July 2008 GWB Technology Column

Digital TV

For 92% of the five county Wilmington media market, those who watch television via satellite dish or cable, the upcoming September transition to digital broadcast from traditional analog will not even be noticed.    For the approximately 14,000 people who receive a television signal over the air with an antenna a digital converter box will be required to convert the new digital signal.

On September 8th, the Wilmington media market will be the first market in the US to convert to the new digital format as part of a test by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).   According to Constance H. Knox, WILM Station Manager, Wilmington was the only one of eight markets chosen by the FCC where all stations agreed to meet the early deadline.   The station managers have held regular conference calls and worked through the small challenges that came up while installing the required new equipment, said Knox.   All the equipment should be installed and ready to broadcast by August well in advance of the September switch.  Knox said she expected to share the information gathered from the early roll out with other broadcasters around the country.

For the engineers such as Billy Stratton, WWAY chief engineer, who are responsible for making the new equipment work, the transition has required installing a great deal of new equipment such a transmitters, cameras, and switching hardware.  Stratton said that after the launch of the digital signal, the stations will continue to broadcast information on how to view the digital signal over the analog frequencies until the national switch over in February.   The new digital signal provides superior sound and picture quality, but is less tolerant to low signal strength.  According to Stratton, it takes a stronger signal to produce a picture, so “if a person lives on the outskirts and uses ‘rabbit ear’s,’ they may need set with an amplifier or a roof mounted antenna.”  One myth that Stratton would like to put to rest is that the new digital signal is susceptible to weather.  “People worry about the signal but it will not “rain fade” like a satellite, it is still RF (radio frequency) like analog.”

ILM and Genisys Networks

Local information technology firm Genisys Networks has recently taken over the management of the computer systems of Wilmington International Airport and will host the airport’s mission critical business applications and data in their data center.  Airport staff will access applications over a secure internet remote access connection, using Citrix technology.  ILM Deputy Director Julie A. Wilsey said, “we have a small staff, and we do not have a dedicated IT/IS person. Over the years we accumulated 4 on-site servers, and it was time to replace two of them.”  Genisys eliminated the need for servers physically based onsite and provides real- time back and email hosting.    To make the choice, “a panel met with six local companies and determined which was the most qualified and affordable for our needs,” said Wilsey.

According to David Spears, Genisys Networks CEO, the company’s data center is located in an “undisclosed location, 35 miles northwest of Wilmington.”   The location was chosen because it is located on two power grids and is one network ‘hop’ away from the AT&T fiber network.  The recently completed data center features steel reinforcement, redundant diesel and propane backup power generators and can hold over 3000 servers.  The center currently holds servers for approximately 50 clients.   Spears and co-founder Johnny Diggs met while they were working at a previous networking company and organically provided onsite information technology services.  The company began offering offsite application hosting because it allowed customers to reduce costs by sharing expensive resources such as backup power and network connectivity.  For Diggs it meant that he could access all customer hardware from one location instead of driving around to customer sites.  The next revolution is virtualization, where multiple virtual servers are hosted on one single multi-processor server, said Spears.  Virtualization allows for quicker recovery of a downed server, since the image of the server can be backup directly.

SEAHEC

Physicians in Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, New Hanover and Pender counties can now fill their Continuing Medical Education (CME) requirements on their computers, with technology provided by South East Area Health Education Center, (SEAHAC) a nonprofit organization that works to improve the quality of healthcare in our region by providing training, education and resources to healthcare professionals.

SEAHEC is using Mediasite technology, an advanced rich media application, which combines video of a presenter with his or her computer output into a format that anyone could view in an Internet browser. This content can be streamed live or archived for later viewing for healthcare professionals interested in pediatrics. Physicians now have access to the weekly lectures anytime, anywhere and can fulfill CME requirements more conveniently.

“Expanding opportunities beyond the hospital setting to reach more healthcare professionals in our region is critical to our mission,” said Elizabeth Dalton, CME Director. SEAHEC is currently the process of building its own educational center slated to open in 2009. At present, SEAHEC is physically located on the campus of New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

PPD

PPD, Inc.  announced that CSS Informatics, the clinical and safety data management consulting services within PPD, has released an improved version of its specialized software product, eLoader. The software allows pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies to load data from external sources into Oracle Clinical and Oracle Thesaurus Management Systems.