RFID chips and cancer -- ask Amal
Posted by Kristi Heim at 6:23 PM
Embedding microchips in humans scares some people on privacy grounds alone. Now the chips are raising alarms for a different reason -- a potential link to cancer.
Studies done in the 1990s found that chip implants had "induced" malignant tumors in lab mice and rats, according to this AP story.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the VeriChip by Applied Digital Solutions for use in humans in 2005. At the time, the man in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA, was Tommy Thompson.
Two weeks after the approval took effect, the story recounts, Thompson left his job, and five months later he took a paid position on the board of Applied Digital Solutions.
This just doesn't look good for Thompson or for the 2,000 people with RFID chips in their bodies now.
To get a sense of how worrisome this newly uncovered research might be, I asked one of them. Amal Graafstra has put two chips in his own hands voluntarily, but he deliberately avoided the kind approved by the FDA.
Graafstra opens a door by waving his micro-chipped hand near the keypad.
The reason is that he wanted to be able to remove his implants easily for any reason. The "anti-migration" coating on pet and human implant chips makes them much harder to take out.
Graafstra said he strongly suspects it's this coating that caused cancerous cells to grow around the implant sites on the animals in the studies.
"Now I'm just that much more satisfied I chose not to get an 'FDA approved human' or pet implant which have this coating," he writes in his blog. Graafstra manages to provide a good source of do-it-yourself information on RFID, as well as some clear-headed thinking about the science around it.
Could it be that these self-taught "guinea pigs" provide better expertise on the topic than the FDA?
MWR initiating coverage of Cray with buy, $10 target
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 3:01 PM
Northwest brokerage and investment firm McAdams Wright Ragen is restarting coverage of supercomputer maker Cray.
MWR analyst Sid Parakh has been keeping an unofficial eye on the company for a while now and formally initiated coverage today with a "buy" rating and a $10 price target. The company's shares were down slightly today to $7.50.
Cray took a big hit in May when it disclosed the first of two negative developments that smacked the stock down. Parakh, in his opening report, put it this way:
Cray reported that it was experiencing product development delays for its BlackWidow (BW) and XMT products, pushing the launch timeline into late 2007 and 1H2008, respectively. In early June, the company announced a six-to-eight week delay in the launch of its XT4 Quad-Core product due to a postponement in the availability of a key component. The combination of these two events caused Cray to lower its 2007 outlook from its initial revenue expectation of $230 - $260 million down to under $200 million. Additionally, the company scrapped its earlier operating margin guidance of 3% - 7%, implying negative operating margin expectations.
Micron lab at UW to research new chip materials
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 10:18 AM
The University of Washington cut the ribbon today on a new research lab that will seek the best materials to surround ever-smaller silicon semiconductors in the computer chips of the future.
The Micron Laboratory for Combinatorial Materials Exploration is funded in part by $900,000 in materials and equipment from Micron Technology, the Boise, Idaho, maker of DRAM and Flash memory.
The silicon that conducts electrons across chips is getting thinner to fit more processing power into smaller devices. Fumio Ohuchi, a UW materials science and engineering professor and one of the new lab's directors, said silicon is still a good material for conducting the electrons.
"But the supporting material, the surrounding scaffold, will have to change as we're pushing the technical limit," he said in a news release. "Smaller devices will require new combinations of materials."
The lab will aim to rapidly research new combinations by layering wafers of different materials and then performing a single test to evaluate factors such as composition, atomic structure and manufacturing process.
The results will be published in a publicly accessible database. Ohuchi said the "combinatorial" process could be used to test materials for other high-tech applications, such as solar and fuel cells.
The lab is a boon for UW because it will "build much tighter relationships with our neighboring semiconductor companies," Materials Science and Engineering Department Chair Alex Jen said in the news release.
Apple's day of announcements
Posted by Kim Peterson at 5:42 PM
Apple's announcements today were a little bit of a disappointment, considering the hype that had been building. No, there were no new iPods announced. No iTunes movie deals. Instead, there was a lot of talk about Leopard, the operating system scheduled to ship next spring.
The comparisons to Microsoft's upcoming Vista were inevitable, and Apple fueled that fire itself by hanging banners that referenced Microsoft at the event, held at San Francisco's Moscone Center. See this Engadget posting for photos.
The banners said things like, "Hasta la vista, Vista" and "Redmond has a cat too. A copycat." Cute.
Apple announced a new line of fast desktop computers called the Mac Pro that will use a chipset from Intel. The computers will replace Apple's Power Macs and could run for about $2,500.
Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs had this to say about Microsoft in his keynote speech: "Our friends in Redmond, they spend over $5 billion in R&D, but these days they just try to copy Google and Apple. So I guess it's a good example of how money isn't everything."
Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg: "Once again, Apple has taken a leap over what Microsoft will deliver."
"It's a slight disappointment," Gene Munster, analyst at Piper Jaffray, told Reuters. "They announced exactly what people were expecting. To get a rise (in stock price) you have to surprise investors."
Om Malik: "The big takeaway is that Mac OS X's next version, Leopard is going to be one of the most complete OSes to leverage broadband connections, and even higher speed pipes available inside our home."
The Guardian Unlimited on Apple's taunts: "Perhaps Jobs merely intended to 'feed the failthful', but it makes Apple's management look like a bunch of jerks, it alienates potential switchers, and it just invites those who haven't drunk the Kool-Aid to snipe back."
Retired General joins Impinj board
Posted by Kristi Heim at 9:48 AM
Seattle chip developer Impinj is shifting its market strategy into high gear. At a time when government agencies such as the Department of Defense are taking a keen interest in its RFID solutions, Impinj has snagged a retired general and former Presidential adviser for its board of directors.
General Ronald Fogleman, who served as U.S. Air Force chief of staff and commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, has joined its board, Impinj plans to announce Monday. Impinj is also announcing the appointment of semiconductor industry veteran Albert Y.C. Yu to its board. Yu, who is retired, led Intel's microprocessor development and worked closely with Impinj co-founder Carver Mead.
Impinj has taken the lead recently in supplying state-of-the art chips for RFID tags used in the retail industry. The U.S. government is also interested in using the wireless identification technology in high-tech passports, airline baggage tags and border security checkpoints.