Friday, April 11, 2008

Racetrack – The Future Of Computer Memory Systems

Almaden Research Center - Image Credit: The Almaden Research Center (IBM)

Racetrack – The Future Of Computer Memory Systems

A new way and concept of looking at retrievable, stored memory has just been tested, proven and explained by IBM’s main research center in the Silicon Valley.

The Almaden Research Center announced this week the breakthrough in the way memory is stored and retrieved by using a system known internally as silicon-on-insulator photonic wire based racetrack resonators – “Racetrack” for short.

IBM's "RACETRACK" MEMORY MOVES CLOSER: A diagram of the nanowire shows how an electric current is used to slide -- or "race" – tiny magnetic patterns around the nanowire "track," where the device can read and write data in less than a nanosecond. The racetrack memory would stand billions of nanowires, like the one diagrammed here, around the edge of a chip, and potentially allow for hundreds of times the amount of storage in the same space as today's memory. Image Credit: The Almaden Research Center (IBM)

This excerpted from The Almaden Research Center (IBM) -

IBM Moves Closer to New Class of Computer Memory
The Almaden Research Center 10-Apr-2008

IBM scientists unveiled a major breakthrough in their effort to build a new class of memory, nicknamed "racetrack." The racetrack memory would stand billions of nanowires around the edge of a chip, and potentially allow for hundreds of times the amount of storage in the same space as today's memory.
In two papers published in the April 11 issue of Science, IBM Fellow Stuart Parkin and colleagues at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose describe both the fundamentals of a technology dubbed "racetrack" memory as well as a milestone in that technology. This milestone could lead to electronic devices capable of storing far more data in the same amount of space than is possible today, with lightning-fast boot times, far lower cost and unprecedented stability and durability.

In their paper, the scientists describe their use of horizontal permalloy nanowires to demonstrate the successive creation, motion and detection of domain walls by using sequences of properly timed nanosecond long spin-polarized current pulses. The cycle time for the writing and shifting of the domain walls is a few tens of nanoseconds. These results illustrate the basic concept of a magnetic shift register relying on the phenomenon of spin momentum transfer to move series of closely spaced domain walls – an entirely new take on the decades-old concept of storing information in movable domain walls.

Ultimately, the researchers expect the racetrack to move into the third dimension (3D) with the construction of a novel 3D racetrack memory device, a paradigm shift from traditional two-dimensional arrays of transistors and magnetic bits found in silicon-based microelectronic devices and hard disk drives. By moving into the third dimension, racetrack memory stands to open new possibilities for developing less expensive, faster devices because it is not dependant on miniaturization as dictated by Moore’s Law.
The expected benefits of racetrack memory over today’s memory technologies include operating at a greater speed, consuming much less power, and being practically indestructible, potentially unleashing applications that nobody has even imagined yet.
Reference Here>>

Friday, April 04, 2008

Smartcard Hack Could Expose 2 Billion Cards

Embedded RFID MiFare Classic RFID chip. The ability to read and replace information stored on a card people carry to expidite transactions, access control, and other "secure" exchanges of sensitive information is at threat. Image Credit: CashCard

Smartcard Hack Could Expose 2 Billion Cards

A computer club in Germany in concert with a few university students in the United States have broken into the encryption scheme designed to secure the information stored on smartcards used in everyday applications.

These cards employ a RFID technology used in an estimated two billion plus smart cards first invented by NXP.

This event is the first real breach perpetrated on the widely used MiFare Classic RFID chip. The hackers, once they figured out how to break the encryption scheme, stated that the process is easy to reproduce. NXP downplays the significance of the hack.

Micromodule Pte Ltd is an independent smart card and micromodule manufacturer in Singapore. With complete module and smart card manufacturing facilities, we are offering very competitive, high quality chip cards and chip modules at fast delivery time. Our products include standard secure memory cards, microprocessor cards and custom specific multi-chip modules and cards (contact and contactless). We also supply all types of Mifare cards. Caption & Image Credit: Micromodule Pte Ltd

This excerpted from EETimes -

NXP RFID encryption cracked
Christoph Hammerschmidt - Industrial DesignLine Europe - (04/01/2008 8:11 AM EDT)

MUNICH, Germany — The Chaos Computer Club (Hamburg, Germany) has cracked the encryption scheme of NXPs popular Mifare Classic RFID chip. The device is used in many contactless smartcard applications including fare collection, loyalty cards or access control cards.
According to a report in Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Chaos Computer Club (CCC) experts along with colleagues from the University of Virginia cracked the encoding scheme with little effort. The achievement allows the crackers to read out data, recharge payment cards, copy RFID cards or generate "new" users.
The spokesperson also pointed out that the Mifare Classic is not used in security-critical applications such as passports or electronic health cards.

The Chaos Computer Club was not available for comment.

Reference Here>>

NXP MiFare RFID payment card – Image Credit: Arygon

And this excerpted from NXP about MiFare Classic –

The MIFARE® classic family is the pioneer and front runner in contactless smart card ICs operating in the 13.56 MHz frequency range with read/write capability. The MIFARE® standard IC, launched in 1995, was the first product which could be fitted into a ISO contactless smart card, and with its slim coil allowed very high volume production.

Today, over 200 million MIFARE® Standard ICs are in use around the globe, covering more than 85% (source: Frost & Sullivan, 2000) of the contactless smart card market. As such, MIFARE® Standard represents the de-facto industry standard and is the benchmark for competing technologies.

Reference Here>>

And lastly, this from Computerworld –

RFID hack could crack open 2 billion smart cards
Analyst: One European government sent armed guards to protect facilities using the card
By Sharon Gaudin - Computerworld - March 14, 2008

A student at the University of Virginia has discovered a way to break through the encryption code of RFID chips used in up to 2 billion smart cards used to open doors and board public transportation systems.
"It turns out it's a pretty huge deal," said Ken van Wyk, principal consultant at KRvW Associates. "There are a lot of these things floating around out there. Using it for building locks is the biggy, especially when it's used in sensitive government facilities — and I know for a fact it's being used in sensitive government facilities."

Van Wyk told Computerworld that one European country has deployed military soldiers to guard some government facilities that use the MiFare Classic chip in their smart door key cards. "Deploying guards to facilities like that is not done lightly," he added. "They recognize that they have a huge exposure. Deploying guards is expensive. They're not doing it because it's fun. They're safeguarding their systems." He declined to identify the European country.

Reference Here>>

If you are asking the layperson what he thinks about a security breach on a card (over 2 billion of them) that carries personal information and money information and that information can be changed without his knowledge – He will say, “That is a problem!”

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

TESCO’s USA Operations Go Live Fresh ... And Easy

TESCO's fresh & easy Logo - Image Credit: fresh & easy Neighborhood Market Inc.

TESCO’s USA Operations Go Live Fresh ... And Easy
(UPDATED April 1, 2008)

TESCO’s website that is a cornerstone for the ambitious effort to establish a new brand and way of convenience store positioning went live and online yesterday.

With this site, TESCO hopes to establish a communications link between its fledgling Fresh & Easy brand of neighborhood convenience food stores and labeled consumer products.

The site -- -- offers a background on the company, insight into its strategy and philosophy, and hints at what shoppers can expect from its stores. The company's purpose: "We're here to create value for our customers and earn their lifetime loyalty," states the information found at the site.

Further, with this first cornerstone of consumer communications launched, TESCO establishes that Fresh & Easy is more than just another website in support of a business operation … the website reflects the importance of a node of information that can be easily accessed and beyond just product promotion. It is important to note that the Fresh & Easy website is live before even one store is opened. It reflects a commitment to process and intent to become truly “Fresh & Easy”.

A Good Neighbor - Image Credit: fresh & easy Neighborhood Market Inc.

Excerpts from Convenience Store News -

Tesco Goes Online in U.S.
Progressive Grocer via Convenience Store News – April 18, 2007

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market now has a Web site dedicated to providing consumers with company news and information about its stores, culture and philosophy, reported Progressive Grocer, sister company to Convenience Store News.
"It seems obvious. People want fresh, healthy food. People want things to be easy. So we're making our stores that way. How? By filling them with friendly people and high-quality food at affordable prices," the home page states. "Because we're a good neighbor who cares about the environment, we're including energy-efficient equipment in every store. And since we'll be right in the neighborhood, we'll help reduce our customers' travel time and boost local trade."

Along with a newsroom with current and past press information about the company, information on the site includes sections showcasing:

- The Fresh & Easy shopping experience and information on the Fresh & Easy line of products;

- The company's commitment to minimize its impact on the environment;

- The company's commitment to being a good neighbor;

- What it means to be a part of the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market team and details on the application process; and

- A "Your Thoughts" area, where consumers can provide feedback about the company or its stores.

Where We Are - Image Credit: fresh & easy Neighborhood Market Inc.

"As we prepare to open stores in neighborhoods throughout the West, we [want] to provide consumers with a tool to learn more about Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and the opportunities that will be coming into their communities later this year," said Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason.
As planned stores open in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas, specific store locations and details will also be available on the site, the report stated.

Tesco CEO Terry Leahy said earlier this week that he is "increasingly encouraged" by the prospects for success in the U.S. with the new format. Leahy told Reuters the company's startup costs for the U.S. operation were around 65 million pounds ($129 million). He also said he anticipates the U.S. business to be profitable in its third year.

The chain also reported a record 2.55 billion pounds ($5.1 billion) in annual profit, and doubled the amount of its cash dividend to shareholders, Progressive Grocer reported.
Read All>>

The only application left that would really complete the "fresh & easy" information circle would be to launch a compatible Physical World Hyperlink symbology strategy that would direct cellphone users to the information on their site.

UPDATE - June 21, 2007:

TESCO fresh&easy Store Design Concept - We've tried to come up with a distinctive and attractive building which would be a welcome addition to any neighborhood, create the right environment for a fresh&easy shopping trip, but also be much more energy-efficient than a standard store. Hopefully, we've managed to achieve all three. Image Credit: fresh&easy blog

This from a news conference with TESCO in San Diego:

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Reveals San Diego Plans
Store locations and consumer research discussed at press conference.
Convenience Store News Daily - June 21, 2007

SAN DIEGO -- Tesco unveiled seven locations for San Diego-area Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores here yesterday, in addition to details of its research into the consumer market.

The seven sites in the San Diego-area have already been secured and additional locations are being researched, the company stated. The San Diego-area locations include:

• Campo & Kenwood, Casa de Oro
• Catalina & Cannon, Point Loma
• East Vista & Vale Terrace, Vista
• East H & Tierra Del Ray, Chula Vista
• Lake Murray & Navajo, San Diego
• Main & Ammunition, Fallbrook
• Valley & Ash, Escondido
[graphic update below]

This is the third announcement the company has made concerning its locations. Other cities where locations have been revealed include Las Vegas and Phoenix. In addition to these areas, the company will open Fresh & Easy stores throughout Southern California.

“San Diego is filled with vibrant neighborhoods and residents who understand the value of nature’s gifts, from stunning beaches to delicious fruits and vegetables," said Tim Mason, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO. "We think our stores’ approach to bringing fresh, high quality foods to the neighborhood will be a hit with San Diego consumers."

The Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market format is based on extensive customer research in local U.S. markets, along with the learnings from Tesco’s Express format, which it operates more than 1,000 stores in seven countries. For the U.S. launch, Fresh & Easy researchers spent time in the homes of consumers looking at shopping and cooking patterns.

“We literally went into their kitchens and looked in their refrigerators,” said Mason. “Based on our research, we are confident our stores will be a hit in every neighborhood we open in.”

In addition, the company’s research showed it could reach Hispanic consumers by offering a mix of authentic and national brand products that households use, together with low prices, quality meat and produce and a clean store environment, the company stated.
Reference Here>>

Tesco's effort here in the United States is really becoming a case study in drafting and deploying business plans that have a look of success.

One may deride the Tesco effort as having unlimited resources in which to build winning plans but the point still remains ... it is easier to create plans and fail than it is to implement a winning strategy. fresh & easy has the look of a winning strategy.

Area Locations Graphics As Of August 6, 2007:

Los Angeles, CA Area Locations

Los Angeles, CA Area Locations - Graphic Credit: fresh & easy Neighborhood Market Inc.

San Diego, CA Area Locations

San Diego, CA Area Locations - Graphic Credit: fresh & easy Neighborhood Market Inc.

Las Vegas, NV Area Locations

Las Vegas, NV Area Locations - Graphic Credit: fresh & easy Neighborhood Market Inc.

Phoenix, AZ Area Locations

Phoenix, AZ Area Locations - Graphic Credit: fresh & easy Neighborhood Market Inc.

UPDATE: April 1, 2008

Fresh & Easy - "Hollywood, We're Ready For Our Close-Up!" - Tesco's F&E location about 2 blocks west of Highland Avenue on the North side of Hollywood Blvd. just before the store opening on January 23, 2008. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (MAXINE) - 2008

NOT an April Fool - This from Thompson Financial -

Tesco takes three-month breather on US expansion plans

By Kathy Sandler - Thomson Financial | 03.30.08, 2:36 PM ET

LONDON - Tesco PLC has called a three-month hiatus on its US expansion programme to 'kick the tyres' and smooth out the wrinkles following the opening of its first 59 Fresh & Easy stores.

Writing on his internet blog, marketing director for the Fresh & Easy business Simon Uwins said the company will take a three-month break from openings to allow the business to settle down.

The next 3 months will allow us to accelerate this process, before we restart what's been described as an opening programme on steroids,' he said.

Reference Here>>
(ht: Forbes)