September 2008 GWB Technology Column

WHQR Moves To Digital Signal

Wilmington’s National Public Radio station, WHQR is putting the final touches on their digital transmitter as part of the plan to begin offering High Definition radio programming in addition to traditional FM.  HD radio allows WHQR to broadcast with CD quality sound and provide additional programming on the two available “side bands.”   John Milligan, WHQR General Manager said that “public radio has take a proactive role in HD radio” and that the station is looking to offer a total of three stations in HD.  The primary station will be a HD broadcast of the regular signal with a second channel broadcasting classical music around the clock and another station with a mix of programming to be determined later.  The classical music channel will feature local hosting for part of the day.  The third channel will “talk directly to particular segments,” said Bob Workman, Programming and Music Director, such as “the younger generation, spanish speakers.” This new format has “so much more flexibility for the listeners,” said Workman.

Listening to HD radio requires a new compatible radio that start around $50 and are available in home and car stereo models.  Addon tuners are available for major brands of after market car stereos such as Sony, Pioneer and JVC.  The station plans on offering members an opportunity to check out a radio to give the new service a try after it goes live.

Milligan wanted to stress that the addition of HD Radio is not like the upcoming transition to digital television.  “It is not like TV and will not effect existing broadcasting,” said Milligan.  However, The new HD signal does not reach the complete traditional coverage area.  Because a HD signal does not degrade in the same manner as traditional FM, WHQR’s HD signal only reaches 82% of the area of the FM signal.  Milligan said the station has requested permission from the FCC to increase the broadcast power of the digital signal by 10% to increase the coverage area.

Patron Software Releases New Version

Patron Software, a local developer of software for nonprofit organizations, announced that The Foundation of Brunswick Community College (BCC) has chosen to implement their software package to track donors and assist with capital campaigns.  Mike Capaccio, director of development at BCC said they chose the software package because the Foundation is making a signifigant effort to develop relationships with individuals and donors.  “We are committed to using the most current technology to help form donor relationships with the people of Brunswick county,” said Capaccio.  “After looking at many software packages we chose Patron Software because of the quality, cost and flexibility.”
Patron Software was originally founded in 2001 after the founders met while working at the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra.  Joanne Riesz, then the Executive Director, said she responded immediately to co-founder Jenny Romanelli’s requests to volunteer.  Riesz said she believed the Romanelli could help the organization organize its information and records because she was a recent retiree and a former computer systems analyst for Corning Clinical Laboratories.  The two developed a database-driven system to replace the sympony’s flat file system.  After determining there was a demand from similar organizations for affordable software, the two formed Patron software.
Now on version 2.0, the software’s features have expanded in response to requests from clients to address specific problems.  According to Romanelli, their sofware is “evolutionary, they listen to what clients tell them and see clients as partners.”  For example, they added a module for volunteer scheduling after Onslow Community Ministries needed to track volunteer contact information and schedules.  Features such as allowing the organization to assign members to specific donors and documenting interactions with donors also came from suggestions from clients.   Riesz credits a button in the software that allows users to make suggestions directly to the number of ideas generated by users.
The most current version of Patron Software includes modules to track organization membership, manage volunteers, organize projects and record information on the people served by an organization. It sells for $2,499.00 including installation and three hours of training.  The company also offers customization, additional training and existing record conversion.

AlphaCM Launches Community Site

AlphaCM, a provider of software for mental health care providers, has launched a free web-based portal for all North Carolina providers in the mental health, substance abuse and developmental disability field.  The website, ncproviders.org,  allows users to post questions and share information on a forum, get up to date information on regulations and review state and local bulletins.  While the site is free to use, AlphaCM require providers to register and be approved before using the system.   According to AlphaCm’s Chi Rodriguez, approval is required to ensure that only actual NC providers use the system and the site stays free of advertising.   “Over 60 providers registered on the first day the site was active,” said Rodriguez, and the number of registered providers continue to grow.

AlphaCM was founded in 2005, by Kevin Ennis and Ez Bala, after Ennis worked for Piedmont Behavioral Health, the largest Local Management Entity (LME) in the state.  Today, Piedmont Behavioral Health remains a client of AlphaCM and uses their software to manage over 400 providers of mental health services.  AlphaCM also offers a web based software package, AlphaFlex, that is used by local providers to help them facilitate records management and electronic billing.  The software handles reimbursement from Medicaid and local LMEs, automated billing and reconciliation, management and operations reports and integrates with LMEs existing systems.  The software is accessed via a web browser and instead of being sold by user or per installation, is paid for by charging a percentage of money collected by the billing system.  Fees start at 3% and decrease based on transaction volume.   Ennis said they chose this business model because “providers do not have the capital to invest in software”.  Ennis was also attracted to the reoccurring revenue and said that his company is “in it for the long haul.”
In the future the company wants to increase the integration of their software with Microsoft Office and with Sun Microsystems’ free open-source office suite, OpenOffice.  Working with both Office suites is critical because “the state still works in paper and we need to be able to export in these programs,” said Ennis and since “providers operate on low budget and Microsoft Office is a very expensive offering,  we think that OpenOffice is a viable alternative.”