New York tech scene hopes to build on strong 2014

2014 was a big year for New York City's tech sector. As the Gotham Gazette points out, there was a fair degree of uncertainty when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office on New Year's Day, largely due to his own admitted lack of IT knowledge. However, as 2015 comes around, the city's tech companies find themselves with more growth opportunities than ever before.

While de Blasio's predecessor Michael Bloomberg undoubtedly laid a very solid foundation, the new mayor has built on that and successfully expanded the tech industry beyond the borough of Manhattan. The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo, for instance, is now home to 500 IT firms employing over 10,000 people. De Blasio's office also launched Digital.NYC, an online portal that helps entrepreneurs and tech professionals network and find funding from investors.

Moreover, New York City has successfully built its own tech identity completely different from that of Silicon Valley. Most industry giants have New York offices, which is only natural considering the city's status as the world's financial capital, but more notably, startups are not only emerging but remaining in the city.

"New York City has successfully built its own tech identity."

"In 2006 you had people in New York City that were told they would get funding from Silicon Valley firms, but only if they moved out to San Francisco," said Dan Ciporin of venture capital firm Canaan Partners to U.S. News & World Report. "Those days are long gone."

As more tech businesses are able to grow and thrive in New York, the city is cementing its place atop the industry as it has in so many other areas, from business to entertainment. Local managed IT services software companies can provide startups with technical assistance and guidance to ensure their long-term success.

Lucasfilm uses FileMaker database to tracks Star Wars universe continuity

Since the first film hit the big screen in 1977, the Star Wars universe has expanded through sequels, prequels, books, video games and all manner of additional merchandise, making it likely the most extensive universe in fiction. Among passionate fans, a continuity error between two different episodes can lead to “Han shot first” levels of controversy. In order to avoid such contradictions, since 2000 Lucasfilm has maintained a vast database of characters, languages, planets, races, vehicles and weapons since the turn of the century.

The Holocron, named after a Force-powered repository of Jedi knowledge, is in fact a FileMaker database operated by Lucasfilm employee Leland Chee. Its full contents are strictly private, since it includes information on works that are in development. It goes into astounding levels of detail, such as providing names to characters who were never named and had but a single line in the films.

“A lot of that information, like naming of background characters, especially from the films, came from that Decipher collectible card game,” said Chee to NPR. “Most of their card sets were pre-Episode I, so it was mostly classic trilogy material, and they were naming every single background character. They were also pulling from the Star Wars Holiday Special as well, because they had image reference for that. But yeah, if someone wasn’t named, they would name them.”

Every character and location in the extended Star Wars universe are accounted for in the Holocron.

Chee points out that the database is “not that complex,” just extremely comprehensive. Indeed, FileMaker development can provide businesses with similarly detailed looks into their operations. Whether the subject is intergalactic warfare or something more mundane, a relational database can help keep track of essential information.

FileMaker brings 130-year-old hat maker into the 21st century

For 130 years, Akubra has been manufacturing and selling felt slouch hats that have become synonymous with the Australian Outback. In 2014, the hats remain iconic, but until recently the company was operating on a DOS-based system that also belonged in a museum. The system was essentially a computer version of a previous manual reporting method, which required employees to enter information on the hats that were produced.

The system was highly inefficient, and new operations manager Ron Palin set about looking for a replacement. He found that available off-the-shelf solutions were not comprehensive or customizable enough to handle the highly specific needs of a textile manufacturer, and eventually settled on a FileMaker database. Palin says that the new system has made basic operations exponentially faster.

"We're shipping same day, and we've never done that," he told ZDNet. "The supervisor said, 'I can't remember a Christmas where all the orders are out before January or before we went away.' It's not like we're late, but the factory is now so on time that we're delivering faster, and we know where things are."

FileMaker allows Akubra to track shipments for the first time.

Palin says the ability to track packages has been a boon to the company and to his own schedule, since he used to spend several hours each week attempting to obtain information that is now available at a click of the mouse. The company has also installed new hardware to match the software upgrade.

Certified FileMaker developers can help companies in all industries create and customize their own relational databases. With this tool, businesses can improve their reporting and obtain valuable insights into their own workflow.

10 Connecticut towns commit to super-fast internet

Connecticut’s approach to technological development has largely been locally driven rather than statewide in recent times, and that is certainly the case when it comes to the adoption of super-fast internet. Ten municipalities have agreed to an initiative to install optic-fiber internet with speeds up to one gigabit per second, more than 100 times faster than the current average home connection. The expectation is that more towns, perhaps dozens, will join in the coming weeks.

In this case, the state is taking an active role in the project, although it will have to be the municipalities themselves that decide to participate. State Comptroller Kevin Lembo and Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz both agreed that high-speed internet is no longer just a luxury but a necessity for Connecticut’s businesses to be able to compete on the national stage. Across the country, cities are striking deals with providers, with Kansas City, Missouri, and Louisville, Kentucky, these are well-known cities that probably don’t need the states in their titles among the largest ones.

“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity.”

As this blog reported in September, New Haven, Stamford and West Hartford were the first to drive this initiative, which now appears to be moving forward. Still, this is a costly enterprise. The biggest expense is what is known as the “last mile,” which is actually bringing the optic fiber to each individual business and residence. While this should prove easier in Connecticut than in more rural areas, the final bill could surpass $100 million.

There are several local and private initiatives underway to try to make Connecticut a leader in the STEM fields. Ultra-high speed internet would be a major boost to the state’s software developing companies and to the region’s plans of becoming an IT hub.

Kyo partner develops FileMaker app for factory safety inspections

Since May 2013, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has sought to prevent tragedies like the building collapse that left more than 1,100 fatalities at a garment factory last year. About one third of the country's textile factories are covered by the agreement, which was signed by labor unions, non-profits and the international retailers that outsource their manufacturing to Bangladesh.

One of the stipulations of the accord was the performance of comprehensive safety inspections to detect construction and fire hazards that may need to be addressed immediately. Baltimore-based Hughes Associates has carried out over 1,000 such audits over the past six months, and it has done so with the help of a FileMaker app developed by fellow Maryland company Anvil Dataworks.

Like Kyo Logic, Anvil is a member of the FileMaker Academy, serving the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas and with additional offices in Melbourne, Florida, and Seattle. Their experts created the app for use on iOS mobile devices. It allows inspectors to easily note the condition of the buildings, upload photos and generate reports to send them worldwide.

"Inspectors can upload photos and generate reports automatically with the app."

"We didn't have time to report using handwritten notes and disjointed photos," says Hughes' director for codes and standards, Brian Rhodes. "We needed much more efficiency and consistency to handle a task this large in such a short time frame. I don't believe that we could have completed this critical project on time and within budget without our FileMaker solution."

The seven members of the Academy assist businesses with FileMaker development and training, helping them streamline operations and improve data gathering. A customized relational database can save hours of work and simplify previously complex processes.

Developers create FileMaker app to track Haitian HIV patients

Last month, this blog reported the story a Mississippi dentist who used FileMaker to develop a database to make up for the lack of records in developing countries, including Haiti. Now, that country is benefiting from another FileMaker app designed by three IT support consultants at the University of Iowa. The app, called TEBOW as a portmanteau of the names of developers Steve Bowers and Ted Fitzgerald, helps track HIV patients.

The lead developer, Stephen Yagla, began working on TEBOW after a trip to Haiti with Chris Buresh, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Iowa. There, they observed a rudimentary and ineffective system of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and paper records being used by health workers, often visiting volunteers like Buresh.

TEBOW has the dual aim of being functional and very easy to use by health care workers with limited IT knowledge. Patients are photographed with an iPhone, their name and phone number are recorded and they are assigned a unique ID number. Workers can track specific patients and analyze the data to draw useful conclusions, such as how much medicine to bring on each trip.

“Workers can track specific patients and analyze the data.”

“It’s amazing how powerful it is and how much it helps,” said Buresh to The Daily Iowan. “It’s critical that we can prove to ourselves and everyone else that we’re not wasting our time and money. It has definitely changed the way I look at what we do and changed the way I look at people in IT.”

Certified FileMaker consultants can help businesses achieve similarly successful results by building customized databases and teaching employees to maintain and update them over time.

Aviation auditor uses FileMaker to develop safety management app

In the corporate aviation industry, operators use safety management systems (SMS) to ensure their compliance with national and international standards. However, the frequent updates made to those standards make the job of cross-referencing an SMS a time-consuming and complicated one. Now, thanks to a former corporate pilot and current auditor who used FileMaker to simplify the process, there's an app for that.

iIS-BAO is designed to the requirements of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), which is maintained by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC). It also conforms to the U.S.-based National Business Aviation Association and runs on FileMaker for both Mac and Windows as well as on FileMaker Go for iPad. Operators, SMS services providers and auditors can all use it to check compliance.

"Now IBAC is requiring cross-referencing in all its audits," said Phil Fountain, the app's creator, to Aviation International News. "I've included a place for operators to cross-reference each of their requirements to the manual. They can export it to an Excel file and email it to the auditor. The auditor can [input] all his questions and comments… and when he gets into the audit he can have all his questions prepared."

The new app makes it much easier for all parties to conform to business aviation safety standards.

Connecticut FileMaker developer Kyo Logic helps local companies create their own customized business solutions using this highly versatile software. FileMaker's relational database capabilities simplify the process of cross-referencing large volumes of complex information. With professional instruction, users can easily learn how to manage and update their own apps to ensure that they're always keeping track of their business data.

Meriden to replace high school auto shops with STEM labs

The Meriden Board of Education has taken a major step toward helping Connecticut develop its standing in the STEM fields. Board members this week voted to scrap plans to renovate automotive shops at the city's two high schools, Francis T. Maloney and Orville H. Platt, and convert them into labs. They stressed the importance of modernizing education in accordance with 21st century employment opportunities.

"Obviously, we'd love to have both options available in our high schools, but we just can't afford a full-blown auto shop and a STEM lab," said superintendent Mark D. Benigni to the Record-Journal. "I strongly support the board's decision. We're building schools for the next 50 years."

Maloney High School already discontinued its automotive course four years ago due to low demand and the inability to find a new teacher when the position was vacated, and had been using the shop to store music equipment, according to principal Jennifer Staub. Platt, on the other hand, has 68 students taking the course, but the principal said the labs will offer more interdisciplinary opportunities. Meriden is also home to H.C. Wilcox Technical High School.

"We're building schools for the next 50 years."

Bill McDonough, president of the Connecticut Technology and Engineering Education Association, said that Meriden's case is typical of the state's so far. Connecticut's STEM efforts have been localized and driven by community efforts, and McDonough believes state authorities should take a more hands-on approach to give students better opportunities.

Local managed IT services software companies contribute to Connecticut's tech growth, providing businesses with the support they need to thrive in today's IT-driven corporate landscape.

Kyo offers FileMaker customization webinar

Kyo Logic president John Mathewson will host the next FileMaker Academy webinar on Tuesday, December 16. The webinar, titled "Design Awesome Applications with FileMaker Themes," will focus on the customization of applications built on this Apple-owned relational database software.

Mathewson will explain the advantages of theme- and style-based customization solutions over free-form customization with a detailed look under the hood at the finer points of FileMaker development. He will also provide a guide to building these themes along with tips to make the process easier and get the most out of the software.

The webinar will present solutions for both desktop and mobile versions. Along with an introduction to themes in FileMaker 12 and 13, Mathewson will deal specifically with how to optimize them for the iOS-based FileMaker Go and other cloud and network solutions. He will also expand on the use of styles and themes for WebDirect, a system for creating custom FileMaker solutions for web browsers.

"The hour-long webinar will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET on December 16."

Themes were introduced with FileMaker 12, and version 13 features 51 of them. Theme customization makes apps more user-friendly, which has a direct effect on their performance and network traffic.

The hour-long webinar will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT) on December 16. Developers, FileMaker managers and users who want to learn more about the benefits and logistics of themes can register at this link. Mathewson will also be presenting at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as at a meeting of the Boston-Area FileMaker Developer Association.

The FM Academy has seven members throughout the United States, all of which are platinum-level members of the FileMaker Business Alliance. Based out of Westport, Connecticut, Kyo Logic serves companies in the Northeast by providing help with FileMaker customization, development, implementation and support.