Massachusetts leaders working to increase tech education

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of the largest tech hubs on the East Coast but, despite the presence of IT companies of all sizes and leading educational institutions, the state is still not producing enough computer scientists to meet the ever-growing demand. The Bay State houses offices of tech giants like Google, Microsoft and the Oracle Corporation, not to mention thousands of startups, and the sector now makes up more than one fifth of the gross domestic product.

According to non-profit, only 2.4 percent of American college graduates are majoring in computer science these days, and the sector is rife with employment opportunities. Now, business and political leaders in Massachusetts are teaming up to raise that percentage.

Governor Deval Patrick launched the Innovation Schools program in 2012 to create special centers with a focus on IT where students in the eighth grade and up have access to cutting-edge technology. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is also in talks with groups to expand tech solutions to all levels of education.

Even MIT can't keep up with the high demand for tech experts.

"In the past few years we have introduced an introductory course for non-majors that enrolls over 200 students," said Worcester Polytechnic Institute computer science head Craig Wills to "We're seeing students recognize the value and importance of learning the material, but it's certainly not required. Courses should be so good that students see the value in taking them."

Software developing companies and other businesses with IT needs are hiring at a record pace, buoyed by the recovering economy and constant technological evolution. Politicians can help their regions become IT leaders by promoting tech education among the younger generations.

Manhattan Borough President calls for more tech education

A growing number of cities and states across the country are realizing the importance of expanding schools' information technology education programs. The number of businesses that don't depend to a very high degree on technology is small and shrinking fast, and in-depth IT is no longer an area that can reasonably be limited to higher education.

The latest public figure to call for expanded IT training programs is Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who said this week that she has requested a meeting with New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to discuss the creation of a specific tech high school diploma and an increase in investment for computer science classes.

Brewer estimates that the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) should invest $25 million over the next five years to purchase the necessary hardware and software to expand training programs throughout the city. She added that Fariña has already expressed willingness to take action.

"We are committed to using technology in our classrooms"

"We are committed to using technology in our classrooms to foster and facilitate student learning and growth and provide our students with the skills for college and beyond," said NYCDOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye in a statement. "We look forward to working with Borough President Brewer and communities across the city to address the urgency of technology education, to better understand and address our schools' technology needs, and to ensure that all our students have access to quality technology curricula and supplies."

On Tuesday, voters throughout the state will decide whether to approve the Smart Schools Bond Act, another public initiative to equip schools with state-of-the-art technology. Authorities hope that computer science education today will make New York a top destination for IT and software developing companies down the road.

Tech sector driving NYC jobs recovery

The unemployment rate in New York City has been falling steadily as the effects of the Great Recession have worn off, with the total number of jobs reaching its highest level since August 2008, according to the Department of Labor. Overall, the jobless rate was at 6.8 percent in September, falling below 7 percent for the first time since late 2008.

The technology sector has driven much of that growth, with IT consulting and systems design employment growing by nearly 47 percent in the last five years. Of the 75,000 IT-related jobs that the city has added since 2009, some have come from tech giants such as Google, which has expanded its New York headquarters with about 4,000 new positions, but many more are being added by startups and other small software developing companies.

In the fast-moving industry, businesses can grow exponentially in the space of a few months — Compass, which creates real estate software, tripled in size from 60 to 180 employees in just six months and is moving to a new Union Square office, and that's just one of many success stories.

New York City is home to a growing number of technology companies.

"New York has gone from a standing start to comparison with Silicon Valley," said New York City Economic Development Corporation chief economist Michael Moynihan. "And it's not just a technology story, but technology used in so many other sectors."

As this blog has reported, developers are benefiting from increasingly accessible and affordable technology, which makes it easier for creative entrepreneurs to carve out a niche in a very competitive industry. With the financial recovery, startups also have readier access to accelerators and a growing number of networking events to help them thrive.

CT Tech Council names companies to watch

The Connecticut Technology Council has announced its list of "Companies to Watch" in 2014. The companies, most of which are in the startup phase, were chosen for their potential for future growth. The Council will recognize them at its Innovation Summit, which will take place at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford on November 12. There, they will have the chance to make pitches to angel investors and venture capitalists and meet one-on-one with successful entrepreneurs.

Among the "mentors" who will be in attendance will be Michael Boccardi, CEO of managed IT services company Cervalis, and Devon Brady, a senior manager at Ernst & Young. They will provide guidance to up-and-coming entrepreneurs in a variety of business areas: financial, human resources, legal, marketing, sales and technical. Most of the selected companies are in the life sciences, software development or telecommunications industries, with a handful in other sectors such as advanced manufacturing and energy.

"The Innovation Summit is Connecticut's largest IT networking event."

The Innovation Summit is Connecticut's largest IT networking event, bringing together new players with established companies and potential investors to drive the state's science and tech sectors forward. In addition to an expo and showcase, there will be a "Pitch Fest," an increasingly popular event where entrepreneurs have three minutes to deliver a pitch and are graded by a panel of judges, who also provide tips for improvement.

Connecticut has seen a number of public and private initiatives in recent times that aim to keep the state competitive and even make it a leader in these dynamic industries. Local managed IT services software developers can help the region's companies with their IT needs, providing custom software to help them streamline their business processes.

NYC to equip police with mobile devices, custom apps

The New York County District Attorney's office has announced that New York Police Department officers and vehicles will begin to receive high-tech devices as part of the NYPD Mobility Initiative. Each of the approximately 35,000 officers in the nation's largest police force will receive a smartphone, and 6,000 rugged tablets, designed to sustain tough field conditions, will be installed in police vehicles. The $160 million investment will be covered entirely by a financial settlement from French bank BNP Paribas.

The devices will be loaded with several apps to make the officers' jobs easier, including a mobile version of the Domain Awareness System, a surveillance platform that was first instituted by the NYPD, which will soon begin licensing it to other law enforcement forces. Officers will be able to access 911 data such as location and even notes from the call-taker, and future planned functionality includes fingerprint scanning and GPS.

Besides modernizing the police force, some observers believe the high-tech solutions could also increase accountability and help prevent abuses. To that end, both Los Angeles and New York City have recently begun equipping officers with personal cameras.

Six thousand NYPD vehicles will be equipped with rugged tablets.

"We must have 21st-century tools to deal with 21st-century threats, and this infusion of new resources will arm our officers with the technology and information they need to fight crime and protect the city against terrorism more efficiently and more effectively," said mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference.

The modernization of law enforcement also opens up new possibilities for software developing companies. Police departments can't afford to lag behind in technology, and they could benefit greatly from the use of apps designed specifically for their purposes.

New York becoming hub for custom software development

It is hardly news that the Internet of Things (IoT) is growing, but a perhaps underrated consequence of that growth is its effect on software companies, which are in many cases finding custom web application development easier than ever before. This is largely due to two trends: as mobile devices are becoming more powerful, technology that was only recently far outside the reach of most small developers is increasingly affordable.

In New York City, a number of small companies are getting on the map with popular apps or gadgets for health and fitness, home security and other areas. Many of these startups are hardware developers taking advantage of two of the most talked-about emerging technologies — 3D printing and the IoT — to design gadgets that are both relatively cheap to manufacture and easily made available to consumers through their mobile devices.

"Companies are benefiting from local initiatives both public and private."

These companies are benefiting from local initiatives both public and private. Among the major companies that are funding accelerators and entrepreneurial networks is marketing agency R/GA, which launched an accelerator a year ago specifically for IoT startups. This accelerator has already attracted the interest of major investors such as crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

As this blog reported, the city itself opened an online resource earlier this month for aspiring businesspeople to find venture capital funding and exchange ideas, which mayor Bill de Blasio called "the first of its kind anywhere in the world." Arguably the financial capital of the world, New York City is nevertheless not considered a powerhouse in the tech industry, but the democratization of IT development is rapidly changing that situation.

UConn doubles startup incubator space

The University of Connecticut Health Center will see its business incubator space double with the construction of a $19.4 million, 28,000-square-foot addition to the Cell and Genome Sciences Building, a project that got underway recently. The addition will serve to expand UConn's Technology Incubation Program, which has already provided lab space and support services to dozens of companies. The new facility, at UConn Health's Farmington location, is expected to be operational by December 2015.

This is the latest phase of Bioscience Connecticut, a state program that has issued nearly $1 billion in assistance to UConn Health with the aim of transforming the area into a major hub for the biomedical and health sciences. The hope is that the combination of private companies and high-level university research will help foster growth for both sides.

"The incubator expansion at UConn Health is a great opportunity for Connecticut's citizens and industry," said vice president for research Jeff Seemann. "This expansion provides a physical resource to capture the companies and jobs emanating from Bioscience Connecticut for the state, and ensures that opportunities rapidly develop by extending a bundle of services designed to grow and sustain them."

Authorities hope state investment will help make the Hartford area a science and tech hub.

The participating companies will have access to the University's research and technological resources and internship program. Existing companies at the incubator, 20 in all, cover a variety of science and technology areas, including IT, manufacturing and medical science.

Health sciences, IT and software developing companies can all benefit from their collaboration with the University and with each other, and from their location on a prime site for networking and meeting like-minded entrepreneurs.

Connecticut working to increase tech jobs

The Department of Labor has awarded a four-year, $5.5 million grant to the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board (EWIB) and the Workforce Alliance to train 567 unemployed workers and help them find jobs in high-tech fields. The grant was awarded after Connecticut exceeded the aims of an earlier phase of training as part of the Labor Department's Ready to Work program.

The initiative's aim is to give American workers the necessary training to take specialized jobs that would otherwise go to immigrants. The program is funded by H-1B visa fees, which are paid by companies that hire foreign nationals for jobs that require at least a bachelor's degree, especially those in STEM fields.

"This grant does more than put people back to work," said Workforce Alliance president William P. Villano. "It builds Connecticut's competitive advantage in high-skilled industries by targeting the skills gap in important sectors of the regional economy. All participants will be trained for and placed in career-path positions in one of the targeted fields."

Among the participating organizations are the Universities of Connecticut and New Haven, Connecticut's four state universities and 12 community colleges and over 100 private firms, including Meriden biotech company Protein Sciences. Connecticut's first round of Ready to Work training resulted in jobs for 454 people, well over the original goal of 361. Overall, the Labor Department has awarded nearly $170 million to nearly every state in Ready to Work grants.

As this blog has reported, Connecticut has launched initiatives of its own in recent times to help its engineering, life sciences and software developing companies remain competitive. Local authorities and private companies are working together to make the state a technology leader.

New York voters to decide on major tech education investment

On November 4, New York state electors will face some major decisions, including whether to re-elect Governor Andrew Cuomo to a second term. Also on the ballot will be a proposal to approve the Smart Schools Bond Act, which would allow the State to sell $2 billion worth of bonds to fund adoption of technological upgrades in classrooms.

Per the question's official text, the funding would "provide access to classroom technology and high-speed Internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, add classroom space to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space and install high-tech smart security features in schools."

Cuomo introduced the Smart Schools Bond Act, which would distribute money based on the school aid formula, with community leaders, parents, school districts and students coming together to decide how exactly to allocate it. According to the New York State Broadband Program Office, 56 percent of the state's schools have insufficient broadband access, and 31 schools have none at all.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has joined forces with local leaders, including Geoffrey Canada, the president of the non-profit Harlem Children's Zone, to stress the importance of technology in education in a series of public forums. Proponents say that investment like this is crucial, especially for the development of the STEM fields, and can lead to economic benefits for the region down the road.

Long a leader in a myriad other areas, New York is an emerging technological hotspot, thanks in part to public programs, such as the launch of startup portal Digital.NYC, which this blog reported on recently. Leaders hope that investment in tech education now will make the region attractive to software developing companies in the future.

FileMaker announces free guide, webinar for high-performance solutions

FileMaker Inc. has published an online guide to creating high-performance custom FileMaker solutions. The guide, titled simply "Performance," is the first in a series of solution design guides that will be made available for download from the free-to-join FileMaker Technical Network. Through the Network, users can join a community of FileMaker developers and experts to share ideas and solutions, as well as download articles, scripts, software and technical briefs.

The 30-page guide outlines how to create custom solutions that are not only efficient but easy to use, both in terms of their visual design and for subsequent maintenance and updating. The guide is suitable for both Apple and Windows users, and it focuses especially on mobile support. Readers will learn how to automate tasks through the FileMaker server to improve the performance of FileMaker Pro for iPad and iPhone.

"The Performance guide helps new users to optimize their new FileMaker solutions and experienced developers to tune up their existing solutions," said vice president of marketing and services Ryan Rosenberg. "High-performing solutions are easier to maintain and more enjoyable for people to use."

Additionally, the company announced that a free webinar will be held on October 28 on "Eight ways to make FileMaker databases run even faster." The webinar will be co-hosted by FileMaker technical marketing manager Matthew O'Dell and certified developer and authorized trainer Mark Richman of Skeleton Key, a St. Louis-based company that, like Kyo Logic, is a member of the FileMaker Academy. There will be two sessions on that date, at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm ET.