Friday, October 14, 2016

Advancing the Way Students Learn Through the Use of Technology

By George Moore, Chief Technology Officer, Cengage Learning
Massachusetts is home to more than one hundred higher education institutions.  There are 35 colleges and universities in the greater Boston area alone.  Every day, I am reminded of the importance of lifelong learning.  Along with better employment opportunities and greater access to financial resources, education instills confidence and a sense of accomplishment in people.
While the significance of continuing education cannot be understated, neither can the need for learning materials to evolve to meet students where they are in their education and life journey.   
Digitizing learning materials is about much more than turning a traditional print textbook into an ebook, or programming true or false questions.  While the ease and speed of content delivery has improved, the heart of the education transformation is in how students interact with learning material.  And further, how that interaction impacts outcomes.

Through the use of technology, students can experience an education environment that is personalized to their individual needs.  There is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to delivering the most effective learning methods.  Technology has allowed for data analysis that shows individual learning paths and progress, which triggers content that is tailored to abilities.

Through data analysis, digital learning platforms figure out what each individual knows and provides real-time recommendations on what to study next. This approach represents a new student-centric model of digital innovation for the education industry. 

This technology can provide students with feedback and personalized study plans that supplement the classroom experience.  Instructors can be alerted immediately when a student begins to struggle with a concept or falls behind in class. This allows for early intervention and a better likelihood of the student finding their way back on track.  

From an instructor’s standpoint, technology has enabled the creation of customized courses comprised of original work, Open Education Resources (OER) and published content.  This is what instructors tell us they need to build the most meaningful courses for their students.  While professors used to get one piece of content, a textbook, we now give them hundreds of thousands of pieces of content that they can move around.  

While some instructors have been slower to move to use technology, we’re finding that others are insatiable about how many features they want added to their digital learning solutions.  We have added feature after feature to help them meet students where they are, with the right tools, at the right time, to improve outcomes.  

Print textbooks are not going away for good any time soon.  Some subjects lend themselves better to digital adoption than others.  I go to work every day, however, with the whole-hearted belief that technology is advancing the way students learn. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Robotics CEOs Share Insights on Scaling a Hardware Business
Key Take-A-Ways from MassTLC’s Executive Dinner Series

 Posted 9/29/16 by Joyce Sidopoulos

Robotics is booming in Massachusetts, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to build and scale a robotics business. It’s a well-known fact amongst robotics CEOs that “you have to be more right when building a hardware business.” Software companies are easier to pivot. Making a mistake when building physical things can cost you the business. That’s why it’s so important for robotics company executives to learn from those who have gone before them.

A recent MassTLC Executive Dinner focused on challenges and insights of growing your robotics business. Burlington’s Tuscan Kitchen was the venue for CEOs and other c-level executives from over a dozen robotics companies, representing a diversity of stages and industres, including: Artaic, Ascend Robotics, Boston Engineering, iRobot, Locus Robotics, MassRobotics, Myomo, ORI Systems, Rethink Robotics, Riptide Solutions, SoftRobotics, and Symbotic.

The conversation was a frank, off the record, opportunity for these executives to share both ubiquitous and unique lessons learned from a diverse array of robotics applications, ranging across healthcare, marine, consumer, supply chain, defense, creative industries, and more. Variations on rapid talent acquisition across the organization, the evolution of leadership at the management and board levels, and issues unique to various types of boards and at different stages of the business were major topics of conversation. 

MassTLC believes that innovation happens at the boundaries and that getting small numbers of CEOs together from companies of different stages around key issues relating to growth and innovation further develops executive networks and sharing of insights, partners, vendors, etc. MassTLC has been convening and leading the Massachusetts Robotics Cluster for over a decade and is working on multiple levels to ensure that Massachusetts remains the global leader in the future of robotics and automation as we enter the Fourth Industrial Age.

A special thanks JP Morgan for sponsoring this executive dinner.




Sunday, October 2, 2016

Interview with Gary Jackson, CEO of Codiscope and D3 Presenter

Why is 2016 the year of “Developer Driven Security” as RSA has stated?

It’s telling that it took us, as an industry, several decades just to talk about bringing security directly into software development.  It’s an important issue and am glad to see RSA recognize that the traditional security model needs to change. Overall, I think their statement is fueled by three things:
  • the lack of change we’ve seen in security practices
  • the continued presence of malicious or weak code in software released to the public, and
  • the rapidly increasing occurrence of security breaches.
Ultimately, the millions of dollars we’re spending each year on operational security products hasn’t reduced risk, so companies are looking for ways to reduce it on their own and that starts with developers.

Why are developers often leaving out security measures in the code they’re writing?

It’s certainly not intentional. Undergraduate CS programs don’t typically cover security, and most developers haven’t had more than a few hours of on-the-job training. Their current state of mind is to focus on delivering features rather than hardening their code, but most are very interested in making secure code and we are starting to see a mind-shift.

Who is usually in charge of reviewing code for security flaws or backdoors?

Often, no one. For companies who have a security resource, they usually handle the code review tools and triage findings to the development team. That process usually means that developers have to go back and make changes to code they wrote three weeks ago, or legacy code that they didn’t write at all.

For companies who don’t have a security resource, security is usually a nonexistent practice outside of IT.  We’ve talked to a lot of developers who want to step up to take on the role as a security lead, but they need resources that focus on quality and security to help them get started.  

In a continuous release environment, what is a best practice for doing a code security review?

The most effective time to perform a code security review is while the developer is writing the code. By pointing out security issues and giving devs training right away, they’re more likely to remember how to handle those situations in the future. Higher learning emphasizes a “tight feedback loop” for a reason.

There are a lot of developers who’d prefer to automate their security efforts and that can be effective too. By adding a tool into your CI process, you’re still getting the information at a time when it’s easier to fix than it would be the day before you’re scheduled to ship.

In a pre-cloud world everyone relied on boxed methods of security around their products, vs within.  Is there a fear people will get too comfortable with assuming AWS or Azure’s built-in protections will be enough for sloppy code, and if it’s not, is the liability on them?

It is absolutely not enough to assume your application is secure based on these boxed solutions. The bad guys are hacking our applications daily by taking advantage of the same exploits we’ve heard about for years. Services like AWS can’t protect you from improper configuration, malicious users, or scorned employees. With multiple attack surfaces in software we can’t possibly build a moat big enough or wide enough to keep everyone out. Look at the latest hacks at Yahoo! and LinkedIn, they’ve got unimaginably deep pockets for IT security and still haven’t been able to keep their records safe. We’ve got to be accountable for the applications we write and give our customers confidence that we’ll keep them safe.

Want to know more about Developer Driven Security? Check out Gary's Session at Data, Development, and Drive - Pushing the Throttle to Innovation on Oct 6th!

Monday, September 26, 2016

MassTLC/MassDevelopment Advanced Manufacturing Futures Program Grant Status and a Visit to FLEXcon

MassTLCs Advanced Manufacturing Futures Fund Program grant work is well underway.  Our goal:  to help robotics, IoT and hardware start-ups and scale-ups grow and commercialize their products by connecting them with the local manufacturers and supply chain.  These grant funds will enable us to help our community by providing the knowledge and resources they need to bring great ideas to great products - Made in Massachusetts. 

We have over 30 participants and have held over a dozen one-on-one interviews learning startup and scaling company challenges and offering advice and contacts at local manufacturers.  We’ve also visited manufactures and some of you have joined us!  In our next phase we will be hosting a series of seminars with rocket pitches from startups and receiving instant advice from a diverse manufacturing panel of experts.  Our first event will be held at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub on 26 October 4:00 – 6:00 pm – register <here>. We are working to host a second event in November in Worcester as well as additional events throughout the state with different startups and a variety of manufacturing experts.  If you are interested in participating – please full out our survey:

Robotics, IoT and Hardware Companies Survey link

Manufacturers Survey link
We had a great visit to FLEXcon in Spencer MA with Phil Caruso from Mini-Mole.  FLEXcon is a global leader in coated and laminated films and adhesives used in graphics applications, manufactured goods and new products.  We received a tour and viewing of their unique roll to roll converting manufacturing equipment and event came home with some goodies!

Figure 1.  Phil Caruso, Founder & CEO Mini-Mole gets to take home some samples to test!
Thanks to Bill Sullivan, Vice President, Performance Products for his hospitality, expertise and advice. 
Figure 2. Bill Sullivan, Vice President, Performance Products at FLEXcon, offers expert advice for Mini-Mole production

Friday, September 23, 2016

Robotics Cluster Meeting Hosted at Natick Soldier Research and Development Center (NSRDEC)

The MassTLC Robotics Cluster Community held a member meeting on 21 September, hosted at the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center (NSRDEC).  We learned about the overall mission of NSRDEC and their dedication to soldier and squad performance and optimization.  We gained insight into some specific research areas including an automated shipboard cleaning system, biomechanics research, and human augmentation.  We were treated to a live demo of a Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) system with reconnaissance capability, called the PD-100 Black Hornet.

Figure 1. Michael Samuel flew this micro UAV and demonstrated its capabilities
Our group then received a tour of the Center’s Doriot Climatic chambers -  facilities that can reproduce environmental conditions occurring anywhere around the world and capable of simulating an extreme range of global weather conditions for the testing of both the physical properties of military equipment and the physiology and adaptations of human subjects.
 Figure 2.  The largest of the Doriot Climatic Chambers at NSRDEC
Figure 3.  Our Robotics Cluster members in one of the smaller Doriot Climatic chambers
Special thanks to Tom Merle and Josh Denton from the Outreach & Business Development office at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center for Organizing our event.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Comprehensive Security - a 360 degree view of your security program

On August 31 we were joined by 200 security executives for Comprehensive Security - a 3600 view of your security program at Microsoft NERD in Cambridge.

Dave Mahon, Vice President and Chief Security Officer of CenturyLink, kicked off the afternoon sharing his expertise in building global security programs. This was followed by a simulated cyber-data breach where expertise from security, legal, and law enforcement provided attendees with best practices on handling a breach at each step of escalation.  The remainder of the day was spent taking deeper dives into many of the facets included in both the keynote and simulation.

Dave’s keynote included:
  • How to work with your board, where decisions such as regulations, risk assessment, liability, and cyber insurance all lay.  He talked about the importance of communication, keeping it simple and in incremental steps -- what it takes to bring the risk down by x% and what that means to bottom line.
  • Understanding that adversaries are very smart and very motivated and that there are five primary source of threats: State funded (espionage), cyber criminals (typically well-funded), terrorists (zealots), hacktivists (protestors), and insider threats (employees).
  • Identifying the direct and indirect costs to a breach - loss of market share, cost of insurance, cost of rebuilding your system, government fines, etc.
  •   Litigation proof your security program, have a solid IR plan, and practice executing it.

Simulated Breach Take-Aways
  • Better than 60% of the time, law enforcement will notify a company it has been breached rather than the company discovering on its own.
  • Be prepared. Have an IR plan and practice it.  
  •  An organization that has been breached is the victim of a crime, but they must demonstrate they handled the situation correctly. Be iron-clad in your actions and communications, both internally and externally.
  • If you are dealing with the FBI or other law enforcement agencies, make sure you have: timeline, logs, and a key point person to communicate among law enforcement agency and company executives, legal team, and IT.

Following these sessions, we had several breakouts where speakers took audience into several of the steps in more detail including:
  •  Managing your 3rd parties;
  •  Building your incident response programs;
  • Developing strong application security programs;
  • Understanding and utilizing user behavior statistic reporting; and
  • Taking your security program to the next level through security operation and analytics reporting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Robotics Cluster Meeting hosted at Sea Machines: August 22, 2016

Robotics Cluster Meeting hosted at Sea Machines
August 22, 2016
Our Summer 2016 Robotics Cluster meeting and social was attended by about 50 MassTLC members at Sea Machines in the Boston Harbor Shipyard.  The focus of this meeting was Aquatic Robotics.
Sam Godin provided an overview and status of Riptide’s UUVs. Riptide Autonomous solutions made their first 3 production micro-UUVs delivery to SPAWAR System Center earlier this year and recently delivered 6 more to the US Navy this month.  More information on the company can be found on their web site at:
Alex Lorman described Sea Machines Robotics as a forward-looking autonomous technology company which develops control systems and unmanned surface vehicles that increase offshore operational efficiency, quality and safety.  Sea Machines can be applied across most maritime industries.
Recent articles on Sea Machines include:, Unmanned Systems Technology (UST), Marine Technology News and the most recent article in the Boston Globe.  More information can be found on their web site at:
David Kelly described the InnovaSea Systems mission:  to create innovative and integrated production systems that efficiently and effectively produce fish, while not harming the environment.  He showed how these SeaStations and Aquapods are deployed and sustained.  More information can be found at:
These indoor discussions were followed by an outdoor in-water demonstration of Sea Machine’s prototype.
Beer & Bots Casual Networking

Our summer social was enjoyed by all!
Special Thanks to Our Event Host