Downtime: Waiter, there's a microchip in my chicken

Waiter, there's a microchip in my chicken

Waiter, there's a microchip in my chicken

Readers of Computer Weekly will know that bird flu is a subject we hold close to our plucked breast. So it is heartening to hear that Digital Angel, which proudly calls itself the world's largest manufacturer of implantable microchips for animals, is planning to introduce biothermal RFID chips on a "sampling" of the world's 25 billion chickens as an early warning system for bird flu.

Avian flu is usually only identifiable through outward signs such as beak discolouration or, in more extreme cases, sudden death.

Digital Angel is proposing that it tags one bird in every 250 in a flock, and is already in talks with health ministries across Asia.

Kevin McGrath, president of Digital Angel, said that although a temperature spike in a single chicken may not be caused by avian flu, if a wider group all register the same increase it could give a much needed early sign of a problem. The chickens themselves, however, are so far unavailable for comment.

It's pod's law as solicitor offers some sound advice

Regional law firms don't usually find themselves at technology's bleeding edge, but Fisher Jones Greenwood of Colchester has ventured into that beguiling territory by offering what are believed to be the UK's first legal-advice podcasts.

Some clich‚s die hard, however. The decision to start podcasting was, it seems, prompted in part by senior partner Tony Fisher's attempts to keep up with the technological whims of his four teenage sons.

To emphasise the point, in case you missed it, Fisher explains, "Solicitors can be seen as old-fashioned and unapproachable. By podcasting our advice guides we hope to encourage a younger audience to seek legal advice."

Long arm of the paw as hounds get snapping

Northumbria Police is testing two new additions to its dog squad, Sammy and Zara, who are due to spend their tour of duty rigged up to a digital camera system with infrared capabilities.

The press release helpfully notes that the cameras will be able to transmit their images "via a wireless link". Good to get that cleared up - Downtime had visions of our two furry friends trailing miles of cable around the streets in the name of policing.

The cameras are mounted on the dog's harness or attached to its head via a chin strap, so we are clearly not talking about a McIntyre-style concealed device.

As if they didn't have enough on their plates, Sammy and Zara have also been trained to deliver mobile phones to criminals during a hostage situation.

Downtime salutes them.

Give your neighbour the gift of turning them in

Here is a great way to spread some Christmas cheer from the comfort of your mobile phone.

East Riding Council in Yorkshire is extolling the virtues of its "text a fraud" service, which lets concerned citizens use their mobiles to shop their neighbours if they suspect benefit fraud.

Apparently the service has prompted a rise in benefit fraud "referrals" of 10% in the past six months, saving the state an estimated £435,000 so far.

Downtime humbly suggests that the money saved would be put to excellent use by "our boys" in Iraq. Heartwarming stuff.

CRM software top gun joins the fighter jet set

The founder of Capita's latest acquisition, Quay Software Solutions, is spending his windfall wisely. Roland Rawicz-Szczerbo, who set up the business with co-founder Mitchell Philpott in 1995, is going to buy a second-hand fighter jet.

His only dilemma is whether to buy the YAK52, the more aerobatic Extra300, or a Mig, as favoured by Oracle's Larry Ellison. Tough call.

Multicore bog developer lands plumb job at Intel

The developer of an intelligent toilet has been plopped into place as Intel's new chief technology officer. Justin Rattner, formerly a senior fellow at Intel, earned his promotion after proposing a 100-core chip for a toilet that analyses users' stools. His knowledge of multicore technology will stand Rattner in good stead to pooh-pooh the opposition in the emerging multicore processor market.

The search for weapons of mobile storage

With the MP3 player on plenty of people's Christmas wishlists, some security types are already getting hot under the collar about the dangers of office staff using the gizmo as an all-purpose mobile storage device.

Encryption specialist Pointsec is recommending that firms start the new year as they mean to go on - by spelling out the risks involved in the gravest possible terms to all staff.

"Companies need to wake up to this threat and control and manage their use within the business environment," warns Martin Allen, Pointsec's managing director.

Downtime isn't quite sure whether to believe him, but in the meantime suggests that all staff be required to undergo a full, MP3-seeking body search each morning - just in case.


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