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Pittsburgh Innovates

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Lanxess' new president makes people a priority in moving the company to the next level

Flemming Bjoernslev, new CEO and president of Lanxess North America, believes people are the future of the global chemical manufacturer.
 
Going forward his top priorities are talent and programs that will promote employee retention as well as safety, innovation and company technology, he told the audience at the recent breakfast briefing of the Pittsburgh Technology Council at the River’s Club.
 
Bjoernslev moved to Pittsburgh last fall, replacing former president Randy Dearth. The first few months were spent touring the company’s 14 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
 
“Visiting the sites really allowed me to take the pulse of the organization and determine the best path going forward,” Bjoernslev said.
 
Born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, (his father ran a division of Bayer AG), Bjoernslev, 46, started with Bayer in Germany, and spent time in a division in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before moving on to Slovakia in Eastern Europe and, finally, the U.S.  
 
“I was lucky to step into a great organization with a solid reputation,” he said. "What I like about Pittsburgh is it’s not as big and congested as other cities on the East Coast. It’s not so small, either, with cultural offerings, museums and the arts.”
 
As head of the North America region, he will oversee 1,500 employees in the U.S. and Canada. The Lanxess portfolio includes 3000 products—coatings, plastics and chemicals—and is one of the largest producers of high-performing rubbers in the world.
 
In fact, Lanxess pigments were used to color the pathways that wind through Point State Park. In the last 18 months, the company acquired three new facilities including the Neville Island plant and two in Greensboro, N.C., and Little Rock, Ark. Another plant is being built in Gastonia, N.C.
 
In the last eight years, Lanxess has tripled revenues despite the down market, he told the audience. The firm employs 17,000 worldwide; 2012 global sales were $12 billion, $2.6 billion dollars in North America.
 
The company is moving into a new era of growth. A new global headquarters is underway, which will move the company from Leverkusen to Cologne, Germany, a major stepping stone toward future expansion, he said.
 
Bjoernslev spoke at length about the company’s “robust curriculum” that will promote employee excellence, safety and mobility and is aimed at reducing incidents on the job to zero. The natural gas industry locally will also be a large driver in company growth going forward.
 
"Having hardworking, talented people that get things done is what drives business," Bjoernslev said.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Flemming Bjoernslev, Lanxess

Rinovum launches national advertising campaign for in-home infertility kit

Monroeville-based Rinovum has launched a nationwide push of its prescription infertility product, The Stork, beginning with TV spots and a digital campaign touting their unique bedroom approach.
 
The Pittsburgh life sciences company is among the first to market a product for “cervical cap insemination,” a kit that gives couples the option of trying to conceive in the privacy of their home before embarking on more aggressive, costly measures in a doctor’s office.
 
Rinovum recently began airing 30-second spots on Fox 53, WESA and WYEP. Ads are also running on parenting websites and in the popular parenting magazine, Conceive, which landed in about 2.6 million OBGYN offices, says Brianna Freeman, marketing manager.
 
Formerly called “Bridge to Conception,” The Stork allows couples to replicate artificial insemination at home, a process in which semen is deposited on the cervix. The kit costs $80 and requires a prescription, although Rivovum is in the midst of a rigorous process that will allow it to be sold it over-the-counter.
 
Efficacy rates for The Stork are not yet available but cervical cap insemination has historically had a 10 to 20% success rate, says Freeman.
 
The company moved out of the PLSG offices last February to Oxford Drive in Monroeville and expanded from three to eight people. The product is being manufactured at TMG Electronics in Cheswick.
 
“Being based out of Pittsburgh has enabled us to tap out of the wonderful resources here, from wonderful opportunities to the Greenhouse, which has allowed us to grow our business,” says Freeman.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Brianna Freeman, Rinovum

State tax credits approved for tech startups and film production. Will entertainment be next?

If tax credits work for the movie industry, why not spread the love to gaming companies and tech startups?

That was the idea behind two separate tax credit proposals circulating at the state level, one that would boost early stage tech investments and the other, an expansion of the current film tax credit, aimed at attracting investment to permanent gaming development centers in the state. 

While the Innovate in Pennsylvania Tax credit was signed into law last Sunday, the Digital Entertainment Tax Credit didn’t quite make the cut. 

The Innovate in PA Tax Credit was introduced by state Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna. The credit will be activated once the 2013-14 budget passes and will increase funding to Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the state initiative that funds tech accelerators such as Innovation Works and the PLSG. 

The program works through credits that will be purchased by insurance companies from the Dept. of Community and Economic Development and will be used against insurance premium liabilities in 2017. About $100 million in credits will be sold, generating close to $85 million for tech investments. 

Ben Franklin Technology Partners will receive half of the proceeds, the PA Venture Capital Investment Program will receive 45 percent, PLSG on the South Side will receive the remaining 5 percent. 

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi introduced Senate Bill 1035 for a new Digital Entertainment Tax Credit. Similar to the film tax credit, the digital entertainment credit would have created an incentive to attract investment and establish permanent gaming development centers in Pennsylvania. The measure failed.

The Pittsburgh Technology Council heavily campaigned for both measures. While the passing of the Film Credit and the Innovate in PA Credit were great news for the region, PTC will continue to push for digital entertainment tax break, which would go a long way toward supporting startups coming out of CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center.

“We’ve been at the helm of this for awhile and saw this as a natural fit. We’re very optimistic that the next time around we will see a positive manifestation of this outcome,” says Audrey Russo, president of PTC. 

“As the largest game company in Pennsylvania, Senator Pileggi's proposal was very exciting for us as it represented a big step toward actual legislation,” says Jake Witherall of Schell Games on the South Side. “It’s unfortunate the proposal didn't make it into the final state budget that was passed last Sunday.  That said, it is still progress and we would hope to see it get passed the next time around.”

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Audrey Russo, The Pittsburgh Technology Council, Jake Witherall, Schell Games

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? A+ Schools, PMI, Wrecking Crew Media and more

Each week Pop City reports on hiring news in Pittsburgh.

A+ Schools is hiring for two positions, a community organizer and a program manager. The Community Organizer is responsible for building, managing, and mobilizing adult networks to improve public education in Pittsburgh. The position requires passion for social justice and a strong generalist skill set.
 
The Program Manager, a new position, will be responsible for developing program materials, training parents, facilitating parent volunteers through decision making processes and assisting them in designing, implementing and evaluating their program.
 
PMI-TV has two openings. The broadcast and video studio is seeking an experienced digital strategist with a background in advertising, public relations and digital work. Also an experienced interactive-UX developer capable of leading projects and teams. (Read all about PMI in Pop City this week.)
 
Pittsburgh Business Group on Health (PBGH), an employer-led, non-profit coalition of organizations representing various business segments including private and public employers, government and education, is hiring an executive director to take the helm of the company.
 
Marc USA, a national advertising and integrated marketing agency, is hiring a freelance interactive designer charged with all aspects of integrated design.
 
Lucas Systems has six openings in engineering and IT and two internships. Positions include: project engineers, software engineers, project manager, software test engineer and two software engineer interns.
 
Wrecking Crew Media in Pittsburgh is looking to add a full time director/producer/editor to our growing staff. Strong concept and writing skills are very important, as well as motions graphics (AE) and better than good lighting skills.

Chester Engineers, an industry leading engineering firm, is still looking for engineers for its Pittsburgh office. Chester provides energy, water and wastewater solutions to public and industrial clients across the United States and internationally.  
 
WordWrite Communications has a paid part-time position for an intern this fall, a journalism, public relations or communications college junior or senior.

Have hiring news? Email Pop City and include the links.

Writer: Deb Smit

Ever wonder how those programs get to your TV? Chances are it came via PMI in Pittsburgh.

When David Case founded Pittsburgh-based PMI-TV in 1985, television was a very different world.
 
The syndicated world of TV began in the 1970s with The Mike Douglas Show, the first talk show in the country, he explains. Producers taped the show in Philadelphia and Cleveland and it was distributed by Westinghouse Broadcasting.
 
The only way to move a broadcast across the country, in those days, was to copy it hundreds of times and ship it out, he says. This was pre-overnight delivery. So the show was shipped to KDKA in Pittsburgh where it would be copied en masse.
 
Pittsburgh was within 400 miles of 80% of the viewing population. Tape weighed more than 25 pounds. Being close to the end user was key.
 
That’s the short story of how PMI-TV, the largest distributor of syndicated TV shows, came to be in Pittsburgh. Fast forward to today, PMI is a fast-growing studio that never sleeps, running feeds 24-hours a day, seven days a week, channeling programs through satellites and private networks.
 
“There is extraordinary bandwidth coming out of this building,” says Case of their 22,000 square-foot Market Square operation that employs more than 55 people.

PMI moved there three years ago from its previous location on First Avenue, next to the YMCA.
 
Syndication distribution today is fast-paced and ever evolving, says Case, president and CEO. PMI analyzes, collaborates, designs, directs, shoots animates, records, produces, edits and mixes in addition to the syndication distribution.
 
Its clients are the companies that own the TV programs—HBO, CNBC and Universal, to name a few. PMI is the conduit in the supply chain, distributing products to various outlets, broadcast cable companies and TV in a timely fashion.
 
This often involves repurposing the product for the end users, which means reformatting, legalizing or cleaning up inappropriate language. Many are first run shows. Among them are Jerry Springer and the hit series Law and Order.
 
PMI also creates commercials for broadcast, business-to-business footage for corporations, documercials, you name it.
 
“People who come here tend to stay forever,” says Case, who includes among his favored employees the firm’s mascot, a Yorkie named Willie. “We could be doing this from anyplace, we just happen to be here.”

Check out a PMI video on Pittsburgh.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: David Case, PMI

Green News: Phipps receives international nod for sustainability, cool roofs are hot

Green news in and around Pittsburgh:
 
In a nod to European aesthetics, Phipps Conservancy and Botanical Gardens has received one of the most prestigious green awards in the world.
 
The Green Good Design Award, bestowed by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture Design, is one of the oldest and highest honors of its kind.
 
Its goal is to raise international awareness of some of the most important examples of sustainable design in the world. Phipps was singled out for its Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), a facility that not only generates its own energy but captures and treats its water onsite.
 
CSL is considered the first building in the world to achieve the trifecta of green standards: the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum certification and four-star Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) certification.
 
The award is judged by members of The European Center’s Internal Advisory Committee, a group of worldwide leaders in the design industry.
 
Also on the greenfront, Pittsburgh is moving forward this summer with a program to create some of the coolest roofs in the city.
 
In its first year, the Cool Roofs program is part Cities of Service Cool Roofs, a strategy that encourages mayors across the country to increase sustainability by promoting painting hot, black rooftops with energy-efficient coatings.
 
The city’s Department of Public Works is working with volunteers to clean and paint 10 roofs, about 50,000 square feet, with a highly reflective white paint that reduces internal building temps by up to 30%, thereby reducing energy costs.
 
The program is funded by $56,000 from a Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund Grant and $25,000 from the city’s Green Trust Fund. Cool Roofs was founded in 2009 in NYC by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and 16 other mayors across the county.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Phipps Conservatory, Green Building Assoc.

Pittsburgh's Ian Nash joins the first cross-country solar flight for Bayer Material Science

As the first solar-powered, cross-country flight makes it final push to NYC this month, Pittsburgh’s Ian Nash is on the ground making it happen.

A Bayer MaterialScience employee, Nash assists with takeoffs and landings on the Solar Impulse Flight Across America, a historic journey that is proving to the world that a modern-day Icarus can go the distance powered by the sun.

Solar Impulse was designed by two Swiss inventors who developed a lightweight, solar-powered craft—weighing in at 3,527 pounds—that is powered on a battery charged by day. Everything on the plane was designed for energy efficiency, from the flight instrumentation to the engines. The four props under the wings contain 10-horsepower electric motors. 

For its part, BMS developed several high-performance, lightweight materials, including high-performance polyurethane foams, adhesives and coatings. 

Solar Impulse’s first flight was across Europe. The Flight Across America recently completed its fourth leg on the journey, landing Washington, Dulles, this month before departing for its final destination to New York City.

Nash’s role is in helping the one-manned plane to take off and land. (When he’s not following the plane around the country, Nash is a polyurethane advocacy and sustainability rep at Bayer.)

The plane’s light, large wingspan makes it slightly unstable on the runway, Nash explains. Getting it off the ground requires cutting-edge innovation and a bit of classic methodology. After each takeoff, Nash boards a plane with the crew and follows it to the next destination where he assists with the landing.

“It’s a flying laboratory for innovation, demonstrating what is possible with innovation and clean technologies,” Nash says. “It aligns with Bayer’s approach. We can use these technologies to help society face a lot of challenges.”

Solar Impulse’s ultimate goal is an around-the-world flight, scheduled for 2015, with a second-generation aircraft currently under construction.

In addition to BMS, partners include Solvay, Schindler, Swiss ReCorporate Solutions, SunPower and the Swiss Confederation.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Ian Nash, BMS
 

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? ExOne and Walking Thumbs and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in hiring news and company growth.
 
3D manufacturing company ExOne in North Huntingdon is hiring eight for a range of positions: accounts payable clerk, custodian, machine build/ mechanical technician, program manager in chemistry, program manager-FEA, QA inspector, research and development associate and research materials science scientist.
 
Oakland startup Walking Thumbs is looking for five people to take on leading roles in Android and iPhone development within our team. Under the radar to date, the startup is “stable and growing” as it builds its messaging platform and ecosystem of applications surrounding it, says founder John Feghali.
 
Positions include chief technical officer, android developers and iOS developers. For more details applicants may email Feghali at john@walkingthumbs.com.
 
In case you were under a rock and missed it last week, Dick’s Sporting Goods is expanding again on the heels of having opened a spanking new offices no less than two years ago. Naturally hiring is indicated. Dick’s has openings for 12 at present, including developers, analysts and a marketing content manager.

Attack Theatre is looking for a finance and development associate who can work independently and collaboratively in a fast-paced environment.
 
Towercare, developers of a suite of products for nonprofits, is hiring a software developer.
 
Business Forward, a business process improvement consultancy, is looking for solutions analysts who are able analyze, design, develop and implement cross functional business solutions.
 
Bombardier in West Mifflin is hiring a technical writer and trainer to research and author technical manuals and corresponding training manuals to support Bombardier products. 
 
Pittsburgh-based Intermedix, providing technology-enabled solutions in health and safety, is hiring a technical writer to prepare and maintain assistance materials for several emergency preparedness software products. 
 
The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for a staff writer for a multimedia internship for the Fall of 2013. This position is unpaid and based at the Consol Energy Center.
 
Having hiring news? Email Pop City and include the career link.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

DeepLocal's telepresent robot offers a thrill of a lifetime to a youngster with a rare blood disease

When 13-year-old Nick LaGrande of Kansas City was diagnosed with a rare blood disease last year, his budding career as an avid baseball player came to an end. 

Nick was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a rare blood disease that lowers the immune system and prevents him from being in large crowds. Up until that moment, baseball was his life. He was born with fire in his eyes and a natural swagger for the game.

“The only time we ever saw him cry is when he learned he could no longer play,” says his mother.

Last Wednesday night, Nick learned that he would get to pitch again in an important Major League Game. In front of thousands of people, he threw the first pitch when the Oakland A’s took the field against the New York Yankees.

The pitch was made possible through Google’s high-speed fiber connection and a telerobotic pitching machine developed by Pittsburgh’s own DeepLocal.

“We created a robotic pitching arm that was controlled not just remotely, but 1800 miles away,” says Lauren Keller, accounts manager for DeepLocal. “It was awesome to see it work and Nick’s reaction to it.”

The idea for Nick’s robotic pitch was driven by Google Fiber in Kansas City. (You might recall the Google Fiber for Communities contest back in 2010, which Pittsburgh entered and lost. Kansas City won and is the headquarters Google's experimental, ultra high-speed broadband network.)

For its part, DeepLocal created the telepathic robotic pitcher, which took the Oakland field on the evening of June 12th. While Nick wound up and threw a pitch in a Kansas City studio, the vision system read his pitch, sent the data on Google’s Fiber network and triggered the robot to pitch to A’s relief pitcher Ryan Cook, all within the blink of an eye.

“It was so cool to give someone such a meaningful connection to a machine,” says Keller who watched the pitch from San Francisco while DeepLocal’s Patrick Miller, lead software engineer, assisted Nick in Kansas City.

The partners in the project were Google, Venables Bell & Partners and the Oakland A’s.  Watch the very moving story.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Lauren Keller, DeepLocal

Take a walk and recharge your batteries with Pittsburgh startup SolePower

Pittsburgh startup SolePower is taking power walking to a new level.
 
The energy harvesting startup and graduate of Innovation Work’s AlphaLab has created a portable battery that fits comfortably into the insole your shoe. A short walk of two to five miles is enough to generates power to recharge your iPhone and other small electronics.
 
Founded by CMU grads Matt Stanton and Hahna Alexander, SolePower began as a design project at CMU. The duo are mounting a Kickstarter campaign now, hoping to raise $50,000 to put the finishes touches on the prototype and take the final product to market.
 
SolePower was designed to withstand the elements. It’s waterproof and weather resistant and built to withstand 100 million steps, which is probably more durable than your favorite walking shoes.

“To start we’re targeting outdoor enthusiasts,” says cofounder Matt Stanton. “We think there’s also a huge military market.”

While competition in this space abounds, SolePower has several advantages, Stanton says. The light weight of the insole and the fact the device is not solar and dependent on whether are a bonus.
 
“Other batteries are bulky and heavy,” he says. 
 
The product has potential for first responders and relief workers in the midst of natural disasters. Avid walkers, campers in the wilderness, even business people on the go will appreciate the simplicity of a walking recharge.
 
“It’s amazing how many people around the world have cell phones but have no regular access to power,” says Stanton.

The startup employs three full-time, six total. Plans call for expanding to a new office in Oakland above Fuel and Fuddle in July.  Manufacturing should get underway in 2014 with the help of IW’s new AlphaGear program, which assists startups that are going into manufacturing.

“AlphaLab helped us on the business side to orchestrate a full business plan and get it to market,” he says.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Matt Stanton, SolePower

ExOne's John Irvin on the secrets of digital part materialization or 3D printing

ExOne Company’s John Irvin, CFO, was unpacking an explanation of 3D printing during one of the biggest gatherings of the industry in the country at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center last week.  
 
Holding up a palm-sized, steel disc called an impeller, used by the oil and gas industry to grind mud, he pointed out the advantages of additive manufacturing.
 
ExOne is fabricating discs like these through the additive manufacturing process, creating industrial products digital layer by digital layer in what looks like a large copy machine. The piece is a combination of powdered metal fused with a coating of a special, super glue.
 
It is then placed in an oven where it is infused at high heat with bronze for strength, he said.  
 
China is making these pieces for pump manufacturers in the U.S. and charging $400 a piece, Irvin explained. Their discs are welded together through a milling process; the resulting product is weaker and wears down faster than the discs made through the 3D printing.     
 
“We can make a couple hundred just as fast for $100 and deliver it in less than 4 weeks,” he said.
 
ExOne Co. in North Huntingdon is among the companies capitalizing on the growth of this new-style manufacturing. Still in its infancy, the process marks a transition from traditional or “analog” manufacturing to a “digital” process that transforms engineering designs into functional and durable objects made from sand, metal and glass.
 
“Traditional machining often resulted in pieces that were designed based on the limitations of the milling process,” said Irvin.  “Though 3D printing, design engineers have the complete freedom to design anything they can conceptualize.”
 
It doesn’t make sense to use 3D printing for everything, he notes. But the process will improve the engineering design of industrial parts that can be made better.  ExOne’s business is in both the creation of products for customers and the building of 3D printers.
 
The company has 162 employees between its North Huntingdon headquarters and centers in Troy, Mich.; Houston, Texas; Augsburg, Germany; and Kanagawa, Japan.
 
Expansion plans are in the near future. ExOne hopes to secure funding to expand at its Germany factory and add up to 10 production services centers in the next three years. The company was wildly successful in its bid to go public last February, raising over $95 million.  

Watch it on YouTube.
 
Writer: Deb  Smit
Source: John Irvin, ExOne
 
 

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Google Pittsburgh announces major expansion and more

Each week Pop City reports on hiring and job news in the region.
 
Google Pittsburgh is expanding again and will hire between 100 to 200 people in the coming year. Google Inc. announced this week it is leasing another 50,000 square feet of office space in Bakery Square and will begin aggressively hiring for 75 open positions, many in the shopping and commerce division.
 
Google Pittsburgh has grown rapidly since establishing a presence in Pittsburgh, having hired 50 people in the last year alone. Positions include software engineers as well support staff.

Across the way, a new restaurant called Social will be holding open interviews on Thursday, June 13th, from 12-8 pm for all positions: waitstaff, cooks, hosts, managers. Social is located at 6425 Penn Avenue.

ThoughtForm, a communication design consultancy working at the crossroads of business strategy and creative thinking, is currently recruiting people for six permanent positions and one contract position. The positions include designers, developers, writers, an image specialist and project manager.

The Congress of Neighboring Communities, better known as CONNECT, is hiring an outreach and program coordinator. CONNECT, part of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, works to bring the region’s urban municipalities together to enhance and deliver important public services.
 
MARC USA is hiring an advertising account executive and looking for a PR/social media apprentice. The ad exec/ new business development specialist will focus on many aspects of the agencies new business program.  The PR/social media apprentice is a paid position for a college grad in advertising, marketing business or a related degree.

Pop City is looking for a part-time person to size and load photos in Pop City's content management system every week. Deadline day is every Tuesday so availability is important on Mondays and early Tuesdays. Position requires approximately 7 hours every week. Previous online experience with photos is very helpful. Photoshop skills are a necessity.  Must have photo software.  For more info email info@popcitymedia.com

Quantum Theatre is looking for a part-time consultant to raise brand awareness and deliver traffic to the theatre’s website, social media destinations, live productions, and special events. 
 
KDKA-TV is looking for a commercial videographer with skills as a sound mixer and lighting director, able to support all studio and set productions in preparation for productions.
 
Think Through Learning is hiring a senior editor, K-2. The position is responsible for the production of web-based mathematics and instructional materials for elementary-aged students.
 
A.C. Coy Company in Pittsburgh is hiring a technical writer for its technical writing department to work on a complete overhaul of their documentation and must have experience with Doc-to-help and authoring tools.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is opening a customer service center in Greentree that will create 150 jobs. The servicing operation offers services and counseling to student loan borrowers. Many of the positions are related to loan counseling and human resources. A recruitment event will be held on June 25. 

Still looking for the perfect job? The Allegheny Conference this week unveiled a re-imagined Imagine Pittsburgh website, a gateway to more than 30,000 jobs in the region. New features take the site beyond that of a mere job board, including  stories about the people who work and live in our region.
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City. Sign up for Pop City on our homepage and receive hiring news each week.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Evive Station takes on the single-use bottling business with kiosks across the region

Single-use water bottles might be most wasteful invention of all time. At last, they are getting their due.
 
South Side-based startup Evive Station is waging a campaign against waste with a network of kiosks that not only encourage the recycling of water bottles, but take a customized marketing approach to refilling them.
 
With design help from Pittsburgh-based Daedalus, the startup developed one of the world’s first on-site bottle cleaning and filtered water dispensing services. Unlike other approaches, Evive sells a BPA-free water bottle for $10, entitling the user to free cleaning and water refill for the life of bottle.
 
And the whole process takes less than one minute, says Tom Petrini, Evive founder.
 
The first Evive Stations appeared on the campus of West Virginia University last April. The kiosks have since expanded to Pittsburgh locations, including American Eagle and the campus of CMU. Evive plans to locate kiosks on Pitt's campus this fall.
 
Americans buy 50 million single use water bottles each year; 40 million wind up unrecycled in a landfill, notes Petrini. “It’s really less about the water bottle and more about the reusability and convenience of the reusable bottle.”
 
Evive is taking the idea one novel step further. Each bottle has an embedded RFID tag in it, similar to an EZ Pass, which enables the station to identify each customer. This customized approach means Evive can tailor the content on the screen for each customer and increase profitability.
 
So while you are waiting for your bottle to sanitize and refill with UV-treated municipal water, users may view benefits and deals that might appeal to them, such as a special offer on a kayaking trip.
 
"We are really blown away by the response we’re getting to this," says Lacy Caric, business developer for Evive. “People enjoy interacting at the station and learning about local businesses. The user experience has been very positive.”
 
Evive Station currently employs 11 and plans to expand in the coming year to multiple locations across the state, including hospitals, resorts, fitness centers, says Petrini.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
SourceL Tom Petrini, Evive Station

ShufflePoint, a local startup that blends big data with Google Analytics

ShufflePoint was founded in 2008 on the idea that businesses needed better tools to efficiently manage Power Point presentations, explains founder Chris Harrington.
 
When that idea proved unwieldy, the startup began rethinking their offering.
 
“Looking at our web analytics, we realized that people were watching our online demo to learn how to integrate a Google Analytics report as a Power Point report,” says Harrington.
 
About the same time, Google was preparing to release the Google Analytics API (specs on the operating system) and they contacted the firm about participating as a release partner. It was a match made in digital heaven.
 
Today, ShufflePoint is using valuable Google Analytics data—and additionally important insights from Facebook, Twitter and email—to generate reports for companies and assist with the tedious task of preparing and analyzing the data.
 
The data is spun into one of many formats, based on a firm’s preference, including Excel and Google Gadgets. The information captures the heartbeat of a marketing campaign in the moment, answering the questions: Who is visiting their online sites? When are they visiting? What are they looking for? Where are they coming from?
 
ShufflePoint serves two classes of users, digital agencies that run campaigns and in-house analysts working within larger organizations. The firm, with a development office in Pittsburgh and sales office in Connecticut, employs two and has customers across the country and around the world. 
 
“We are dedicated to making it easy for web analytics professionals to get their job done efficiently,” says Harrington who is also involved in the “big data” movement in Pittsburgh. “Pittsburgh has the focus, structure and organization to be a player in big data innovation.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Chris Harrington, ShufflePoint

Three medical breakthroughs you need to know about in Azheimer's, diabetes and asthma

Three major developments in Pittsburgh medical research news were announced in recent weeks. 

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers have developed a promising  experimental treatment that may alleviate the suffering for those with moderate-to-severe asthma.

Looking beyond a “one size fits all” strategy in treating asthma, the researchers created a lab-made molecule specifically for those with more severe asthma. The lab molecule was successful in sticking to certain inflammatory proteins, thereby reducing the breathing problems associated with the illness.

The research was led by Dr. Sally Wenzel, director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute at UPMC/University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The study appeared in the May issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In Alzheimer’s research, Pitt researchers have found that the agent bexarotene reverses memory deficits in Alzheimer’s diseased mice. Researchers in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health were able to verify that the drug significantly improves cognitive deficits in mice with gene mutations linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

They could not, however, confirm if the drug had an effect on amyloid plaques, which is thought to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s.

“We believe these findings make a solid case for continued exploration of bexarotene as a therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” said senior author Dr. Rada Koldamova, Ph.D., associate professor.
 
Bexarotene is a compound chemically related to vitamin A that activates receptors that are found throughout the body, including neurons and other brain cells. The researchers postulated that the drug may work through a different biological process, one that may be unrelated to amyloid beta.

In diabetes research, chemists at the University of Pittsburgh have developed technology that would enable doctors to diagnosis and monitor diabetes through a breath analysis.

Many later diagnosed with diabetes have often noticed changes in their breath acetone, a precursor to the illness characterized by a “fruity” odor that increases during periods of glucose deficiency.  The Pitt team was interested in this biomarker as a possible diagnostic tool. 

Current monitoring devices are mostly based on blood glucose analysis, so the development of alternative devices that are noninvasive and inexpensive could completely change the paradigm of self-monitoring diabetes, said Alexander Star, principal investigator of the project and Pitt associate professor of chemistry.
 
Their findings were published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS)
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: University of Pittsburgh
 
 
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