The New Media Institute (NMI) at the University of Georgia (UGA) is collaborating with several wireless firms in the area, from Air2Web to XcelleNet, to create the Mobile Media Consortium.

The academic-industry partnership was designed to provide resources to students at UGA, which is located outside of Atlanta in Athens, to allow them to conduct research and develop prototypes of new mobile media technologies that can positively impact quality of life.

“The Mobile Media Consortium is designed to promote the field of mobile media by generating original ideas (like prototypes), relevant resources (like research), and innovative leadership (our students),” NMI Director Scott Shamp tells Local Tech Wire. “We want mobile media to grow…and grow in Georgia.”

As a department under the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the NMI is an interdisciplinary teaching and research resource at UGA dedicated to the exploration of the critical, commercial, and creative dimensions of digital media technology. Over 300 students took at least one NMI class last year, and 85 are currently enrolled in the interdisciplinary New Media Certificate program.

Under the leadership of Shamp, the NMI has already established the Wireless Athens Group, or WAGZone, which is a 24-block “wireless cloud” providing Wi-Fi connectivity in downtown Athens. Over the past year and a half, students have been developing systems and products that utilize the WAGZone.

Now, with the creation of the NMI Mobile Media Consorium, students at UGA will benefit from resources provided by the wireless industry, which has a large presence in nearby Atlanta. In addition to Air2Web and XcelleNet, other initial members of the consortium include HP and ExecuTrain.

These member companies provide resources to a small group of exceptional students, known as Mobile Media Scholars, who will conduct research and create prototype technologies that will allow the wirelessly connected public to experience the power of mobile media. These prototypes may ultimately lead to new commercial ventures.

“UGA is encouraging faculty members to establish relationships with industry. It helps keep our programs relevant; it keeps industry partners up-to-speed with UGA’s teaching and research; and it provides much needed resources to expand our programs,” explains Shamp. “The NMI is a interdisciplinary teaching and research unit dedicated to the exploration of the commercial, critical, and commercial dimensions of innovative digital media technologies.”

Consortium research is available in two forms…reports and prototypes. Reports prepared by the Mobile Media Scholars and NMI faculty will be published annually as a collection of white papers. This research will drive the creation of prototypes that build real world examples of mobile media.

As director of the NMI, Shamp says UGA has always had informal relationships with a wide range of industry partners, but that the school’s work in the area of mobile media and wireless exposed it to a host of new companies.

“These companies shared our goal to shape this emerging field,” he comments. “These companies are leaders in the wireless space. And each contributes a unique and vital expertise.”

HP, he says, leads the way in portable devices, such as the iPAQ PocketPC and tablets. XcelleNet provides the management tools to make mobile devices operate effectively. Air2Web is pioneering ways to use messaging and cell phones to change the way people communicate on the go. And as a provider of corporate education and training, ExecuTrain is exploring ways that education can travel with people to maximize their time.

“So we have a real synergy between these groups; and the fact that three of them are Georgian is important as well,” Shamp says, referring to XcelleNet, Air2Web and ExecuTrain. “We want Georgia to become the hub for mobile media content development…and we want the industry to develop a southern drawl.”

Shamp tells Local Tech Wire that NMI is working to add new partners to the Mobile Media Consortium, but that each would have to fill a particular need. He says the consortium will remain small (under 10 members) so as not to lose its focus.

InfoMentis adds five to growing team

Skills training, consulting and coaching company InfoMentis, which is doing a steadily increasing volume of business with major corporations that operate worldwide, is bringing in expertise and experience with the addition of four new principals and an instructional designer.

Andrew Askinas, Jim Lewis, Brent Prosser and Vinny Mauro are the new principals at InfoMentis, which is based near Atlanta in Alpharetta. The firm also has tapped Mabel Litt as an instructional designer.

Prior to joining InfoMentis, Askinas was a partner with The Nour Group, an organization that helped companies achieve excellence in sales and marketing practices. He also has held senior sales positions with companies such as HP, Commerce One, Silicon Graphics and Verity Inc.

Lewis was most recently founder and chief executive officer of Elite Sales Group. He also has achieved sales leader status at companies such as Niku, Oracle and Dun & Bradstreet Software.

Prosser comes to InfoMentis from Premier International, an application development data management software vendor where he held the position of vice president of sales and marketing. He also has held management positions with companies such Pinnacle Consulting, Management Science America, Palladium Inc. and Eprise Corp.

Mauro was senior vice president of field operations at Enamics, where he was responsible for developing the sales, service and operational infrastructure. He also has helped the likes of Excelergy, PeopleSoft and Corio manage sales processes.

As instructional designer, Litt comes to InfoMentis from Indus International, where she held multiple managerial positions during her tenure. She has also held positions with Becknell & Associates, First State Bank, Designer Boulevard and Builders Emporium.

“We are extremely pleased to have these talented professionals join our team,” said InfoMentis CEO Wendy Reed. “Each has a long history of enabling large companies to optimize their sales, marketing, and operational effectiveness. They know what it takes to deliver strong business value to customers who depend on our workshops and services for competitive advantage.”

Founded in 1996, InfoMentis has provided performance improvement strategy, consulting and coaching to over 15,000 professionals, in 40 countries and 6 continents. Clients include Blackbaud, Checkfree, FileNET, Manhattan Associates, Microsoft, McKesson, Nortel, Oracle, Progress Software, and Sungard.

Mars commission to meet at Ga. Tech

A presidential commission formed to study the viability of a manned mission to Mars is making the rounds on a national tour. Atlanta will be the commission’s third stop when it holds a public hearing on Wednesday and Thursday at Georgia Tech.

Speakers, including former astronaut and Ohio Sen. Buzz Aldrin, will talk about ensuring the safety of a human landing on Mars, creating space-related jobs and raising money for space missions.

By the first week in June, the commission will outline 10 strategies on how to move forward with the Mars plan. That report will then be presented to the White House. From there, humans could travel on to the red planet.

InfoMentis: www.infomentis.com

NMI Mobile Media Consortium: www.nmi.uga.edu/mmc