ROCKY HILL — Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII), the state’s quasi-public technology investment arm, has announced the upcoming launch of the fourth annual Sikorsky STEM Challenge. The event, designed to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and workforce development by creating opportunities for students to apply their classroom learning and innovative thinking to real-life technical challenges, will ask nearly 150 students to reconfigure the Corsair aircraft to deliver as much potable water as possible in a 72-hour period from Beaumont, Tex. to Wichita Falls, Tex. Winners of the challenge will be awarded in May 2015 at the Student Innovation Expo in Hartford.
Are you an established small Connecticut technology company seeking interns? Then you may wish to consider Connecticut Innovations Inc.’s (CII) Technology Talent Bridge program, which makes grants of up to $25,000 available to help tech firms attract and hire the state’s top talent.
The Technology Talent Bridge Program is intended to develop stronger university-industry collaborations in Connecticut for the purpose of strengthening the state’s workforce and retaining talent in the state. Its mission is to provide experiential learning activities for university, college, and community college students (associate degree and above) currently enrolled in a degree program at a higher education institution or a Connecticut resident attending an out-of-state higher education institution through technology and innovation-based internships at existing small businesses that will lead to employment for the students.
There is a limit of one Talent Bridge project per company per 24-month period. The primary use of funds is to provide for student internship compensation, with a total funding maximum of $25,000 per project. A 50-percent match is required (25 percent in cash and 25 percent in kind).
Companies must have been in business for at least 12 months and registered as a business in Connecticut with the office of the Secretary of the State prior to submittal of a project plan and budget. For companies that have moved or set up operations in Connecticut within the last 12 months, evidence of prior registration in another state will be accepted.
Only junior, senior and master's level students who are currently attending a university or college are eligible to participate. Students attending community colleges must be pursuing an associate degree or professional certification. All students must be hired as W-2 employees. No 1099 relationships are allowed.
NEW HAVEN — A New Haven platform is keeping an eye not just on the power meter, but on the building itself to help owners manage energy costs.
Developed by Science Park-based Seldera, Building Dynamics is a software platform that measures energy usage in buildings but also employs sensor technology (such as occupancy sensors) to track the usage behaviors of people occupying the buildings to spotlight energy inefficiency or redundancy.
This technology has made it a useful tool for large facilities such as manufacturing centers, universities and other large-capacity structures where there is large variability of use. Building Dynamics is in use by 30 companies and municipalities including Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport and various industrial sites locally, as well as in larger-scale projects in Chicago and at the University of Illinois.
Seldera was founded in 2011 and acquired by Middletown-based energy management company Amaresco the following year. This summer Building Dynamics was adopted by Massachussets-based energy provider Energy New England to work in tandem with its own management software.
Seldera CEO and founder Andreas Savvides, a former Yale University professor of electrical engineering and computer science, has a background in researching sensor technology. He saw an opportunity in using the potential information gathered from sensors as useful in energy-efficiency applications.
That even includes new buildings. The technology was demo’d in several Yale buildings, including the 2009-commissioned Rosenkranz Hall, where initial tests of Building Dynamics spotted 20 percent more potential energy-saving measures than were already in use.
“That made the case pretty clear that even when buildings are recently commissioned, once they’re occupied and the occupants come in and figure out how they’re going to use the building, there are additional savings you can find,” Savvides explains.
Building Dynamics users can leverage information gained from sensors to monitor everything from occupant behavior to building automation systems to better manage energy use. It can even zero in on individual breakers.
“The ability to expose information and communicate how the energy is consumed raises awareness and triggers people at all levels to try and save,” Savvides says. “Sometimes it’s just behavioral changes like turning off a light switch when you leave a room, but also it can be in building automation systems. People might be in a building for ten hours a day, but the systems run for up to 22 hours per day. That’s a redundancy.”
The platform even factors in changes in weather and fluctuating building occupancy, such as for holidays. This makes Building Dynamics a better fit for large buildings and college campuses where there is significant variability of use throughout the calendar year. Its primary customers in Connecticut are industrial.
“Connecticut shines with very specialized manufacturing, and this means sometimes you can’t just buy a new machine off the shelf,” Savvides says. “So having the ability to manage energy is key to those businesses’ survival.”
It’s that basis in information that Savvides says sets Building Dynamics apart from competing platforms from companies like Schneider Electric or Siemens. He plans additional functionality and controls in the platform in the near future, including for lights and thermostats.
“The way technology is maturing today [is] enabling a whole suite of smaller systems, controllers, sensors and thermostats,” he says. “That technology is going to enable us to keep integrating more pieces into Building Dynamics.”
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.