GTRI researchers Myron Cramer of the Electronic Systems Laboratory and Jay Harrell of the Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory conducted an independent verification of the bank's security before it went on-line.
Cramer and Harrell helped the bank optimize its computer configuration, and verified that its systems properly restricted access to user accounts. Based on their review, the bank received final permission from the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision to begin Internet operations.
Unlike any other attempt at Internet commerce, Security First provides special multilayered secure software that creates an individual "bank vault" for each customer's account. SecureWare Inc. of Atlanta developed the trusted operating system Security First uses. Deposits at Security First are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), just as they would be in a traditional brick-and-mortar bank.
Memory loss -- it's a common experience for many of us as we age. We notice that we can't remember things as well as when we were younger; some of us begin to find making certain decisions or solving some problems more difficult.
Researchers in the relatively new field of cognitive aging, such as Georgia Tech's Timothy Salthouse, are attempting to understand the causes of these age-related differences. Causes are of two types, he says.
"Distal causes relate to factors such as childhood nutrition, educational experiences or other factors that originate earlier in life, but somehow influence cognitive performance when it is assessed," Salthouse explains. "Proximal causes are evident when one is older. They correspond to behavioral differences observed at the time of testing that may affect level of performance. Examples are the strategy used to remember information, or how quickly a person can carry out relevant processing operations."
Salthouse and his colleagues have investigated both types of causes of age-related differences in memory and other cognitive activities.
"In recent years my students and I have examined the extent to which experience in a particular activity may reduce age-related decline in performing closely related tasks," he explains. "One project investigated spatial abilities in a sample of architects. A student currently is working on a project examining relationships between age and memory for music among musicians."
Neither of these projects' findings supported the popular "use it or lose it" interpretation. Even the very experienced people exhibited age-related declines performing tasks relevant to their experience.
Despite this outcome, Salthouse always encourages people to remain intellectually active as long as possible. Almost certainly no harm comes from it, he says, and future research may eventually reveal real benefits.
"Although I have confidence in the results of these projects, I still believe that continued activity must be associated with higher levels of performance," Salthouse maintains. "The problem may be that we just haven't found the right way to evaluate the true benefits of experience."
Among the proximal factors Salthouse has investigated as potential causes of age-related memory problems are working memory and speed of processing. These terms are roughly analogous to random access memory and clock cycle time in a computer, and are measured with fairly simple tasks. Working memory is often measured by how many items one can remember while carrying out some other task -- looking up a telephone number and answering a question from another person before dialing it, for example.
Processing speed is measured by simple tests such as deciding as quickly as possible whether pair of letters or line patterns are the same or different.
Salthouse's research consistently shows that measures of working memory and processing speed appear to be responsible for 75 percent or more of the age-related differences in memory and other cognitive activities.
"This implies that a large proportion of the age differences in memory seems to be attributable to declines in cognitive system operating efficiency," Salthouse suggests. "It's almost as if older adults are to young adults as the computers of five or 10 years ago are to current computers."
Ever wonder how much the car or truck you depend on for transportation contributes to air pollution?
Georgia Tech researchers plan to find out. They have won a five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop the next generation of mobile source emission models. Such models are based on research findings, and explain vehicle emissions' effects on air quality in different driving, population and environmental conditions.
The agreement is a partnership between the EPA; Ford Motor Co.; General Motors; Toyota; Georgia Tech's schools of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Public Policy and Civil Engineering; and the City Planning Program in the College of Architecture.
As part of the $5 million agreement, Georgia Tech researchers will collaborate with the EPA and automobile manufacturers to improve existing mobile source emission modeling approaches. They also will provide research data for developing a new mobile source emissions model. This research ultimately will lead to innovations in air quality assessment and evaluation of alternative air quality control methods in urban environments.
Georgia Tech and Georgia Power have formed what may be a first-of-its-kind partnership providing practical information to small and medium-sized companies who want to use technology for improved productivity.
The university, the utility and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program established the Center for Manufacturing Information Technology (CMIT) to help industries apply computer-based solutions to manufacturing problems. CMIT representatives help manufacturers choose appropriate technologies for streamlining operations; integrating accounting systems; using CAD/CAM, robotics, database technology and wireless networks; barcoding; collecting shop floor data; and more. In addition, CMIT shows firms how to use the Internet and World Wide Web to advertise services and place bids, says Ned Ellington, group director of management services for Georgia Tech's Economic Development Institute.
"The idea is to respond to manufacturers' needs for off-the-shelf information about hardware and software in an understandable format -- whether their budget allows for an investment of $200 or $200,000," he says. "We provide a non-threatening environment, teach them the concepts they need to know, then either partner them with vendors or teach them how to shop around for technology. We transfer the technology by educating them, and then link them with the consulting community for implementation."
Initial CMIT consultations are free. The center also offers continuing education courses, some of which are free.
CMIT is next door to Georgia Power's Technology Applications Center (TAC), which gives customers a chance to test emerging technologies that might apply to their products, says TAC director Gary Birdwell.
"Through TAC, industrialists can evaluate production equipment before they spend a penny of capital," Birdwell says.
Georgia Tech began providing technical assistance to small and medium-size companies 35 years ago, when it opened the first of several industrial extension service offices around the state. For most of those years, Georgia Tech also has had an informal working relationship with Georgia Power, Ellington notes.
Creating Order with Disorder
Bringing order out of chaos can require a little disorder. That's the conclusion drawn by a team of physicists who report that adding variability and disorder to certain complex systems can help tame their chaotic behavior.
This unexpected finding could require scientists and engineers to take a new look at the operation and interaction of natural and artificial nonlinear systems. It could ultimately lead to ways of improving electronic systems performance by exploiting variations in their components. It also might result in new techniques for controlling disease processes, such as epilepsy, by restoring proper amounts of disorder.
"We have found that nature utilizes disorder to create organization, and that there are situations where the lack of disorder will create disorganization," said William Ditto, assistant professor of physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "We think many patterns we see in nature are aided by randomness and disorder. This will lead us to think about systems in dramatically different ways."
Ditto and colleagues John Lindner of The College of Wooster and Yuri Braiman of Emory University used computer simulations to study a variety of coupled nonlinear systems, including a series of chaotic pendula and a system with 100 identical oscillators. The systems exhibited chaotic behavior over both time and space (spatiotemporal chaos), and the activity of each individual element could affect the behavior of others.
To see what would happen if they increased the disorder and variability of the chaotic systems, the researchers made each pendulum a different length, and programmed each oscillator to respond in a slightly different way.
"We expected that we would get even more disorder and even more turbulent behavior, but what we got was organized behavior patterns coming out of the systems," explained Ditto, director of Georgia Tech's Applied Chaos Laboratory. "The diversity or disorder provided a mechanism by which the systems could organize themselves."
How the process works to control chaos isn't fully understood yet, but Ditto believes the disorder may help move groups of chaotic elements into similar modes of behavior. Neighboring elements then begin to lock into the same mode, and "a local domino effect" spreads that behavior. The result is an organized system of individual elements that repeats its behavior in a complex but regular way.
But not just any amount of disorder will do. The researchers found that a 30 percent variation in the length of pendula or behavior of oscillators produced the most regular behavior patterns. Small amounts of disorder could not prompt changes in the system, while more disorder simply "overwhelmed" it.
The work was published in the Nov. 30 issue of the journal Nature.
Georgia Tech is known worldwide for its excellent faculty. Following is a selection of recent honors:
Additional recently named IEEE Fellows include Ian F. Akyildiz, professor, and Petros Maragos, associate professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Peter Freeman, dean, College of Computing; Wayne Book, professor, and William Black, regents' professor, School of Mechanical Engineering.
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