Category Archives: technology

Drones May Help Police In COVID Crisis

Can drones help Westport flatten the coronavirus curve? Westport Police want to find out.

Chief Foti Koskinas and Captain Ryan Paulsson, head of the department’s drone program, are testing new technology, through a partnership with drone company Draganfly.

It could be used in areas where large, unsafe gatherings might occur, such as Compo Beach and Longshore. If crowds are gathered, it could make an announcement asking people to practice physical distancing, or leave.

It does not use facial recognition technology, and would not be used over private property.

Draganfly says that its software can also scan body temperature, heart and respiration rates, coughs and blood pressure. The Canadian company says the drone can detect infectious conditions from 190 feet.

Koskinas notes that such data — if it is reliable — would probably be used by health officials, not the police.

A Draganfly drone

The department has been using drones for several years already. Purposes include missing persons, motor vehicle accidents, and assisting the Fire Department.

Westport Company May Hold Key To COVID Anti-Viral Drug

Since mid-March, Westport has been known as the town where one party launched a “super-spread” of the coronavirus.

But if a small company on the Saugatuck River has its way, we may soon be known as the home of one of the first anti-viral drugs to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

The company is BioSig Technologies. It was founded as a medical technology company in 2009 in Los Angeles, primarily to treat cardiac arrhythmia.

Ken Londoner

Founder Ken Londoner — who has worked in the life sciences investment field since 1991 — moved to Westport in 1994. A few years ago he grew tired of the weekly commute to California.

Many customers for BioSig’s new bioelectronic medicine product were on the East Coast. Londoner knew this area was filled with great potential employees. Office space here was cheaper than in L.A.

In 2018 he moved his headquarters into new space on Wilton Road. (There are satellite offices in Los Angeles and Rochester, Minnesota, site of the Mayo Clinic.)

BioSig never planned to be a biotech company. But Dr. Jerry Zeldis — one of the NASDAQ publicly traded firm’s board members — was working on a long term project called Vicromax. The oral drug — a broad spectrum anti-viral — was focused on hepatitis C.

Yet by using COVID-19 samples from Wuhan and Seattle, Zeldis found it was 96.8% effective in reducing the viral effect in cell cultures. Vicromax has the potential to substantially reduce viral replication of COVID-19 — outside of the lab, in humans.

BioSig quickly set up a subsidiary — ViralClear Pharma — to work on the project, and help Zeldis bring the drug to market.

“Work” is the right word: They’re at it 18 to 21 hours a day, 7 days a week.

They hope the FDA will approve human testing before the end of May. If they show the same results with humans as with cells in the lab, BioSig could move forward quickly.

Londoner stresses that BioSig is working on oral treatments — not vaccines.

“Those take much longer to get to the public,” he says. The “18 month” time frame that has been discussed in the media is unrealistic, he believes. He thinks a vaccine available to the general public is 2 to 3 years away.

Anti-viral medications like Vicromax, however, have an enormous impact. Used as part of a multi-drug cocktail, they have made hepatitis C completely curable, HIV a manageable chronic disease rather than a death sentence, and been very effective against hepatitis B and Ebola.

BioSig is helpin unlock he mysteries of the COVID-19 virus.

Drug development is a low-key, no-glamour business. It’s off most people’s radars — until an event like a pandemic focuses their attention on it.

Most Westporters have never heard of BioSig. That’s fine with Londoner.

“We’re not hypesters,” he says. “We’re too busy for that.”

So while most of the world shelters in place, the staff at BioSig is racing forward on a solution to get us all back on track.

Right here in the town that was an early epicenter of the disease.

Q104.3 Studio Moves To Westport

In his 4 decades in radio — 3 of them as one of New York’s most popular DJs — Ian O’Malley has broadcast from many venues: the top of an Alaska mountain. The Maritime Provinces. A blimp.

Until last weekend though, he’d never done a show from his basement.

The cornoavirus has upended even Q104.3.

O’Malley usually works weekends. The commute from Westport to the Tribeca studio is not hard.

It’s a happy place. Besides the classic rock station, the 6th Avenue building is home to Z100, Hot 97, Power 105.1, Lite FM and WKTU.

But when a worker on the floor below fell ill with COVID-19, the decision came quickly: All shows would now be done from DJs’ homes.

While some colleagues broadcast from closets, O’Malley was lucky. He had already set up his Greens Farms basement for voice-over work. (You’ve heard his voice. Plenty.)

It’s well soundproofed — but not perfect. Last Sunday afternoon, he heard his young sons racing around upstairs.

His many listeners were probably unaware of the noise. Even if they heard it, they would not care. O’Malley was on the air, a familiar presence playing classic rock and telling classic stories.

Ian O’Malley did not have to dress up for last weekend’s shift.

He works mostly weekends now. The rest of the time he’s a very successful real estate agent with the Higgins Group.

He adapted to home broadcasting more easily than some colleagues. “DJs like routine,” O’Malley notes. “This was out of their element. They were nervous.”

He was too — for the first 10 minutes. Then he realized he was doing fine. He and his listeners were having fun. He was back in his groove, easily mixing music and conversation: stories about Van Halen, shout-outs, birthday greetings. “Sitting around the campfire,” he calls it.

Just as in New York, all the songs were pre-loaded into a computer. His laptop showed exactly what he would have seen in the iHeart studio.

Still, he says, this time he was completely in charge. He constantly checked his mic and sound levels.

“I really had to be on top of my game,” he says. “That makes it interesting and exciting.”

Ian O’Malley’s home studio.

Another difference: Usually, he gives away concert tickets. Those have all been postponed.

At any rate, he could not have done it from home. O’Malley did miss taking listeners’ calls.

Many listeners had no idea he was broadcasting from his basement. Those who did, appreciated hearing his familiar voice.

“They said it was calming. It makes you realize that music is important,” he says.

Ian O’Malley tells stories about many famous musicians — including Fairfield native John Mayer.

O’Malley has always enjoyed working in New York. But, he admits, “It was pretty nice to hop downstairs. During long sets, I could grab something to eat. And when I finished my show, I was done. No train. I just headed upstairs.”

He heads down to his basement again this weekend (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday). For those 5 hours — as Huey Lewis sings — the heart of rock and roll is still beating.

In Westport.

David Pogue Zooms In On Westport

David Pogue does it all.

Our Westport neighbor is an Emmy- and Webby-winning tech writer (Yahoo, New York Times, Scientific American) and TV correspondent (“CBS Sunday Morning,” PBS “Nova Science Now”).

Those are big companies. David is the first to admit that, as creative and inspired as is, he’s got tons of production firepower behind him.

Until this month, that is. COVID-19 has made mincemeat of modern media. Rachel Maddow talk to US senators via Skype. Anderson Cooper broadcasts from home.

As for David — well, let him tell his tale.

Yesterday, “CBS Sunday Morning” aired my cover story: How to work and live at home without losing your mind.

Here’s the problem: CBS News is locked down. Nobody can get into New York City headquarters. No camera crews are available, and no travel is permitted for making stories.

So I proposed something radical: I’d write, shoot, perform and edit this entire piece at home in Westport.

David Pogue at work in Westport, long before the coronavirus.

Dan asked if I’d reveal a bit more about how the whole thing came together, for “06880.” Happy to comply!

First of all, it’s incredibly easy these days to shoot and record video that’s good enough for TV. All you need is a cheap flat-panel LED light, a digital camera, and a wireless mike.

A big chunk of my story was an introduction to Zoom, the video-chatting program that’s become a hero of the coronavirus crisis. It’s free and easy to use; the video’s very stable; it can accommodate up to 100 people on screen at once —and you can record the video meeting with a single click.

To demonstrate the possibilities, my producer arranged a historic first: All of “CBS Sunday Morning’s” correspondents on the screen simultaneously in a Zoom video. Even Jane Pauley, our host!

There’s David: top row, 2nd from left.

It was supposed to be a 5-minute deal. But it was so much fun, the call went on for over an hour. Even though we’re on the show week after week, most of us rarely meet in person.

(I’ll spare you the story of how the resulting huge video file somehow got corrupted and wasn’t openable … and how, panicking, I hunted down a Zoom PR person at midnight, who wrangled a company engineer into rescuing the file just in time for the broadcast.)

In my script I cited a new rule for the videochat era: Informal is the new normal. You’ll see kids, pets and untidy backgrounds in your video calls — and that’s all allowed now.

Imagine my delight and amusement then, when I interviewed neuropsychologist Sanam Hazeez — and in the middle, her twin 5-year-old boys burst into her office, crying. One had driven a truck over the other’s foot. (To be clear, it was a toy truck.) It was completely unplanned — but could not have made my point any better.

Well, except when Wilbur the Wonder Cat started pacing back and forth in front of my laptop camera during the interview.

Sheltering in place doesn’t mean you’re not allowed out of the house. My 3 kids are all home, of course. I corralled one of them into taking a walk with me beside the Bedford Middle School field, and another to pilot a Mavic Mini drone to film the scene. It came out great!

As it turns out, it’s even safe to meet friends face to face, as long as you maintain a decent distance. In hopes of finding examples to film, I posted a note on NextDoor.com. It’s kind of like a Facebook for neighborhoods, like Eastern Westport or whatever. (If you haven’t joined, you should. It’s free.)

Usually, NextDoor is full of lost-dog notices and “Can you recommend a plumber?” posts. But during the crisis it offers great social-distancing ideas, invitations to virtual gatherings, even a Help Map where you can see who needs errands or groceries, and you can volunteer.

My query led me first to a group of young women, all sent home from college, who gather in the parking lot of Weston Middle School, where they had been together years ago. They park their cars in a circle, sit on their trunks, 15 feet apart, and just hang out. It’s glorious. I filmed it from overhead, with my drone.

I also heard from Westport Library fundraiser Barbara Durham, who lives in an apartment building in Bridgeport. She told me that some evenings she gathers with her neighbors across the elevator lobby, each pulling a chair into her apartment doorway, for “Cocktails in the Foyer.” I drove over to film one of these wonderful social-distance parties.

I love how the story came out. I’m grateful to everyone who helped, who allowed me to film them, and who believed in the idea. (That includes my bosses at “CBS Sunday Morning,” who took a leap of faith in trusting me to deliver a story they wouldn’t see until it was finished.)

Once we’re allowed to be close to each other again, I’ll thank you all in person —with a tender, heartfelt elbow bump.

But enough about David’s back story. Click below for his piece — and Westport and Weston’s contribution to surviving in our new work-at-home world.

Spectacular New Site Makes Helping Local Businesses Easy

For the past few days — as the rippling cascading effects of COVID-19 on the local economy have become apparent and frightening — many Westporters suggested ways to help.

One of the best is to purchase gift cards from local stores, restaurants, salons, gyms and the like.

A group of friends approached Danielle Dobin with the idea. She loved it. Like the others though, she wondered: Who needs help? How can I contact them? Who even sells gift cards?

Danielle — who in her spare time chairs Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission — brainstormed with them. Their solution : a website showcasing all the spots in town that need help, with clickable links to every one.

James Dobin-Smith

Then her family and theirs — the Weilguses, Kamos, Cammeyers, and the Posts and Rutsteins (you know those last 2 from the WestportMoms.com platform) — got to work.

Over the past few days they tracked down dozens of local stores, restaurants and service providers. They compiled tons of information.

And they handed it all to Danielle’s son James Dobin-Smith.

The Staples High School freshman is a member of Staples Players. He’s an honor student, keenly interested in world affairs. But he had absolutely no background in web design.

No problem! He’s smart, creative, and a digital native. Almost instantly, James taught himself.

The result — rolled out just moments ago — is OneWestport.com. It’s visually appealing, chock full of links, and insanely easy to use.

The homepage of OneWestport.com.

All you do is click to purchase gift cards online (or by phone or email, if no online option exists). You can use them tomorrow, or months from now. (One added feature: the hyperlinks take you directly to the gift card page. It’s truly one click — you don’t have to search for it yourself on a business website.)

From sporting goods to sushi, furniture to flowers, paintings to pasta, and clothing to cupcakes, Westport retailers sell everything and anything.

Nearly 200 places are listed, by category: Clothing/Jewelry, Fitness, Salons, Nails/Spas, Miscellaneous (Compo Flowers, Earth Animal, Age of Reason, Rockwell Art, Splatterbox, Stiles Market, The Toy Post, Westport Hardware, Bungalow, photographers).

Age of Reason is a great place to use a gift card right now. Kids need items for education and entertainment. And the store offers free delivery.

The Restaurants category can keep you busy (and well-fed) until this crisis is over — no matter how long it lasts. It includes places you might not otherwise think of, like Aartisan Chocolates and The Cake Box.

(It’s also a great way to order takeout or delivered meals, from those restaurants, delis and markets that offer them.)

“Purchase a gift card today for use in the future to purchase a birthday gift, an anniversary gift, or simply an everyday purchase for your family,” OneWestport suggests.

“Our local retailers need to make payroll, cover their expenses, and pay rent.  Buying gift cards now for use later can help our local businesses manage this near-term cash-crunch and ultimately weather this uniquely challenging storm! Together, we can make the difference for our local retailers!”

As extensive as the families’ work has been, they know it’s not complete. They’ll update the website daily, until school restarts. To add a business to the resource, email jamesdobinsmith@gmail.com.

This is these Westporters’ gift to the town. OneWestport does not profit from any purchases, in any way. All gift cards go straight — and fully — to the retailer, restaurant or service provider.

It’s the gift that will keep on giving. And helping save our town.

Oh, yeah: If you liked the awesome cover photo — a drone shot of downtown by John Videler — you can purchase it (or any of his work too). Just click here!

Distance Learning Begins: A Message From Staples’ Principal

In his first year as Staples principal, Stafford Thomas has earned high grades for his quick understanding of the school, his warm and upbeat manner, and his care and concern for all students.

When he was hired last summer, he never imagined one task would be overseeing distance learning.

Today — with schools closed at least through March 31 due to the coronavirus — the Westport district begins “distance learning.” It means different things for different grade levels.

There are bound to be questions. Administrators in the central office and each building have been communicating with students and parents about what it all means. It is still — as it is nationally — a work in progress.

Staples students have a better idea now though, after a video from their principal.

He begins — as he often does on the announcements — with shout-outs to students. Then he explains what distance learning is, and why it’s important. He ends with some tips on staying healthy (teenage style).

Click below to see how Westport’s high school students are beginning a difficult — but important — part of their educational journey.

 

(Hat tip to Staples media teacher Geno Heiter, who produced the video. It’s part of “70 North,” the high school’s great media platform. Click here for many other videos.)

Understanding Pandemic Spread: Staples Grad’s Simulation Goes Viral

Much has been written about the spread of COVID-19, and the importance of social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine.

But it’s one thing to read about protective measures. It’s another thing entirely to watch them unfold.

Thanks to Washington Post graphics report Harry Stevens, we can.

And — because the 2004 Staples High School graduate’s piece on the virus has been shared relentlessly by readers — so can the rest of the world.

The “corona simulator” (click here to see) provides vivid evidence of how a disease spreads through a population. Moving dots represent healthy, sick and recovered people.

The dots move randomly, interacting with other dots. Importantly, each viewing of Stevens’ simulation is different. My random sample is different from yours. In fact, each time you scroll up and look at the graphic again, it’s different.

A static screenshot of Harry Stevens’ moving simulation.

That illustrates the randomness of our encounters with each other. But the key finding is usually the same: Extensive distancing is the best way to slow the spread of disease.

(There is one unrealistic element to his moving graphs, the story notes: Dots don’t “disappear” when someone “dies.”)

Harry Stevens (Photo/ Sarah L. Voisin for The Washington Post)

Stevens’ route to the Washington Post began in another down time: the recession of 2008. After acting in Staples Players and college, he graduated at a time of few enticing professional opportunities.

“I kind of fell into journalism by mistake. But I liked it,” he says.

So he headed to Columbia Journalism School, to learn enough to be hired by an actual newsroom.

At Columbia, he saw how journalists can enrich their reporting through data analysis and visualization. He was hooked.

A year after graduating he followed his girlfriend (now wife) Indrani Basu back to her home town: New Delhi. She’s a fellow journalist, and had just gotten a great job helping launch HuffPost India, as news editor.

Stevens landed a newspaper job in Delhi. They let him experiment with “all kinds of weird ideas” about how to do data journalism on the internet.

He started at the Washington Post 6 months ago.

“It’s really cool,” he says. “There are so many smart and talented people here, so there are lots of chances to learn new things and get better at the craft.”

The idea for the COVID-19 story began as he read how diseases spread exponentially. “I had a hard time internalizing what that means,” he says.

A year earlier he’d been experimenting with making circles bounce off each other. He realized now that he could apply that to show how network effects work.

When he got the basic simulation working (with help from data pioneers Bret Victor and Adam Pearce), he realized the story could be “very cool.”

It is.

As well as amazingly educational, and incredibly important.

Part of Harry Stevens’ story shows 4 different outcomes in disease prevention.

Tales Of Inspiration: Teens Help Elderly; Tech Guru Helps Homebound Workers; Gold’s Customer Is Gold

When the going gets tough, Westporters offer help.

Three Westport teenagers — Ty Chung, Jonathan Lorenz and Luke Lorenz — are happy to run errands for senior citizens, and anyone else having difficulty getting out because of self-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just email GuysHelping@gmail.com. Include your name, address, and errand.

The helping guys are happy to do what they can. But they will not enter homes, and they’ll avoid personal interactions.

If your request involves purchasing items, they’ll reply with instructions for payment. (That’s for the items only, of course. This is a good-deed venture, from 3 really good guys.)

(From left): Ty Chung, Jonathan Lorenz, Luke Lorenz.


Westporter Paul Einarsen spent 5 years at Apple, as a genius (their word) and creative trainer. He’s spent many years working from a home office, collaborating with remote clients and vendors.

He knows the challenges. And he wants to help anyone who has suddenly been thrust into the remote-working world (and who uses Apple or cloud-based apps).

Paul Einarsen

“At Apple, I quickly discovered how much people rely on their desktop and mobile devices to stay connected to their world,” he says. “It is a challenge for many people in the best of times. With the added obstacle of social distancing I want to help where I can.” (He is not, unfortunately, a Windows guy.)

Paul set up a public Facebook group to coordinate and share information (click here). Through it — or if needed, video conferencing — he is happy to help in any way he can.


Other Westporters find other ways to help.

This morning, a family called Gold’s to order their usual Sunday meal. When they asked about delivery via Uber Eats or Grub Hub, owner Nancy Eckl immediately offered it direct from the deli.

She said that a kind customer had offered to deliver to people who were homebound.

The family was amazed. They were even more surprised when — almost before they knew it — the doorbell rang. An “incredibly nice gentleman” had their order.

“We are so blessed to be here among caring, loving and helpful neighbors,” they say. “Thank you to this selfless volunteer, and to Gold’s Deli.”


Like many Westporters, a Westport couple took a walk today. Along the way, they figured they’d do some good, by picking up trash.

A mile round trip yielded a wheelbarrow of assorted garbage, all within 10 feet of the road. It was mostly beer cans and bottles, a lot of other beverage containers, a few plastic bags and other assorted plastic, some broken pottery and pieces of metal, and a protein bar wrapper.

“Every day we take a walk — and it will be often these days — we will take another route and help keep Westport clean,” they say.

Trashing the coronavirus — with gloves, of course.

As They Say In Bengali: ধন্যবাদ

Richard Wiese has spent his career bridging cultural gaps.

Traveling to all 7 continents, he’s tagged jaguars in the Yucatan jungles, led expeditions to the Northern Territory of Australia, joined the largest medical expedition ever conducted on Mt. Everest, discovered 29 new life forms on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and cross-country skied to the North Pole.

The Weston resident is host and executive producer of “Born to Explore,” the award-winning PBS television series produced on Main Street. He’s also in his 3rd term as president of the Explorers Club, a 116-year-old international organization dedicated to the 4 corners of the earth — plus oceans and outer space.

Richard Wiese in Borneo, with a wild orangutan.

Yet on Tuesday, Wiese created an important cross-cultural connection with just one person: the woman sitting next to him on a plane, stuck on the tarmac in Oslo.

Via Bangladesh.

The woman was brought on the Norwegian Air flight in a wheelchair. When she was seated, a flight attendant spoke to her in English. It was clear to Wiese that no matter how slowly she talked, his seatmate did not understand a word.

The woman fumbled with her phone. Wiese was able to figure out she was from Bangladesh.

He typed, “Can I help you?” — and then used Google Translate to ask the question in Bengali.

Flying the friendly skies: Richard Wiese and his seatmate.

The woman wanted her son to know she was on the flight, as they waited out a delay.

Wiese contacted her son — in Bangladesh.

Weise then learned she was lactose-intolerant. “That was an unusual translation,” he says. He told a flight attendant, who found a special meal for her.

Wiese texted the woman’s son when they landed, and made sure she got off the plane okay.

A screenshot of Richard’s texts.

“JFK is not the friendliest place in the world,” he notes. It was nice she had someone who cared — even if he “spoke” Bengali only with a smartphone.

“It felt good to help someone,” Wiese adds. “It was as easy for me to do that as it was to answer emails. And it’s nice to know you can use your phone for something other than that, and games.”

Gambling, Gaming And The Teenage Brain

Gambling is a tough illness.

It takes a gambler’s money, and pride. It’s got the highest suicide rate of any addiction.

It affects a gambler’s entire family, friends and colleagues.

And gambling impacts not just people with too little money to begin with. Connecticut has 50,000 problem gamblers. Plenty live in places like Westport.

We have neighbors who spend their weekends at casinos, where they’re treated like kings.

We have kids who are addicted to gambling via video games. It starts when they buy treasure chests, with their parents’ credit cards. Some become binge gamers.

Rob Zuckerman knows all that, and much more. He’s a recovering gambling addict.

A 1968 graduate of Staples High School with a BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology, he took over his father’s business after his death in a 1978 automobile accident.

Rob moved the studio to South Norwalk in 1981 — an early pioneer in the new SoNo real estate venture. He ran it successfully for 20 years, before relocating to Fairfield.

During the 2008 recession, and with the rise of smartphones and other technology, the photography business changed dramatically.

In 2009 his son Ben fell off his bike, and was run over by a UPS driver. In the year it took him to recover, Rob got addicted to online gambling.

He got himself clean, and has not gambled in a decade. Along the way, he learned a lot about the disease — and his own compulsive side.

He credits much of his recovery to Renaissance — a Norwalk-based treatment center — and Gamblers Anonymous in Darien.

Rob Zuckerman

To pay it forward, Rob became one of the state’s 5 peer counselor for people with gambling issues. He answers hotline calls, escorts people to GA meetings, and helps with gamblers’ denial, guilt, remorse and anger however he can.

Rob is also a recovery coach at Renaissance.

Now — with plans rolling along for a casino in Bridgeport — Rob wants Westporters to be alert to the dangers of gambling for young people.

Rob is proud that Renaissance is sponsoring a talk on “Youth, Internet Habits and Mental Health.”

Set for Sunday, March 1 (12:30 to 2 p.m., Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road), it features Dr. Paul Weigle. An adolescent psychiatrist, he’ll speak about how gaming and screen habits impact physical and mental health of children.

The church’s addictions recovery ministry is a co-sponsor of the event.

He’s seen the effects of gambling first-hand. Rob has seen too the work that can be done — by community organizations and his own church — to help with recovery from addictions.

He’s betting this is an important event, for anyone who lives with or works with young people.