Job Market Maker (copy)

Joe Hanna is founder and CEO of Mount Pleasant-based Job Market Maker. File

Venture capital firms made a record $9.3 billion in investments to companies developing artificial intelligence technologies in 2018, and one Charleston company got a small slice of the pie.

Notes from research firm CB Insights show investors just about doubled the money they pumped into AI last year. These technologies are software or systems that emulate human cognition in some way.

Engage Talent, a Mount Pleasant-based firm, was included on the list. CB Insights named Engage the top-funded AI company in South Carolina. The company's chief executive said AI is a key part of what powers their software. Engage creates software that can pick out employees at companies that might be close to making a move. 

"That applies to some of the work that we do, which is helping companies find the right fit people to go after and making that process super efficient in ways that was not possible just a few years ago," Joseph Hanna, CEO of Engage, said.

Engage was one of nine companies that won funding in early 2018 from a fund called Rise of the Rest. The raise was for $3 million, the company announced last February

Some of the other companies on CB Insight's list raised much more. There were fewer deals this year, analysts said, but together the transactions were worth much more. California was home to 53 of the deals, raking in $1.9 billion. 

Year-over-year, investments in AI increased by a striking 72 percent. For the moment, major tech firms dominate the AI field. But that is expected to change as other industries catch on to how AI can be incorporated into their systems.

In health care, for instance, the Medical University of South Carolina has made two partnerships with global medical device companies in collaborations that are expected to use AI to improve patients' care.

Connections at the library

The Charleston libraries have begun offering internet hotspots for checkout in an effort to connect the area's students to the internet.

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The libraries recently added 121 hotspots to their inventory. Cardholders can check out the broadband-capable bricks from any of the library's locations.

Today, students need an internet connection to do their homework on most days, said Jim McQueen, deputy director at the Charleston County Public Library.

"It creates this barrier to their school success, which can affect their whole future," McQueen said.

To mitigate any problems with stolen or lost devices, the library can switch off the hotspots remotely, McQueen said. Hotspots won't have a data cap or any other limits on the amount of internet people can use them for. The library secured the hotspots through the nonprofit organization Mobile Beacon. 

According to the organization's website, they have helped about 500 libraries nationwide send more than 4,400 hotspots to residents in their areas. 

About 537,000 South Carolina residents lack an adequate internet connection, some because they can't afford to purchase one, and many others because they live in rural areas where connections are scarce.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.