version has been trademarked SWAGTRON by the company. This new board is not your average hoverboard but a rolling ‘balance’ board with newer techniques being implemented for safety of hoverboard user. Americans might see this device hitting the market quite soon, as far as the company claims.

hoverboards unsafeDespite company claims, it is not going to be an easy task to get this new version of hoverboards approved by CPSC as they were marked highly unsafe just recently in February which led to every retailer in the US pulling it out of the market. Same cannot be said about those devices that made their way out of US as policy applied only within the state.

According to the CPSC report, the first wave of hoverboards did not meet safety standards thus, they were marked defective which also posed a threat to the user. The report was filed after multiple serious cases of combustion were reported.

The primary issue being that of the batteries installed in the device because they were below the standards set by Underwriter Laboratory. The reports could not claim if any standard was used to analyze the safety of these batteries which later on exploded while in use.

Even though Swagway claimed to have the right standards for their hoveroards, they still had to see the fall of these devices. Their claim was somewhat correct since they had the required UL approval for the chargers used for these devices but what they lacked was this certification for the product itself as per recently imposed regulations.

As per newer reports and Swagway CEO, Swagtron has gained UL 2272 certification for both of its models T1 available at an expected $399 price and T3 for $499. The reports have yet to be verified by UL.

The main features of these new models revolve around higher user safety and balancing techniques. We should expect Swagtron to hit US market soon enough if the certification has already been awarded to both the models. Let’s hope to see them soon again!

Apple to Bring Echo’s Rival in The Market?

When Apple introduced Siri to its users, competitors took it as a challenge to come up with something equally good if not better. We say that challenge being met out by Google’s Amazon Echo that won the uses approval even amidst fears of redundant features and nothing new to offer. The convenience of usage coupled with a sleek and modern device design, Echo made an irreplaceable entry in the market, well, at least for a short while till Apple comes with a response.

That time has comes and Apple has announced upgrades on Siri that would make it highly useful for its users which will be at par with Amazon Echo if not better.

Developers are expected to see additional software features that will be available for them soon to test out. A report mentions these upgrades will involve Siri having access to multiple third-party services. The changes are not restricted to software upgrades as Apple is planning on designing a device that is expected to give a tough time to Amazon Echo in the market as part of smart home development by Apple.

The World Wide Developer Conference next month might witness Siri SDK being introduced to developers as their new software kit for Siri. This would be an addition to the usual developer tools reviews and iOS previews as is the norm at these conferences.

iphone_siri_reutersSiri SDK software is still a work in progress and it is reported to need an input from the developers to enable Siri access other apps. Third party access is not a new feature for Siri as it has already been working with Yelp and Bing but it had limited access after Apple got it in 2010 with limited access to other apps. Before this, the team behind Siri had designed the tech to work with multiple third-party apps.

Apart from software development, Apple is also investing in speaker design that would allow voice recognition to carry out certain commands like playing music. This update is also said to be a major development in Homekit-enabled devices because Apple’s new device will allow you to control these smart devices like lights, thermostats and locks through voice commands. Developers are expecting to see the device at this year’s conference but there has been no update from Apple regarding formally introducing the speaker at this year’s WWDC which is being held this June. Also, Apple is not known to bring out new hardware devices at these conferences.

Apple’s new device seems quite similar to Amazon Echo as far as the reports coming out about the device but according to some sources, the speaker design and features were put on the table quite before both Echo and Google’s assistance came along.

Regarding Siri, Apple claims to have major plans for its development which includes making it available for Mac as well. Since Apple announced this year’s developer conference through Siri we can safely assume that this WWDC will revolve around Siri. We will find out soon.

Cisco Buys IDSL Technology Maker Telesend

Cisco Systems recently entered the Digital Subscriber Line market, delivering a new frame multiplexer based on technology developed by Telesend, which Cisco said it acquired in a stock swap.

Telesend will be folded into Cisco’s wide area network business unit, including Telesend President and Chief Executive Officer Sayuri Sharper and all employees and management. The companies did not divulge the value of the acquisition.

The new Cisco 90i frame multiplexer is designed to help carriers offload Integrated Services Digital Network, or ISDN, Internet access traffic from their voice networks. Currently in trial with several carriers, with a per-port cost of US$150, the multiplexer will work with Cisco’s AS5200 Universal Access Server, the company said.

On Dec. 9, 1996, Ascend Communications Inc. introduced its own ISDN-DSL, or IDSL, solution as part of its MAX MultiDSL access platform, which also includes multimegabit Symmetric and Asymmetric DSL technologies. Bay Networks is said to be pursuing an acquisition of a Digital Subscriber Line, or xDSL, technology company.

Cisco said its IDSL solution will deliver “the industry’s most cost-effective digital access solution” because the Cisco 90i converts standard telephone company time division multiplexing D4 channel banks into frame multiplexers, “optimizing existing spare capacity and thereby reducing equipment costs.” Cisco said the multiplexer service will be “ideal for small business users, telecommuters and residential Internet access.”

Connecting Theatres of Operations

The drive for efficiency has led Australia’s largest private health care provider to institute sweeping changes across its IT infrastructure. Computer Week’s Anna Raciti spoke to the team instigating the changes.

The mammoth cost of providing health care for the nation has been stretching government and corporate hip-pockets for years.

In the growing private health sector, hospitals compete for space and for business. It is in their interests to implement systems that will manage patient care and hospital administration more efficiently and cost-effectively.

One health care provider that’s focused on making IT serve the health care industry more fully is the Mayne Nickless company Health Care of Australia (HCoA). HCoA is the biggest private health care provider in Australia. Including hospital staff, HCoA employs more than 6000 people.

Although only 11 strong, the IT team is charged with managing the IT needs of 35 private hospitals located around the country and overseas in Jakarta and East Java. The company is currently in the process of putting its patient indexing system on-line, installing e-mail throughout the hospitals, and rebuilding its network architecture to link all sites.

Meeting expectations

According to group MIS manager Gary Moss, hospitals have a duty to manage administration efficiently. They must ensure that operating theatres are scheduled, and that inventory such as pharmaceuticals and prosthetics is monitored.

HCoA has begun implementing a new on-line system that the private hospitals under its care will utilise. The system runs on a Sun Ultra host with 512MB of RAM and 28GB of storage (the company plans to upgrade to a Sun Enterprise 4000 in the future).

The system operates from the company’s office in North Sydney, and relies on software developed by Melbourne company IBA. Called Unicare, the software is divided into different modules, each focused on a separate medical and/or administrative function. These functions include financial control, patient management, inventory control, and performance monitoring. The patient management system looks after the functions of admissions, discharges, transfers and billings. It also runs the patient master index. According to HCoA, the system is patient-centred, aimed at providing the best environment for staff and patients.

One practical application for the package is the scheduling and booking of operating theatres, offering staff on the wards on-line access to theatre lists.

“Things happen that can really upset a hospital’s schedule,” said Moss.

“You might have your theatres fully utilised and something comes up, an emergency like a motor vehicle accident…you need an operating theatre and you need one fast, you can’t afford delays, but then it throws out the rest of the day’s schedule because everything needs to be shuffled back.

“The concept with this software is we can manage the whole process all the way through.”

In the past, he added, “you would find hospitals had a booking clerk with an enormous piece of paper all ruled up. The theatre bookings would be put in there and we’d be scribbling around in pencil.”

Moss said people were sometimes left waiting in a corridor because theatre bookings were out of sync and fully booked.

“That’s not the kind of service we want to provide,” he said.

The hospitals depend heavily on the software package and, so far, Moss said, it has performed well for them. HCoA’s Queensland hospitals are all using the software. In New South Wales, the implementation is almost complete, and the company has started implementing the service in its Victorian hospitals.

According to Moss, health care is increasingly about a multi-disciplined approach. New ways of treating patients mean that networks must be established to link patients and all the services they require, so HCoA has networked its hospitals to the central site for access to financials and patient data.

A networked site also means hospitals can access databases for research purposes. Networked doctors can keep in touch with pathology labs and new research by reading it over the Internet. In the future, Moss also envisages patients being able to book themselves into an operating theatre via the Internet.

“What we’ve done in the past 12 months is totally rebuild our network architecture,” said Moss. “We now have a fully-routed network linking all our facilities through a hub site here [in North Sydney]. We’re using Optus data links for our long interstate haul, and were running ISDN tails to link individual hospitals to local state hub sites. At the moment we have no hospitals connected to us at less than 64KB, and we’re already running our core systems across that.”

Testing, testing

The company has just completed a pilot project for e-mail. A proposal to roll out e-mail across all facilities is being assessed by HCoA’s board of directors.

While planning the rollout, Moss encountered problems: the host-based mail system he was planning to implement would not support the GUI mouse-driven interface his staff were demanding.

But Moss was reluctant to set up the LAN infrastructure required for the GUI system, saying “We’re trying to run LAN-free. As a matter of policy, as you roll out and install LANs, the administration costs go up, and the support costs go out. So if you can run on direct point-to-point, it’s probably a lot cheaper.”

A decision was made to allow the larger hospitals under the company’s care to implement LANs, but those LANs run independently of the Sun Ultra host. Moss said if these LAN servers were to crash, the hospitals would still be able to connect to the patient management system and the core financial system.

“At the moment I have a Microsoft Exchange server sitting in North Sydney with remote clients connected to it,” explained Moss.

“We set a low router priority on the e-mail so that in the event that a large e-mail leaves the hospital, the traffic is not holding up customer service. So we’re not holding up customers.”

In contrast to the flourishing private health care system, IT departments in public health care have been challenged by the low priority assigned to innovative IT, and a sheer lack of funds.

A report issued by the KPMG consultancy firm last week confirmed what the health care industry and even the public has long suspected — that the public health system’s IT structure is in turmoil. The report, commissioned by the Victorian Department of Human Services, said the public health care industry is underspending in IT.

“One of the key challenges of the hospital sector is the intelligent use of information in IT,” said John Peoples, systems director for business support and projects at the department of Human Services in Victoria. “But it just hasn’t been seen as a major priority in health care.”

The KPMG report found current hospital IT expenditure is under $1000 per equivalent full-time position (EFP), a figure far short of the recommended best practice expenditure of between $12,000 and $22,000 thousand per EFP.

According to the report, a key way that hospitals can move towards the leading edge is by improving communication between the administrating department and the many hospitals located throughout the country. Human Services in Victoria is implementing just such a service as the first stage of major changes. The HosNet information distribution service is the department’s answer to improved communication with the hospitals it manages.

“HosNet is providing electronic connection between the department and every public hospital in Victoria,” said Peoples.

In most cases, HosNet will simply run over existing connections that were previously used to link the hospitals to HCS Australia, developer of the HIS, and manager of the hospitals’ payroll system. Use of the existing infrastructure has meant significant cost savings.

Completing the circle

The wide area network that is HosNet will connect the hospitals’ chief executives (and other staff, if required) using dialup modems and dialup ISDN connections or permanent ISDN connections.

The central site runs Lotus Notes 4.5 on an NT server for secure e-mail and data interchange between head office, regional offices and the hospitals. Currently, there are 106 connections, with over 140 more expected to be added over the next three months.

“Our aim is over a 12 to 18 month period to phase out the distribution of major communications from hard copy to electronic only. So we won’t be sending out our circulars, our financial reports — they will be sent via the system.”

Notes-based HosNet will hold policies, documents and standards, as well as manuals, procedures and financial reports.

It will also contain details on major press releases issued by the department and the Minister on health matters.

Microsoft creates cyberstreet to promote Internet

LONDON, – Microsoft, the U.S. software giant, installed free computers and Internet access to two dozen households in London on Thursday as part of a global marketing push for its Internet software.

Microsoft, which last August launched its Internet service provider the Microsoft Network, known as MSN, connected 23 homes along one street in London’s Islington neighbourhood to create what it called “MSN Street.”

Microsoft claims it is the first time anyone has linked an entire street to the Internet. The brainchild of Microsoft Network’s UK marketing staff, MSN Street is billed as the transformation of “…one conventional north London street into a virtual community of the future.”

“We think it’s the first attempt to dump the Internet into the laps of a real live comunity,” Andrew Baiden, a Microsoft spokesman said at a briefing for MSN Street participants.

Bill Gates, chief executive of Microsoft, said in his book “The Road Ahead” he was sceptical about the importance of the Internet until a couple of years ago, but now felt Microsoft’s future lay in its ability to harness the World Wide Web.

The 23 participating households in London — out of 70 total on the street — are linked to the Internet via personal computers supplied at no cost by Microsoft and free subscriptions to the Microsoft Network.

Microsoft spokesmen asked journalists not to identify the name of the street in London, in order to protect residents’ privacy.

The software company created an “electronic bulletin board” and a “chat room” for the 23 households — part of efforts to demonstrate the Internet links people from far-flung corners of the globe and can also strengthen local community ties.

The market research project will last six months. Participants will keep logs of their Internet usage.

“Journalists would ask us, What are people using the Internet for?” Taylor Collyer, marketing director for the Microsoft Network in the UK. “We thought that’s probably a good thing to know.”

Microsoft also wanted to find out if the Internet could be used to bring a community together.

Of the 23 adults who volunteered to participate in MSN Street, most were familiar with computers but few had Internet experience. Those who did were not necessarily impressed with what they saw.

“That was the problem that impacted on me,” said a barrister named Simon. “I actually got quite bored watching.”

But other MSN Street participants said they had keenly wanted Internet access.

Charlotte, a publisher who works from home, said she had been using the Internet at friends’ houses and was planning on getting her own connection.

“It will be great to use email (electronic mail),” said a journalist named Tom. “As far as the Internet is concerned people tell me there’s a hell of a lot on it, but I don’t know what I’ll use.”

Few of the 23 households knew one another before taking part in the MSN Street experiment. The question remains, can MSN Street create a community?

“My initial reaction was quite cynical,” said Charlotte. “I don’t need a computer to borrow a cup of sugar from my neighbors.” But she said she has warmed to the project’s community features.

Tom, the journalist, said he thought the project might create a community, but he wondered if that could happen had Microsoft not first introduced Street participants to each other. “The chat box, I can’t think that would be very useful. I can’t imagine there’d be four or five people at home at 9 o’clock wanting to talk.”

Microsoft launched its Internet service last August, having finally decided that the Internet was important to its core business.

The Microsoft Network has two million subscribers worldwide, including 110,000 in Britain, and is the world’s third-largest Internet service provider.