Daily TIPs: Universal Gigabit, Better Batteries, Kill Switches, & More

Everyone Needs a Gigabit by 2015

The government must take steps to push the availability of broadband Internet access if the U.S. is to remain competitive, a telecom law firm is recommending. The Baller Herbst Law Group, in a report to a North Carolina agency, calls for 100 megabits per second of affordable access for all Americans by 2012, with 1 gigabit per second service three years later, Ars Technica reports. Like electrification, it will require government action to ensure poorer and more rural areas get service, the report says.

Will VoIP Kill the Telephone?

The companies that offer phones calls using Voice-over-Internet Protocol, such as Skype and Vonage, currently piggyback on telephone networks when one of the parties to a call doesn’t have a VoIP device, a strategy that brings the VoIP companies revenue. But an essay at GigaOm argues that this model won’t last forever, as VoIP achieves greater penetration. In the long run, the writer argues, the telephone companies may go the way of the Dodo.

Safety Standards Developed for Online Health Records

There’s been a lot of talk lately of the advantages to patients of making their medical data available digitally, but one big concern has been keeping the records private. Now, Bloomberg reports, Microsoft, Google, and dozens of consumer groups have come up with a set of standards to safeguard e-records. Among the proposals is giving patients the ability to see just who is looking at their records.

McCain’s Battery Prize Gets Mixed Reception

Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain this week suggested offering $300 million to the person who can build the next generation of battery for plug-in hybrid automobiles. Technology Review asks a pair of MIT battery experts what they think of the idea. While one says the prize will focus attention on a key problem, the other feels that, without benchmarks, the idea is mainly a political stunt.

Toyota Plans Plug-in Hybrid in Two Years

And speaking of batteries, Toyota will offer two new hybrid models in 2010, including a new plug-in hybrid, AutoWeek reports. To that end, the company is ramping up production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for the cars. It’s also investing in new battery technology, considering possible chemistries that include a metal-air battery.

Much Work Needed to Make Renewables Affordable

It’s going to take a major effort for the United States to use renewable sources for a quarter of its energy needs by 2025, a new report says. The study, from the RAND Corporation, was commissioned by the non-profit Energy Future Coalition, which has set a “25 by ’25” goal for renewables, according to Science Daily. The study warns that, if done wrong, a conversion to that much renewable energy could be expensive and have a negative impact on land use.

‘Digital Manners’ Face Threat of Abuse

With police installing remotely operated kill switches on buses, and the Pentagon seeking to do the same on airplanes to prevent the vehicles being used as terrorist weapons, Microsoft is looking to expand the concept with a technology called “Digital Manners Policies.” Theaters might use the technology to switch off DMP-equipped cell phones, while museums could shut down cameras. An essay in Wired wonders how to prevent such capabilities from being abused, by a burglar shutting down security cameras, say, or a terrorist turning off the wrong airplane engine.

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