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Archive for April, 2008

PRINCETON, NJ–(Marketwire – March 25, 2008) – The Catastrophe Risk Exchange (CATEX) today announced the release of the Pivot Point Mosaic [Version 1.0] Reporting Service, delivering an advanced, web-based reporting solution to its clients.

Information about the initial Mosaic product release was announced Tuesday by CATEX COO Frank Sweeney during an interview on CATEX TV (www.catex.com)at 1530 GMT (11:30 am EDT).

The initial release includes a suite of data cubes that spans every major module of the Pivot Point reinsurance transaction system. Each data cube can be used to generate a broad range of customized reports to meet the business intelligence needs of its clients.

The Mosaic reporting product is built upon, and supports, all of the existing Pivot Point Systems, including the Pivot Point Broker System; the Pivot Point Agency System, and most recently, the Pivot Point Risk-Bearer System. This Pivot Point software platform currently serves client operations in 20 countries; processes premium volumes of more than USD 3 billion annually; and settles financial transactions in 60 currencies.

Frank Sweeney, CATEX COO, said, “Off-the-shelf reporting and business intelligence applications can be very costly to businesses. CATEX can provide a more affordable reporting solution since we can draw upon our innate knowledge of the underlying Pivot Point data structures to speed reporting deployments to our clients.”

The new product is developed entirely using Microsoft web-based technology, and it can therefore be delivered over the Internet to any end user via a web browser. Once deployed, the CATEX Mosaic service will automatically pull a new data set from the Pivot Point system database at the desired time interval (e.g., hourly, daily) set by a client. Mosaic will allow flexible report design and formatting, and once posted, a report can be stored and reused on a regular basis to ensure consistent business reporting over time. By allowing convenient downloads to Excel spreadsheets and various off-line software environments, the new service will remove the need for ad hoc data extracts or transfers to the internal systems of CATEX clients.

Kunal Patel, CATEX Chief Technology Officer, said, “Our goal is to address multiple challenges facing our clients’ IT departments — enterprise-wide business intelligence; ad hoc reporting; access to data; and third-party integration. Our product should enable IT managers to deliver these solutions in a secure, cost-effective way with reduced time-to-market.”

Product deployment options include either a “fully-managed deployment option” where CATEX personnel manage the data cubes, and also prepare and post the requested reports for the client’s review, or a “partially-managed deployment option” where CATEX will train client business or IT specialists to build and deploy the desired reports.

About CATEX:

CATEX is a leading developer of internet-based software products and services for the global reinsurance industry. CATEX also operates the CATEX Global Exchange, an on-line reinsurance marketplace, and CATEX TV, an on-line TV station that broadcasts risk-related news to a growing international audience. The company has been in operation since 1994 and has offices in Princeton, New Jersey and London.

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BOLIVAR, Mo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Duck Creek Technologies, Inc., a provider of product configuration, sales automation, rating and policy administration solutions for the insurance industry, today announced that Everest National Insurance Company has selected Duck Creeks Commercial Policy Administration Solution, a web enabled platform designed to manage the complete commercial lines policy life cycle. The implementation will initially focus on Everests General Liability and Excess & Surplus lines with plans to support other commercial lines in the future.

One of the key factors contributing to Everests selection of Duck Creek was the systems flexibility and tool-based approach that will enable quick development and deployment of new insurance products. Being able to respond quickly to market opportunities in todays competitive marketplace was one of the insurers main objectives.

As a web enabled solution built on service oriented architecture (SOA), the Duck Creek policy administration solution proved a good fit for Everests technology strategy. In addition to the need for a flexible and configurable system, Everest also had a desire to be self-sufficient in order to quickly make product modifications and build new products with minimal ongoing dependence on Duck Creek resources.

We wanted a solution that was tool-based and was consistent with our SOA technology strategy, but we also wanted a system that would enable us to control our own destiny without having to rely on the vendor for every modification, enhancement, and new product. Duck Creek proved to be a good fit on all counts, Sandeep Bajaj, CIO with Everest National Insurance Company.

Everests Executive Vice President and CAO Barry Smith commented, Our selection of Duck Creek was a combination of the strength of their policy administration solution, coupled with the Duck Creek teams depth of insurance industry business knowledge and technical expertise.

Smith continued, With the Duck Creek system, the tools-based technology platform enables our business users for the first time to have easy access to and control of data—so they can more quickly make informed underwriting decisions; allowing us to take advantage of market opportunities with the proper infrastructure.

Duck Creeks Doug Roller, CEO, noted, We are pleased to welcome Everest National Insurance Company to our growing family of clients and thank them for selecting Duck Creek. Our success is the reflection of the ongoing support and vision of our clients combined with the dedication of the Duck Creek team. We look forward to continuing our work with the Everest implementation team to support their companys growth strategy.

About Everest

Everest Re Group, Ltd. is a Bermuda Holding company that operates through the following subsidiaries: Everest Reinsurance Company provides reinsurance to property and casualty insurers in both the U.S. and international markets. Everest Reinsurance (Bermuda), Ltd., including through its branch in the United Kingdom, provides reinsurance and insurance to worldwide property and casualty markets and reinsurance to life insurers. Everest National Insurance Company and Everest Security Insurance Company provide property and casualty insurance to policyholders in the U. S. Everest Indemnity Insurance Company offers excess and surplus lines insurance in the U. S.

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By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Dr Leonid Ponomarenko, associate researcher

Dr Leonid Ponomarenko shows off a device with the transistor embedded

Researchers have built the world’s smallest transistor – one atom thick and 10 atoms wide – out of a material that could one day replace silicon.

The transistor, essentially an on/off switch, has been made using graphene, a two-dimensional material first discovered only four years ago.

Graphene is a single layer of graphite, which is found in the humble pencil.

The transistor is the key building block of microchips and the basis for almost all electronics.

Dr Kostya Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim from The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester have been leading research into the potential application of graphene in electronics and were the first to separate a sheet of the material from graphite

Super material

Graphene has been hailed as a super material because it has many potential applications. It is a flat molecule, with only the thickness of an atom, and both very stable and robust.

The researchers are also looking at its use in display technology – because it is transparent.

The Manchester-based scientists have shown that graphene can be carved into tiny electronic circuits with individual transistors not much larger than a molecule.

Dr Novoselov told BBC News that graphene had many advantages over silicon because it could conduct electricity faster and further.

Silicon will be replaced by graphene
Dr Kostya Novoselov

“These transistors will work and work at ambient, room temperature conditions – just what is required for modern electronics,” he said.

Dr Novoselov said graphene was a “wonderful conductor”, making it a perfect material for chip applications.

“It is already superior to silicon by an order of magnitude and comparable to the best samples of other materials.

“We believe we can increase this mobility of electron flow 10-fold.”

Graphene is a hot topic among semiconductor researchers at the moment because it is an excellent conductor of electricity. Unlike silicon graphene transistors perform better the smaller they become.

Leak electricity

The global semiconductor business is currently built on sand; stamping out microchips from large silicon wafers.

Companies like Intel have a roadmap to reduce the size of circuits on the silicon wafer, down to about 10 nanometres – 10,000 times smaller than the width of a single human hair.

Many researchers believe that producing circuits smaller than 10 nanometres in silicon will be too difficult because they start to leak electricity at that size.

That current silicon roadmap is expected to end in 2020, making the race to find alternative materials potentially very lucrative.

Producing graphene sheets big enough to be used as wafers for chip production remained the biggest hurdle, said Dr Novoselov.

“We can control the cut down to 20 nanometres. And then when we have to scale down to one nanometre we use a bit of luck.

“The yield of the working devices is about 50%.”

Many researchers around the world are working on creating large wafers of graphene.

In order to produce microchips wafers would need to be several inches across. The biggest wafer produced so far is 100 microns across, just a tenth of a millimetre.

Electron microscope view of the graphene transistor

Short and narrow constrictions in graphene can act as high-quality transistors

“I do believe we will find the technology to do this. And when we do silicon will be replaced by graphene,” said Dr Novoselov.

Professor Bob Westervelt, in an assessment of the material and its future application in the journal Science, wrote: “Graphene is an exciting new material with unusual properties that are promising for nanoelectronics.

“The future should be very interesting.”

Dr Novoselov added: “Given the material was first obtained by us four years ago, we are making good progress.”

He said the process of using graphene to build circuits was very compatible with silicon technology.

“At the moment we use all the same steps to make a transistor as is done by the silicon industry. So once we have large wafers of graphene it should be straightforward to use the same process.”

But it might be another 10 years before the first integrated circuits on graphene chips appear, he said.

Shorter term

In the shorter term graphene could be used in LCD displays to replace materials used to create transparent conductive coatings.

“The computer screen relies on good transparent conductors. But current materials are expensive and hard to produce.

“Graphene is only one atom thin so is absolutely transparent – it’s a really wonderful conductor.

“We propose to use it as a transparent conductor, using small interconnecting graphene sheets all together.”

The material is also being touted for use in solar panels, transparent window coatings and also for sensing technologies.

Dr Kostya Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim from The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester presented their findings in the 17 April issue of Science.

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Internet law professor Michael Geist looks at the way that cable firms are starting to shackle the net access they offer.

Ethernet cable, Eyewire

Some cable firms are treating net access like they do TV scheduling

When cable companies began promoting high-speed internet services nearly a decade ago, many branded them “the internet on cable”.

Years later, those services are gradually morphing into “the internet as cable” as broadcasters and service providers steadily move toward the delivery of content online that bears a striking resemblance to the conventional cable model.

Cable television has its virtues – some consumer choice, the ability to time shift programs by recording them with a VCR or PVR, and video on-demand – but it is largely built around limiting consumer control.

Cable distributors determine channel choices, geographic distribution, and commercial substitution (typically with input from a broadcast regulator), offer only limited interactivity, and quietly even possess the ability to stop consumers from recording some programs.

Until recently, the internet was precisely the opposite, offering unlimited user choice, continuous interactivity, and technological capabilities to copy and remix content.

That is gradually changing as broadcasters seek to re-assert greater geographic control over their content and service providers experiment with cable-like models for prioritised content delivery.

Prof Michael Geist (Michael Geist)
…if broadcasters and service providers are left to their own devices, it appears that they are increasingly ready to redefine the internet on cable to the internet as cable.
Michael Geist

The re-emergence of geographic borders on the internet coincides with broadcasters finally jumping on the internet bandwagon, as they race to make their content freely available online.

Some US broadcasters are selling downloads through services such as Apple iTunes or Amazon.com, yet the unmistakable trend is toward free, ad-supported streaming of content mere hours after it first appears on commercial television.

Each major US broadcaster already offers a handful of shows in this manner with ambitious plans to expand their services in the months ahead.

NBC and Fox recently unveiled Hulu.com to some critical acclaim, while Comedy Central created a new site for the popular Daily Show that features a complete archive of eight years of programming.

Non-Americans, alas, are generally locked out of these sites due to licensing restrictions.

Foreign broadcasters have been scrambling to buy the internet rights to US programming, both to protect their local broadcasts and to beef up their online presence.

US broadcasters may eventually decide it is more profitable to stream their content on a worldwide basis and to remove longstanding geographic restrictions, however, for the moment they are parceling up the internet as they would a broadcast destined for multiple cable markets.

Jon Stewart, AP

The Daily Show has proved popular on net video sites

This geographic bordering extends beyond just blocking streamed content. For example, the new Daily Show site is off-limits for Canadians since the US-based Comedy Central recently took the unprecedented step of redirecting Canadian visitors to the Canadian-owned Comedy Network site.

Broadcasters are not alone in working to bring the cable model of control to the internet.

Large net service firms are engaged in similar activities, with a history of blocking access to contentious content, limiting bandwidth for alternative content delivery channels, and raising the prospect of levying fees for priority content delivery.

While these issues had been perceived to be predominantly North American concerns, they are beginning to surface elsewhere.

For example, when earlier this year the BBC launched its internet-based iPlayer, several broadband providers floated the prospect of charging the BBC for delivering its content on their networks.

These issues may ultimately sort themselves out.

Users have many easily-obtainable tools to defeat geographic blocking and net firms may find themselves subject to net neutrality legislation if they continue to abuse the public’s trust by failing to maintain their networks in a transparent, neutral fashion.

Yet if broadcasters and service providers are left to their own devices, it appears that they are increasingly ready to redefine the internet on cable to the internet as cable.


Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at http://www.michaelgeist.ca.

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Lawrence Lessig, Lawrence Lessig

Lessig: One of the net’s founding principles is under threat

Tough action is required by US regulators to protect the principles that have made the net so successful, a leading digital rights lawyer has said.

Professor Lawrence Lessig was speaking at a public meeting to debate the tactics some net firms use to manage data traffic at busy times.

He said the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) should act to keep all net traffic flowing equally.

The FCC said net firms had a duty to tell customers about data management.

No more rules

The seven-hour public meeting was held at Stanford University and featured presentations from Prof Lessing, songwriters, network administrators and net engineers.

Prof Lessig said one of the principles that guided the foundation of the net was that all traffic should flow equally across it.

This principle of net neutrality, he said, was being eroded as net firms manage traffic and place restrictions on what their domestic broadband customers can do.

Consumers must be fully informed of the exact nature of the service they are purchasing
Kevin Martin, FCC

The meeting was called by the FCC in reaction to the news that US net firm Comcast had been exposed as managing traffic by stopping some of its 13m customers uploading files to BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks.

The FCC has started a formal investigation to see if Comcast merits a fine for its actions.

In response to the publicity surrounding its actions, Comcast has said it would change its policy.

In the UK many net firms manage traffic at peak times in a bid to ensure that everyone gets the highest broadband speed possible.

Prof Lessig said there had to be clear rules, perhaps involving financial incentives, to force net firms to respect net neutrality. Current rules, he warned, meant that many firms were tempted to manage traffic to protect profits.

At the meeting the two Democrats who sit on the five-strong FCC board said it needed new powers to make sure net firms complied with net neutrality principles.

But the two Republican commissioners on the board warned against over-burdening net firms with more rules.

Summing up, FCC chairman Kevin Martin said its net policies were powerful enough but just needed to be properly enforced.

He said there was nothing wrong with net firms managing traffic as long as they kept customers fully informed.

“There must be adequate disclosures of the particular traffic management tools,” said Mr Martin. “Consumers must be fully informed of the exact nature of the service they are purchasing.”

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