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Matt’s Favorites: Growing Healthcare Data Exchange, Big Auto Tech Event Coming, And More

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So it’s Wednesday, and maybe, just maybe, if we all exhale real hard, and maybe set a few large structures on fire, it will get above freezing in the greater regional metro Detroitaplex today. Oh joy! Rapture! I know, I know, when it’s August and 100 degrees I will… laugh maniacally and stomp on my snow shovel. But enough of my late winter blahs, here’s some super cool tech news to perk you up. I know looking for it perked me up.

* East Lansing-based Meridian Health Plan, the largest Medicaid managed care organization in Michigan, announced that Meridian has joined the state’s effort to enable secure, electronic sharing of health information as a new Qualified Data Sharing Organization with MiHIN, the state-designated entity for the exchange of health information statewide in Michigan. Meridian is the fourth health plan in Michigan to achieve this status with MiHIN. Becoming a QO enables Meridian to securely, electronically share and receive patient data with health care providers, hospitals, and public health agencies. Coordinated care data provided electronically at the point of care gives doctors on a patient’s care team a more complete picture of a patient’s medical condition and history. Meridian will participate in transferring and receiving patient care information under the MiHIN legal umbrella for the secure and private electronic exchange of health information, beginning with Admit-Discharge-Transfer messages generated by hospitals. In addition to patients and providers already affiliated with Meridian, the company will be able to securely share data with MiHIN’s 11 other QOs, including the state of Michigan’s Department of Community Health — a close partner of Meridian in its Medicaid efforts. Meridian Health Plan is a physician-owned, physician-operated health plan with subsidiary operations in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire. Meridian’s affiliates include Medicaid and Medicare health and prescription drug plans, a commercial plan available through the Health Insurance Marketplace and MeridianRx, a pharmacy benefit management company. Meridian Health Plan currently serves more than 400,000 Medicaid members. For more information, visit http://www.mhplan.com. More about MiHIN at http://www.mihin.org.

* The Southfield marketing communications and public relations firm Airfoil said it had been selected to promote the inaugural AppConext Auto conference by conference organizers AppConext LLC. A large group of connected vehicle experts will take the stage at the inaugural AppConext Auto conference on May 13 and 14 at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the in-vehicle app marketplace. Speakers are to include representatives of General Motors, Honda, the Hertz subsidiary Navigation Solutions, Cisco Systems, Panasonic, the U.S. Department of Energy, BestParking.com, Parkmobile USA, UIEvolution and Fuelly. The event is supported by the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan and the Connected Vehicle Trade Assocaition. Airfoil will support conference agenda strategy, event promotion and awareness initiatives. Limited Launch Price conference passes are available until March 10, with the first 10 registrations using the discount code AF200 eligible to receive an additional $200 off the conference pass of their choice. Registration and the complete conference agenda are now available by visiting the official AppConext Auto website at http://www.appconext.com/auto. AppConext creates industry events that provide professional development and networking opportunities for senior executives to discuss what’s next in the mobile technology landscape. More about Airfoil at http://www.airfoilgroup.com.

* FEV Consulting, the management consulting branch of the Aachen, Germany-based powertrain and vehicle engineering company FEV Group, has opened a United States branch. Founded in 2011, FEV Consulting GmbH has been providing management consulting to a wide variety of clients in Europe, North America, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region. Focusing on the key areas of strategy, technology, growth, and operations, FEV Consulting advises customers ranging from OEMs and suppliers in the automotive, off-road, aerospace and energy industries, to investors, banks and private equity firms. FEV Consulting Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of FEV North America Inc. and is presently co-located at FEV North America Inc.’s 450-employee technical center in Auburn Hills.

And now, the national and international stuff, courtesy of CBS News, News.com and elsewhere…

* As climate change leads to rapidly melting permafrost in the Russian tundra, a recent find has scientists worried that trouble may be lurking below. A 30,000 year old virus of unprecedented size has been found and reactivated. The virus, dubbed Pithovirus Sibericum, appears to affect amoebas and not human or mouse cells. Named after the Greek word, “pithos,” meaning a large earthenware jar, it was discovered by a group of researchers from Aix-Marseille University. The virus, which is so large it can be seen under an optical microscope, was found in a 98-foot-deep sample of permafrost near the East Siberia Sea, where the average annual temperature is 7 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Agence France-Presse. The group’s new discovery raises the frightening possibility that more harmful pathogens could potentially be revived. Perhaps, it could be something no human has ever encountered before, researchers say.

* The Ukrainian crisis has reached its next phase: cyberattacks. Over the last two days, members of Ukraine’s parliament, regardless of party affiliation, have seen their mobile communications blocked by equipment in Russia-controlled Crimea, Ukraine’s security service confirmed on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

* Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have become ubiquitous among teenagers, but medical professionals could one day use status updates and tweets to track and prepare for the spread of disease. An article published in the journal Preventive Medicine looks at how Twitter can help identify patterns of HIV cases, and potentially prevent the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.

* Remembering to lock up everything from baby wipes to bratwurst may be irksome for Yosemite National Park visitors, but a new study finds the park’s stringent food storage rules slashed the amount of human food eaten by black bears by 63 percent.

* In its on-going efforts to bring affordable Internet access to more than 5 billion people worldwide who can’t afford it or don’t have access, Facebook is now looking into buying a drone company. As reported by TechCrunch, the social network is in talks to acquire Titan Aerospace, which manufactures “near-orbital, solar-powered drones” that can fly for up to five years without needing to land. Tech Crunch’s anonymous source said the deal is expected to be worth $60 million.

* Well, it’s not frickin’ laser beams on their heads, but it’s something: Researchers at the University of Hawaii and the University of Tokyo have found a new way to study sharks: strapping cameras onto their fins. The cameras offer a unique way of studying how the sharks eat, swim and live. More than 30 sharks were outfitted with cameras, sensors and transmitters.

* Doctors told Robert Woo he would never walk again following a December 2007 accident when seven tons of steel fell about thirty stories onto his construction trailer. Years later, with the help of a robotic exoskeleton called the ReWalk, he can walk, climb stairs and stand up with his family.

* The U.S. government’s representative to the Supreme Court filed a brief Monday arguing that Aereo, the service streaming broadcast TV over the Web, is violating copyright law — but that doesn’t mean all cloud-storage services should be put under the same scrutiny.

* The discovery of tiny carbon-rich balls and tunnels inside a Martian meteorite has once again raised the possibility that the Red Planet was teeming with primitive life millions of years ago. The meteorite, which fell to Earth during the Stone Age, contains microscopic burrows and spheres that resemble the marks microorganisms leave when they eat through rocks on Earth, scientists report in the journal Astrobiology this month. What’s more, these features seem to have been pressed into the Mars rock before it was hurled off the Red Planet by an impact event, the researchers add.

* Speaking of Mars, private manned flyby mission in 2021 could be an inspiring precursor to landing astronauts on the Red Planet’s surface in the not-too-distant future, but much work needs to be accomplished before that goal can become a reality, experts told Congress at a recent hearing.

* A congressman from New York is proposing legislation aimed to cut down on smartphone theftsMobile devices are involved in one third or more of all robberies in major U.S. cities. The high-tech devices garner big bucks on the black market, leading thieves to go to great lengths to steal the phones.

* Employees at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco will soon get to take their lunch break in 19th century log cabins. It’s a design feature that “makes them a little different than any other tech company,” a company media relations representative told the Marin Independent Journal. The move highlights the unofficial race amongst Silicon Valley’s most successful tech companies to provide one-of-a-kind workplaces where employees can tap into their creativity.

* The food-ordering website GrubHub is going public putting its value at more than $1 billion. GrubHub is now in 600 cities, working with more than 28,800 restaurants. It is considered the nation’s leading online and mobile food-ordering company.

* Apple announced Monday that several car manufacturers are rolling out its CarPlay. Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo will premiere the new feature this week at the Geneva auto show. CNet previously reported on Apple’s plans for an iOS feature in automobiles called “iOS in the car.” The concept remains the same: replication of a simplified iOS interface into a touchscreen display in the car, plus extensive voice command. Apple’s focus is simplicity and safety, with no complex interface elements and, seemingly, no virtual keyboards.

* Roku announced the Roku Streaming Stick, which manages to pack nearly all the functionality of a full-size Roku box into a device not much bigger than an USB flash drive. It’s actually a new version of Roku’s old MHL-based Streaming Stick, but there are two major differences: it now works with any TV that has an HDMI input, and it’s half the price, at just $49.

* One of the main new features of Windows Phone 8.1 — the personal digital assistant codenamed “Cortana” — has made a brief, unofficial video debut. The UnleashThePhones.com site posted a 2-plus-minute video clip to YouTube showing what seems to be Cortana in action. Though the “speaking voice” of Cortana isn’t revealed, a few new tidbits are. (Microsoft won’t comment about anything to do with Cortana.)

* ‘Back to the Future’-style hoverboards? Really? Unfortunately, no.

* You’ll never confuse him with Frank Sinatra, but in his first public speaking appearance since stepping down as Microsoft’s chief executive last month, Steve Ballmer expressed having a few regrets — but not too many to mention. (Cue the ballad.) Speaking to students at the University of Oxford on Tuesday, Ballmer reflected on his former company’s missteps and made the argument that Microsoft remained in a strong position to catch the next wave of innovation.

* Researchers at the UK’s Surrey Space Center are trying to fund a novel way for the 99.999992 percent of us who’ve never been to outer space to virtually get there.

* Count yourself among a lucky few. In a recent survey, only 23 percent of Americans know what SEO is. And 11 percent think HTML is a sexually transmitted disease.

* The PC market will face an increasingly rougher patch over the next few years, says research firm IDC. In its latest Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker report released Tuesday, IDC said it lowered its PC shipment forecast for 2014 by 2 percent and its longer-term estimate by just under 1 percent. Global PC shipments are now expected to decline from 315.1 million last year to 295.9 million this year and 291.7 million in 2018.

* Cable giant Comcast announced Tuesday that it is voluntarily extending its Internet Essentials program, which provides subsidized broadband Internet service to low-income families in its service area, beyond its three-year commitment. The cable giant started the program back in 2011 as part of its conditions for its merger with NBC Universal.

* And let’s wrap it up with yet another tale of idiots trying to get high-tech gear out of a burning house. People, GET YOURSELVES OUT. EVERYTHING ELSE IS JUST STUFF.

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