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U.S. Homeland Security, TEDCO, Scouting for Tech Firms

The Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) is looking for five tech firms that can help protect Americans against terrorist and other threats.

TEDCO has partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Army to identify small companies that are developing unique security technology.

TEDCO is managing a $1.5 million federal program that will award a total of 11 grants, at $75,000 each, to the winning companies. Six grants have been awarded so far and all have gone to Maryland companies. 

They are: TRX Systems, developer of Sentrix system; Smart Imaging Systems, robotic X-ray scanner; ES&T, explosive device solution; GenArraytion, biodefense; QuickSilver Analytics, field sampling kits; and BioFactura, biodefense.
This is not the first time TEDCO has managed a grant program for the military. For example, it recently did so for Fort Detrick and Aberdeen Proving Grounds in their request for proposals for technology companies.

TEDCO’s partners in the current program are the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, the research and development arm of the agency, and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the army’s main material developer. The technology must meet the needs of either or both of the partners, and can be in a variety of fields, from biodefense to robotics.
While TEDCO is not soliciting companies, the grant program is an open process. Applications for grants are still being accepted, and are available on TEDCO’s Web site, Robert Rosenbaum, TEDCO's president and executive director.
“We will release awards as companies are accepted,” he says.
Since the program began earlier this year, TEDCO has received about 45 grant requests from companies around the country. Of the 11 grants, six have been awarded. Five more grants are still to be awarded.

“It says a lot about the innovation that goes on in Maryland,” says Rosenbaum about the all-Maryland roster of grants so far.
Source: Robert Rosenbaum, TEDCO
Writer: Barbara Pash

Green Street Academy Plots Expansion

Green Street Academy, a Baltimore City public school, will more than double enrollment and relocate to a new home to accommodate the expanded student population.

That's according to Green Street Co-founder and Chairman David Warnock who calls the academy a "transformation" school. Warnock says that means it operates within the public school system and is funded by the Baltimore City school system, along with $500,000 from corporate sponsors and private donors. The city school system also provides administrative and janitorial services, unlike a charter school that operates totally independent of the school system.

Besides the standard academic studies, the academy focuses on the environment and sustainability. “We use the green economy to inspire kids. We work with our corporate and private partners to create real world skills,” says Warnock.
The academy opened in fall of 2011 with 270 middle school students in grades 6, 7 and 8. In fall 2013, it will add a 9th grade and a 6th grade class, turning it into a combined middle/high school. When fully built out, Warnock expects the school to have about 700 students. Acceptance is by lottery.

“We will follow the students through high school,” Warnock says.

The academy is currently housed in a public school building, the former West Baltimore Middle School, on North Bend Road. To accommodate the increased enrollment, Warnock is searching for a new, larger home, preferably on the city's west side. He expects to move within the next two years. Warnock is raising money for the new home but declined to give a figure.
To showcase their skills, academy students are hosting an expo June 6-8 for parents, sponsors and community members. Energy and environmentally focused businesses will give demonstrations, sponsored by Accenture. Chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen will give a cooking demonstration from the academy’s own tilapia farm (in the school basement). Students will race the electric vehicles they’ve built, sponsored by Constellation Energy.
Source: David Warnock, Green Street Academy
Writer: Barbara Pash

Second Annual Hackathon To Offer More Cash Prizes

Geeks get their day once again at Baltimore's 2nd annual Hackathon. The event promises to be bigger, better and, most importantly, more lucrative than the first hackathon, held in 2010.

Described as a "high-tech science fair," the original hackathon attracted hobbyists, students and professional programmers who, in a couple of days, were supposed to take their tech idea from concept to creation. Ideas ranged from software handling organizational systems to transcription service. 

The same format applies to the 2nd Hackathon, which runs from June 8 at 6 p.m. through June 10 at 6 p.m. at the headquarters of Advertising.com, located at 1020 Hull St. in the Locust Point neighborhood. 

"We're trying to make it an annual event. The idea is for people to come together and [during those three days] work on projects that are technical in nature, either software or hardware,” says organizer Jason Denney, a member of Baltimore Node, a member-run space for hacker space.

There are hackathons all over the country. Since the first Baltimore hackathon, says Denney, two more sponsors have been added to the original five. This has enabled the organizers to add more prize money. This year's sponsors are Northrop Grumman, Looking Glass, Advertising.com, Paypal, Code for America, smart logic and Thunderbolt Labs. 

At the first event, a prize was given for best overall hardware or software project, team or individual. This year, there will still be a best overall hardware or software prize. But, in addition, there will be prizes for smart design, most difficult technology, aesthetics and public service project. Winners in each category will receive a $600 cash prize.

Organizers are hoping to increase attendance from the original event's 70 people to 100. Denney says anyone can register and compete for the prizes. Registration and tickets are online. A nominal fee covers entrance, food and a T-shirt. 

Source: Jason Denney, 2nd annual Hackathon
Writer: Barbara Pash

UMBC Incubator Gets New Cyber Security Firms

The incubator at University of Maryland, Baltimore County has gotten an influx of new tenants, the majority of whom are responding to the increased demand for cyber security. 

bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park currently hosts 86 incubator and early-stage tenants and 14 affiliated companies and organizations, according to Gregory Simmons, the park's vice president for institutional advancement.

Of the tenants, nearly 20 have joined the park in the past 18 months alone. They include Fearless Solutions, Rogue Technology, AIS (Assured Information Security) Inc., all of which are in the cyber security field.  Simmons says that most of the new tenants are also in that field, often in the area of securing data and networks, in medical, defense and financial services, among others.
“They offer a broad array of services," Simmons says.
He attributes the interest in cyber security at the park to a number of factors, from the Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) process going on at nearby Fort Meade to the number of federal agencies in the area.
Other factors are the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), whose computer science department is well known in the field, and the state of Maryland, which for the past two years has been establishing itself as a cyber-hub for companies and jobs.

"UMBC is excited about supporting the cyber Maryland initiative by preparing the workforce of tomorrow, supporting entrepreneurs and working to strengthen the Maryland economy," says Simons. 
Of the new tenants, the few that are not in cyber security are in fields that mirror the strengths of UMBC for life sciences, clean energy and IT.
Located on a 71-acre campus in Baltimore County’s Catonsville community, the park consists of eight buildings with 500,000-square feet of office and lab space.

Source: Gregory Simmons, bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park
Writer: Barbara Pash

Columbia Neighborhood Center Gets Solar Energy

A Columbia Association neighborhood center is getting some of its energy from the sun.

ATR Solartech installed 1  ii iininins2 solar tracking systems at the River Hill Pool and the River Hill Neighborhood Center in Howard County's Clarksville. 
Robert Lundahl, ATR's vice president of automation systems, says it is also in discussion with the Columbia Association about the installation of a solar car-charging station. The charging station would provide electricity for electric vehicles.
However, unlike other such stations, which derive their power from an electrical source, the ATR station would also have solar tracking devices to collect energy to offset the power used by the electric vehicles. 
Columbia Association is looking at locations for a station, Lundahl says. 

Lundahl says the River Hill installation is the first the Columbia-headquartered company has completed with the Columbia Association, although talks are underway for other projects similar to River Hill’s.
Lundahl says that each of the River Hill systems consists of two solar panels mounted on a motorized tracker that calculates the position of the sun and automatically follows it during the day. The solar tracker produces 30 to 34 percent more energy than regular fixed solar panels, he says.
The systems are designed to convert energy to grid-tied power and, on average, will provide more than 26 kilowatt hours per day. The total cost of the 12 systems was $35,000, for the solar trackers, installation and wiring, he says.
“With solar rebates and incentives," says Lundahl, “the installation will pay for itself in less than six years," then continue to operate for at least another 15 years.

Source: Robert Lundahl, ATR Solartech
Writer: Barbara Pash; innovationnews@bmoremedia.com

Gates Foundation Grant Goes To Hopkins Researcher

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to improve the health of mothers and children in rural, hard-to-reach areas by increasing vaccine coverage.
Dr. Alain Labrique, director of the Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative, received a Grand Challenges Exploration Grant from the Gates foundation. This is the first time that Labrique and Hopkins’s public health school have received this particular grant although members of Labrique’s team have received other Gates’ grants.
“Grand Challenges pioneered funding for innovative research, for researchers to receive seed funding to take their ideas to the next level,” Labrique says. He is working with a team to develop a virtual vaccine registry, called mTikka. Part of the study will look at the impact of mobile phones on rural health delivery. 
Labrique says the registry builds on 12 years of public health work in rural Bangladesh, particularly on behalf of maternal, neonatal and child nutrition and survival. His team works in partnership with the Bangladesh ministry of health and family welfare and social enterprise partners mPower Health. mTikka will be test-piloted in rural, remote areas of Bangladesh for future use in other developing countries.
The Grand Challenges grant covers a 12- to 18-month long period. Researchers can reapply for another Grand Challenges grant after that but “you cannot hold more than one seed grant at a time,” Labrique says.
Grand Challenges grants have two levels, each with its own requirements. The Phase 1 grants are for $100,000 each. The Phase 2 grants start at $1 million. Will Labrique be applying for a Phase 2 grant in the future? “Oh, certainly,” he says.
Source: Dr. Alain Labrique, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Writer: Barbara Pash

Maryland AG Office, MedChi Launch Insurance Watch

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office and MedChi, the state medical society, are partnering in a program that protects consumers from insurance company abuses. Launched last month, Insurance Watch enables physicians in the state to file complaints online on behalf of their patients.

The Attorney General’s Health Education and Advocacy Unit  has long accepted written claims filed by physicians when an insurance company refuses to cover a patient’s medical care and other insurance payment issues.

MedChi asked to be involved when a survey found that physicians were not filing the paper forms. “We wanted to make it easy for physicians,” MedChi CEO Gene Ransom says.

Physicians can opt to have the complaint sent to the Attorney General’s Office only or to MedChi as well. If they choose the latter, MedChi will monitor the complaint, which often goes to mediation.

According to David Paulson, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, more than 2,000 complaints were filed in 2011, resulting in over $1 million in claims and recovery on behalf of patients.

With the new, online system, Paulson expects the number of filed complaints to increase. “The doctors are pleased” with Insurance Watch, he says. “It’s a smart way to communicate with them, and for them to communicate with their patients.”

Che Parker, spokesman for Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic, says the health insurer has no objections to the program.

“Doctors and patients are free to use established processes and procedures to surface concerns to insurance regulators and other venues established for that purpose,” he says. “We trust those concerns will be appropriately resolved in those venues.”

Sources: Gene Ransom, MedChi; David Paulson, Maryland Attorney General’s Office; Che Parker, Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic
Writer: Barbara Pash

New iPad Magazine Celebrates Small Spaces

Imagine a German architect colliding with Charm City’s design sensibilities.  
That’s exactly what Daryl Landy did when naming his new iPad magazine Rohous.
Yes, the name is a take on Baltimore’s ubiquitous rowhouses. Now you see what we mean? There's even a bar over the first O. 
Though the magazine launched this month, it’s been at least 10 years in the making – obviously long before the launch of the iPad, Landy says.
The former director of Pigtown Main Street Street, who holds a masters degree in industrial design, says he has always been interested in home furnishings and architecture and living well in small spaces. Rohous highlights homes and businesses that contain less than 1,200 square feet.
“I never understood why people had to have 5,000 square feet and they use just two rooms,” Landy says. “I just thought it was a lot of waste.”
Landy himself renovated his 1,100-square-foot Pigtown rowhouse.
The magazine will feature small spaces around the world, not just in Smalltimore. The debut issue highlights homes in Paris, Amsterdam, Marrakech and Barcelona. Rohous takes a look at smaller restaurants as well.
A 12-month subscription costs $9.99 for the first 1,000 subscribers. Thereafter, it costs $12.00. It’s available on the iPad and soon, on other tablets. You can read it on your desktop and laptop as well.
“It seems like the timing is perfect,” Landy says of the new magazine. “We’ve been seeing a lot of things about people who are forced to downsize.”
Writer: Julekha Dash; julekha@bmoremedia.com
Source: Daryl Landy, Rohous

U.S. Army Hiring 400 for Cyber Defense

The U.S. Army  is looking for a few good men and women. 

The 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, the Army’s cyber systems intelligence and security unit at Fort George G. Meade, in Anne Arundel County, has embarked on a civilian recruitment effort.

"The Army established this emerging mission," Gregory Platt, the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade's senior civilian advisor, says of cyber threats, "and we are fleshing out the staff."

Over the next three years, the Brigade is hiring a total of 400 employees, starting with about 100 new employees this fiscal year and another 70 to 75 new employees per year until fiscal year 2015. The civilian employees will join 800 active duty military personnel who will work for the Brigade. 

Most of the civilian employees will work at Fort Meade but some will be assigned to Fort Gordon, Georgia, Platt says.

Prospective workers must be fully cleared for the positions. Platt says the jobs require technical and/or computer skills, especially those that apply to cyberspace operations like analytical skills and strategic planning.

“We specialize in operating systems and network topology,” he says. “We are looking for folks with experience and a desire to grow,” he says.

The salaries are competitive with private industry, and can be viewed on the U.S. Army web site, he says.

In 2010, the U.S. Army approved the creation of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, the first of its kind, with help from the National  ecurity Agency, Department of Defense and U.S. Cyber Command, Army and Congressional staff, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command. In 2011, the Brigade was activated to support U.S. and Army Cyber Commands with their missions to provide a proactive cyber defense. The Brigade was officially activated in the fall.

Source: Gregory Platt, U.S. Army 780th Military Intelligence Brigade
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Funds Climate Action Plan

Baltimore City is spending $150,000 to create a Climate Action Plan as part of the city’s overall sustainability initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015.

The city adopted the sustainability plan in 2009 but it wasn’t until this year that there was funding to implement it. Beth Strommen, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, says Baltimore received $6.1 million from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for a variety of energy projects, among them the climate action plan.

“Our goal is to help Baltimore be a more sustainable city, with environmental education and green buildings,” Strommen says.

But Baltimore has unique challenges.

Unlike many cities where the major source of greenhouse gas emissions is vehicle-related, in Baltimore the emissions are overwhelmingly come from commercial and residential buildings. That's because 40 percent of the housing stock was built prior to 1939.

"We are an old city with old houses," Strommen says. 

The Climate Action Plan will have different short-term and long-term goals, by 2020 and 2030, respectively. Stommen says the city has hired AECOM Technology Corp., a global company with expertise in climate action plans, to create the plan.

The plan will look at such issues as land use, green infrastructure, water and waste.

“We are including an adaptation piece,” says Strommen. “How do we adapt to extreme weather events, and to flooding in the Inner Harbor? How do we minimize economic loss? And, also, minimize loss of life with, for example, cooling centers.”

Strommen did not have a timetable for the plan’s completion. Once it is ready, Baltimore City has already received two grants, for a total of $107,000, to begin putting the recommendations in place. The city is also seeking additional federal and state money to implement the plan.
Source: Beth Strommen, Baltimore City Office of Sustainability
Writer: Barbara Pash

Printing Company Adds Packaging Division

RPM Solutions Group has turned a small package into a big win. 

In less than a year, the printing company's small carton packaging division has 50 customers, including out-of-state in California and Kansas.

The economy has taken its toll on the printing industry, Joe Cavey, president of RPM, a 26-year-old commercial printer in Baltimore. Small companies in particular could not afford to use printing services, adds Cavey. So the executive came up with the idea for its Short Run Carton Packaging Division to diversify the business. 
RPM prints books, pamphlets, brochures, pocket holders and other material. It also does digital printing with variable personalization and has in-house mailing capabilities.
The carton division makes small-size containers in small numbers or, in the jargon, runs, from 500 on up to 10,000. The biggest container it makes is 12” wide by 12” deep by 6” tall.
Cavey says the small-size containers are used by a variety of companies, including startups, private labels and companies that are rebranding. Cosmetic firms, software firms, pharmaceuticals and confectioners are among its clients. 
“They don’t need 20,000 or 30,000 containers," Cavey says of RPM's clients. "They need 1,000 or 5,000 packages to put eyeliner, mascara or soap in,” he says.
Customers can provide RPM with their logos or the company will create one for them.
Cavey figures he has a handful of competitors on the East Coast.  “We have found a niche for the short runs.”
He is operating the carton division with his current 28 employees but says he may hire more staff as it grows.
Source: Joe Cavey, RPM Solutions Group
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Gets First Fleet Of Propane Taxis

Veolia Transportation launched the first taxi fleet in Baltimore powered by propane gas last Friday. Baltimore is the second city in the national transportation company’s roll-out of propane-powered taxis, with Denver first and Pittsburgh to follow.
Veolia is starting with 25 taxis in Baltimore but expects to add another 25 taxis in the next month, for a total of 50, as parts arrive. Dwight Kines, regional vice president for Veolia, says the propane tanks can be installed in any full-size automobile. In Baltimore, they are being installed in the Ford Crown Victorias that the fleet uses.
Veolia is Baltimore City’s largest operator of taxicab services. Operating under the names Yellow, Checker, and Sun Cabs in Baltimore City, and Jimmy’s Cab in Baltimore County, the company has a fleet of nearly 700 vehicles.
Kines says that of its 580 taxicabs in Baltimore City, 430 are privately-owned and 150 are company-owned. “Eventually we will convert all of our cabs to propane and will offer [conversion] to the private owners,” Kines says.
So far, private owners have been reluctant to convert to propane but Kines expects that to change as gas prices rise. The company installed a fueling station for propane, a form of natural gas, which currently sells for $2.45 per gallon. With gas, a Ford Crown Victoria gets 12 miles per gallon; with propane, 23 to 25 miles per gallon.
“We get fuel economy and a cheaper cost per gallon,” Kines says, adding that because propane is a “cleaner” fuel” than gas, there is less air pollution and also less wear on the vehicle’s engine.
The company looked at other clean energy options like electric vehicles, but decided on propane. Veolia received a grant from Virginia Clean Cities for the propane conversion. The Southeast Propane Autogas Development Program, a public-private partnership, provided the grant money to Virginia Clean Cities.
Veolia operates in about a dozen cities. Kines says that after Pittsburgh, the company is considering Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fl., for further roll-outs. Eventually, plans call for a total of 300 of its cabs nationwide to be converted to propane.
“We are setting an example,” he says of the Baltimore roll-out.  “We hope other fleets in the city follow our lead.”
Source: Dwight Kines, Veolia Transportation
Writer: Barbara Pash; innovationnews@bmoremedia.com


Howard County Event Connects Entrepreneurs With Investors

The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, an initiative of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, wants to ignite entrepreneurship in the county. To that end, the development authority is sponsoring its first-ever Race for Innovation, and hoping that it is the spark the sets the fire.
The event is scheduled for Tues. June 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel.  
The idea is for teams to work with coaches to develop ideas into business concepts, which are then pitched to investors.

"We want to drive more innovation and ideas” in Howard County, says Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, located in the development group's Columbia office. “At the same time, we want to bring intellectual property” into the county.
Gloria Jacobovitz, program director, calls the event “high energy.” Says Jacobovitz, “We came up with the idea to help business development. An event like this usually takes a weekend but we will do it in a few hours.”
Jacobovitz notes that the event gives entrepreneurs and start-up companies an opportunity to interact with investors. “They are going to work together. It will create synergy between them,” says Jacobovitz, who expects 100 participants at the event.
The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship was launched in December 2011. The event is an attempt to branch out to the broader entrepreneurship community, says Kirk, and thus it is open to all, not only Howard County residents.
“We are hoping to start a bunch of new jobs in Howard County,” Kirk says. “That’s why we are doing this event.”
Sources: Julie Lenzer Kirk, Gloria Jacobovitz, Howard County Economic Development Authority, Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship
Writer: Barbara Pash, innovationnews@bmoremedia.com

Parking Panda Drives Into Philly, San Fran, With New Funding

Parking Panda, the Baltimore startup that finds a spot to put your car, is cruising into new cities and attracting new funding.

Within a few months, it will begin marketing in Philadelphia, its third site. San Francisco, Chicago and Boston are next on the list. Last month, it expanded to Washington, D.C. The company recently received $250,000 from investors, with another $250,000 in the works, CEO Nick Miller says. Miller founded the firm in 2001 with Adam Zilberbaum, chief technology officer. 

The company doesn't have exact dates for the expansions after Washington, D.C., says Miller. In part, it depends on demand and how many parking spaces can be arranged. 
Parking Panda locates available parking spots in private driveways and garages that drivers can reserve in advance on the web or via mobile phones. In Baltimore and Washington, D.C., it is working with two garage companies, PMI and Central Parking.
In addition, Parking Panda works with private home-owners and small business to rent their driveways, parking lots and garages. “We have quite a few private driveways that are rented for Ravens [football] games,” says Miller, who tries to line up parking for other events like festivals and farmers markets.
Also, he adds, “we work with certain neighborhoods, like Federal Hill,” where on-street parking is scarce and there are no parking garages.
Miller says the price the driver pays is set by the parking garage or driveway owner. Parking Panda takes a 20 percent fee on whatever is charged.  “If they charge $10, we get $2,” he says.
Parking Panda has a few, small parking competitors in the area, says Miller.

”But no one is doing what we do, with parking garages and private parking.”
Source: Nick Miller, Parking Panda
Writer: Barbara Pash

Columbia E-Commerce Firm Hiring

Unleashed Technologies  is hiring 10 new full-time employees in sales and development. The additional staffing is the result of the Columbia, Md.-headquartered web firm’s arrangement to sell a web-based system that allows retailers to build and manage their online stores.
Unleashed Technologies designs and develops e-commerce web sites. The arrangement with SalesWarp, a storefront management system, “enables our customers to get all their e-commerce operations from one platform,” says Jen Silate, marketing manager of Unleashed Technologies.
Michael Spinosa is CEO of Unleashed Technologies, a leader in web and hosting solutions in the state and one of the state’s fastest growing web firms, according to Silate. Unleashed Technologies recently won three 2012 Blue Drop Awards, including web site of the year for its client, Eyemaginations. The awards are an international competition for companies that use the Drupal platform for development and design.
David Potts is CEO and founder of SalesWarp, developed by Baltimore's 6th Street Commerce. SalesWarp manages pricing, order processing, shipping, inventory, SEO and customer data across multiple online stores from one system.
Silate says the arrangement allows Unleashed Technologies and SalesWarp to expand. "We will be reselling SalesWarp’s platform.”
Source: Jen Silate, Unleashed Technologies
Writer:  Barbara Pash   

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