In today’s Bulldog update of technology news: Durham public housing residents to get Google Fiber free; Aerie Pharmaceuticals expanding R&D in the RTP; IBM, RTI partner; iPod touch updated; EPRI to study coal ash recycling for Duke.

Google will supply its gigabit Google Fiber Internet access to Durham’s public housing residents for free, according to a statement the company issued Wednesday.

In the post, written by Google’s head of community impact for Google Fiber, Erica Swanson, noted that as many as 26 percent of people earning less than $30,000 a year don’t access the Internet. “Google Fiber is working to change that,” she wrote.

In partnership with a federal program, ConnectHome, Google will not charge installation fees or bill select public and affordable housing properties for its service. Although the program will eventually expand to all its markets, Google Fiber initially is rolling it out in Durham, Atalanta, Nashville and Kansas City.

Aerie Pharmaceuticals expanding R&D in the RTP

New Jersey-based Aerie Pharmaceuticals, a Duke University spinout (Nasdaq:AERI), which is developing treatments for glaucoma, says it is expanding its research and development efforts at Imperial Center business park in Durham, near RTP.

Longfellow Real Estate Partners report that Aerie leaded 20,000 square feet of office and lab space in the Exchange Place Building. The company has had its R&D operations in the Alexandria Innovation Center in the RTP and has an office in Irvine, CA as well as its HQ   in Bedminster, NJ.

IBM, RTI partner to use data for global development

RTI International – a leading nonprofit research institute – and IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) Africa research lab have are teaming to deploy big data analytics and cognitive technologies that can help transform development approaches in Africa and around the world.

In one of the first projects, for instance, IBM and RTI are developing and testing intelligent systems to capture census data about schools in Mombasa County, Kenya.

Through the partnership, RTI and IBM Research – Africa will explore ways of using advanced technologies to capture accurate data about challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, water and education.

Drawing on the power of big data analytics, researchers will provide insight to governments, aid agencies and other organizations who are looking to make more informed decisions about investment and development while having greater visibility of results.

“A dearth of data on Africa in the past has led to misunderstandings or misrepresentations of the continent’s history, economic performance and potential. Over the past few decades, even simple facts have been misrepresented – the size of a country, its economic performance, the amount of poor people, the volume of exploitable resources,” said Kamal Bhattacharya, vice president IBM Research – Africa.

“The latest advances in mobile, big data and Internet of Things technologies have the potential to change that so that we have a realistic and dynamic understanding of Africa’s challenges, rising opportunities and incredible potential.”

Duke and EPRI to study coal ash recycling tech

While coal ask from energy production is an unwanted pollutant in bodies of water, it does have uses in areas such as construction materials. Duke Energy says that the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will conduct a comprehensive study of the coal ash recycling market and available technologies.

Interest in safe reuse has expanded rapidly in recent months after the federal government re-affirmed that coal ash is not hazardous. This study, which is required by the N.C. Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, will be completed by mid-2016.

“We think there is opportunity here. While we’re already recycling approximately half of the ash produced across the company, we want to reuse even more,” said George Hamrick, Duke Energy’s vice president of coal combustion products in a statement.

“Ash is a valuable construction material, often replacing cement in concrete products. This study will investigate reprocessing technologies to make ash more suitable for reuse as well as other recycling applications.

The company continues to move ash from two plants in North Carolina (Asheville Plant in Arden and Riverbend Steam Station in Mt. Holly) and one in South Carolina (W.S. Lee Steam Station in Belton) to fully lined long-term storage locations.

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Apple updates the iPod Touch

Apple has updated its iPod Touch line with features from the iPhone6. Those include an 8-mega pixel cameral, a 64-bit processor, and the “M” chip for motion tracking.

The updates will let the iPod, first launched in 2001, run faster and handle better graphics.

The iPod started Apple’s comeback, but sales fell from a height of 54.83 million units in 2008 to only 14.4 million in 2014.

The 16 gigabyte iPod Touch will sell for $199 and will come loaded with the latest version of Apple’s iOS software, which includes the recently launched Apple Music. The company did a minor update of the iPod Touch last year. The device still rakes in significant revenue for the company.