Comcast-Pennovation Challenge Winners Want to Upgrade Philly’s Bridges

Back in November, Comcast and the University of Pennsylvania announced the Comcast-Pennovation Challenge, a joint initiative out of Penn’s Center for Innovation (PCI) that motivated teams of students to develop Internet of Things technologies using Comcast’s machineQ network.

On Monday, Comcast and PCI announced that a team of students behind an infrastructural solution called Viewpoint became the competition’s first winners. 

The results were announced after more than six months of project development. The Viewpoint team, graduate students from Penn’s Integrated Product Design and Historic Preservation departments, used the time to develop their machineQ application, which can effectively collect live information on the structural stability of a city’s railway and roadway bridges.

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Philly’s Impact Economy to Get $15M Boost With ImpactPHL Ventures

ImpactPHL Ventures initial funding partners.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners celebrated the one-year anniversary of its ImpactPHL investment collaborative on Thursday with the unveiling of its largest funding initiative to date: a $15 million follow-up project in line with ImpactPHL’s mission to assist early-stage companies that address social, environmental, and health problems.

Thanks to its seven initial funding partners, Ben Franklin’s new ImpactPHL Ventures will allow the tech investment powerhouse to assist Philadelphia’s impact economy more than ever before. ImpactPHL was initially created after the release of the 2016 report “Growing the Impact Economy Of Greater Philadelphia.” The report, put together by Ben Franklin and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, pointed to a number of regional factors that make the area the perfect breeding ground for a national standout impact economy. Included was an outline of five key objectives for ImpactPHL, beginning with advocacy and promotion and ending with research and education.

“Investing for regional economic impact has always been core to Ben Franklin’s mission. With ImpactPHL Ventures we are adding a focus and assessment of an enterprise’s social impact” RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, president and CEO of Ben Franklin, told Philadelphia magazine.  Read more »

Spark Therapeutics Gene Therapy for Blindness Moves Forward With FDA

Photo via Creative Commons

There’s a greater chance now than ever before that the Food and Drug Administration‘s first two approved gene therapies will both come from Philadelphia.

This week, the FDA granted “priority review” status to Spark Therapeutics’ biologics license application for Luxterna, a groundbreaking treatment for a specific inherited retinal disease that causes blindness. The news came less than a week after the FDA’s advisory panel submitted a unanimous vote to approve what will likely become the first approved gene therapy in the United States, the University of Pennsylvania and Novartis‘ CAR-T leukemia treatment.

The concept of gene therapy, or inserting functional genes into cells with malfunctioning or inactive copies, has different implications for both treatments. While a gene therapy treatment for cancer targets immune cells that have “gone rogue,” Spark Therapeutics’ Luxterna would be the first approved gene therapy for a genetic disease, tasked with targeting a different type of inherently defective cell. Read more »

Comcast to Roll out machineQ Network in 12 More Major Cities

Image via Comcast

The next step for Comcast’s machineQ network service is a big one. After conducting trials of the network last year in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and a subsequent launch in Chicago, Comcast announced this week that it will expand machineQ to cover 12 additional major U.S. cities.

As we’ve noted before, the expansion could lead to an uptick in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that can solve urban problems. While factors like high cost and limited coverage may have previously prevented some businesses and cities from pursuing large-scale IoT solutions, the Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology used by machineQ eliminates many of those restrictions.

“We believe that Comcast has a unique opportunity to leverage our existing network assets and Semtech’s LoRa technology, to fuel IoT innovation with disruptive new business models and smarter cities,” said machineQ GM Alex Khorram. “We’ve seen excitement about a Comcast solution that is opening a whole new world of use cases that were previously not commercially viable.” Read more »

Honeygrow’s New Virtual Reality Training Seems Like One Big PR Stunt

Assistant creative director Kevin Ritchie and his crew film Honeygrow’s 360° degree VR training. | Photo courtesy of Kevin Ritchie

There’s been a lot of buzz around Philly-based restaurant chain Honeygrow’s new employee orientation, a virtual reality (VR) program designed to foster brand consistency across the growing company’s locations. The program is the latest step in Honeygrow’s long love affair with creative technologies — the touchscreen ordering and payment system may be a fast-casual fixture now, but when owner Justin Rosenberg first launched the salad and stir-fry eatery in 2012, his method of tech integration wasn’t used as widely as it is today.

Still, some are questioning whether onboarding employees in the hands-on food service industry with VR is a worthwhile use of the trendy technology. VR has already proven itself to be colossally beneficial when used for medical training, certain therapies and other niche challenges. But as VR continues to grow, does it have a place behind food prep counters as well? Read more »

Here’s How Much Is Required to Be Considered Wealthy in Philadelphia

Charles Schwab recently released the results of its first-ever Modern Wealth Index survey, which assessed the thoughts and attitudes that 500 Philadelphia residents have about money.

To come up with the city’s overall Modern Wealth Index score of 47, Schwab looked at four factors: goal setting and financial planning; saving and investing; staying on track; and, confidence in reaching financial goals. The score puts Philly just below the national average of 49.

“With an average score of 47, Philadelphians are pretty comparable to average Americans, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement,” said Michael Martin, a VP and financial consultant at Charles Schwab’s Philadelphia branch. “In particular, Philly residents trail average Americans the most when it comes to financial planning, so that should be a focus area.”

And what else does this number represent? To get a better sense of what money means to the City of Brotherly Love, take a look at some other findings from Schwab’s survey. Read more »

WATCH: TechGirlz Students Designed These Robots at Summer Camp

TechGirlz campers’ decorated Arduino robots. Photo by Haley Weiss

TechGirlz wrapped up its annual summer camp on Friday, after an intense week of learning with a brand new tech curriculum this year. Nearly two dozen middle school girls gathered at Villanova University’s School of Business on Friday to show off a fleet of robots they coded and built.

Over just a few days, students studied Arduino, a versatile electronics platform that allowed them to code their robots’ sensor-based movements using C/C++ programming language.

This was the first year TechGirlz has focused on computer science and programming during the summer camp. Since Tracey Welson-Rossman launched the nonprofit in 2010, with the mission of empowering young girls to utilize technology confidently in their future career, the summer program has focused on marketing and tech entrepreneurship, culminating with a business pitch competition.  Read more »

Philly Airport Workers Rally, Gear Up for Possible Strike

PHL workers strike during the 2016 DNC. Courtesy of 32BJ SEIU. Photo by Matt Stanley.

Hundreds of Philadelphia airport workers are prepared to rally at noon today to demand a favorable resolution to ongoing talks between the airport workers’ union 32BJ SEIU and American Airlines.

Airport employees hired by two of American Airlines’ primary contractors, Primeflight and Prospect Airport Services, first announced a strike on Tuesday, but held off after American Airlines agreed to enter into last minute talks on Wednesday morning. As negotiations over the union’s right to bargain a contract continue, PHL’s workers are prepared to strike if negotiations stall.

“They are willing to do whatever it takes to win, whether that means walking off the job or giving American Airlines the chance to make things right,” said union vice president Rob Hill. “If these talks break down, we are prepared to strike at any time.” The outcome of the negotiations will also affect union workers at Newark, LaGuardia and JFK, all of whom have long been frustrated with the state of their contracts. The possible strike would likely occur at all four airports. Read more »

Sunoco to Pay to Resolve Cloudy Water Caused by Pipeline Drilling

mariner east 2, pipeline, sunoco

Image via claffra/iStockphoto.com

In an effort to make amends for tainting the private water supply of Chester County families last week, Sunoco Pipeline LP announced this week that it will pay to connect the public water supply to around 30 homes in the area.

Residents of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township first complained of cloudy water and low water pressure on July 3rd, a few weeks after workers began construction on the local portion of Sunoco’s 350-mile Mariner East 2 gas-liquids pipeline. According to State Impact PA, Sunoco had previously notified the township that drill crews had encountered groundwater, but hadn’t expected the event to lead to contamination.

When the complaints reached Sunoco, drilling was halted for five days, and affected residents were provided with bottled water, filtration systems, or hotel stays. The murky water, sent immediately to an independent water-testing company for analysis, was assumed to contain a contaminant known as bentonite clay, or drilling mud. Although full test results have not yet been returned, the initial water samples sent back to the township on Tuesday have contained no bentonite clay. Read more »

Greenhouse Ventures, Jefferson Offer “Higher” Education in New Medical Marijuana Pa. Tour

medical marijuana dispensaries

FatCamera/istockphoto.com

On July 25th, a group of 100 Philadelphia healthcare professionals will become some of the first in the state to learn about the benefits and applications of medical marijuana since Pennsylvania handed out its first industry permits last month.

Startup accelerator Greenhouse Ventures announced on Tuesday that it has teamed up with Thomas Jefferson University’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp to host the PA Medical Cannabis Education Tour. The tour will visit the state’s six key health care hubs to engage with physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals on the state of the emerging medical cannabis industry. 

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