Matt’s Favorites: High Tech Car Seats, Solar Power For Biz, Broke Student Film Fest At LTU, And Much More

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Hello there, and welcome to your Friday! Hoping you had a great week — I sure did. And let’s take a look at a bunch of cool local tech news and events, and then the national news…

* High tech on your car seats? Yeah, maybe. Johnson Controls’ Plymouth-based automotive business is rolling out a new coating for fabrics that keeps auto seat covers stain-resistant — and antimicrobial and anti-static. The company says FreshPer4mance can be applied to all cover fabrics, inside and out. The coating enables automakers to expand their range of trim fabrics to include lighter colors and thus offer their customers more distinctive and customized vehicle options. More at http://www.johnsoncontrols.com.

* One of the cooler events on the Lawrence Technological University calendar, the Broke Student Film Festival, returns to the LTU campus Friday through Sunday. The highlight will be the presentation of films by students from Michigan and around the globe on the big screen of the Mary E. Marburger Engineering and Science Auditorium in LTU’s Science Building on Saturday, April 5, from 3 to 10 p.m. There are more than 80 submissions this year, including films from Greece, India, Canada and the United Kingdom. Illinois, Texas, North Carolina, Connecticut and Washington are represented, as are six other Michigan colleges. The festival begins on Friday, April 4, at 7 p.m. with live music in the Marburger auditorium in addition to the IBSFF Rewind film presentation from 7 to 10 p.m. Local bands will perform all weekend. On Saturday, workshops with film and video professionals will be held from 9 to 10 a.m., 10:15 to 11:15 a.m., and 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. in the Marburger auditorium and the Lear auditorium in the University Technology and Learning Center. A reception will be held in the UTLC gallery on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. Part of the festival is the 14-Day Challenge, which requires student filmmakers to make a film in 14 days employing various specified prompts and genres. The 14-Day Challenge presentations will be screened in Marburger auditorium from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, followed by the awards ceremony from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are free for all students; donations of $10 are requested for all others. Check out www.brokestudentfilmfestival.com for schedule information, volunteer opportunities, and much more. Questions can be directed to brokestudentfilmfestival@gmail.com.

* Saginaw Valley State University will host “Solar Power Opportunities for Local Businesses” Tuesday, April 8 from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by a working lunch. Join energy experts, solar installers and financing representatives to get your questions answered. To register, visit http://cec-mi.org/glbr_event/. The Great Lakes Bay Region is on its way to becoming the solar manufacturing leader in the state of Michigan. To help move the industry forward and enhance economic benefit to the region, a partnership between local economic development offices, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Clean Energy Coalition is focusing on lowering the cost of solar photovoltaic installations for businesses across the region. For more information, contact GLBRSolar@cec-mi.org

* Registration is now open for “Connecting Michigan For Health,” the annual conference of the Michigan Health Information Network. The two-day event will be held June 4, 5 and 6 at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Lansing. Topics covered will include the role of digital technology in improving public health and health care, bridging physical and behavioral health, care coordination, national and state initiatives in health IT, cybersecurity, and breakout workshops on electronic clinical quality measures and security and identity management. More than 250 health care and IT leaders from Michigan and across the nation attended last year’s event. Depending on the days attendees chose to visit, registration runs from $75 for Day 2 only to $450 for all three days. To register, visit https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1428783.

* Beaumont Health System has once again been named among the nation’s most innovative users of business technology. The 2014 InformationWeek Elite100 – a list of the top business technology innovators in the U.S. – can be found on http://www.informationweek.com/elite100. Beaumont is the only health system in Michigan named to the list, and one of only three businesses recognized in the state. InformationWeek identifies and honors the nation’s most innovative users of information technology and tracks the technology, strategies, investments and administrative practices of some of the best-known organizations in the country. This is InformationWeek’s 26th year identifying and honoring the nation’s most innovative users of information technology. For 2014, its assessment was narrowed to a more elite 100 organizations. Additional details on the InformationWeek Elite 100 can be found online at http://www.informationweek.com/elite100. Beaumont is a three-hospital regional health system with 1,778 licensed beds, more than 14,000 full-time equivalent employees and nearly 3,100 physicians, including 500 employed physicians in the Beaumont Medical Group and more than 2,600 private-practice physicians. In addition to its hospitals in Royal Oak, Troy and Grosse Pointe, Beaumont has numerous community-based medical centers in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, family practice and internal medicine practices, five nursing centers, a research institute, home care services and hospice. Beaumont is the exclusive clinical teaching site for the new Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. More at http://www.beaumont.edu.

* You’re invited to a half-day workshop to learn how angel investing can provide you a strong return on investment while supporting regional prosperity. “Community-Based Private Equity: The Fundamentals Of Angel Investing” will be presented by the MidMichigan Innovation Center Wednesday, April 16 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Macomb-OU INCubator at Velocity Collaboration Center, 6633 18 Mile Road in Sterling Heights. The presenter will be Ken Kousky, founding president of the BlueWater Angels and CEO of the MMIC. Topics will include how to identify high-potential startups to make successful investments, how your capital and mentorship can help foster a thriving entrepreneurial community and drive economic growth, and why community-based private equity and the sector’s potential is consistently undervalued. For more information or to become a sponsor, call Sandra Darland at (989) 839-2334. For more information on the Macomb-OU INCubator, please contact Joan Carleton at (586) 884-9324.

* A team from Lawrence Technological University was the winner in the integration category of a national student design competition sponsored by the Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  The Charles Pankow Foundation Annual Architectural Engineering Student Design Competition was held at the AEI’s annual student conference in Philadelphia on March 29. It attracts the top students from the country’s leading architectural engineering programs.  Lawrence Tech took first place in integration, the only required category in the competition. The team also earned two runner-up awards in the optional categories of mechanical design and electrical design. This year’s challenge was to address the design, integration and construction issues for a high-rise office building in San Francisco. Focusing on the integration of the engineered systems for a high-performance building, students worked in multidisciplinary teams to integrate the engineered systems with building architecture while emphasizing sustainable design. The Pankow competition calls into play many of the practices that students have studied in LTU’s five-year master’s degree program in architectural engineering, which has an architectural design core along with the engineering curriculum. This multidisciplinary approach places emphasis on optimizing building design through the integration of engineered systems. Lawrence Tech’s program is one of about two dozen in the country. The members of the winning team were Rachel LaCasse, Zachary Lahrman, Kevin Lambert, Breanne May, Michael McMurphy, Francesca Montana, Elizabeth Ozzello, Michael Paciero, and Timothy Truitt.  The nine students are in the first cohort of the LTU program and expect to receive their master’s degrees in May. Almost all of the students already have full-time or part-time jobs in the field. The LTU students entered the Pankow competition as their master’s degree capstone project. They set up three-person teams to focus on the electrical, structural, and mechanical parts of the design process. Through an intense collaborative effort, all team members contributed toward the winning entry in the integration category. Associate Professor Ralph Nelson of LTU’s College of Architecture and Design served as faculty lead for the team. He was assisted by Assistant Professors Daihong Yu and Mena Bebawy of LTU’s College of Engineering.  Adjunct Professor Faris Habba was the team advisor for exploring emerging technologies and strategies in structural design for high-rise buildings, and several professionals from LTU’s architectural engineering industry advisory board provided critical feedback to the team throughout the project.

* LLamasoft, the global leader in supply chain design software solutions, announces that Wayfair has selected LLamasoft as the standard application for supply chain network design and transportation route optimization throughout the company’s global enterprise. Wayfair is a U.S.-based Internet retailer offering home furnishings and décor from more than 12,000 brands, with just under $1 billion in revenues in 2013. Headquartered in Boston, Mass., Wayfair also has warehouse and corporate locations across the United States and in Australia, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom. More at http://www.llamasoft.com.

And now the national news from our pals at CBS News, News.com and elsewhere…

* It often seems that the government is banking on robots to fight the wars of the future, and that artificial intelligence is the key to future defense. But biological systems — and the engineering lessons they teach — are just as important, says DARPA, the Pentagon’s research and development division. While DARPA has long studied biology and looked into way to incorporate biological systems into its projects, there has never been a specific division dedicated to biotech. Until now. Wednesday, DARPA announced that all existing and future biotech research will be part of the newly created Biological Technologies Office.

* The Saturn moon Enceladus harbors a big ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust that may be capable of supporting life as we know it, a new study reports. The water ocean on Enceladus is about 6 miles (10 kilometers) deep and lies beneath a shell of ice 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 km) thick, researchers said. Further, it’s in direct contact with a rocky seafloor, theoretically making possible all kinds of complex chemical reactions — such as, perhaps, the kind that led to the rise of life on Earth.

* Speaking of cool stuff in space, early risers and night owls should prepare to see a bright full moon turn a reddish hue during a total lunar eclipse early on the morning of April 15. Completely safe to watch with the naked eye, astronomer Fred Espenak told the Washington Post that this lunar eclipse could take on “a dramatically colorful appearance, ranging from bright orange to blood red.”

* A $518 million military weather satellite launched Thursday morning from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program 19 (DMSP-19) spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

* They definitely don’t speak Spanish in North Korea — the loony dictatorship marked the first anniversary of its space agency by rolling out a logo that’s a direct ripoff of NASA, and an unfortunate name — the organization: the National Aerospace Development Administration, or NADA. Nada, of course, is Spanish for “nothing.” It’s sort of like when GM named a small car the Nova — which in Spanish means “won’t go.”

Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich is stepping down as CEO following protests over his support of a gay marriage ban in California. The Mountain View, California-based nonprofit maker of the Firefox browser infuriated many employees and users last week by promoting Eich. At issue was Eich’s $1,000 donation in 2008 to the campaign to pass California’s Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that outlawed same-sex marriages. The ban was overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court last year left in place a lower-court ruling striking down the ballot measure. The contribution had drawn some negative attention in the past but took on more weight when he was named CEO. Mozilla employees and users criticized the move online. Dating website OKCupid replaced its usual homepage for users logging in with Firefox, the world’s third-most-popular Web browser, with a note suggesting they not use Mozilla’s software to access the site.

* Mobile users are now spending more time on their devices than a year ago and use apps far more than mobile web browsers, according to a new report by analytics firm Flurry. Time spent on a mobile device by the average U.S. consumer has risen to 2 hours and 42 minutes per day, compared to 2 hours and 38 minutes in March 2013. App use has continued to outpace use of mobile web browsers, with the average user spending 86 percent of their mobile time in apps.

* Yahoo has added more layers of security in its effort to shield people’s online lives from government spying and other snooping. The measures announced Wednesday include the completion of a system that encrypts all information being transmitted from one Yahoo data center to another. The technology is designed to make the emails and other digital information flowing through data centers indecipherable to outsiders.

* Documents obtained by the Associated Press shows the United States has been setting up a bare-bones Twitter alternatives for Cubans to use with smartphones — presumably to undermine the regime there.

NASA has been told to suspend contact with Russian government officials because of Russia’s “ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to an agency memo circulated Wednesday. The International Space Station, which is jointly operated by NASA, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and Canada, is exempt and not directly impacted by the new guidelines.

* Microsoft opened its annual Build conference in San Francisco today by unveiling a new virtual assistant for Windows phones and announcing a Windows 8.1 operating system update. The assistant, named Cortana, tries to be chatty like Siri on Apple’s iPhones and iPads, while anticipating information you might want, like Google Now on Android devices.

* Adding a new twist in the Apple-Samsung legal battle, the South Korean tech giant rebuffed Apple’s claims that it had committed patent theft. Instead, Samsung insisted it hadn’t written any of the Android software on its smartphones and tablets — Google did. In the latest courtroom drama between Apple and Samsung, the lawyer for Samsung told jurors that Apple’s gripe is with Android, a Google-developed smartphone operating system that now makes up about 70 percent of the global market. Both companies accuse each other of stealing ideas from one another. The trial got underway this week at U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif.

* Nest CEO Tony Fadell issued a memo Thursday indicating that the company will be pulling the Nest Protect smoke detector from retail shelves, and disabling a core feature via software update for existing owners. The company described the problem as “a unique combination of circumstances that caused us to question whether the Nest Wave could be unintentionally activated. This could delay an alarm going off if there was a real fire.”

* ‌In what seems like a bit of a stretch, Google is trying to copyright not only the words “Google Glass” for a product, but also the very word “Glass” itself. 

* Finally, here’s a look at using Amazon Fire as a replacement for a game console.

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