Archive for February, 2012

Zhenjiang, China Implements New Transportation Plan

Hello!  I’ve found an interesting article about one of IBM’s latest endeavours in Zhenjiang, China, involving tourism and traffic efficiency in the city.

With a population of  about three million people, Zhenjiang is an important transportation hub worldwide.  It’s located near the intersection of the Yangtze River and the Grand Canal.

To increase economic development as well as tourism, Zhenjiang initiated the “Smarter Zhenjiang, Smarter Tourism” project with IBM.  The plan is to replace and upgrade more than 400 bus stations and over 1,000 public transportation vehicles.  IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) for Smarter Cities will provide a solution to upgrade the city’s transportation network and improve throughput and efficiency.

IBM supports the Chinese government’s commitment to improving transport systems and accelerating economic growth and transformation nationwide.  City managers will have a consolidated view of the transportation network, and a new bus scheduling system will be initiated using analytics technologies.  This “smart solution” will help in managing the development of traffic solutions throughout the city.

You can read more at http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/36883.wss .

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February 26, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Texting App Not Just for the Blind

Hi MAT 120 students! Hope all is well! On Saturday, I was looking through CNET’s website (www.cnet.com) and one specific article caught my eye. The summary for the article immediately drew me in. It talked about how some Georgia Tech students developed a texting app for the visually impaired.

There are many different ways for a visually impaired person to text. There are voice-to-text applications that converts what you say to text, but sometimes those aren’t always reliable. You might come across the program translating the wrong wording. Another way is a keyboard that uses the Braille writing system that hooks up to your phone. However, these keyboards start at around $1000. Now, thanks to students at Georgia Tech, the visually impaired can text, for FREE! Who doesn’t love free?

The Braille Alphabet

These students developed the Braille Touch, which is an open source app that transforms the Braille writing system into a touch-screen keyboard for smartphones. The Braille system uses six dots arranged in six-position matrix or cell. So this app’s keyboard only uses six keys and converts gestures into input points. The way it works is the user faces their phone away from them, places the phone in their palms, use their fingers to gesture a specific letter.The app will then confirm which letter was chosen through sound.

The best part is that the app is not just for the visually impaired. According to the project leader for the app, Mario Romero, anyone can learn how to type in the Braille alphabet in a matter of minutes, without having to learn how to be able to read the alphabet. Previous studies show that those who learn Braille typing can type up to 32 words per minute with a 92% accuracy.

Currently, the Georgia tech team developed the Braille Touch for the iPhone and iPad. They are working on developing it for Android. Already though, the app won the MobileHCI 2011 competition for design.

I do have to throw in a disclaimer for this app. Even though it does allow you to text faster, it was not made to help you text quickly while you drive. Please don’t text and drive, it’s dangerous!

Hope you enjoyed my post! If you want to read the original article click here.
And don’t forget the quiz!

Remember, don’t text and drive!

-Katie

February 23, 2012 at 6:00 am 1 comment

Exchanging Data with Near-Field Communications

Hello Math 120! I hope everyone’s semester is going swimmingly. I found a great article on CIO.com and could not wait share it with everyone.

The article was titled “6 Cool Uses of Near-Field Communication”, but before I share some of the great insights from this article I wanted to explain a little about Near-Field Communication (NFC) in general.

Anyone that claims the radio is dead is far from right and NFC is a perfect example why radio technology is here to stay! NFC is a language that smart phones and other electronic devices can use to “speak” with each other via radio waves. The whole process is facilitated by bringing two NFC devices close together (less that one foot apart). Once the connection is established data exchanges and transactions can occur between the devices. The most exciting aspects of NFC are the the transaction that can be completed with unpowered devices called tags. These tags opened a plethora of opportunities for many industries to store and exchange information.

Now back to the article, CIO.com shared their top six most exciting uses and I would like to share the ones I found most interesting with you.

NFC Patient Tags

In the health care industry, a NFC technology called PatientID+. This initiative greatly reduces the pain and agony of having to provide extensive details about your entire medical history. Instead, this information is simply stored on an NFC enabled phone or on a NFC tag that an individual could simply wear. A legitimate concern relates to the sensitive medical information that you are “broadcasting” to everyone within one foot of you. This is why PatientID+ requires the receiver of the information to enter a PIN number to access the data, which is something only the patient should know.

This next one will hit home for anyone that has used the public transportation system. In Los Angles and Minneapolis public buses are now accepting NFC payments. Rather than having to keep track of transport tickets, bus riders now simply use an NFC enabled phone to provide the information to the bus service. This benefits the bus service as well as it greatly decreases many manual processes.

NFC with Parking Meters

One of my favorite applications of NFC relates to parking. Keeping enough quarters in the car and remembering how much time I have left in the meter can easily lead to many parking fines.An NFC technology called PayByPhone allows parking meters users to simply send money from their debit or credit card to the meter. Perhaps the most useful aspect of the technology is the text message later sent alerting the parking meter users of there soon to be expired meter.

Overall, NFC technology seems to be completely changing the way various entities communicate with one other. In seconds, large amounts of data can be exchange to provide information on everything from how much money to put into the parking meter to an extensive medical history. I hope that this area continues to grow as it will continue to shape our future.

Don’t forget the quiz!

For more information check out CIO.com: Near-Field Communications

Best regards,

Paul

February 15, 2012 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

Opportunities and More at ISU

Hello!  I’m Victoria Pershick, another student blogger.  My major is in Web Development, a division of Information Systems.  This will be my last semester at ISU, and so I’m now looking for a full-time opportunity involving web programming.

My next blog entries after this will be about farther-reaching IT developments, but for now I think I should tell you about ways that you can experiment with IT and possibly benefit in the near future on ISU’s campus.  Opportunities go beyond this, of course – I mainly design software and web pages, but there are also points of interest in electronics, mechanical engineering, telecommunications, and more.

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TRAVEL

Ever wanted to live in another country?  ISU has technology-oriented programs in Budapest, Hungary and in Shanghai, China.  There are other opportunities offered by outside organizations, too.  (There are more listings by country available here).

I spent this last Fall Semester in Budapest working for Nokia Siemens Networks.  It’s a brand-new program facilitated through ISU’s School of Information Technology and Eötvös Loránd University.  I was one of the two first interns to go, and that was my first major work experience.  I was part of a team of four university students (the other three that worked with me were Hungarian university students), and our project was to improve an internal task management system.  I also took a few classes and attended some scientific lectures in English.  Later during my stay, I even met a co-founder of “Prezi,” a company that developed a new innovative presentation tool; I might explain more about that in a future blog.  It’s a development that came out of Hungary, and their studio is in Budapest.  Assuming we maintain student interest each semester, we’ll keep sending undergraduate students over and improving the program.

More generally, if you plan to go abroad, college is probably the best time.  It’s a time of exploration when you’re not required to have a full-time job or other such responsibilities.  You might even discover something else you like – you might have the opportunity to learn a new language, for example.

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SCHOLARSHIP

There’s a very significant scholarship available through the National Science Foundation, for those in a Computer Science or Information Systems major, or those who are majoring in Math with a minor in C.S. or I.S.  More details are here.

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CODE RIGHT NOW, IF YOU DARE

Of course, the main reason I stayed in my major was that I found it interesting.  You can always look at some instructions and try coding instantly by going to tutorial sites, the most comprehensive of which is W3Schools.  They have step-by-step lessons as well as a “sandbox” or “playground” feature where you can try to code small pieces in HTML, JavaScript and other languages.

Netbeans is a “development environment” in which you can edit web applications – much like editing a Word document, you can create .html files and more, and then hit the Run button to open the created files in a browser like Firefox or Internet Explorer.  It’s fun to play with and free to download, and there are tutorials available on many programming languages.

HTML5Rocks is another site with tutorials.  In brief, HTML5 is a relatively new version of HTML with a few innovative twists like an <audio> tag and a <video> tag.  I don’t know much about it yet, but I’ve been meaning to look at it in more depth.

This is a mashup that ISU alum Greg Jopa made using HTML5.  If you feel adventurous, you can download the source code and look at it – it’s there for you to look at.  Or try the demo and see if you can play Gary Numan’s “Cars” : )  There’s not enough room allowed in the demo to play the entire riff, I was mildly disappointed.

At any rate, you can see how information is readily available, and you can succeed with it if you have the patience to examine it.  The guidance of a teacher certainly helps, but web programming is somewhat unique because quite a bit of knowledge happens to be available for free (the geekier word for it is “open-source”).  After some experimenting, I thought that decoding these things was rather interesting.  It’s not always easy, but with practice, you might have fun figuring it out.  And clearly, knowledge is power – some of the highest-paying jobs go to people with the skills to engineer solutions for information-related problems.  If you find that you have an interest in this as a field of study, our department website is here.

Please share a comment if you want to – our goal is to create an open discussion, and I’m curious what most people outside my major think about computer-related fields.

Thanks, and I’ll see you later.

February 12, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Robots Used to Treat Cancer

Hi MAT 120 students! I thought I would introduce myself before I got started on the blog. My name is Katie Hammer and I am currently a junior. I am majoring in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management with a minor in Information Systems. I encourage everyone to try out an IT class. Technology is such a major part of the business world now that it will really give you an edge if you have a background in Information Systems.

This is actually my first time writing a blog (so be nice!), and I hope you enjoy!

Nowadays, almost everyone is affected by cancer. Either you personally are fighting it or you know someone close to you fighting it. Researchers work everyday to develop new technologies to defeat it. A new technology inspired by a crab dinner helps treat a cancer patient without having to put them under the knife.

Together Lawrence Ho, an enterologist at Singapore’s National University Hospital, and Louis Phee, an associate professor at Nanyang Technological Institute’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, created a crab-like robot that is used to remove early-stage stomach cancer. In 2004, when dining with Sydney Chung, a well-known surgeon from Hong Kong, Ho and Phee gained their inspiration for the robot from Singapore’s signature chili crab dish. Because of the strength of a crab’s pincers, Chung proposed that Ho and Phee could use the crab as their prototype.

Soon after, Ho and Phee started their work on the crab-like robot. Like a crab’s pincers, they developed a mechanical pincer and hook that connects to an endoscope. They also attached a small camera to the robot to provide visual feedback.

from the site http://www.cnet.com

The way it works is that the robot enters through the patient’s mouth and then crawls down the throat to the stomach. By using the feedback from the camera, the surgeon can control the pincer to grab the cancerous tissue and slice it off with the hook. According to Ho, this procedure offers more precision because the robot can make finer movements compared to a surgeon using his or her hands.

Besides the finer movements, the robot offers some more benefits. This procedure takes a fraction of the time that the laparoscopic surgeries take and reduce the risk of infection and visible scars. So far, the crab robot has removed stomach cancer from five patients. Within three years, the robot could possibly be available commercially.

If you would like to read more about it click here.

Don’t forget to take the quiz!
-Katie

February 9, 2012 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Nanotechnology used for Smart Paint

Hello MAT 120 Students!  My name is Rishi Sheth and I am new to this semester’s blogging project.  Our goal is to get more students interested in the field of IT Study and Technology.  There is a lot out there, and I am sure everyone can find something they’re interested in.  Before getting into my article I would like to share a bit about myself:  I am a senior here at ISU and I study Information Assurance.  I work at Enterprise System Support on campus doing IT support for those employed by the university (basically anyone not a teacher or student, that’s TechZone and Help Desk).  I hope through this semester what I share may conjure an interest in some of you to further seek out what is going on today in the world of technology.  With all of its vast avenues, I am sure it can lead to some great things for you folks.  So enjoy!

One of my favorite websites, Engadget, linked an article last week about “smart paint”.  This paint is infused with nanotechnology to detect structural damage, and is likely going revolutionize structural safety, if funded, tested, and created commercially.  Developed at the University of Strathcylde in Glasgow, a team of researchers learned using nanotechnology can create a sensory network in the paint that can detect minor structure faults and damage before becoming a severe problem.

This can present enormous safety foresight into incidents we hear about each year: bridges, dams, roads, and other majorly used large-scale structures, some of which are decades old and in serious need of upgrade and repair. The paint they use is a mix of highly aligned carbon nanotubes and fly ash – a recycled waste material. Together they create a stable, cement-like material that is great for harsh environments.  The paint simply needs to be sprayed onto the surface, making it easy to coat any size structure and less time consuming.

How this works is quite amazing! When the nanotubes “bend”, the conductivity changes indicating a structural problem is developing.  Dr. Mohamed Saafi of the University’s Department of Civil Engineering added this to the end of the press release:

“The smart paint represents a significant development and is one that has possibly been overlooked as a viable solution because research tends to focus on high-tech options that look to eliminate human control. Our research shows that by maintaining the human element the costs can be vastly reduced without an impact on effectiveness.”

Check out the Engadget article here.  There is a press release from the university at the bottom.  I encourage you all to check out the website daily for exciting news in many facets of technology. They have great editors, blogs, videos, and previews of upcoming gadgets.

Don’t forget to check out the quiz on Blackboard!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the semester.

Respectfully,

Rishi Sheth

P.S:  I watched this video also after reading the article.  Engadget is witty with their use of videos and articles relating to advanced robot technology, including using the “robot apocalypse” tag in their search bar.


Here is a link to the article.  NOTE:  There will be no quiz questions related to this.  It’s just for fun!

February 5, 2012 at 11:17 pm Leave a comment

Surgery with Sound

Hi MAT 120 students! My name is Paul Timmermann and I hope to share some great knowledge with you this semester. Before I tell you about this great new technology in the medical field, I wanted to tell you a little about myself. I am a senior Business Information Systems major here at Illinois State University. I currently work as a business analyst at the Business Intelligence and Technology Solutions unit in Julian Hall, which is a hidden gem here at ISU. Overall, my advise to everyone this semester is take advantage of every learning opportunity you get (especially the ISU Tech Blog), as you never know when it will be useful later in life.

At a recent TED Talk, Yoav Medan, Chief Systems Architect at InSightec Ltd., explained his research in a non-invasive surgical technique . Dr. Medan uses a technique that involves ultrasound waves to target a particular area of a patient’s body. In his talk, Dr. Medan explains the idea of using ultrasound to perform surgery is not a novelty idea. In fact, research began on ultrasonic surgery in the early 1900s. The challenge faced by researchers in the field has been the lack of ability to understand exactly what the ultrasound waves were affecting. The contemporary version of ultrasonic surgery involves a combination of ultrasound and MRI. This new method is called MRI-guided focused ultrasound. The MRI provides a real time view of the patients targeted area to ensure the surgeon is targeting the correct area. Overall, this great new technology allows doctors to perform surgery on patients with the client of a mouse and without ever making an incision in the patients body.

An illustration of focused ultrasonic waves used to treat uterine fibriods.

As Dr. Medan explains, the applications for this method are limitless. During his talk he tells stories of using the treatment to help cure everything from Parkinson’s disease to disabling pains. I think the greatest aspect of this surgery is the instantaneous results. The patient receiving the ultrasonic treatment noticed immediate relief and did not have any issues with recovery.

Unfortunately, due to regulations this still experimental process has not been applied to all potential areas of use. Dr. Medan seemed hopeful of its applications to various cancers, specifically prostate and breast cancer. Like many new technologies, adoption and stakeholder buy-in is still an issue even with a fairly success technology.

Dr. Medan has pursued a career in technology for quite sometime, prior to his research in MRI-guided focused ultrasound he spent 17 years in research and management at the IBM Research Division. As a future technology professional, I am thoroughly inspired by an individual like Dr. Medan as he has utilized the experience he gained from IBM and other technical experiences to eventually develop a project that could potentially improve the quality of life of thousands of people.

Below I have embedded the TED Talk video, and I highly encourage you to check it out.

http://www.ted.com/talks/yoav_medan_ultrasound_surgery_healing_without_cuts.html

If you would like to learn more about the MRI-guided focused ultrasound visit: http://www.insightec.com/

To read Yoav Medan’s full TED profile visit: http://www.ted.com/speakers/yoav_medan.html

I hope you enjoyed this article! Don’t forget the quiz!

Best regards,

Paul

February 1, 2012 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

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