May 2008 GWB Technology Column

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s President and Chief Executive Officer Norris Tolson and Southeastern Office Director Randall Johnson, spoke on how biotechnology drives North Carolina’s economic development at  the Brunswick County Entrepreneurship Conference held on April 10th and 11th in Sunset Beach, N.C.  Some of the topics discussed were expanding the production of natural products, growing algae to produce biodiesel, marine fish farming and practical applications of marine biotechnology.   According to Johnson, entrepreneurship, expanding existing business and recruitment are three equally important components to economic development.

“The key is to start the business here and it will grow. The big question is how to move the ideas from the mind to the marketplace‚” said Johnson.

One of the most promising biotechnologies is using algae to produce fuel. Corn produces less than one hundred gallons of biodiesel per acre, but algae has the potential to produce between five and fifteen thousands gallons of fuel per acre, said Johnson. Currently the supply of biodiesel can not keep up with demand because of the cost of the corn-based feed stock used in its production, so alternative sources are particularly attractive.   Biodiesel can be used as a replacement for petroleum-based diesel fuel with minimal changes to a diesel engine.  In addition to trucking and residential vehicles, biodiesel can now be used in Yachts, as some marine engine manufactures have begun to approve biodiesel as a replacement to traditional diesel fuel.

Another area of interest to Johnson is dealing with the waste produced by hog production.  He listed a range of options from changing the way the waste is collected to using enzymes similar to those used in cleaners and detergents to convert the waste to ethanol. “Small bio-refineries, using enzymes to make fuel, sounds futuristic, but it is not that far fetched,” said Johnson.

Two Wilmington IT Events

The first week in April brought two Information Technology events to the Wilmington area.    The Business Technology Expo occurred on April 1st in downtown Wilmington at the Riverfront Park  and the 2008 InterACT and Wilmington Area Information Technology Professionals Mixer on April 2nd in the Computer Information Systems building on the UNCW campus.

The Business Technology Expo was co-sponsored by Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, VCi and blue dog Network and featured Information Technology vendors and displays.  One presenting company of particular interest was Rogo, a Wilmington based start-up that provides low-cost video surveillance software using common web cameras connected to a personal computer.  Rogo demonstrated their technology, showing how a person could check their home remotely from a video camera via a cell phone.  Their software is also currently in business settings such as Cape Fear Land Rover and the Wilmington Wine Shop and they just did a large installation Culligan water bottling in Goldboro, said James Trimble, company president.  “Water bottlers are actually required by Homeland Security to have security cameras. We are working with big companies to license our technology, as it is simple and bandwidth efficient, and even in larger installation is cheaper than conventional systems,” said Trimble.

The 2008 InterACT and Wilmington Area Information Technology Professionals Mixer included Information Technology vendors and graduate student projects on display. This was the fifth year that UNCW hosted this event  and over 350 people registered to attend.
For many of the student displaying projects, the event was a requirement of their grant funding. One project that attracted considerable crowd attention was research by a UNCW student, two staff and a faculty member into the effects of off-the-shelf video games on learning by developmentally challenged children.  Sheri Anderson, a graduate student in the Master’s of Instructional Design program, Beth Allred and Jeff Ertzberge, Technology Liaisons at the Watson School of Education and faculty member Monica Campbell are using Nintendo wii game consoles with commercially available software to see if there is a positive effect on the academic performance of students involved in Special Education.   The team is looking at  End-of-Course testing and Individual Education Plans and comparing the results between students who are have used video consoles in class and those who have not.  Additionally, the study is evaluating whether allowing students time to use Nintendo DS handheld video consoles as a reward for academic performance works to motivate students to improve.  The study will wrap up this May and so far the progress reports look promising. The full report will not be completed until the fall.

Hosted Solutions, a Raleigh-based provider of data center and managed hosting services, was recently acquired by Boston-based Private Equity Firm ABRY Partners for $140 million.   Hosted Solutions has data centers in Charlotte, Raleigh, Cary and Boston where customers can colocate servers to host business application or websites and provides Microsoft, Sun and Red Hat Linux dedicated servers.  The company will keep its name, the same management team and retain and add employees in its two Charlotte data centers. Hosted Solutions provides services for companies such as the Carolina Panthers, Harris Teeter, Lowe’s Motor Speedway as well as local Wilmington companies including CF Webmasters, Emerson Software, First Research, Signal Design and Sage Island.

Category Five Networks

Wilmington-based Category Five Networks, a provider of networking and IT services recently announced they have earned two additional certifications,  Microsoft Small Business Specialists and Apple Certified Help Desk Specialist.