It’s time again for the cream to rise to the top.

Fourteen area companies were among the 40 named to the seventh annual Marcum Tech Top 40, an annual list of Connecticut’s fastest growing technology companies.

The elect are divided into six categories: Advanced Manufacturing, Energy/Environment/Green Technology, IT Services, Life Sciences, New Media/Internet/Telecom and Software, with one winner from each being announced at an October 2 event at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford. An overall winner demonstrating the largest growth across all tech sectors will also be announced.

Local companies making the grade this year include:

• Advanced Manufacturing: APS Technology (Wallingford) • Energy/Environmental/Green Technology: Proton OnSite (Wallingford)

• IT Services: Cervalis (Shelton)

• Life Sciences: Alexion Pharmaceuticals (Cheshire), Bio-Med Devices (Guilford)

• New Media/Internet/Telecom: HealthPlanOne (Shelton), iSend (Middlebury); Reality Interactive (Middletown) • Software: Clarity Software Solutions (Madison), Core Informatics (Branford), Fitlinxx (Shelton), Higher One (New Haven), Square 9 Softworks (New Haven), Tangoe (Orange).

Eligible companies are those who have a demonstrated record of growth in each of the past four years, generate a minimum of $3 million in annual revenue (although four of this year’s finalists have broken through the $1 billion barrier).

The Marcum Tech Top 40 is a joint program of the Connecticut Technology Council and investment firm Marcum, LLP. More information and a full list of the Top 40 may be viewed at ct.org.

 WALLINGFORD — Emerging startups get another chance to show what they’ve got this year at the Connecticut Innovation Summit, the state’s largest entrepreneurial confab.

The Summit features exhibits from 150 early stage and growing companies hoping to attract the attention of potential partners, investors, customers and talent. There also will be mentor meetings, a funding fair for business owners to meet capital sources and services including investors, incubators and government programs, a “Pitch Fest” for companies to give a three-minute presentation before a panel of judges (think: Shark Tank), and awards ceremony recognizing the most promising talent.

The Innovation Summit takes place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. November 12 at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford. Particulars can be found at ct.org.

 NEW HAVEN — Quality Hyundai is New Haven’s first solar-powered auto dealership.

The dealer has installed 521 solar panels to provide 14,000 kilowatt hours (or 87 percent) of its monthly energy needs. Its August celebratory event was even visited by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Quality Hyundai is located at Forbes Avenue and Peat Meadow Road in a former U.S. Postal Service facility, where it moved from Branford last year. Owner Joe Blichfeldt, who sold solar panel parts back in the 1970s, invested $400,000 into the project, which he says will save between $3,000 and $4,000 per month on energy costs. Additional services and incentives came from the state’s Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credit program, which allows Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) customers who install renewable energy projects to sell energy credits back to CL&P.

The solar panel array was designed by Boston-based Independence Solar, while project construction was handled by Branford’s Pat Munger Construction.

 NEW HAVEN — Four bioscience projects were awarded a piece of a $2 million pie to speed up their paths to commercialization.

Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII) doled out funds through the Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund (CBIF) to both a pair of Yale-based projects and a pair centered at UConn.

Demetrios Braddock, associate professor of pathology at the Yale School of Medicine and medical director of Principio Diagnostics, was awarded $500,000 to fund a treatment for a fatal orphan disease resulting in heart failure and cardiac arrest. CaroGen Corp., a Hepatitis B vaccine developer that originated at the Yale School of Medicine, also received $500,000 in funding.

Quing Zhu, associate professor of electrical & computer engineering at UConn, received $500,000 for development of a hand-held infrared imager for use with ultrasound machines. Dura Biotech of Storrs received $400,368 to fund development and testing of a lower-diameter valve for use in aortic valve replacement surgeries.

The CBIF was established in 2013 to support promising bioscience projects statewide, with a focus on startups, early-stage businesses, non-profits and accredited colleges and universities. The $200 million fund is managed by Connecticut Innovations, which will distribute grants and loans over ten years.

CII also recently awarded Branford life sciences tool company IsoPlexis a $300,000 grant to develop a beta version and conduct testing of its cancer therapy device that provides cellular data to drug makers.

 WALLINGFORD — Energy efficiency contractor Competitive Resources Inc. (CRI) of Wallingford has been cited by the U.S. Department of Energy with its 2013 Home Performance with Energy Star Century Club Award.

This is the third consecutive Century Club Award that CRI has earned. The distinction is conferred on companies nationwide that have improved the energy performance of more than 100 homes in the past year, while successfully fulfilling the requirements of its local Home Performance with Energy Star program.

Contractors participating in the Home Performance program are trained to diagnose homes and determine where energy improvements are necessary. In Connecticut, CRI and other utility-authorized contractors provide home energy efficiency services through Energize Connecticut’s Home Energy Solutions (HES) programs, which are administered by the state’s utility companies.

 For better or worse, it’s a Windows world out there. So what happens when those windows start to close?

 

With more than 90 percent of computers running Windows machines, a small crisis erupted this April when Microsoft announced it would terminate all support and upgrades to its Windows XP operating system, an OS on which many consumers and businesses still rely.

 

The lack of updates leaves XP open for hackers to exploit security holes; a recent example of what’s at stake being the theft of more than 100 million customers’ credit card information from retailer Target’s computer systems.

 

“Target, knowing they were a big target, have tremendous firewall security, but the hackers got in through the HVAC system, which is undoubtedly run by a PC,” explains J.R. Rodriguez of Allied Communications, a West Haven-based IT/communications and security firm that provides voice and data capabilities for clients in sectors as varied as hospitality, manufacturing, financial services, government and retail.

 

Windows XP was introduced in late 2001, and although mainstream consumer support ended in 2009, extended support (available at a price) was available until this year. Microsoft is phasing out the 12-year-old XP to focus on the newest operating system, Windows 8. But adoption is slow, since due to software compatibility issues, many are simply moving to Windows 7, which is currently in use by more than half of U.S. computer users, based on data from NetMarketShare.com.

 

Windows 8 stands at about 13-percent usage, with XP still running on about a quarter of machines. The end is already in sight for Windows 7, though, with mainstream support ending in January 2015 and extended support ending in 2020.

 

Rodriguez stresses that with phones and voicemail, call accounting and call center reporting software and even video surveillance systems commonly run on PCs, hackers have a variety of options and in-points to cause trouble, whether it’s siphoning cash through 900 number call-routing schemes, or gaining control of security cameras.

 

Jibey Asthappan, director of the National Security Program at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven says he’s most worried about those who simply don’t know any better (including his own students, 25 percent of whom he says don’t know how to install programs or generally use a computer).

 

“The majority of those hanging onto XP machines are those who aren’t in the know and aren’t aware of the vulnerabilities they’re risking for themselves and others,” he says. “Target spends a lot of money on security; I’m more worried about the mom-and-pop gas station or small business that outsources its point-of-sale system.”

 

Debby Starkweather, controller of Westport’s Inn at Longshore (a client of Allied Communications), was running an XP computer that she promptly had upgraded (to Windows 7) after being told of the issue. She admits she has relatively limited knowledge on computer matters but didn’t want to take the risk.

 

“We’re a small operation, and I’m responsible for six or seven machines, so I have to keep everyone healthy,” she says. “We have a large database of clients and their information, and we have an obligation to keep it safe.”

 

Windows 8 is a major change, both functionally and aesthetically, from Windows XP and 7 (though it does have a feature to run Windows 7 programs), which may be a further deterrent for potential users, aside from the fact that an upgrade to Windows 8 may require buying newer computers as well, something that should at least make the dwindling PC sales market happy, at least: Technology research firm Gartner says we can expect 60 million in PC replacements this year.

 

“It’s a bit selfish on Microsoft’s part; they should continue pay support for XP. That means Microsoft benefits from revenue, and for businesses who are reticent to change because they rely on it, they’ll be willing to spend for it,” Asthappan says.

 

“An XP machine may be hard pressed to run Windows 8,” Rodriguez adds. “A business may have to get rid of every machine – in some cases it means upgrading their entire phone system – but whatever the cost of upgrading, they have to think of the cost a hacking will do to their reputation, productivity and revenue.

 

“Nothing will guarantee you won’t get hacked,” says Rodriguez. “But if there’s a business out there still running Windows XP today, they’re taking a massive risk that’s not worth it.”

 

Both Asthappan and Rodriguez agree that for those wishing to back away from Microsoft altogether, Unix-based operating systems like Linux or even Mac OS X are secure, and with less than five percent of users operating each, don’t fall victim to hacks or viruses as commonly as Windows users.

 

Whichever option one chooses, an up-to-date system is the best bet for a safe system.

 

“There is no such thing as 100-percent security, but having your OS secure is a big step,” Asthappan says. “Without having a front door on your home, you’re in trouble; that’s every XP user. The key is putting in that front door.”

 

 NEW HAVEN — Clean energy company Precision Combustion is one of five from New England to win government funding for development of new air quality products.

 

The company has received $99,897 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to develop new air filters to improve indoor air quality in industrial and commercial buildings and in homes. Precision is developing a filter that will remove gaseous pollutants from the air with technology originally designed for use in space to last longer and at lower cost.

 

The SBIR program awards funding in a two-phase process; phase I companies can receive up to $100,000 for their technology, and can then apply for Phase II funding of up to $300,000 to develop and commercialize products.   

In New England, three Massachusetts companies and one from New Hampshire were among the 21 small businesses in 14 states that were given a total of $2 million from the EPA’s program.

 NEW HAVEN — Forget health care — Connecticut hospitals are “wired.”

Hospital & Health Networks magazine’s annual “Most Wired” list of the nation’s hospitals that have used information technology to improve patient care quality and safety has conferred “most wired” honors on 11 hospitals in the state, including Waterbury Hospital.
But it was the Yale New Haven Health System that was given the distinction of “Most Wired Advanced” for its IT network system. The magazine survey examines hospital initiatives that share health information needed by doctors and patients, support delivery of care and reduce the likelihood of medical errors.

Other Connecticut hospitals to make the grade included Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, MidState Medical Center in Meriden, Hartford Hospital and Norwalk Hospital.

 NEW HAVEN — Entrepreneurs local and statewide took home $10,000 prizes to help further their startups at the latest round of CTNext’s Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIA).

 

New Haven-based medical device developer 109 Design earned a $10,000 prize as well as an additional $2,000 as “Judges’ Favorite” for development of a device and smart phone application that gathers and relays data to parents, physicians and patients to incentivize wearing a back brace for those with scoliosis.

 

Fresh Farm Aquaponics, an aquaponic farm in South Glastonbury, received an extra $2,000 in addition to its prize as the “Crowd Favorite.” Aquaponics is a farming method that raises fish and plants together in a sustainable ecosystem.

 

Other $10,000 prize winners were: Why Science of New Haven, which is developing a cloud-based educational program to improve learning; Enviroworks (East Hartford), developers of a hydrogen on-demand system to power trucks without using more diesel fuel; Vesselon (Darien), developing a device to treat stroke victims before they reach the hospital; Lab Candy (New Haven), a student-run startup aiming to get girls interested in science through fashionable lab gear; Genius Box (Shelton), an interactive tool to bolster young students’ STEM education; Avitus Orthopaeidcs (Farmington), designers of a minimally invasive tool for harvesting bone grafts; Reconstructive Solutions (Southport) is developing a less visible skin stapler for use in plastic surgery operations; and Engel Power (East Hampton) is developing a solid fuel gasification system using locally sourced raw material like feedstock. 

 

CTNext is the name of Connecticut’s Innovation Ecosystem, established in 2011 to support and foster entrepreneurial growth in the state. The first EIA awards were held in February 2014; the next will be in October (date and location to be announced), and eligible Connecticut-based startups can apply at ctnext.com/eia.

 

 New state legislation is aiming to make it easier for library patrons to access popular books in electronic form.

 

“An Act Concerning a State-wide Platform for Distribution of Electronic Books” (P.A. 14-82) authorizes the Connecticut State Library to set up a system-wide platform of distributing e-books to libraries.

 

A Department of Consumer Protection study last year found that while most state libraries offered some e-books to patrons, many of the most popular titles were either not available or only at prices above consumer price. Act 14-82 stipulates consistent availability statewide as well as fair pricing for libraries, enabling them to provide more titles.

 

 Connecticut Innovations Inc.’s (CII) ongoing support of and investment in the state’s technology and startup sectors has earned it a spot on Entrepreneur.com’s list of the Top 100 Venture Capital Firms in the country.

 

CII came in at No. 66 on the list with 70 investment deals totaling $63.3 million. The top spot went to Silicon Valley firm Andreessen Horowitz, which had 82 deals in 2013 valued at $667.4 million.

 

The VC100 ranks the top venture capital firms based on total capital invested in seed or early-stage deals in the U.S. in 2013. The figures were sourced from global private equity and venture capital data firm PitchBook.