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Thursday, April 8, 2021

BTV-Based Beta Technologies Inks Deal With UPS for Electric Aircraft

Posted By on Thu, Apr 8, 2021 at 2:10 PM

An Alia prototype - BETA TECHNOLOGIES
  • Beta Technologies
  • An Alia prototype
Updated at 7:20 p.m.

South Burlington-based startup Beta Technologies has a deal with United Parcel Service to sell up to 150 of its experimental electric aircraft to the logistics company.

The agreement announced on Wednesday is a milestone for the Vermont company and for the emerging industry of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOLs, which promises to reduce fuel emissions and enable new methods of transport.

“A purchase order from UPS really gives the team here, who's really focused on the mission of the business, an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the sustainability of aviation in the future,” founder and CEO Kyle Clark said in an interview.

UPS intends to use the aircraft for express delivery services in small- and mid-size markets, the company said in a press release, as part of an effort to transition away from fossil fuels.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Montpeculiar: Luckily, This Was Not an Actual Legislative Session

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 6:33 PM

Member of the Vermont House of Representatives practicing remote voting Tuesday - SCREENSHOT ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Screenshot ©️ Seven Days
  • Member of the Vermont House of Representatives practicing remote voting Tuesday
The new, mostly remote session of the Vermont legislature goes live Wednesday with the typical annual ceremonial and procedural oaths, speeches and votes by the House and the Senate. But lawmakers who logged on for a practice session Tuesday got a refresher course in just how frustrating remote legislating can make these otherwise routine tasks. 

House members on videoconference forgot to mute themselves, talked over one another, struggled to use voting software and endured a dull humming sound from someone’s faulty microphone.

“I don’t even know what I’m doing here!” Rep. Robert Helm (R-Fair Haven) declared in exasperation at one point. “Am I recorded as voting yes?”  
Rep. Robert Helm - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Rep. Robert Helm

The 1 p.m. practice session was staged precisely to help lawmakers and Statehouse staff work out any glitches in remote voting procedures and clear out any cobwebs that some acknowledged had gathered since the previous session ended in September.

Helm and his colleagues weren’t voting on real legislation. Rather, he was expressing befuddlement about whether his vote on a pretend bill — dubbed H.R. XYZ — was being properly registered.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

UVM Medical Center Confirms Cyberattack Involved Ransomware

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2020 at 6:02 PM

  • Sean Metcalf
The fall cyberattack that crippled University of Vermont Medical Center servers and disrupted vital patient care for weeks involved a form of ransomware, the hospital disclosed for the first time Tuesday.

Officials had previously refused to say whether ransomware was used, citing guidance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the FBI recently gave the hospital permission to describe some aspects of the attack, said Dr. Doug Gentile, the medical center's chief medical information officer.

"What I can tell you is this was in the class of ransomware attacks," Gentile told reporters on a Zoom call. "We did not get a phone call. We did not get a letter. But we did have a file deposited [on our system] that gave instructions on how to contact the attackers."

That file provided a web address and instructed the hospital to contact the perpetrators if it wished to free its system, according to Gentile, who said he could not be sure of the motivation behind the attacks because the hospital ultimately never made contact — nor did it receive any ransom request.

"But we assume they were asking for money," Gentile said.

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Monday, December 7, 2020

Vermont Tech Company Develops AI Software That Can Detect COVID Status

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2020 at 7:42 PM

The AI software could help physicians determine whether PCR tests such as these would be necessary. - FILE: OLIVER PARINI ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Oliver Parini ©️ Seven Days
  • The AI software could help physicians determine whether PCR tests such as these would be necessary.
A Vermont tech company says it has created artificial intelligence software that hospitals can use to rule out whether someone has COVID-19 — simply by analyzing routine blood work.

Artur Adib, founder and CEO of Biocogniv, told Seven Days on Monday that his company's new AI software relies on blood tests often already performed during emergency room visits and would allow hospitals to gauge a patient's COVID status without using up critical testing supplies.

"What this enables hospitals to do is to protect their stash," he said, estimating that they could save up to 70 percent of their PCR kits.

Adib, who founded Biocogniv last year, said his company trained the AI software with a large dataset that included thousands of bloodwork results from both positive and negative COVID-19 patients.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Generator Maker Space Prototyping Face Shields for Hospitals

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 3:23 PM

Jake Blend showing off one of his prototype face shields - COURTESY OF GENERATOR
  • Courtesy of Generator
  • Jake Blend showing off one of his prototype face shields
Burlington maker space Generator has begun prototyping personal protective equipment for area hospitals in response to nationwide shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the maker space are currently working on designs for face shields, N95 masks and ventilators — all of which are in short supply as hospitals prepare for an expected hike in patients due to COVID-19.

The face shields — which allow health care professionals to wear a single mask for longer durations — are ready for mass distribution, according to Generator's executive director Meg Hammond. Officials from the University of Vermont Medical Center planned to test out the prototypes Thursday afternoon, she said.

"If we get approval, then we can immediately start going into production," Hammond said.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Vermont Sues 'Dystopian' Facial Recognition App Maker Clearview AI

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2020 at 3:06 PM

Attorney General T.J. Donovan and staff at Tuesday's press conference - DEREK BROUWER
  • Derek Brouwer
  • Attorney General T.J. Donovan and staff at Tuesday's press conference
Controversial software-maker Clearview AI, a secretive company whose existence was publicly revealed by the New York Times in January, is facing a legal challenge in Vermont.

The Attorney General's Office filed suit against the face-search company on Tuesday, alleging its practice of scooping up billions of online images to build a facial recognition app violates Vermont's consumer protection statute.

The civil suit is also the first legal test of a provision in the state's data broker law, which was the only one of its kind when passed in 2018.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Burlington, Schurz Communications Announce Investment in Tech Economy

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 3:03 PM

Mike Loucy (right) and Mayor Miro Weinberger - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • Mike Loucy (right) and Mayor Miro Weinberger
Burlington Telecom will invest $3 million in the local tech economy over the next 10 years to boost startups and nonprofits in Burlington.

The telecom's general manager, Mike Loucy, made the announcement Tuesday at the kickoff for the fourth annual Innovation Week, a series of events hosted by BTV Ignite that celebrate Burlington’s tech businesses.

“Depending on how well that goes, it could endure past that,” Loucy said at the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies office on Main Street. “But that's our commitment out of the box, just to see how it works."

The Community Investment Funds were one of several incentives promised by BT's buyer, Schurz Communications, during contentious negotiations with the city. The Burlington City Council selected Schurz's $30.8 million bid to purchase the city's telecom in 2017, but the sale was only finalized this past March. A group of community activists have sued over the sale, arguing that the terms don't provide the greatest return to taxpayers.
The money will be funneled into two separate pots. The Burlington Telecom Innovation Fund will invest $250,000 a year in a Burlington company in the startup or growth phase, and the STEM & Technical Skill Fund will provide a $50,000 annual grant to a nonprofit or similar organization that promotes technical education and workforce development.

“Even though Burlington Telecom is not a city department anymore, it is continuing to move the community forward in numerous ways,” Mayor Miro Weinberger said. “This is an exciting example of that."

The innovation fund will be disbursed at the direction of an Investment Committee, a group of seven entrepreneurs that was established through the BT sale process. Priority will be given to businesses led by women, people of color and those with disabilities.

“This isn't just the usual suspects getting funded,” Weinberger said. “We'll look back in a decade and really see that this has moved the needle in important ways."

BT will retain some equity in the selected companies in return for its investment, but the committee has not determined what percentage, Loucy said. It will ideally start accepting applications by December, he added.

The BTV Ignite board will open the STEM grant competition on October 15. Applications will be accepted through November 27, according to its website. The award could be split between more than one entity each year; winners should be announced before year’s end, according to BTV Ignite project manager Adam Roof.

The announcement marked Loucy’s first public appearance since he was named BT’s president and general manager in May. He most recently worked at the Vermont Electric Power Company in Rutland for 10 years as a senior manager focusing on business development and VELCO’s fiber optic network, according to a BT press release. He also worked for Unicel and Sprint.

Loucy replaces Stephen Barraclough, who had served as the telecom’s GM since 2010 and is largely credited with improving BT’s financial standing.

Loucy said he’s excited for the community fund rollout, adding BT is committed to helping new businesses grow.

"It will give incentive to new startups that are like, ‘Where can I start right out of the box?’ It doesn’t have to be somebody established,” Loucy said. “That’s really the goal of both of these funds: Have a nice, diverse group.”

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Winooski-Based BioTek to Sell for Nearly $1.2 Billion

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Briar and Adam Alpert at BioTek's Winooski headquarters - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Briar and Adam Alpert at BioTek's Winooski headquarters
The family that founded one of Vermont’s largest tech firms has reached a blockbuster deal to sell it to a publicly traded California company.

Agilent Technologies, a Silicon Valley spinoff of Hewlett-Packard, plans to acquire Winooski-based BioTek Instruments for $1.165 billion this fall, the two companies announced Thursday morning.

The late Norman Alpert, a University of Vermont professor of physiology and biophysics, founded BioTek in a Charlotte garage in 1968.

“We have accomplished extraordinary things,” said Alpert's son, BioTek president and chief executive officer Briar Alpert. “I think we got to a point where, to make the next step — to really become a true, global leader — we needed to partner with someone who had a reach and a scale … to take BioTek to the next level.”

A BioTek device at the company's Winooski headquarters - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • A BioTek device at the company's Winooski headquarters
The Vermont company, which designs and manufactures life science instrumentation used in research and medical settings, had revenues of $162 million in 2018 and expects to grow by 10 percent this year, it said in a statement. BioTek employs 500 people worldwide, 300 of whom work out of its Tigan Street headquarters in Winooski.

Representatives of both companies said the deal would not imperil Vermont jobs.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Software Firm Serving Vermont Towns Penalized for Security Problems

Posted By on Thu, May 23, 2019 at 6:17 PM

  • David Junkin
A firm whose software is used by all Vermont cities and towns will pay the state $30,000 to settle allegations that it failed to safeguard sensitive data.

Software from the New England Municipal Resource Center, based in Fairfax, had left taxpayers' bank information and municipal employees' Social Security numbers exposed and vulnerable to theft for years, a Vermont technology consultant told Seven Days in February. Municipalities use the firm's products to compile grand lists, track accounts payable and receivable, maintain general ledgers, and administer property taxes, among other tasks.

South Burlington-based IT firm simpleroute first reported the bugs to NEMRC and then disclosed them publicly on its website. The findings raised questions about whether municipalities could safeguard data.
The Attorney General's Office said in a press release Thursday that it brought in a team of security experts from Champlain College after learning of the problems. In about an hour, they were able to crack an algorithm that the software used to encode sensitive data.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Schurz Communications Seals Burlington Telecom Deal

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 4:40 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger
It's official: Schurz Communications has finalized its purchase of Burlington Telecom by signing paperwork and paying $30.8 million.

Mayor Miro Weinberger announced the deal at a press conference in his office on Wednesday afternoon, calling it "progress far better than was thought possible seven years ago." Schurz representatives did not appear at the press conference, though the company did have officials in Burlington on Wednesday, according to the mayor.

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