First Coffee for 28 February, 2006

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee for 28 February, 2006

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is John Cage’s compositions Music For Prepared Piano, Vol. 2, performed by Boris Berman. A little break from the Louis Jordan and Robert Earl Keen, the way William Gaddis is a little break from John Grisham or Stephen King:

Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd. has announced that Vodafone K.K., a mobile operator in Japan and a subsidiary of Vodafone Group Plc, which bills itself as “the world’s largest mobile community,” has selected Oki’s face recognition middleware for their mobile phones.

The “Face Sensing Engine” enables instant face recognition using the camera on mobile phones to restrict access to mobile phones. FSE will be embedded in the Vodafone 904SH, manufactured by Sharp, which is planned for launch in late April 2006 and future Vodafone K.K. 3G mobile phones to be launched in Japan.

Gee, no loaning your phone to anyone except your twin sister or brother.

Masao Miyashita, President of Network Systems Company at Oki Electric. claimed the FSE has the industry’s fastest authentication speed for mobile phones, saying “an owner’s face can be instantly verified.” He said his company plans to “provide such products to the embedded market for entertainment devices as well as to the mobile phone market by combining FSE with our other products, such as FaceCommunicator-E2.”

In some ways Oki’s FSE could be more convenient than password-protected phones, in which users need to input the data to release the lock. FSE can instantly verify the owner with the industry’s fastest authentication speed, company officials claim, as soon as the owner looks into the camera. Oki claims their authentication method is “less likely to be affected by brightness,” so “verification can be done in various situations both indoors and outdoors.”

But in other ways, unless you’re hyper-paranoid about cell phone security, it could be a dreadful pain, as there would be no way for your wife to call for help when you’re out camping and your face has been mauled by a bear.

To facilitate its face recognition function, the FSE includes functions to detect facial characteristics including the location of the eyes, eyebrows and mouth, and a function to track facial characteristics that calculates the changes in locations, which occur due to changes in facial expressions.

Stora Enso and Orion are introducing a series of pharmaceuticals packages equipped with Radio Frequency Identification tags to pharmacies. Stora Enso’s PackAgent software is used to authenticate the products throughout the supply chain.

The pharmaceuticals produced by Orion Pharma and distributed by the wholesaler Oriola are sold in selected pharmacies in Finland and Estonia, and the success – or failure – of the program will be watched closely by countries and firms around the world.

“We are using item-level identification and the tags are read at every stage of the supply chain. Our PackAgent software verifies the item ID and uses it for product authentication,” explains Kirsi Viskari, Manager of Intelligent Products at Stora Enso.

The pharmaceutical company Orion Pharma is participating in this trial in anticipation of future requirements. If traceability becomes mandatory in the United States, for example, Orion Pharma will have to add an RFID tag to all their packages sold on that market. At present, tracking is based on the batch number.

The trial covers the whole supply chain, and is conducted using Orion Pharma’s anticoagulant drug Marevan. The packages are manufactured by Jaakkoo-Taara, and the pharmaceuticals are distributed to the pharmacies by the wholesaler Oriola and its Estonian subsidiary.

“For Orion Pharma, the trial is an opportunity to gather experience from the use of RFID technology in tracking deliveries and authenticating products in a commercial environment. We are looking for ways to streamline our logistics operations and co-operation with our suppliers and to put us in a better position to face future challenges as regards the traceability of products,” says Markku Huhta-Koivisto from Orion Pharma.

RFID is seen as one way to combat the presence of counterfeit drugs in the phamaceuticals industry.

Stora Enso’s PackAgent product is based on the Trackway software developed by Stockway, a Finnish specialist software provider.

Just amazing, reading about the Enron fiasco, stuff like the Associated Press’s report of how the discovery of a tray of uncashed checks from a California utility worth tens of millions of dollars under an Enron Corp. trader’s desk was “bad news” for the company’s retail division, “as accountants dug into its chaotic billing and losses in early 2001.”

“Basically, Enron’s risk books already assumed we would be receiving these checks,” the AP reports former Enron accountant Wanda Curry as testifying Monday as the fraud and conspiracy case against its former chief executive, Jeffrey Skilling, and founder, Kenneth Lay, entered a fifth week.

“We began a quantification effort to know what the exposure was, not only what was received, but what we expected to receive,” she said.

Curry’s project, assigned by Enron’s chief accounting officer Rick Causey and dubbed “Deep Dive,” the AP reported, revealed “wildly overvalued contracts along with the uncashed checks, like those from Southern California Edison.”

“The number grew to millions, hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Curry, who had been directed by Causey to “stop the bleeding.”

This might be cruel, but here’s a press release Enron issued from February 2001, as millions of dollars of uncashed checks were turning up under employees’ desks:

Enron Corp. was named today the “Most Innovative Company in America” for the sixth consecutive year by Fortune magazine.

“Our world-class employees and their commitment to innovative ideas continue to drive our success in today’s fast-paced business environment,” said Kenneth L. Lay, Enron chairman and CEO. “We are proud to receive this accolade for a sixth year. It reflects our corporate culture which is driven by smart employees who continually come up with new ways to grow our business.”

Enron placed No.18 overall on Fortune’s list of the nation’s 535 “Most Admired Companies,” up from No. 36 last year. Enron also ranked among the top five in “Quality of Management,” “Quality of Products/Services” and “Employee Talent.”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea to grow our business: Let’s cash the checks people send us!”

Gasps of surprise. “Why, Martin, how… innovative!” (Aside: “What a talented employee!”)

$101 billion company when this press release was issued, the sixth-largest corporation in the world, one of the most admired companies in America. By the end of the year the stock was junk and the company was in Chapter 11, thousands of people having lost life savings and thousands out of work.

E-Services Group International today announced that it is beginning a pilot program with Delta Air Lines, presumably no pun intended. E-Services Group International will provide Delta with customer contact services, including reservations for US based customers, which could lead to a larger partnership. E-Services Group International will manage the work for Delta Air Lines from their existing facilities in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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