Matt’s Favorites: Free Solar Screenings, 3D Printed Chocolate, And Much More

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So what’s up on your Friday? Here’s what’s up in the tech world… first some local tidbits, then the national news from CBS, News.com and elsewhere…

* If you’re in the Great Lakes Bay region, there’s still time to sign up for a free solar site assessment. Through the Great Lakes Bay Region Solar Program, the Clean Energy Coalition, in partnership with Great Lakes Bay Region 5, and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., free assessments for commercial properties are stll available — as is a bulk purchasing opportunity to cut costs. Midland Solar Applications is the contractor for the program. If you are interested in receiving a free solar site assessment for your property from Midland Solar, or would like more information on the program or learning about the benefits of solar, email glbrsolar@cec-mi.org or visit http://cec-mi.org/communities/programs/joinglbrsolar/.

* The Dearborn digital marketing firm ChannelNet has named Angela Johnson its new vice president of account management. The position was created to help ChannelNet manage its record growth. Johnson has more than 20 years of client relationship management and is an expert in developing multi-channel solutions for the automotive, high-tech, and insurance industries. She will be responsible for driving the ongoing support for ChannelNet’s clients and strategic partnerships. Her client portfolio will include Fiserv, JM Family Enterprises, Kia, Hyundai, VW, Audi, BMW, Ally Auto, Benjamin Moore Paints, Hunter Douglas and RouteOne. Most recently, Johnson was Acxiom Corp.’s senior director of account mManagement and Client Services responsible for launching and managing the largest customer relationship management system transformation in the automotive industry for General Motors. She started her career as a data administrator and consultant at Acxiom, and then worked her way up the ranks from a solutions delivery lead to a client relationship and account manager. Johnson attended the University of Arkansas and resides in Grosse Pointe. More at http://www.channelnet.com.

* The Grand Rapids supercenter retailer Meijer Inc. announced free WiFi in all its stores. That’ll make it easier for the more than 2 million Meijer shoppers now subscribed to the free mPerks digital coupon program. In December alone, the program generated more than 129,000 new members, nearly 31 million clipped offers, and $12.6 million in savings issued to customers. The program has a redemption rate up to four times higher than the national average. The Wi-Fi investment also helps the nearly 650,000 Meijer mobile app users to conveniently manage their entire shopping trip. The Meijer app is available as a free download for iPhone and Android smartphones through Apple Inc.’s App Store and the Android Market. Meijer operates 204 supercenters in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, including the one in Allen Park that I go to that is great except that the bottle return area is way too small for that big a store. (Just seeing who’s paying attention.) More at http://www.meijer.com.

* Rich Sheridan, CEO at software developer Menlo Innovations, recently released his first book, “Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love.” In this conversation with Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor Spark, Sheridan discusses why joy is a cultural intention at Menlo, and how that translates into business results. He also talks about how Menlo’s rituals, ceremonies, and storytelling have transformed the typical business office environment. http://www.annarborusa.org/succeed-here/ceo-podcasts/rich-sheridan,

* Ann Arbor’s Arotech Corp. announced that its Battery and Power Systems Division has received $2.4 million in new orders. The majority of orders were batteries and related systems for military applications. Arotech provides defense and security products for the military, law enforcement and homeland security markets, including multimedia interactive simulators and trainers, and advanced zinc-air and lithium batteries and chargers. More at http://www.arotech.com.

* Grand Rapids-based C/D/H announces today the addition of Susan Cotts as partner. Cotts is the first female partner and only the sixth person to be named partner in the history of the 23-year-old technology consulting firm. Along with being the first woman partner, Cotts was the first consultant at C/D/H to hold a Microsoft Certification when she started with the firm in 1996, and she was the firm’s only female consultant for a number of years. Along with assuming a broader leadership role, Cotts will continue to serve the key client relationships she manages. Cotts is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Microsoft certified consultant with extensive experience in SharePoint collaboration technologies, systems integration, and information architecture design. Cotts notes that during her tenure at C/D/H, she’s navigated many versions of Microsoft products, and has been part of SharePoint since the SharePoint Team Services Beta in 2000. Her first project was automating the deployment of Microsoft NT Workstation with MS Office to 1,500 desktops for a West Michigan-based global pharmaceutical manufacturer. Cotts received her bachelor of science in computer science from Western Michigan University in 1992. She is currently earning her MBA from WMU’s Haworth College of Business. Cotts is a member of the Western Michigan Project Management Institute and serves as an auxiliary board member for Leighton Township Fire & Rescue. C/D/H is a technology consulting firm with more than 20 years of service to clients across Michigan. The firm has offices in Royal Oak and Grand Rapids, from which it provides clients with consulting services in collaboration, infrastructure, unified communications, mobility and project management. C/D/H is certified as a Microsoft Gold Partner, a VMware Professional Partner and also has earned top levels of certification with Novell, Citrix and Cisco Systems. For more information visit http://www.cdh.com.

* The Central Michigan University Research Corp. board has selected Michelle White, president and creator of Michelle’s Miracle Inc., as the 2013 CMURC Entrepreneur of the Year.  trepreneurs for their sacrifice and commitments,” said CMURC President and CEO Erin O’Brien.  White formed Michelle’s Miracle in 2008 to sell cherry-based nutritional supplements, and has attracted investments from the Phenomenelle Angels Fund and the Michigan Pre-Seed Fund. The company today sold Michelle’s Miracle tart cherry concentrate dietary supplements and CherriMax supplement tablets. After the 2012 cherry crop failure, Michelle’s Miracle still managed a sales increase of more than 20 percent. More at http://michellesmiracle.com. White also has positioned herself as the go-to resource for information regarding cherries, health benefits of cherries and cooking with cherries within the media world throughout the country. Michelle will be honored at the Central Michigan University College of Business Administration’s New Venture Competition awards dinner on March 28 at McGuirk Arena.

* Two groups of Michigan students recently emerged as the top middle and high school teams across the state in the second Verizon Innovative App Challenge, which asked students to develop a concept for a mobile application that would solve a problem in their community or school. The app designed by sixth through eighth graders from Kalamazoo County’s Portage Central Middle School, ENERoute, is geared toward schools and creates the most safe, fast, energy efficient bus routes. The app designed by ninth through 12th graders from Oakland County’s Troy High School, Optimal Forage, will provide details on food nutritional values to allow people to maker smarter, healthier food choices. The two teams were selected from nearly 1,300 submissions nationally and 13 submissions in Michigan. State winners advanced to a regional competition Feb. 4, where they could earn their school a $5,000 cash grant plus virtual training on coding and support from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s app development experts to help bring their app concept to life. Regional winners will be entered in the final round of competition to be one of eight Best in Nation teams, which will be announced on Feb. 19.  The competition was created by the Verizon Foundation in partnership with the Technology Student Association to encourage students to use technology to help solve local social issues. In June, the members of the eight winning teams will be invited to present their apps in person – on their new tablets – at the 2014 National TSA Conference in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Verizon.

And now, from all over the world… starting right here at home.

* Behind the wheel, your brain does a lot of processing you take for granted, such as calculating the paths and speeds of nearby vehicles so you can successfully make a lane merge. Ford is turning to Stanford and MIT researchers to come up with computer algorithms to mimic that processing of environmental data.

* Oh, and by 2030, solar power and electric cars will make utilities and oil companies obsolete. Just thought you’d wanna know. I have my doubts, to be sure.

* Iconic “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill fielded questions on Reddit on Wednesday, revealing bits about his role as Luke Skywalker and whether he will appear in the next “Star Wars” film directed by J.J. Abrams. At this link are highlights culled from his Ask Me Anything interview.

* Kaboom! A new supernova has exploded in that’s bright enough for even small telescope observers to see. And it’s in a bright galaxy in Ursa Major well placed for viewing during evening hours in the northern hemisphere. Doesn’t get much better than that! The new object was discovered earlier this week by S.J. Fossey; news of the outburst first appeared on the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams “Transient Objects Confirmation Page”. More from CBS News.

* The largest object in the asteroid belt just got more attractive: Scientists have confirmed signs of water on the dwarf planet Ceres, one of the few bodies in the solar system to hold that distinction. Peering through the Herschel Space Observatory, a team led by the European Space Agency detected water plumes spewing from two regions on Ceres. The observations, published in Thursday’s issue of Nature, come as NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is set to arrive at the Texas-sized dwarf planet next year.

* And once again, proof when it comes to pollution, there is no “away” to throw stuff away to. A new study shows a quarter of California’s air pollution comes over the ocean from China, which barely has pollution laws.

* Oh, and don’t worry — it’ll be at least a billion years before a gradually brightening sun boils all the water off of Earth, rendering life here impossible. That’s hundreds of millions of years later than an earlier estimate.

* Lenovo Group has agreed to buy IBM’s x86 server hardware business and related maintenance services for $2.3 billion. The deal encompasses IBM’s System x, BladeCenter and Flex System blade servers and switches, x86-based Flex integrated systems, NeXtScale and iDataPlex servers and associated software, blade networking and maintenance operations. IBM will retain its System z mainframes, Power Systems, Storage Systems, Power-based Flex servers, and PureApplication and PureData appliances.

* “I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an e-mail, or visit a Web site without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record. ” That’s the word from NSA whistle-blower and leaker Edward Snowden, who today answered questions tweeted by the public as part of a live Web chat, his first since June of last year.

* The U.S. Army may send robotic soldiers to the battlefield within the next 30 years, General Robert Cone said at the Army Aviation symposium on Jan. 15. It is part of the Army’s effort to become “a smaller, more lethal, deployable and agile force,” he explained, according to Defense News.

* The next frontier in 3D printing is apparently chocolate. Hey, it’s one step closer to the Star Trek replicator cafeteria. The Hershey Co. this week announced it has agreed to a multiyear partnership with 3D Systems, a company known for building a 3D printer capable of creating objects out of foods, including chocolate.

* Facebook will bleed the majority of its users over the next three years, according to a pair of Princeton researchers in a new paper (PDF). Those researchers, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, arrived at that conclusion by comparing Facebook to an infectious disease.

* Romanian authorities have arrested a man they suspect of being the hacker “Guccifer,” famous for breaking into the email accounts of former U.S. President George W. Bush’s family and other prominent political and entertainment figures.

* The Internet is a “gift from God” that facilitates communication, Pope Francis said in a statement released Thursday, but he warns that the obsessive desire to stay connected can actually isolate people from their friends and family.

Large round bubbles of lava started splattering on the surface of a lava lake on the Hawaiian island of Kilauea this week. Located in the Overlook crater, within the Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of the Kilauea volcano, the lava lake is known to bubble and expand regularly. It is usually at least 100 feet below the floor of the Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

* His name is Charlie, and he’s the latest thing in lifelike robotics: a machine that moves like an ape and can stand on two legs like a human. Charlie is being developed by scientists at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), in Bremen. They call this project a testing ground for new technologies and improved robotic design.

*Apple is getting set to release an updated version of the TV set-top box it already has on the market, according to a report by 9to5Mac. The report says the product is well into testing, and could be out by the first half of this year.

* It’s too early to talk about the return of the juggernaut of yesteryear after one quarter of strong results, but Microsoft’s latest financial quarter suggests that — new CEO or no — the company is recovering from recent missteps. That was understatement. Sales and earnings beat Wall Street handily and investors snapped up shares in after-hours trading (even after Hood narrowed full year revenue guidance to between $31.2 billion and $31.5 billion.)

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