Developments to Watch
`THE PROZAC MACHINE ATE MY MONEY'
MANY RURAL CLINICS AND most hospitals maintain their own in-house pharmacies, requiring the services of a pharmacist and taking up valuable floor space. ADDS Inc. in North Billerica, Mass., has developed a cheaper alternative: a medicine-vending machine.
The ADDS "telepharmacy" incorporates a computer, bar-code reader, printer, and dispensing cabinet. That allows a doctor at, say, a rural clinic, to fax a prescription to an off-site pharmacy, where the pharmacist transmits the drug order via modem to the clinic's remote-controlled dispenser. The machine dispenses a prepackaged vial and, to ensure that the right medicine came out, a clinic worker scans the drug's bar code for prescription information and expiration date.
The dispensers typically stock 30 to 60 types of commonly prescribed drugs. ADDS President Brian Hart says a clinic need order only 25 prescriptions a day for the units to be economical, compared with some 150 prescriptions for an in-house pharmacy. The devices are already in use in Utah, Wisconsin, and Michigan.EDITED BY CATHY ARNST Erica GarciaReturn to top
APPLIANCES THAT LEAK--POWER, THAT IS
YOU MAY THINK you're doing your bit for energy conservation when you turn off the lights and appliances before leaving the house. In fact, your house goes on "leaking" electricity no matter how conscientious you are, because many household appliances draw power even when they're off. TV sets, for example, use about 40 watts to maintain the remote control and instant-on features. Other leaky appliances include VCRs, answering machines, burglar alarms, and even electric toothbrushes.
It adds up. A new study by Berkeley National Laboratory in California estimates that the U.S. loses about 5 billion watts from leaked electricity--equivalent to the output of five standard power plants. Berkeley scientist Alan K. Meier and his colleagues measured the leakage of homes in California, Florida, and Japan. They found that the average home leaks about 450 kilowatt hours per year--roughly equal to 5% of the home's total electricity use.
To address the problem, Meier's team has designed a prototype circuit that draws electricity only when a small battery--mounted in the appliance to provide power during standby mode--needs recharging.EDITED BY CATHY ARNSTReturn to top
FEWER EXCUSES FOR LOST LUGGAGE
SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS Co. wants to replace the laborious and error-prone preflight process of pasting coded I.D. tags around luggage handles with luggage that has identity cards built in. The labels will be made from ferroelectric random-access memory chips, or FRAMs--the same type of chips used in the electronic toll cards that drivers paste on their windshields on some highways. FRAMS can be read at a distance and retain data without constant recharging, unlike the more common dynamic random-access memory chips, or DRAMs.
Samsung, one of the world's largest chipmakers, is gearing up to mass- produce 64-kilobit FRAMs next year, says Yoo In Kyeong, director of the electronic-materials lab at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Suwon, South Korea. They are already widely used in game machines and electronic datebooks, but Samsung says its newest versions will be slightly smaller and therefore more energy-efficient, as well as cheaper to make. That makes them ideal for I.D.-card systems because they can store data without power and can be read at a distance of up to 1 meter. Later, they'll be used for data storage in portable PCs and cellular phones. Eventually, Yoo says, FRAM chips based on neural networks will be implanted into human
beings.EDITED BY CATHY ARNST Steven V. BrullReturn to top