Degradable case developed
Scientists at Britain's University of Warwick have designed a high-tech solution to a growing junk problem: a cellphone case made of biodegradable polymer. It looks smart, it feels cool, and it breaks down on the compost heap into a pile of soil nutrients. What is more, it flowers. That is because engineers have put a tiny transparent window in the case or cover in which they embed a dwarf sunflower seed. This lies dormant in its plastic sheath until the phone cover lands in the soil. In Europe alone, more than 100 million old phones are thrown away each year. Their electronic innards can be taken apart to extract precious metals, but the composite cases are not much use to anyone. In Britain, new laws may soon require cellphone makers to take their products back and separate the plastic parts.
Mahathir down on the dollar
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad urged countries and companies yesterday to curb their reliance on the US dollar and increase their holdings in the euro and the yen. "Euros, pounds and yen would be safer to keep than [the] US dollar," Mahathir said in a speech given to an East Asian conference of government officials and business leaders. "I would urge countries and businesses to switch to euro and yen [holdings] or buy gold." Mahathir said the move would help countries from being hurt too much by oil price increases, which were considerably higher when measured in US dollars compared to the other currencies. "The US dollar no longer reflects the true value or wealth of nations," he said. Mahathir, who retired in October last year, did not say whether he believed his country should alter its currency peg, which was imposed in 1998 amid the Asian economic crisis.
Fujitsu, Cisco join forces
Electronics maker Fujitsu and Internet technology giant Cisco have agreed to work together on developing high-end routers used for advanced Internet networks in Japan, the two companies announced yesterday. The alliance will take advantage of California-based Cisco Systems Inc's leadership in Internet protocol technology and Tokyo-based Fujitsu Ltd's edge in networking products. The companies will work together to develop router operating systems for Japanese providers, and Fujitsu will offer routing products under a joint Fujitsu and Cisco brand, with the first product expected in the spring.
■ Digital Cameras
Sanyo chooses China
Sanyo plans to buy nearly all parts for its digital cameras from China by the end of next year to help offset falling retail prices for the finished product, a company official was quoted as saying yesterday. Japan's third-largest consumer electronics maker currently secures about 50 percent of digital-camera parts in China with the rest coming from Japan or South Korea. However, it intends to shift by the end of next year to nearly 100 percent procurement from China, where costs are lower, Sanyo Electric managing director Hiroshi Ono said in a report in the Tokyo Shimbun. Sanyo will also send on components bought in China to other parts of Asia for assembly, Ono said. As digital cameras go mainstream, prices have dropped sharply, spelling trouble for electronics makers. Both Sanyo and Olympus saw profits plunge in their last six-month earnings.