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Technology in the News

News & Publications: Technology

Technology in the News

by Tim Roar

The articles referenced here provide a peek into the opportunities and complexities of using cutting-edge technologies in the modern business world.  In addition to a brief summary of each article, a link to an external Web site is provided which, as of the time of this publication, contains a full text version of the referenced publication.

Is Dashboard Technology a Help Or Just a New Big Brother?
Carol Hymonwitz, The Wall Street Journal Online

Dashboard programs have quickly become a favorite management information tool among corporate decision makers. Dashboards are being set up to track company performance, measure human resource metrics and even monitor enterprise risk management targets. In her article “Is Dashboard Technology a Help Or Just a New Big Brother?” Carol Hymonwitz discusses this popular new tool and lists several of the benefits and concerns about the shift to real-time management information. The primary benefit is that actionable information is now easily accessible to decision makers at the click of a mouse. In addition, dashboards tend to provide an integrated picture of the entire company in a consistent format.  The perceived downside is that management will become nearsighted and overreact to short-term phenomena while losing sight of long-term strategic goals. Clearly, management must be cognizant of these concerns, but the potential power of on-demand management information is hard to ignore. 

The Battle to Stop Bird Flu
Thomas Goetz, Wired Magazine

“All science is simulation these days.” As the deputy division leader of computational sciences at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Steven Lee should know better than anyone about the amazing advances in “Sim Science” in recent years. Thomas Goetz’s article, “The Battle to Stop Bird Flu” discusses the application of computer simulations to model catastrophes such as a dirty bomb detonation, a smallpox outbreak or pandemic influenza. These simulations are on the front lines of an effort to develop realistic models than can be used to shape public policy and emergency readiness.  Simulations in the past have shown that response time is critical; however, recent simulations on the spread of the avian flu have shown that it will be very difficult to stop the spread of the disease in human populations once it starts. This is due to a combination of factors including the generic symptoms of the disease, the fact that many are infected and contagious without knowing it, and the rapid ability for the disease to spread along commercial air travel. The simulations are now being used to determine the most effective strategy for rationing vaccines and other medical treatments in the event of a widespread pandemic.

Models such as these are an advanced extension of the actuarial projections used for insurance pricing, asset/liability modeling or pension funding. As hardware becomes more powerful, it will become increasingly practical to build in more complexity and realism into these types of models as well.

Faced with Disaster, Pan American Bounces Back
Tammy J. McInturff, Copyright by LOMA

Insurance companies are required to hold sufficient reserves and capital to meet policyholder obligations in the event of a major disaster. But what if that catastrophe affects not only the company’s policyholders, but it hits the company itself? New Orleans based Pan-American Life Insurance Company learned first hand the importance of maintaining and, more importantly, of executing a disaster recovery plan. Well in advance of hurricane Katrina, Pan-American had prepared a plan to deal with communication issues, technical platforms and business systems. The company responded by executing the plan to ensure business continuity and by temporarily moving its operations to a remote location in Dallas. They have since re-opened operations in New Orleans’ Central Business District.