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Matt's Favorites: Our Next LTU Event, Comcast At The Auto Show, And Much More

So how's everybody doing at the end of Auto Show preview week? All ready for the public show? I thought so. Man, if you love cars or tech, of course you're going! And now a few local tidbits and the national tech news...

* Mark your calendars how for our next Unwired Coffee Series event at Lawrence Technological University -- it's Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7:30 a.m. The theme is "Health Care – Effects Of The Affordable Care Act, nad Advanced Health Technologies Like Electronic Medical Records and Health Information Exchanges." Yeah, health care has been just a little bit in the news lately, and there's plenty of technology involved. Panelists include Mark Bennett, president, MJBennett PLLC; David Fuehrer, President, CureLauncher; Jim Giordano, CEO of CareTech Solutions; and Subra Sripada, Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative and Information Officer, Beaumont Health System. Sponsors are LTU, Comerica Bank, Gerry Weinberg & Associates and Strategic Staffing Solutions. It starts with networking at 7:30 a.m. and the program from 8 to 9, and of course it's all free. Sign up at

* I stopped by Comcast's press shindig at the North American International Auto Show Thursday and I'm glad I did. Besides getting to meet the Detroit Lions' Joique Bell up close -- really funny, really smart, and frankly not all that big a dude for such a tough-as-nails running back -- I also got to see some of Comcast's new and ridiculously fast business data offerings. James Tyrell, executive director of product management at Comcast headquarters in Philadephia, said Comcast Business now accounts for $2.4 billion of the cable giant's revenue, up from $256 million in 2006, and is growing at a 50 percent per year clip. Comcast is now offering data at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, thanks to a partnership with Baltimore-based Ciena, a maker of optical switching equipment that turns Ethernet service into virtual Internet backbone at breakneck speeds. That leads to flexible business service, Ciena senior channel sales manager Jonathan Lee told me: "We can take a company from 1 meg to 1 gig without having to change the equipment or laying down a new fiber pair. All you have to do is call. The paperwork takes longer than the provisioning." Comcast is in particular pitching the product to health care: "Hospitals are going to need big data services under Obamacare, and labs and physician offices will need more speed," Tyrell said. Comcast is also pushing "hosted PBX" services to companies that don't want to own phone hardware. Comcast started out marketing its data and voice services to small business, but says it's now seeing its biggest growth in what it calls the "enterprise" segment, 50 employees and up.

* Covisint Corp. (Nasdaq: COVS), the secure collaboration and communication provider spun out of Compuware Corp. last year, named three new outside board members Thursday. They are Dave Hansen, president and CEO of the Marylabd data protection company SafeNet; Sam Inman III, Former president and CEO of Comarco Wireless Technologies, a California provider of mobile power and test equipment; and Philip Lay, co-founder of TCG Advisors LLC, a growth strategy and business transformation consultancy, and its sister company The Chasm Group LLC. Lay also spent many years in leadership and sales roles with TGR Eletronica, where he was co-founder and CEO, and IBM UK. In addition to Hansen, Inman and Lay, Covisint's board consists of Compuware CEO and president Robert Paul, the board's chairman; Covisint CEO and president David McGuffie; Bernard Goldsmith, general partner of Updata Partners; and William Brabe, advisory director of General Atlantic LLC. More at

* Oakland County officials are headed to Dubai next week to promote Medical Main Street, the county's health care and life science initiative, and October's InnoVention 2014 Conference, at a major medical conference, Arab Health. Oakland County has more than 900 international firms hailing from 38 countries. And health care has generated more than $900 million of investment in the past decade while creating or retaining more than 6,500 jobs in Oakland County. Business development representatives Nicole Thomson and Alan Weber will represent the county at the conference, which is expected to attract more than 112,000 health care professionals and 3,500 exhibitors from 142 countries. The conference runs Jan. 27-30.
Last year, the county was invited to participate by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. because the recognition the Medical Main Street name is getting nationally and internationally. Oakland County will once again join the MEDC in the U.S. Pavilion. Six Michigan companies will make the trip, including three from Oakland County: MAKS Inc. of Rochester Hills, a designer, developer and manufacturer of electronic products and components; Clinton River Medical Products of Auburn Hills, a maker of power assist wheelchair technology; and Oxus of Rochester Hills, a portable oxygen concentrator manufacturer. The companies look forward to increasing export sales. For more information about Arab Health, see For more information about Oakland County Economic Development efforts, visit

* For all we've heard that millennials will never by the car buyers their parents were, here's a new study from Deloitte LLP that should give some hope to the car business. A study of those born between 1977 and 1994 -- which the survey called Generation Y -- showed that 61 percent of them plan to buy or lease a car in the next three years, and 23 percent expect it to be within a year. A mere 8 percent say they never expect to own or lease a vehicle. And only 29 percent of Gen Y consumers would be willing to give up their personal cars, even as non-traditional mobility options like car-sharing and car-pooling services proliferate. Affordability is the main barrier to car ownership among Gen Y'ers who do not currently own or lease a vehicle. Car borrowing and alternative forms of transportation are the other biggies. When it comes time to buy, advanced powertrains will be key. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they think they'll be driving an alternative engine vehicle five years from now, with 27 percent naming hybrid electrics as their single most preferred type of alternative engine – far ahead of plug-in hybrids (8 percent), all-battery electric vehicles (7 percent), and fuel-cell vehicles (4 percent). What is more, they would like the government to help defray the higher costs of alternative powertrains, with 58 percent saying they would support government programs that reward consumers for choosing alternative or high-efficiency engines. Also, 56 percent want technology that entertains them while they are driving and 57 percent wish it were easier to customize a vehicle's technology after purchase or lease. And more than half would like to connect their smart phone to use all its applications from the vehicle's dashboard interface. The full survey will be released later this year. A data sheet with the preliminary findings is available by contacting Jon Rucket at

* Cascade Partners LLC, a Southfield-based investment banking firm, has added a new managing director, Gary N. Lewis. He has 14 years of private equity investing, investment banking and operational experience, including involvement in about $3 billion in transaction and advisory assignments. He will work alongside Cascade's existing team in the sourcing and execution of transactions both on the private investment and the investment banking aspects of the firm. Lewis began his career in investment banking with Banc of America Securities in the firm's Global Industries and Services Group. Lewis also spent several years as a private equity investor focusing on growth-oriented and buyout situations while serving in various capacities with Goense & Co., Winona Capital and Bainbridge Ventures. In addition, Lewis previously held an operating role as a vice president of business development with a health care services company. Lewis graduated from Kalamazoo College with a B.A. in Economics. He also holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and also studied at L'Ecole Superieure de Commerce in France. More at

* Monroe County Community College will host the first in a series of roundtable discussions on entrepreneurship and innovation in Monroe County Jan. 22. The session, which is open to the public, will take place at 6 p.m. in the Board Room of the college's La-Z-Boy Center on Main Campus, located at 1555 S. Raisinville Road in Monroe.MCCC President Dr. Kojo Quartey will moderate the roundtable series, entitled "Enhancing the Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Monroe County." The main topic of the first roundtable discussion will be the establishment of a county-wide business plan/entrepreneurship competition to be hosted by MCCC. The competition would focus on Monroe County's effort to nurture future entrepreneurs -- both youths and adults. As of this release, the following individuals have indicated they plan to participate in the roundtable: Jeff Beamsley, entrepreneurial consultant; Doug Chaffin, president and CEO, Monroe Bank & Trust; Sanjib Chowdhury, director, Eastern Michigan University Center for Entrepreneurship; John Joy, Dean, Division of Corporate and Community Services, MCCC; Barry Kinsey, Director of Workforce Development, MCCC; Paul Knollman, Dean, Business Division, MCCC; Tim Lake, president and CEO, Monroe County Business Development Corp.; Robert Oklejas, president and chair, eScapes Network LLC; Kojo A. Quartey, president, MCCC, moderator;  Stephen Reed, board certified ophthalmologist, ProMedica Physicians Eye Care; Mark Scharboneau, business consultant, Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center; Dirk VanHeyst, Monroe County executive for Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio); and Rep. Tim Walberg.

* The Macomb-OU INCubator in Sterling Heights is bringing back its capital raise meetups for 2014, presented by Mike Brennan, business commercialization and capital investment adviser. The dates for the meetups are Feb. 4, March 11, April 1, May 6, June 3, Sept. 9, Oct. 7 and Nov. 4. All events take place from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Macomb-OU INCubator at Velocity Collaboration Center, 6633 18 Mile Road, Sterling Heights. If you are a startup or early-stage growth-based business looking for funding, come meet and listen to capital expert, Mike Brennan. He will detail the various capital sources in Michigan and talk about how to properly position your company to be qualified for private funding, including private equity, the angel network and venture capital, and/or public funding, including grants, pre-seed, micro-loans and venture match. Brennan will provide a group presentation, as well as individually help each present company to determine their needs. To register for one or more of these free events, please contact Joan Carleton at or (586) 884-9324.

* The Regional Educational Media Center Association of Michigan and Michigan Virtual University have signed a multiyear agreement to collaborate on targeted projects. The two organizations formed a strategic alliance to explore greater alignment and coordination with new and existing projects to support Michigan schools as they expand their use of online and blended learning solutions. One of the goals of the collaboration is to explore the benefits of a joint campaign to promote online and blended learning professional development programs offered by MVU and REMCAM. The partnership will also examine the development of a statewide certificate program in online and blended learning for Michigan educators. In addition, the partners will conduct joint research on different learning management system tools to evaluate their functionality and features and publish a report to support decision-making by Michigan schools. The two organizations will also work together to disseminate information to school districts aimed at clarifying current rules and regulations related to online and blended learning options. Targeted project discussions will begin in January, and a detailed plan of action will be developed for each collaborative project, including timelines, necessary resources and metrics for success. More at or

Got that? Busy week, people! And now the national tech stuff...

* No, the robots aren't self-aware yet, but a team of researchers is demonstrating how networked machines learn from each other and create what they call a "Wikipedia of robots." Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands on Thursday are demonstrating the abilities of four robots connected through the Internet, by putting them in a hospital setting.

* A California woman believed to be the first cited for wearing Google's computer-in-an-eyeglass while driving says she was within her rights and violated no law. The case to be tried Thursday in a San Diego traffic court could help shape future laws on wearable technology as it goes mainstream.

* The next time you see birds flying in a V, consider this: A new study says they choreograph the flapping of their wings with exquisite precision to help them on their way. That's what scientists concluded after tracking a group of large black birds -- each equipped with a tiny GPS device -- that had been trained to follow an ultralight aircraft.

* Scientists using a powerful telescope in Chile have found an alien planet circling a star that is nearly identical to the sun and located in a star cluster 2,500 light-years from Earth. The discovery marks the first time that scientists have found an exoplanet circling a solar twin in a star cluster, according to European Southern Observatory officials, the group that operates the telescope instrument that made the discovery.

* Wow. A man in Massachusetts going through his grandparents' things has come up with 26 previously unpublished photos of the Challenger disaster, now, incredibly, 28 years ago. To relive that day, go here.

* Fitbit is issuing an apology to customers who may have experienced skin irritation from its activity-tracking device. The Fitbit Force is a pedometer, sleep tracker and watch that retails for about $130. The Consumerist reported the initial complaints of skin irritation on Monday, citing help forums on Fitbit's website. Several users said the rash appeared where a metal portion of the device touches the skin.

* The iconic Doomsday Clock remains poised at five minutes until midnight, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced Tuesday. The clock is no doomsday device rather, it's a visual metaphor for the danger of a "civilization-threatening technological catastrophe." Every year, the board analyzes international threats, particularly nuclear arsenals and climate change, and decides where the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock should rest. The closer it is to midnight, the closer the world is to doom.

* Chimpanzees who share are chimpanzees who care, it seems. A study published Wednesday appears to confirm that friendships are forged at mealtimes, at least for our closest living relatives. Scientists from Germany, Switzerland, Britain and the United States have found that chimps who share their food have higher levels of oxytocin, known as the love hormone, than those who don't.

* Blair Westlake, Microsoft's corporate vice president for media and entertainment, has set sail from Redmond. Westlake confirmed to Variety on Wednesday that he has resigned from his post, saying that "it has become clear to me that the organization is moving in a direction that does not fit either my expertise or my skill sets." Westlake didn't discuss the direction in which he believes the company is going.

* Tens of thousands of people likely received a conciliatory e-mail from Target on Wednesday. In an effort to temper the repercussions of its massive data breach, the big-box retailer offered to give affected customers one year of free credit monitoring from Experian -- valued at $191.

* The Sacramento Kings will become the first major pro sports franchise to accept Bitcoin as payment, the team said Thursday. The NBA team, based in Sacramento, Calif., said in a release that starting March 1, it will accept Bitcoin for certain team merchandise and ticket transactions. It will utilize BitPay, a popular Bitcoin processing service, to handle the payments.

* Jen Taylor, who played the role of AI character Cortana in the Halo video game series, will reportedly voice Microsoft's take on Siri, set for a beta release on Lumia devices in April.

* The maker movement has started to rapidly turn to medical gear, especially in developing nations. The early results are quite marvelous, but there are a ton of concerns, too.

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