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Daily Business Report-Nov. 4, 2013

Daily Business Report-Nov. 4, 2013

Members of the Mechatronics Club at SDSU show off the latest prototype.

San Diego State Engineers Build a RoboSub

San Diego State University engineers are making waves with their newest project — an autonomous “RoboSub.” Autonomous, meaning existing or capable of existing independently, refers to the submarine’s ability to operate without remote controls. The SDSU Mechatronics Club — an on-campus group of engineers that deals with mechanics and electronics —  is building and programming the submarine to process images, navigate through an underwater course and launch artificial torpedoes at targets.

Using complex algorithms and programmed image processing, the RoboSub will be able to locate different targets and maneuver through obstacles by recognizing color patterns

The Mechatronics Club will debut its work at the 17th annual Association for Unmanned Vehicle System International RoboSub competition in Point Loma in July 2014.

The Mechatronics Club was founded in 2011 and is a place for students of all engineering disciplines to meet and apply their knowledge in real-world applications. The team is comprised of undergraduate students from a cross section of campus, including mechanical engineering, computer science, aerospace engineering and marketing.

Mechatronics recently finished constructing a prototype RoboSub and are currently working to develop software that teaches the RoboSub how to “think.” They hope to begin to test the sub in a pool this spring.

U-T San Diego Buys Eight Community Weekly Newspapers

Three of the community newspapers purchased are picture

La Jolla Light

La Jolla Light

San Diego’s daily newspaper announced Friday that it has bought the firm that publishes eight community weeklies around the county, City News Service reports. U-T San Diego purchased Mainstreet Communications, which puts out the La Jolla Light, Rancho Santa Fe Review, Del Mar Times, Solana Beach Sun, Carmel Valley News, Poway News Chieftain, Rancho Bernardo News Journal and Ramona Sentinel.

The community newspapers have a combined average net circulation of 99,431, according to the Circulation Verification Council and Mainstreet Media. The U-T said it will create a new division, U-T Community News, to operate the publications.

U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester said the acquisition is part of an overall strategy to better serve the

Del Mar Times

Del Mar Times

Rancho Santa Fe Review

Rancho Santa Fe Review

San Diego community by putting out hyper-local news that complements the more regional reporting of the flagship newspaper.

“We are thrilled to be taking on the stewardship of these community newspapers,” Manchester said. “We firmly believe that community news is one of the hallmarks of strong local newspapers, and we intend to continue this legacy for many years to come.”

The community newspapers will continue to operate under current management and with separate staffs supported by the U-T San Diego newsroom, according to the U-T.

Phyllis Pfeiffer, current group publisher of Mainstreet Communications’ San Diego publications, will continue to lead the community newspaper group as vice president and general manager of the U-T Community News division.

“With the resources of U-T San Diego ownership, we believe we can be more effective than ever in serving our local communities,” Pfeiffer said. “We look forward to expanding our reach and building upon our brand of news.”

Qualcomm in a Consortium Hunt for BlackBerry

BlackBerry

Earlier this year, BlackBerry offered an array of free apps to users in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Reports in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and other media are reporting that Qualcomm Inc. has joined a consortium that is preparing a bid to acquire the financially ailing BlackBerry. The consortium includes Qualcomm, Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm, and Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, Blackberry’s co-founders, who own 8 percent of the company’s equity.

The New York Times said Friday that if the Qualcomm consortium does make an offer over the weekend, BlackBerry may announce its receipt of a proposal Monday morning (today). At that point, the company could extend the deadline for final bids, or announce its choice of a bid as late as Tuesday morning.

Blackberry recently reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion and a large drop in revenue.

 

San Diego Council to Consider Raising Fees on Developers

The San Diego City Council is scheduled to decide today on whether to increase fees on developers to help fund affordable housing, KPBS reports. The proposal comes as tens of thousands of low-income San Diegans are waiting for housing assistance. The issue is over the fee the city of San Diego charges commercial developers to help subsidize low-income housing projects, called a linkage fee. It links the gap between low-incomes and the cost of housing in San Diego.

The proposal, by the San Diego Housing Commission, would raise the fee to 1.5 percent of current construction costs — an approximate 500 percent increase. It’s the same level set when the fee was first initiated in 1990, but six years later, it was halved and has remained at that level since.

Susan Riggs, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation, said a good measure of the housing crisis is the 45,000 people in San Diego currently on a 10-year wait for Section 8 housing assistance. “In the interim, folks are struggling to get by,” she said. “They’re doubling up, they’re ending up in shelters, they’re moving out of San Diego. And again, these are folks that are really critical to our economy that are really the backbone of many of our industries.”

The business community argues increasing the fee would amount to another tax that would kill jobs and encourage builders to take their projects to other regions in the county. The San Diego County Taxpayers Association sent an email last week encouraging recipients to lobby against the plan to City Council members.

Special Mayoral Election Cost Lower Than First Estimated

The Nov. 19 special mayoral election could cost the city of San Diego about $4.7 million, about $1.3 million less than an earlier estimate. Bonnie Stone, the deputy director of the City Clerk’s office who is in charge of elections, told City News Service that a variety of reasons accounts for a lower tally than the $6 million originally forecast. The original estimate assumed 631 voting-day precincts would be needed, but the actual total will be 572, Stone said. She said costs associated with running the polling places, like the number of poll workers, their training and supplies, are also less than expected. The most recent price tag estimate is $4,665,700, Stone said. She said that amount does not include a runoff election in the likely event no one candidate gains an outright majority of votes. The second round of voting would take place early next year. A cost estimate for a runoff is expected in a few weeks, Stone said.

Community College District Executive Wins Statewide Award

Bonnie Dowd

Bonnie Dowd

Bonnie Ann Dowd, executive vice chancellor of business and technology services for the San Diego Community College District, has been named California’s outstanding chief business officer by the Association of Chief Business Officials (ACBO). She was honored last week with the 2013 Walter Star-Robie Award, named after the association’s founder. Dowd also is the current president of the ACBO board, a statewide position she’s held since 2012. Before joining the district in 2011, Dowd worked at Palomar College for 22 years, leaving as vice president of finance and administrative services.

Drug Found Effective for Treating Alcohol Dependence

The generic drug gabapentin, which is already widely prescribed for epilepsy and some kinds of pain, appears to be safe

Barbara Mason

Barbara Mason

and effective in the treatment of alcohol dependence. The finding comes from a 150-patient randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial conducted by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute. The new research was published today by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Gabapentin’s effect on drinking outcomes is at least as large or greater than those of existing FDA-approved treatments,” said Barbara J. Mason, Pearson Family Professor and co-director of the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research at TSRI, who led the new research. “Plus it’s the only medication shown to improve sleep and mood in people who are quitting or reducing their drinking, and it’s already widely used in primary care — that’s an appealing combination.”

As a relatively safe, effective and well-tolerated drug, gabapentin has the potential to fill a large gap in the treatment of alcohol dependence, said Mason.

Scripps Health and Sharp HealthCare Join

Electronic Health Records Information Exchange

Scripps Health and Sharp HealthCare have joined a health information exchange called San Diego Health Connect, a nonprofit organization that connects hospital systems’ electronic health records. With the addition of Sharp and Scripps, the number of patient records that could be shared through the system with patients’ consent increases from about 800,000 to more than 2.1 million. The new additions note significant progress as widespread participation is key to making the system work at its full potential, greatly increasing the standard of patient care in San Diego.

Mobile Learning Networks Announces $350,000 Seed Financing

Mobile Learning Networks Inc. of San Diego announced a $350,000 seed round of private funding to advance its tutoring service using an iPad application. The company’s iPad app allows students and tutors to collaborate virtually through tablets with audio communication, handwriting/touch input and advanced graphics. Sessions are recorded and can be bookmarked for lesson playback. “Private tutoring and test preparation is a large and growing market, with  $60 billion spent globally,” said President Andrew Meyer.

“Our product’s biggest strength is its convenience factor,” said company founder Josh Roach, former senior vice president of engineering and product management at Mitek Systems. “By replicating an in-person lesson with a highly interactive application, our product solves one of the major downsides to tutoring — the time wasted on commuting.”

The company said it will make the app widely available in December through the App Store.

Alaska Airlines Starts Daily Flights to Boise, Idaho

Alaska Airlines has begun daily service between Lindbergh Field and Boise, Idaho. The flights will be operated by Alaska Airlines’ regional partners SkyWest Airlines and Horizon Air. Customers can enjoy free soft drinks and Starbucks coffee, a la cart planeside baggage service, and complimentary Northwest wine and microbrews for passengers 21 years and older.

Testing the wing of the U.S. Navy's Triton UAV

Testing the wing of the U.S. Navy’s Triton UAV

Northrop Grumman Validates Triton UAV Wing Strength

Northrop Grumman Corp. and Triumph Aerostructures say they have successfully demonstrated the structural strength of the U.S. Navy’s Triton unmanned aircraft system wing. It is a key capability that will allow the aircraft to descend from high altitudes to make positive identification of targets of interest during surveillance missions. A team of engineers found that no failures or unacceptable deformations of the wing occurred when it was subjected to a load at 22 percent above the Navy’s requirement, the companies said.

“During surveillance missions using Triton, Navy operators may spot a target of interest and order the aircraft to a lower altitude to make positive identification,” said Mike Mackey, Northrop Grumman’s Triton UAS program director. “The wing’s strength allows the aircraft to safely descend, sometimes through weather patterns, to complete this maneuver.”

Northrop Grumman is the Navy’s prime contractor for the Triton UAS with 68 aircraft planned to be built.

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We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

Some areas may include Mayor Filner’s first 100 days job performance, should the city be responsible for economic growth and the creation of new jobs, how important are infrastructure improvements to our daily lives (streets and bridges, etc.), how important is water independence, how satisfied are residents with public transit or how do city residents value Balboa Park and other open spaces? Do you believe the City Council should revive the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park?

You can email Probolsky Research directly with your ideas: info@probolskyresearch.com