Stoel Rives Innovation Awards: Celebrating Utah’s inventive companies and technologies
Now in its 15th year, the Innovation Awards pay tribute to the innovative spirit that permeates Utah companies, along with the talented people working to ameliorate complex problems with elegant solutions. Nominees in the program are evaluated by leaders within Utah’s business and academic communities, who vote to select the finalists and award winners. The result is a cohort of truly impressive innovations that impact a wide spectrum of markets and industries. Below are the 2017 Innovation Awards winners, finalists and honorable mentions.
Clean Technology and Energy
Vutility Pulse by Vutility – Category Winner
Vutility brings utility metering into the future by gathering real-time usage information to help users monitor and adjust use, and budget better. The combination of the hardware and software records and guides use of utilities for government entities, companies and private customers alike. The box communicates wirelessly with the system and has a range of up to a mile, depending on topography. Data collected is securely stored, and the system is compatible with all existing metering technologies for gas, electricity and water. The mobile and web programs that accompany the box can also guide users to ways to reduce and conserve their use of water, gas and electricity, to help save them money and be more eco-friendly. It has led to a 20 percent reduction in utility use for customers. In addition, through delivering data in real time, the system can also help alert customers faster if there is a power outage or other problem with utilities.
PassiveLogic Intelligent Building Automation by PassiveLogic Building automation has largely remained unchanged for decades. PassiveLogic’s Intelligent Building Automation changes that. The automation system applies a physics-based approach to building automation—the artificial intelligence the system employs is itself built upon a physics-based decision engine. The result is safer, faster and more intelligent building automation to maximize human comfort and minimize energy use. The system is also easy enough to use that it can be used by all customers, regardless of expertise, thereby democratizing the process. The system also allows for machine learning, to make it even more efficient. The result is a more efficient balance for the various needs of a building—cooling, heating, lights, energy systems, changeable architectural features, air quality—no matter what changes in light, weather or other factors it has to account for. The system can also self-diagnose problems and even self-heal some issues as they arise.
Honorable Mention: The Nikola One by Nikola Motor Company
Taxilla by Taxilla – Category Winner
Forget Uber—the sharing economy has now hit your taxes. Taxilla builds upon the model of the sharing economy to connect users with tax professionals, standing in the middle of a highly competitive market somewhere between do-it-yourself services like TurboTax and professional services like CPAs and H&R Block. Taxilla streamlines the tax preparation process by making the bulk of communication between user and professional be via text or voice messages. An integrated platform also simplifies the process for independent employees to keep track of expenses, receipts and other documents by allowing them to take photos of the documents and text them to Taxilla. Taxilla is a subscription-based service, rather than a one-time purchase, and provides off-season support, coaching and planning in addition to annual or quarterly filing.
Sky by Vivint Smart Home
Vivint Smart Home’s Sky takes the term “smart home” to a whole new level. The Lehi-based company’s smart home assistant lets homeowners control lights, locks, temperature and more from a mobile app—but it takes it a step further with machine learning. Using technology from more than 200 patents, the system uses the sensors in the house (an average of 14) to track, record and learn from the typical habits of the home’s occupants. When everyone gets up, leaves for the day or calls it a night, the system can make automatic adjustments based on those behaviors. For example, when people have gone to work or school, it might ask the homeowner if they want the system to lock the doors, turn off the lights and adjust the temperature. Likewise, the system can ask the homeowner if they would like it to get ready for their return by turning on the lights, raising the temperature and unlocking doors.
Honorable Mention: Utah.Gov Amazon Echo Alexa Skill by Utah.Gov
Enterprise Software, Cloud and Big Data
Lucidchart by Lucid Software, Inc. – Category Winner
For keeping track of a complex series of documents or ideas, making sense of a difficult and multi-faceted issue, or helping a wide net of team members stay on the same page with a product, an orderly visual representation can go a long way. A lack of a means of making that visual representation prompted Lucid Software co-founder and CTO Ben Dilts to create the earliest versions of the company’s breakout Lucidchart, and its potential drew CEO Karl Sun from his position at Google to man the helm. The software has brought an easily collaborative approach to visual communication across teams and organizations. It rose quickly above competitors like Microsoft Visio by being compatible across Windows, Mac and Linux, eliminating the need to email diagrams back and forth regardless of operating system or even whether all members of a team have a Lucidchart license. A social media marketing campaign using the software to make pop culture-based charts has made it even more approachable for the everyday user.
t0’s Blockchain-Based Securities Trading Platform by Medici Ventures
Deep in the details of how Wall Street trades are managed is a loophole that allows a seller to get the funds for selling stocks without having to produce a certificate of sale for a few days, meaning an unscrupulous trader could sell stocks without actually owning or borrowing them. That kind of selling could in turn manipulate the market. The t0 platform would shorten the process, allowing trades to be shorter and more transparent, removing unnecessary complications that allow that kind of short-selling to continue. The non-centralized and distributed ledger of the blockchain makes it a far more transparent means of trading and other transactions. Beyond the stock market, the platform could be applied to other sectors to streamline other complicated transactions across the globe, such as banking, real estate, land titling, voting and capital markets.
Honorable Mention: The Whistic Security Assessment Platform by Whistic
Computer Hardware/Electrical Devices
Kiband by Kilife Tech, Inc. – Category Winner
Nearly every parent has had a heart-stopping moment when they realize they’ve lost track of their child. Particularly in a crowded place, the moment brings instant panic. That’s where Kiband comes in. The wearable device, which works up to 200 feet, alerts parents if the device is disconnected or is too far away, and it also monitors line of sight by pulling data from up to 10 nodes within a mesh networking system to accurately determine if a child is in danger of getting lost. Parents can set mobile boundaries that send alerts within four feet of accuracy.
The Kiband technology goes far beyond simple GPS tracking, which can’t differentiate between 10 and 15 feet away. Kilife Tech’s patents and provisional applications include technology for mobile proximity, mesh networking and child safety. The Kiband combines BLE, accelerometer data, machine learning and multi-path fading technology to improve the resolution of radio proximity measurements by 12 times.
ALTA Long Range Wireless Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions by Monnit
The so-called Internet of Things includes an amazing array of “things”—for example, cows. Monnit’s wireless sensors help its clients keep animals, food and other products safe by monitoring things like temperature, vibrations and motion. Managers can monitor all of these things remotely with instant access to data on mobile devices.
Monnit recently released ALTA, its next generation of enterprise-grade sensor technologies. This new technology can detect and communication readings from a distance up to 1,200 feet—even through thick walls. The ALTA products have some of the strongest security features available and boast up to two times the battery life of the previous iteration. The sensors can store up to 5,000 time-stamped readings in case of a loss of power or if a sensor is out of range.
Monnit’s products are used by agricultural businesses (like cattle lots), food manufacturers, warehouses, food transportation companies and more.
The Botpot by Botpot, Inc.
The goal of Botpot is to bring automation to the home kitchen. Botpot is an appliance that is half refrigerator, half sous vide cooker. The company ships pre-prepared meals to the home, and up to four of those meals can be stored in the Botpot at a time. RFID packaging lets the Botpot know what the meals are and how to cook them. The consumer, from anywhere via a mobile app, can select what meal to cook and schedule a time for dinner. The sous vide cooking method uses precisely controlled, low-temperature water to cook the meals to the exact doneness at the exact right time.
Compared with other meal delivery services or appliances, the Botpot is the only product that takes both prepping and shopping out of the equation, letting consumers choose their meals and begin cooking them from anywhere.
Life Science – Medical Device
Xenoscope by Xenocor – Category Winner
The Xenoscope is a single-use laparoscopic device that, in contrast with standard laparoscopic systems on the market, reduces costs, improves access to advanced surgical care, provides safer surgical imaging and eliminates deadly patient cross-contamination. The Xenoscope is a sterile and disposable scope with HD imaging that provides exceptional diagnostic accuracy at a fraction of the cost of current systems on the market, which can cost up to $700,000. The device offers standard USB and HDMI connectors for image display on HD monitors, tablets, laptops and mobile devices; this enables the use of low-cost HD imaging monitors in rural and remote areas. Additionally, the Xenoscope eliminates the need for sterile processing between procedures, along with the danger of contamination that comes along with multiple-use devices.
While the initial focus of the Xenoscope is on laparoscopic and thoracoscopic procedures, it is also being considered for women’s diagnostic hysteroscopies. Roughly 7 million laparoscopic procedures are performed worldwide each year; the United States alone sees over 1 million thoracoscopic procedures annually.
Intraocular Piggyback Lens for the Treatment of Pseudophakic Dysphotopsia by Perfect Vision, LLC
Nearly a third of cataract surgery patients report a frustrating post-surgery complication called pseudophakic dysphotopsia (PD), which is the artificial presence of halos, glare or shadows within the field of vision. With 3.5 million cataract surgeries performed each year, there are nearly 8 million Americans living with PD, and each year another 1 million patients join their ranks.
The PerfectVision lens is a long-term implantable lens that has a unique concave shape with features like a low refractive index, larger optic and rounded edges that are designed to resolve PD. Other so-called piggyback lenses on the market in the U.S. are biconvex and don’t fit snugly next to the primary lens, making them more likely to rub the iris or actually pop through the pupil. PerfectVision’s patent-pending lens’s concave shape and unique features enable it to resolve PD in a way that other piggyback lenses don’t.
KneeMD by Promotus, LLC
By 2020, the United States will see 1.5 million annual total knee replacement surgeries. And fully 30 percent of those patients will experience short-term range-of-motion and extension problems requiring physical therapy. KneeMD was developed to allow patients to take control of their physical therapy, enabling them to stretch and passively rotate their knees on their own. The KneeMD device lets patients adjust the frequency, duration and intensity of rehabilitation, minimizing pain while making the therapy more convenient.
Promotus, LLC, is developing both a clinical model of KneeMD as well as patient model that physicians can prescribe to their patients to take home after surgery. The clinical model, which is already in limited use, is designed for all-day, every-day use in rehabilitation clinics. The less-expensive patient model is still in development.
Honorable Mention: The Electro Pulmonary Nodule Scan by ProLung
Life Science: Biotech
Computationally Intelligent Discovery Engine by Recursion Pharmaceuticals – Category Winner
Drug development can take years, sometimes a decade or more, to get from a laboratory to a patient’s bed. Recursion Pharmaceuticals is trying to cut that down for those with rare genetic diseases with a novel new technology that combines machine vision, artificial intelligence and a partnership with drug companies.
The Computationally Intelligent Discovery Engine is software that uses image recognition technology to look at images of cells, measuring thousands of features on them, and scrutinize the changes in the cells when they are exposed to various drugs, hoping to help the cells return to their healthy state. Recursion has partnered with drug companies to gain access to drugs that made it through the development process or into clinical trials but did not demonstrate efficacy for the original disease they were developed for. The software has already identified 12 drugs for seven diseases that show potential to advance to preclinical development.
TP-0903-AXL Program by Tolero Pharmaceuticals
The world needs more and better cancer treatments, and Tolero Pharmaceuticals is doing its part to find ways to crack into cancer cell’s abilities to metastasize and become resistant to chemotherapies. The company is beginning Phase 1 clinical trial studies with its TP-0903-AXL Program. TP-0903 is a potentially best-in-class inhibitor of AXL kinase, which helps enable cancers to develop metastatic properties and acquire resistance to chemotherapeutics. TP-0903 has been shown to inhibit downstream signaling from AXL kinase and inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in culture. Potentially, TP-0903 treatments could help cancer cells become less invasive, more sensitive to chemotherapy and lack the ability to metastasize, as well as boost immune response to cancer cells.
Phase 1 clinical trials for the TP-0903-AXL Program are being evaluated for both patients with solid tumors and patients with blood cancers.
Honorable Mention: Integrated Precision Medicine Solution by Navican Genomics
ProSlab 155 Automated Turf Harvester by FireFly Equiment – Category Winner
When harvesting sod, automation is by far the easiest way to get the job done. But in many climates and topographies, the current system of harvesting sod—by rolling—is impossible and is replaced by labor-intensive, inefficient hand-stacking.
FireFly Equipment has created a smarter machine that has 80 analog and digital sensors and 100 digital outputs, including GPS-guided steering (to keep perfectly straight lines in uneven terrain). The device increases harvesting speed by 20 percent and reduces diesel fuel consumption by 50 percent. It also has a patented cutter, chop mechanism, conveyers and stackers that help get the job done, allowing for a seamless transition between driving, harvesting and stacking. When the fully loaded pallet of stacked sod is ready to be switched, the harvester can set that pallet down and reload a new pallet from its magazine.
Computational Simulation of Airbag Inflators and Systems by Autoliv
Autoliv, a major supplier of automotive airbags, created a ballistic modeling system for airbag inflators and the pyrotechnics within. Currently, for smaller changes to these systems—like inflator-type changes or vent size changes—computationally expensive models are the only option, which can lead to ignoring the testing stage completely or opting for further live-fire testing.
The Autoliv ballistic models are flexible and can be used to simulate different inflator types, and they also incorporate rudimentary modeling of linear impact testing. This tool can aid in the design of automotive airbags, in the primary design of inflators, and can provide accurate information regarding inflator simulation data to downstream crash simulation software. While more complex and time-consuming simulations might be needed in further development, the Autoliv system can help a designer understand airbag performance and optimization in a simplified test or for troubleshooting anomalous inflator or airbag behavior.
Outdoor and Consumer Products
SNO-GO by SNO-GO – Category Winner
Ski-bikes, or bikes that combine skiing with downhill mountain biking, have existed in some capacity for the past 150 years. In the mid-20th century, what had been simply a mode of winter transportation turned into a device for recreation.
While embracing their motto of “respect tradition, embrace evolution,” SNO-GO took the original ski-bike design and added several advancements to address the safety and functionality of the bike.
SNO-GO’s bike has three ski blades that create a more stable ride and higher levels of rider control. The bike works via the same motions of a mountain bike ride, but is paired with the snow skis for all types of snow conditions. The bike was launched and funded on Kickstarter in December, 2015, after four and a half years of research and development. SNO-GO’s S.L.A.T. (synchronized lateral articulation technology), which helps the bike’s responsive and reliable ride, is patent pending.
Whole-Home Voice Control with Alexa Integration by Control4
As technology continues to evolve in home automation, the allure of having a smart home rises—in fact, over 8.2 million Americans have purchased Amazon Echo since its arrival in 2014. Control4, a whole smart-home system that allows homeowners to control their home via a multitude of mobile equipment, as well as gesture controls and remote controls, has now added voice control to its array. Working with the Amazon Alexa platform, Control4’s Smart Home Skill allows users to tell Alexa a simple phrase to engage a complex chain of reactions.
For instance, the command: “Alexa, turn on cooking,” could turn on kitchen lights and lower the shades, while simultaneously flicking on the television to a cooking channel. The setup has the capability to control over 10,000 devices with voice commands: turning on and off lights, adjusting the thermostat, manipulating the television, listening to music anywhere in the house or arming the home security system can all be done via simply phrased voice commands.