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Panel: Future of Baltimore is in technology

"The Future of Charm City" panel included Marc Blakeman, William H. Cole IV, Ellen Hemmerly, Heidi Klotzman, Alysha January and Greg Cangialosi (Andrea Stein)

“The Future of Charm City” panel included Marc Blakeman, William H. Cole IV, Ellen Hemmerly, Heidi Klotzman, Alysha January and Greg Cangialosi (Andrea Stein)

Technology can be a path forward for Baltimore’s most pressing issues, with the industry creating jobs and products to improve education and reduce crime, a panel of Baltimore business and industry leaders said Thursday.

The panelists also suggested that Baltimore has some strengths, like cybersecurity jobs, that show it is on the right track, despite some of the negative stories.

“I think the story is mainly positive,” Ellen Hemmerly, president and CEO of the bwtech@UMBC, said. “We’re certainly seeing that Baltimore has some real strengths.”

The panelists spoke at The Future of Charm City, an event at Betamore’s space in City Garage in Port Covington. The panelists included Hemmerly, AT&T mid-Atlantic president Marc Blakeman, Baltimore Development Corporation president William H. Cole IV, Betamore co-founder Greg Cangialosi, blogger and activist Alysha January and Heidi Klotzman, founder and CEO of Heidnseek Entertainment. Former Maryland Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah moderated the panel.

Among Baltimore’s greatest strengths is its connection to the cybersecurity industry with nearby Fort Meade and U.S. Cyber Command.

Port Covington will be adding to that with its “Cyber Town USA” plan that could bring more than 40 cybersecurity companies to south Baltimore.

“When you have an announcement that 14 companies, at a minimum, are coming to Port Covington to set their anchor here, it caught attention from around the country,” Cole said. “I started getting calls from companies wondering what’s really happening in Port Covington. I think when that move happens it’s going to be much bigger than anybody realizes because you get that concentration from it.”

Part of creating a hub for cybersecurity jobs, though, will require training a workforce that can fill those jobs. That will mean doing a better job of educating kids to be prepared to take these jobs.

“I think we all have to do more. K-12 is really critical,” Hemmerly said. “It starts when you are really young. … I think there’s a lot of good going on, but we have to do more.”

Baltimore schools need more technology to do their part, Cole said.

“The schools that struggle the most in the city are in our poorest neighborhoods,” he said. “And what you find in those schools is those students have zero access to technology.”

Improved technology could also help the city in an area it may need the most help: crime.

Cole referenced the city’s recent deployment of ShotSpotter, a nearly decade-old technology that helps detect gunshots.

Cangialosi pointed to other tech developments, such as software in cameras that features facial recognition, and the proliferation of security cameras, including doorbell cameras like Ring and Nest. He suggested police could use a network of cameras to help stop crime.

“You get that network effect of all the existing cameras that are out there that are connected to Nest or Vivint or choose your Wi-Fi-connected camera, even the ones that are now outside, weatherproofed,” he said. “I would imagine being able to greatly expand the surveillance reach of the city through using the private sector’s cameras will help.”

But Hemmerly worried that as society moves forward with all of these tech solutions to problems, privacy concerns rise, too.

“The issue of privacy is really near and dear to my heart,” Hemmerly said. “How do we use these tools in a way where we are not discriminating against certain neighborhoods, certain people?”

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