January 17, 2012

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High Tech 10

Homegrown Technology Breakthroughs with Far-reaching Impact

Tom Haraldsen

January 17, 2012

Every year, dozens of Utah’s 5,000-plus technology companies develop truly revolutionary new products, concepts or services. This year is no exception. The following 10 technologies represent just a sampling of the amazing entrepreneurship and high-tech genius comprising our state. Each is making its mark, or likely soon will, nationally and internationally. Here are 10 of Utah’s best, in no particular order. Active Handrest Engineers at the University of Utah have developed a computer-controlled, motorized hand and arm support. This device can assist doctors, artists or others who control tools or scalpels to do precise work with much less fatigue. The device’s computer software moves the handrest so it “constantly re-centers your fingertips in the center of their dexterous workplace,” says William Provancher, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He says it can benefit workers “performing with pick-and-place tasks.” A patent is pending on the device, which may be marketed and sold through a spinoff company, or licensed to another firm producing touch-feedback devices. Holorad At a time when 3D technology is all the rage, Holorad has created a patented process for creating interactive 3D holographic imagery. And you don’t need to wear special glasses to enjoy it. “Without 3D glasses, this can be enjoyed even by the casual observer,” says Daniel Burman, president and CEO of Holorad. “Major entertainment companies and amusement companies are excited about this development, as are advertising companies.” The process involves taking photographic “slices” of images, getting all of the volume of an image along with its dimensions. Putting those slices together on a common media allows the images to become three dimensional. Though the process isn’t “large” enough for television or motion picture use yet, Burman says development is continuing. Don’t be surprised to see a 3D image in an airport terminal ad or some other display soon—thanks to Holorad. Fusion-io Capacity is everything when it comes to flash technology. Fusion-io has found a way to double the capacity of its family of products and achieve up to 1.28 terabytes (TB) from a single PCI Express card. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in northern California has used that technology to create the world’s highest performance storage array. It implements more than 100 TB of Fusion-io’s dual 320 GB enterprise MLC ioMemory modules. “Demand for ioMemory continues to grow and Fusion-io, as the first vendor in the industry to deliver MLC-based solutions to the enterprise, is pushing the innovation envelope once again to achieve faster, higher capacity solutions,” says Fusion-io Chief Technology Officer Neil Carson. Virtual Dressing Room Ever heard of “augmented reality headphones?” You have now. American Fork-based Skullcandy has just launched the first virtual dressing room for its line of Roc Nation Aviator headphones. By downloading a simple plugin, and accessing the user’s webcam, the Skullcandy Virtual Room can track a user’s eyes and display a 3D virtual model of the headphones they want to “try on.” “We’re letting you see what our headphones look like from any angle, on your actual head, before you buy,” says Brett Barlow, director of interactive and marketing operations. “This could absolutely change the online retail shopping experience.” The Virtual Room 3D viewer was developed in conjunction with Utah-based digital agency Rain, another technology pioneer in mobile apps and Web development. Wilson Electronics A new line of cell phone signal boosters has earned Wilson Electronics a New Product Innovation of the Year award from Frost & Sullivan. It’s “Best Practices” report for 2010 praised Wilson for the development of “Sleek,” an all-in-one signal booster. Designed for use in a vehicle, or with an optional accessory package for home or office use, Sleek incorporates “the same performance and advantages Wilson Electronics is known for into the smallest and lowest-priced signal booster the company has ever produced,” according to Wilson COO Joe Banos. He says the Sleek will extend the calling range and signal strength of any phone on any North American cell service provider’s network, with the exception of Nextel. Juniper Systems, Inc. Using a handheld computer in the field can prove challenging for reasons beyond Internet connectivity. You also need to have a powerful, durable device that can withstand the abuse of the elements. Logan-based Juniper Systems has created a new OD Green/NATO Green enhancement to its popular Archer Field PC. “Dunk it, drop it, use it,” says the company’s website (www.junipersys.com). The handheld computer is waterproof and dustproof, and is designed to meet and exceed the stringent specifications of the military—but it is also compact and lightweight. It features long battery life and a sunlight-readable display, and it can endure extreme temperatures. GPS, WiFi and other data acquisition functions can be added with peripheral devices sealed with an extended cap. Phonex Broadband You may not have heard of Phonex and its Hybrid Jack, but you’ve likely benefitted from both. This Midvale-based company’s product allows the wiring in existing buildings to serve as a conduit for broadcast signals—without the need for any additional wiring. “Our Hybrid Jack eliminates the need for telephone wiring, coax and other wiring in order to receive digital signals,” says John Knab, CEO for Phonex. He says because most every home and business is already wired, with the Hybrid Jack, every electrical outlet with a jack connected can serve as a dataport. Furthermore, the Hybrid Jack offers a high-end quality signal and is quieter than regular phone lines. “Our compander masks out background noise and allows for clean data signals,” he explains. The most powerful example is the satellite TV industry, where “millions of homes have this technology being used to receive digital signals,” Knab says. Never heard of Phonex? That’s because the jacks are private labeled for companies such as RCA, General Electric and Philips. Pixelture, Inc. Imagine a conference room or classroom where everyone can connect wirelessly to a projector. That’s the technology behind Wireless Pixels from Provo-based Pixelture, Inc. A wireless solution that allows multiple PCs to connect and share information has already been rolled out at Columbia University’s Business School, as well locally at both Brigham Young University and Salt Lake Community College. “For me, the most exciting element is a future for all of us with laptops, smart phones and iPads,” says company CEO Justin Strong. “You can be watching a game on TV, press a button to pause the game when an email arrives, and read it right on your screen. The same process applies for any screen.” An obvious connection with higher education, Wireless Pixels is a great fit for universities with dedicated podium PCs. The software created by Pixelture is what makes the magic happen, and the company’s close relationship with BYU engineers makes the transition to university markets that much easier. Purestream Techonologies The Energy Dynamics Lab at Utah State University’s Research Foundation has developed technology that can clean oil and gas waste and make them capable of generating reusable power. Purestream Technologies, headquartered in Salt Lake City, is a privately-held company using that technology in its Trilogy System. Touted by the company as “the world’s first economically viable, environmentally responsible well head solution,” the system allows oil and gas producers an onsite solution for scrubbing air emissions and cleaning waste water. This process enables oil and gas producers to comply with environmental regulations, limit waste products and reduce negative impacts on the environment. Gaitshoe It should come as no surprise that the programs at the University of Utah continue to conceive products and concepts that are unique in medical and rehabilitation treatments. The Gaitshoe is such a product. Developed with technology from Stacy Bamberg, a professor of mechanical engineering at the U, the Gaitshoe is a pressure sensitive gel insole that helps amputees walk by sending real-time audio feedback to notify the user of a limp. “When someone loses a limb, they also lose their nerve feelings, something that an artificial limb can’t replace,” says Jason Groenewold, a law student at the university who is helping developers as they strive for venture capital to market the product. Gaitshoe’s signals are transferred through a wireless transceiver to its user, helping those who’ve lost a limb to walk with a natural gait.
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