Avoca Learning Introduces Content Curation Platform

Avoca Learning, an innovator at the forefront of education search and content curation, recently introduced its flagship product, the Avoca Learning Platform, which helps users to search, manage and share thousands of vetted learning resources from dozens of the leading educational sites.

The content curation engine is available to students, parents and educators on multiple devices including PCs, Macs, tablets both Android (News - Alert) and iOS and mobile.

Officials said that the Avoca Learning Platform currently has over 20,000 resources in Math and Science from 35 leading education sites. In the next few months, it will also come up with thousands more resources in other subjects areas including Language Arts/Reading, and History/Social Studies. Users will be able to search by subject, grade, Common Core standard and more.

In a statement, Caleb Schutz, President and CEO of Avoca Learning, said: "This represents a huge leap forward for education content. There is an explosion of digital content for education, both in the amount that's available, and in the demand for quality content. The sheer volume of information makes it hard to find what you're searching for, but it also makes it difficult to organize that content for personalized learning experiences. Avoca Learning helps to solve that problem by finding and indexing the best digital content, allowing users to organize and save that content, and then making it easy to share that curated content with other users." 

Avoca Learning was founded in December 2012, by Pat McDonagh, with a mission to simplify search for education, making it easier for everyone to find, manage and share the right learning resources. Pat McDonagh also serves as Chairman of the Board.

In related TMC (News - Alert) news, Learning Core, an educational software company, recently launched an education technology platform, called the Wonderville.

Edited by Ashley Caputo

Belden Launches Annual Maintenance Plan For Hirschmann Network Management Software

Ever increasing pressure upon data networks has been compelling enterprises to look for more enhanced network management solutions that can help them address the current market needs. Belden Inc., a provider of advanced signal transmission solutions, has launched a low priced upgrade offer for its Hirschmann Industrial HiVision network management software in the form of a new Annual Maintenance Plan or ‘AMP.’

The company brings a range of solutions for fulfilling the network infrastructure related requirements of various industrial and enterprise markets sectors. Under the new AMP, users having full license for Hirschmann Industrial HiVision network management software versions 04.0.00 or later will be provided with newest releases of the solution for a period of one year, and it costs less than half that of a one-time update that realizes considerable savings to the customers.

In order to avail the new AMP, users won’t have to enter any new agreement; they’ll just have to accept the license terms that also apply to the installation of Industrial HiVision. After the period of twelve months, they can further prefer to continue availing the service or end it there itself.

Belden will send the registration code for the update to the users enjoying the AMP either through e-mail or along with the CD that will also include the network management software and operating instructions. Still, every new release of the solution will be able to be installed only on that PC that’s already having a full version of Industrial HiVision previously installed upon it.

“AMP enables users to precisely calculate and budget the costs for network administration and monitoring as a total cost of ownership for a period of twelve months,� said Mark Cooksley, product manager at Belden Inc. “The Annual Maintenance Plan also offers considerable cost savings, when compared with a one-time update.�

In February 2013, Belden Inc., announced the release of a special pre-terminated fiber promotion. Under the plan, customers buying a Belden FiberExpress pre-terminated system were being offered get up to $10,000 in rebates towards the purchase of a Fluke Networks’ (News - Alert) MultiFiber Pro Optical Power Meter and Fiber Test Kit.

Edited by Ashley Caputo

Linksys Launches Advanced Smart Wi-Fi Routers

To address the ever increasing needs of users going for Wi-Fi, newer devices and technologies are being consistently evolved. Linksys (News - Alert), a provider of advanced Wi-Fi solutions, has introduced a range of products within its Smart Wi-Fi portfolio. Out of them, Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router AC 1200 and AC 1750 have already been launched in the market for purchase, while Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router AC 1600, model EA6400 will be offered to the customers later this month.

What gives the Smart Wi-Fi routers by Linksys an extra edge over other solutions on the market is the convenience to be installed through browser based set-up, right from a range of devices. Additionally, the users can also leverage advanced technologies such as QR code scanning or NFC tagging to establish connectivity among these devices within the home network. The company has deployed the well known beamforming technology while developing these Smart Wi-Fi routers, which enhances router speed and yields a better performance out of the solutions.

“The increase in smart devices has created a strong demand for smarter Wi-Fi solutions that can keep up with all of today’s technology needs,� said Mike Chen, senior director of product management, Linksys. “Our new, more powerful Smart Wi-Fi routers not only deliver unprecedented speed and range, but also game-changing Smart Wi-Fi tools and apps that allow users to do everything from manage kids’ screen time to centrally store and stream music and video, all through their smartphone and tablet, from anywhere around the world.�

Most of the connected homes have now been adopting routers for creating networks among the entire ranges of their devices, and the new Smart Wi-Fi Routers provide extensive coverage, highly improved data speeds and a number of sophisticated tools that allow the users to monitor and manage their home networks in an efficient manner. The latest range of routers introduced by Linksys offers comprehensive support to its Smart Wi-Fi mobile apps, through which the customers can enjoy the flexibility to control their residential networks even when they are away from their homes.

In June 2012, Cisco (News - Alert) announced the availability of Cisco Connect Cloud, a software platform for Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Routers that simplifies how consumers connect, control and interact with their connected devices, including personal entertainment and home appliances. Cisco Connect Cloud is designed to handle all the tiresome and complicated technical aspects of home network set-up and connecting devices to the network.

Edited by Ashley Caputo

Back to the Embedded M2M Solutions Community

IRS Says Employee Wellness Programs Cannot Be Included in Minimum Coverage for New Healthcare Law

As we draw closer to the date of implementation for the most important elements of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare�), employers are slowly hashing out how meeting the rules is going to change the benefits they provide to employees.

The federal legislation, the most important provisions of which go into effect in January 2014, requires that companies with more than 50 employees provide health insurance to full-time workers. For the purpose of the legislation, full-time is defined as 30 hours per week or more. Companies failing to provide this coverage so will be penalized at a rate of $2,000 per employee, and employees will receive a tax credit to buy their own insurance in the open market or the newly created state healthcare exchanges.

Many employers had hoped to include so-called “wellness programs� as part of the healthcare benefits package they provided to employees. These are programs that require employees to meet minimum standards of health – healthy blood pressure and blood sugar, for example – to earn themselves lower premium costs.  

Labor unions and employee advocacy groups warned that employers could circumvent minimum healthcare coverage by including wellness programs as part of the healthcare coverage they offer, according to a Reuters article this week. It could also lead to less-healthy employees, or those with chronic conditions, being forced to pay more.

On Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) appeared to settle the matter. The federal agency’s newly released proposed rules governing the Affordable Care Act declare that employer-sponsored healthcare plans cannot include most "wellness programs" as part of minimum coverage requirements. The only exception is wellness programs that cover smoking cessation.

Advocates say it’s a victory for labor unions and consumer groups. The rules are not final, however. The IRS has opened a comments period that will last until July 2nd. 

Edited by Ashley Caputo

Testing Companies Fail to Make the Grade after Technical Glitches Interrupt Mandated Exams

The computer systems used by test administrators get a failing grade this year after several states were forced to delay student exams because of technical glitches.

Due to the continuing computer problems, thousands of students found themselves offline many times during the recent mandated testing period, according to The New York Times. Students, teachers, schools and states put heavy emphasis on the tests and they can influence major decisions in school districts, and on individual schools, students and teachers.

The impacted students attend schools in Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota and Oklahoma, according to The Associated Press.

CTB/McGraw-Hill is the testing contractor in Indiana and Oklahoma, according to The AP. One report said the company’s servers crashed during recent testing.

Daniel Sieger, spokesman for CTB/McGraw-Hill, told the Tulsa World, "We recognized we had a problem and worked as quickly as we could to fix it. It's just not acceptable and we know that and that's why we're doing everything within our power to make sure something like this does not ever happen again."

The same company was fined $300,000 in 2004 for errors and delays related to the Connecticut Mastery Test, The AP said.

Kentucky’s testing vendor is ACT Inc., and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is the testing contractor in Minnesota. AIR reported problems with its servers, TMCnet said. That issue was claimed to have been fixed by the company but new issues arose.

The companies are getting paid tens of millions of dollars by states for the testing program.

"Teachers are extremely frustrated because of the high-stakes nature of this test," Jeff Sherrill, principal at Emmons Elementary School in Mishawaka, Ind., told The AP. "They know they're going to be judged on this and their schools are going to be judged on this. Certainly it's changed the outcome of the testing, because there's no way it's not going to."

In Kentucky, Associate Education Commissioner Ken Draut said they were forced to delay online testing through at least today after some 25 school districts saw slow or dropped connections from the ACT Vantage testing system. Some 60 percent of Kentucky districts administer the tests online, The AP said.

In Tulsa, Okla., many students did not eat lunch on testing days because tests took far longer than expected due to the computer glitches.

“Local students described going without lunch as they tried repeatedly to log back in and complete their tests for up to five hours, while testing coordinators said the experience left many in tears,� according to the Tulsa World newspaper.

Oklahoma State Rep. Katie Henke (R-Tulsa) told the newspaper, "It is ridiculous to think that our children and schools should be held responsible for the technical difficulties of an outside testing company.�

The problems are clearly widespread.

“I think the only thing the ... states have in common is that technology is not infallible," Charlene Briner, chief of staff of the Minnesota Department of Education, said in a statement.

Edited by Ashley Caputo

Temporary Injunction Blocks Test of App to Hail Cabs in New York City via Smartphone

May 02, 2013

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

A plan to offer riders the option to use a smartphone for hailing a yellow cab in New York City has hit another roadblock this week.

New York Supreme Court Appellate Associate Justice Helen E. Freedman recently issued an emergency injunction which blocks a test of the program from moving forward. In addition, a panel of appeals court judges will review the case soon.

There are some 13,000 yellow taxis in New York City – so it becomes a major market for the app providers if it goes through.

The latest stumbling block was a concern to Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky.

“The Supreme Court was absolutely right that taxi-hailing apps are not only good for the riding public, but perfectly legal as well,� he said in a statement e-mailed to TMCnet. “It is appalling that narrow commercial interests continue to try to block passengers from using the latest technology. You can’t stop progress, and these obstructionists shouldn’t be trying.  We're confident this program will move forward.�

Also, Michelle Goldberg-Cahn, at attorney for the City of New York’s Administrative Law Division, said, "We're disappointed that there is a further delay in implementing the e-hail pilot program.  It's unfortunate that taxi riders will not be able to continue to test this innovative tool for hailing taxis."

The temporary injunction was granted on Wednesday based on a request from New York City livery car groups. It comes the day after the Uber service launched an e-hailing app, CNET reported.

In December, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission approved the pilot program for the app test to last for one year. Then, the Livery Roundtable, Black Car Assistance Corp. and car-service companies sued the commission in February. They claim the pilot program is unlawful under some city codes and is unfair to racial minorities and the elderly.

Things were looking bright last week for the pilot program when New York State Supreme Court Justice Carole Huff dismissed the lawsuit, TMCnet reported.

Now, the appeals court will likely hear arguments on the case later this month.

“This faux ‘pilot program’ is so fundamentally flawed and illegal in so many respects that it had to be stopped,� an attorney representing the plantiffs, Randy Mastro, said in an e-mail to the media. Mastro was deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani.

Edited by Ashley Caputo

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