ITUpdate for December 2014

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» University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers are examining the effect of the Music and Memory program on dementia patients. The team is monitoring the mental state of 1,500 Alzheimer's and dementia patients at Wisconsin nursing homes who receive iPods. The program will be expanded to an additional 150 Wisconsin nursing homes in 2015.

» Researchers at MIT, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital have devised a new way to coat button batteries — the flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators and other devices — with a special material that prevents them from conducting electricity after being swallowed. In animal tests, they found that such batteries did not damage the gastrointestinal tract at all, according to a study that appeared recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

» When it comes to Twitter, having a larger number of followers is much more important than a user's activity or number of tweets, finds research conducted at Technical University in Madrid. According to the study, published in Social Networks, the way in which users send messages within heterogeneous networks like Twitter does not matter because there is always going to be a highly influential minority. Tweets that more popular people or institutions send are spread more and have greater impact, even though they often send very few. 

» Health insurer Aetna Inc. spent $400 million in November to acquire the privately held Chicago-based company Bswift, which provides technology for benefits administration and insurance purchases on private exchanges. Lockheed Martin also announced in late October it had bought Systems Made Simple, a technology company that performs health data analytics and management work for government agencies, for an undisclosed sum.

» Guests checking in to a limited number of Starwood Hotels and Resorts can now access their hotel room through their smartphone. The company rolled the system out in 10 hotels in November, and expects to expand the program to three additional hotel chains, covering more than 30,000 rooms, by early 2015. 



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