| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Innovation & Startups

1877 Articles | Page: | Show All

AlphaLab Gear is here--Pittsburgh's industrial-chic space for hardware startups

What do you get when you put nine enterprising hardware tech startups into an industrial-chic space in a former bowling alley in East Liberty?
AlphaLab Gear, the cool tech startup accelerator brought to us by Innovation Works and created around the idea—modeled after AlphaLab on the South Side—of entrepreneurs making great hardware together.
About 150 curious well-wishers attended the open house Monday night, which lifted the veil—or should we say garage doors—on the first class of companies.
The 10,000 square-foot space is an inspiring version of tech shop with touches like chain-link fences, barn doors, splashes of wall color, couches and a long wall of 12, 52-inch monitors that form a giant flat screen.
Gear taps the region’s prowess in robotics, software and hardware tech design, bringing entrepreneurs and artists together in a collaborative space to provide intensive business mentoring, financial assistance up to $50,000, a membership to tools and equipment in nearby TechShop and mentorship, for which IW is known.
“If Pittsburgh knows one thing, it’s how to make things,” said Rich Lunak, CEO of IW. “We are the original industrial town. We have the supply chain and talent to make this successful.”
The companies include:
FreshTemp, creating a temperature monitor and alert system for the food, medical and manufacturing industries.
IdentifiED, based on tech developed at the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab, designing unmanned aerial systems for data gathering in remote and hazardous environments for military, oil and gas exploration.
KyteLabs, two entreprenuers from Puerto Rico who are working on 4.0 software/hardware products with low-energy Bluetooth.
LifeShel, making smarter smart phone cases that protect more than just your smartphone.
Piecemaker, offering retailers 3D technology to create their own low-cost customized products in a matter of minutes.
Rapid PTC, automated platform technology for manufacturing thermoplastic composite parts.
Romeo Delivers, a monthly subscription service for men who need a little assistance with sending romantic notions to their significant other, like “kisses in a bag.”
Saturday Garage, applying robotics to the tool industry for tool challenged do-it-yourselfers who need assistance in operating industrial-grade precision and design tools.

Two artists-in-residence are also a part of the mix: documentary filmmaker Kalpana Biswas and woodworking furniture designer Jonathan Shapiro.
“People are working in this space. Sparks are flying,” says Illana Diamond, managing director of AlphaLab Gear. “Being a maker has become cool again.”
AlphaLab Gear was created with support from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, URA, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Innovation Works

Pittsburgh innovation news you need to know

The entrepreneurial and innovation sector in Pittsburgh continues to heat up. Here’s a quick look at the news going down around town.
CMU reports the creation of a record number of new startups this year, 36 to be exact, an economic milestone for the region by all accounts. CMU, its faculty and students have spun out more than 130 companies over the past five years and have attracted approximately $400 million of outside investment. 
CMU also announced a shift to a “spin-in” approach to working with entrepreneurs through organizations like Carnegie Innovations. The model allows companies to function as a venture-supported startup and receive financial support from CMU while the university retains 90 percent equity in each.
“It really is an example of us getting into the business of our business in the tech development space,” Mark Kamet, CMU Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, told the audience gathered at LaunchCMU last week.
Five subsidiaries are underway: Acrobatiq, an open learning initiative; Acatar, a distance learning platform; Panopto, a video recording, transmission and content platform for enterprise; Clearmodel, focused on developing best-practice and model-based improvements; and iCarnegie, an older company developed in the ‘90s that works with government and businesses on workforce development.
The University of Pittsburgh announced this month the opening of The Innovation Institute to advance entrepreneurship, commercialization and economic development at the university, bringing everything together under the existing Office of Technology Management, Office of Enterprise Development, and the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. 
Built in PGH has announced the creation of Citywide Standup, a monthly meetup to bring entrepreneurs together for regular facetime. Participants will have 30-seconds to expound on their wins and losses over a beer. 
Taking a page from Silicon Valley and “Shark Tank”, UPMC is holding another two-day Health Data Palooza," bringing more than 130 engineers, designers and analysts together to create cool tools and products for health care. Last May, a similar event created a device that fits in a shoe to get employees at desk jobs to get up and move. The event will be held on Nov. 20th and 21st at Bakery Square’s offices of UPMC’s Technology Development Center. Judges will be present and funding will be awarded.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: CMU, University of Pittsburgh, Built In PGH

Truly Accomplished embraces the power of technology to change lives

Achieving the personal satisfaction that comes from true accomplishment is often an elusive goal. Now there’s an online platform that charts that course for us.
Elissa Ashwood, mother, wife and Fortune 500 executive, found herself feeling unfulfilled at the age of 40. Battling breast cancer and dealing with the death of her step mother, she realized her life lacked balance.
“It pushed me to leave my job and begin working on a solution,” she says.
Ashwood is co-founder of Truly Accomplished, a startup working out of Revv Oakland. The company develops web-based tools to help individuals take control of their lives, manage their time, improve productivity and achieve goals.
Launched in 2012, Truly Accomplished is based on the life work of Ashwood’s father, Dr. Robert Pritchard, an organizational psychologist whose doctoral dissertation on motivation, and why people often feel debilitated by company performance reviews, has received national acclaim.
Pritchard turned his theory into a methodology for the U.S. Air Force. The program worked extremely well, improving overall team effectiveness by 150%, says Ashwood. Together they turned the program into Trueprint, an online measurement and feedback system to help people set better goals and stick to them.
The program is offered to individuals and companies as a professional service. In time it may become self serve, she says. Several prominent Pittsburgh leaders praise the program on the website.
Everyone wants to feel healthy, connected and smart, but how we go about this is different for each, Ashwood says. Truly Accomplished asks a better question and helps to prioritize these feelings.
“Humans generally can’t compare more than three or four things at the same time,” she says. “Our minds are really bad at that. But it isn’t hard for computers to give us data and tell us how our effectiveness adds up. “
For example, how many lunches have we made our kids this week? How many times have we tucked them in? How much time did we spend touching base with our significant other? It measures our daily successes.
“It’s hippy capitalizism at its best,” she says. “The Viagra of self-improvement. It’s our way of making work a little bit better for everybody.”
It also helps companies to help their employees by giving them the tools to balance career and home life and achieve a sense of accomplishment.
“So many midcareer women walk out the door because they have no way to manage everything they are trying to do,” she says. “Companies would rather have productive employees than lose people.”
It’s not about getting more things done or achieving fame and wealth, she adds. “It’s about getting what we need. Feelings are like north stars, they give you direction. It's exciting to do something like this in Pittsburgh, a place where living a good life is valued and that’s what we’re all about.”
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Elissa Ashwood, Truly Accomplished

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? ModCloth, Songwhale, Steeltown Entertainment and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.
ModCloth, the online vintage clothing retailer, is looking for a director of engineering for its Pittsburgh location. This is a forward-looking position that requires basic technical knowledge of the company's technology stack to help inform decisions.

Songwhale, a fast-growing, interactive technology company in Pittsburgh, is hiring developers, engineers and project managers.
The Efficiency Network (TEN) is hiring an entrepreneurial energy engineer to provide expertise in assessing, designing, calculating savings and scoping pricing energy efficiency projects. The company is a next-generation energy efficiency integration firm that hopes to change the way customers achieve energy and water efficiency goals.
University of Pittsburgh is hiring an academic community engagement advisor for the University Honors College. The position is responsible for directing the office and advising UHC students as well as other responsibilities.
Safaba in Squirrel Hill, a fast-growing machine translation firm, seeks a senior MT software engineer to play an integral role in its product development roadmap and customer project delivery.
Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery seeks a full-time gallery assistant who will be responsible for daily gallery management, creating PR and marketing materials, packing and shipping glass, and installing work for exhibition openings. A BFA/BA in art history or studio arts, or a background in gallery management is preferred. Send resumes and cover letters to Amy Morgan at staff@morganglassgallery.com.
Steeltown Entertainment Project is seeking a part-time (20 hours a week) youth & media program administrator to support its projects. Steeltown’s Youth & Media Program works to empower teens by inspiring, promoting and facilitating the creation of teen-produced media and provide the skills they need.
On the North Shore, Webkite, a content management platform developer, is hiring three: business development technology sales representative, outbound sales representative and a senior developer.
Branding Brand seeks a technical recruiter to work in the Pittsburgh office and lead the development of the team. The ideal candidate is entrepreneurial in nature, a true people person, and someone who lives and breathes mobile. 

Immunetrics, a bio-simulation company in Pittsburgh, on the cutting edge of in silico modeling, seeks a mathematical modeler.
AllFacilities Energy Group, an energy efficiency analytics company in Pittsburgh, is hiring an account associate with a Bachelor’s degree in a business or technical discipline, or 1 – 3 years of related experience.  Energy efficiency experience is preferred, but not required.
Bechtel Bettis seeks an entry level technical editor/writer in its West Mifflin office,  someone with experience or a degree in mechanical, marine or related engineering.

Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the career links.

Writer: Deb Smit

This passive house. Pittsburgh firm explores pure energy efficient design

Rob Hoskin grew up in the Seventies in an energy-efficient house that was way ahead of its time.
With the Arab Oil Embargo and energy crisis in full swing, Hosken’s father built a “passive solar home,” construction that relied on solid architectural design rather than gadgetry to lower the energy bill—things like south facing windows and really good insulation.
“I have memories of cold Wisconsin winter days, with no heating appliances turned on, when I could wear summer clothes inside our house,” says Hosken.
While interest in “passive” housing subsequently waned in the U.S., the Germans and Swedish picked it up and ran with it, especially in the last decade, constructing ultra-low energy buildings and houses that adhere to strict passive design standards.
Today, passive houses are the new buzz word in sustainability.
“It’s the new gold standard of building energy efficiency,” says Hosken. “It’s one step from a building with net zero energy, which produces more energy than it consumes.”
Not surprisingly, Hosken grew up and became architect with a passion for green and energy-efficient design. His Pittsburgh firm, Building Performance Architecture (BPA), offers both energy efficiency consultations and architectural services for homeowners, apartment building owners, and commercial building owners.
It’s also the only firm in the region to conduct passive home ratings, he says. While many architects embrace certified passive design standards, passive homes must be officially rated to certify.
“We’re that in Pittsburgh,” he says.
To qualify as passive, a house must lower its energy bill based on air infiltration, Btu consumption and kwh usage. Passive houses (or buildings) must be totally airtight, super-insulated, designed for passive solar heat gains and equipped with high performance doors and windows and heat or energy recovery ventilation systems.
The passive rating system is stricter than both the International Residential Code (IRC) and the U.S. Energy Star program.
With the addition of energy technology, like solar panels, passive houses can easily achieve net-zero energy use, says Hosken. Passive homes can achieve a 25% reduction in overall energy use. 

His firm, based in Point Breeze, has received support from the Idea Foundry and a Kiva loan, enabling BPA to buy the necessary equipment to conduct passive house ratings.

Our vision is to help create communities that are beneficial to the environment and people around them and slow the threat of global warming, he says.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Rob Hosken, BPA

This week in startup news: the fast skinny on everything going down around town

Pop City innovation news offers a roundup this week of all the news you need to know:

Business Bout is back, Thrill Mill’s business plan competition that not only sinks venture capital to new startups but secures them a spot in Hustle Den’s incubator in East Liberty.

New this year, the top 15 companies selected will receive a cash prize; $25,000 for the winner and $5,000 for the top 14 companies selected. The deadline for submission is Dec. 6th at midnight. The funding was made possibly by the success of the Thrival Festival this fall and funding from the RK Mellon Foundation.

The first round of finalists, about 30 to 50 companies, will attend a weekend bootcamp that will provide training on the basics for building a company, says Bobby Zappala, CEO for Thrill Mill.

“We’re taking some serious strides to add value to the companies beyond giving them access to the space (Hustle Den),” says Zappala.  “Adding so much substance only increases the chance for companies to achieve something really great.”

Across the hall from HustleDen, AlphaLabGear is getting underway. The first nine companies are expected to be announced next week.

Pittsburgh’s big data startups will meet with regional big data investors for a mega session on investing and building companies in the field of data analytics. The interactive format will provide a meaningful dialogue and an opportunity to facilitate relationships between entrepreneurs and investors, says Samman Haqqi, organizer on behalf of Pittsburgh DataWorks.

National VCs like Accel, Atlas Ventures and Google Ventures will be on hand along with locals Draper Triangle, Innovation Works, and Birchmere Capital.

CMU has announced the launch of the Simon Initiative to accelerate the use of learning science and technology to improve student learning. The faculty-led initiative includes the formation of the Global Learning Council (GLC), a group of experts from academia, industry and foundation who will develop best practices in the open sharing of data across sectors to improve learning outcomes for all.

In addition, CMU will provide open access to the world’s largest bank of educational technology data, which it collected with the University of Pittsburgh as part of LearnLab, a Science of Learning Center funded by the National Science Foundation, says a CMU spokesperson.
Applications are now being accepted for the Steel City Codefest, a city-wide app-building competition to create apps that assist local nonprofits by promoting their mission and saving time and money. For more information or to apply click here.

The Energy Technology Center at the Pittsburgh Technical Institute officially opened its doors in North Fayette. The $3.5 million, 15,000 square-foot space is headquarters for the school’s energy programs, serving companies that are exploring and developing Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale.

Earlier this year, PTI announced a new certificate program in welding technology and the addition of an oil and gas electronics concentration to its electronics engineering technology associate program in science degree. The institute's oil and gas program is the first associate degree program in the region that concentrates on electronics for the energy sector, school officials said.

Finally, CMU invites the public to LaunchCMU Pittsburgh, a research and entrepreneurship showcase on Wednesday, Nov. 13 from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the University Center, Rangos 1,2 and 3. Startups presenting include Surtrac, Sharp Edge Labs, PECA Labs, ActivAided Orthotics and Duolingo.

Writer: Deb Smit

What is UpTo? For starters, the community social accelerator is up to a regionwide expansion

Look for UpTo to pop up all over Pittsburgh and beyond, thanks to support from two local organizations.
A neighborhood experiment launched by marketing firm Shift Collaborative, UpTo stages pop-ups in underserved communities by bringing businesses and nonprofits together with freelance designers and writers who can turn work around quickly and at an affordable cost.
Successful pop-ups were held in this fall in East Liberty and Butler. Intrigued, Idea Foundry has adopted UpTo as part of its Intersector Accelerator Program, which funds businesses that have social or environmental benefits.
In addition, the Allegheny Conference is considering including UpTo as part of its Strengthening Communities Partnership, an initiative designed to address disparities in communities in the Pittsburgh region.
UpTo was created as a side project by marketing firm Shift Collaborative in East Liberty. It’s a way to challenge ourselves and do-good in local neighborhoods, says Sarah Mayer, a principal at Shift along with Eric Sloss.
The pop-ups are staged as community social events in the heart of main street communities--barber shops, Italian restaurants, ice cream shops, dry cleaners are all great candidates that have benefitted.
“People can walk in, walk around, meet people and make an appointment,” says Meyer.  “We want to educate people on the process and the importance of quality design work. Then we follow up to see how they are putting these designs into action.”
A menu of services is available to business owners, with rates of between $25 and $150 for content writing and design work, such as a business logo.
“This is an underserved population that doesn’t usually invest in quality design,” says Meyer. “We don’t hope to profit from it, we want to see it impact Main Street America. That’s our primary goal.”
With the expansion of the program, UpTo is building out its team, which consists of locally sourced freelancers. It’s a good opportunity for designers to fill out their portfolio, Meyers adds.
Scouting is underway for future locations, possibly Wilkensburg, McKeesRocks, Latrobe and Erie.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Sarah Meyer, Shift Collaborative

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Industrial Scientific, Mattress Factory, Seegrid, CMU and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.
Industrial Scientific has broken ground on a new 200,000-square-foot global headquarters in Robinson Township, allowing the the company to consolidate its operations into one location. Hiring is expected in the coming year. IS is currently advertising five positions in Pittsburgh: credit account manager, electronics technician, senior director, senior electrical engineer and senior software developer.
Pittsburgh-based Seegrid, maker of robotic industrial trucks, is hiring four positions: field service technician, senior software engineer, a director of product development-robotic industrial truck product line and a mechanical engineer.
The Mattress Factory on the North Side is hiring a communications and marketing manager. The position is responsible for the implementation of strategies to increase visitor attendance and promotion of the museum nationally and internationally. 
South Side skincare startup FutureDerm has two openings for a software development consultant and financial consultant. The company recently announced the expansion of its product line beginning with a new skin cleanser.
Smith Brothers is hiring a senior content creator/ copywriter, someone who’s "a kickass copywriter with the portfolio to prove it."
RE2 in Lawrenceville is seeking a principal electrical engineer to join its team. A minimum ten years of experience is required. RE2 recently announced funding by the Dept. of Defense to commercialize its high-speed inspection robot, the ForeRunner, an unmanned ground vehicle.

BEA of Belgium, makers of automatic door sensor technology, has an opening in its Pittsburgh office for a director of marketing, someone with experience in product management. Pittsburgh is the company's North American headquarters. 
Carnegie Mellon University is hiring a publications coordinator and webmaster with three or more years of experience in writing, desktop publishing and multimedia.
Flying Cork Media is looking for a creative writer to assist in all client campaign writing. A bachelor’s degree in marketing, advertising or public relations and 1-2 years of experience is preferred.
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the links.

Writer: Deb Smit

Pittsburgh schools take students on wild rides through science, teach video game design

Students today are hungry for a challenging learning environment that not only engages them, but also prepares them for the 21st century workplace. So what does this look like?

Two high schools in the Pittsburgh region are embracing innovative educational models that teach STEAM skills in creative ways. One is a classroom that looks more like a place you might find at Epcot in Disney World; the other is an academy for future video game designers.

At Shaler High School, students are stepping into an immersive, virtual world called Dream Flight Adventures where they embark on their own missions that take them into the scientific realms of outer space, human body or deep sea.

Before the day of the mission, teachers prep the students. When the day arrives, the excited class takes its spot in a room that is designed as a command center, and moderated by an administrator who serves as flight director. The students manipulate the mission on iPads and follow the journey on a wide screen at the front of the room.

“When kids walk in, many think it will be like a video game, with scripted outcomes, says Gary Gardiner, CEO and creator.  “They quickly realize this is more of a real life experience. There is a lot of screaming and yelling.”

“Once the kids come in here, they are no longer are fifth graders, they are engineers, and hackers and physicists,” adds Michael Penn, GATE teacher and flight director. “They own these jobs. Time stops for them; they are so reluctant to leave.”
Dream Flight Adventure hopes to expand to other area school districts, says Gardiner, who is also manager of education and entertainment initiatives at Idea Foundry.

At Elizabeth Forward High School, Zulama’s Gaming Academy offers students a high school level curriculum based on course work offered at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). The academy teaches STEAM skills through classes on game design, 3D modeling and modern storytelling.
In its second year, the program has grown from 30 to 190 students.
“It’s changing the way teachers are teaching,” says Nikki Navta, founder and CEO. “It gives students practice for jobs that exist in the real world.”
Zulama addresses soft learning skills including working in teams, learning to communicating and collaborating effectively. It’s not about just math, science, art and history, says Navta. It gives students a tangible portfolio of work.
“The collaboration and the creation that students get to do is far more intrinsically motivating than any other course that I’ve seen offered in my mere 10 years of education,” says Heather Hibner, a teacher at Elizabeth Forward.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Zulama and Dream Flight Adventures

PAEYC's Unconference invites education innovators and app developers to a playgroup

Staying ahead of the early education learning curve is a challenge In a world where young children grow up knowing how operate cell phones before they can talk.
PAEYC (Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children) is addressing this with a unique two-day event, “UnConference 2013: Game On!” on Nov. 15 and 16, a play group for educators and technologists who will work together to create cool, cutting-edge learning tools. The hack-a-thon will be held at Google Pittsburgh while the UnConference will be held at CMU in Rashid Auditorium.

The event is open to early childhood professionals, K-4 teachers, art and music teachers, basically anyone looking for a creative jumpstart to meeting young students where they are today.
PAEYC has tapped 21 app developers who will be turning ideas from teachers into really great educational mobile apps. More than 200 yearly childhood educators will participate in the event and field trips.
“Our goal is to create a diverse community of learners and early childhood educators, technologists and innovators who share a common desire for quality early childhood experiences,” says Cara Ciminillo operations director of PAEYC. 
“We want early childhood educators to see themselves as a really important part in the maker movement; they are the first ones to create an environment for children to imagine, explore, and innovate,” she adds.

The unconference includes field trips to several highly innovative learning spaces: MakeShop, CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center, MAYA Design, Google Pittsburgh and Tech Shop. Illah Nourbakhsh, director of Create Lab at CMU, is a keynote speaker and Bill Isler of Fred Rogers Company will participate.
The event is supported in part by the Spark Fund for Early Learning at The Sprout Fund. Registration is required.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Cara Ciminillo, PAEYC

New Pittsburgh Collaborative celebrates 10 years with a work party at STUDIO of Creative Inquiry

Celebrate the 10th anniversary of the New Pittsburgh Collaborative--some of the most active, forward-thinking and civically engaged young professionals in the region—by joining the working party. 

NPC is a diverse group of the region’s influential voices, open to anyone who has a stake and represents a clear constituency in the region, says Dan Law, president. Current or interested members are invited to CMU's STUDIO of Creative Inquiry on Nov. 9th, but bring your thinking caps and party clothes.
The evening will begin with a priority-setting dialogue, from 5 to 7 p.m., through facilitated, small breakout groups to brainstorm policy priorities facing young professionals. Once the list is prioritized, attendees will then have an opportunity to discuss the list.
“Our goal is to really drive at addressing the challenges and opportunities facing young professionals in our region,” says Law. “Instead of simply identifying problems, we will foster partnerships that will take an active role in shaping the way in which we as a community take on some of our most pressing issues.”

While Design Our Future is calibrated toward young professionals, the identified issues will be have an intergenerational impacts, he adds. “The larger message is that regional progress involves everyone -- regardless of age or experience-level. And the NPC will continue to work hard to incorporate even more stakeholders as we move forward.”
Once the work is done, the party begins with a celebration of NPC's anniversary and an opportunity to explore CMU’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry. Registration is required as space is limited. To RSVP, and for any questions related to the event, please email npcannounce@gmail.com

The event is supported by The Sprout FundAllegheny County, and Pop City.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: NPC

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Shoefitr, Precision Therapeutics, Carlow University and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest company and hiring news.
Pittsburgh startup Shoefitr, the former AlphaLab company that helps customers to make sure the shoe fits when they are buying online, is hiring for eight positions: footwear taxonomy specialist, front-end engineer, graphic designer, QA engineer, senior inside sales professional, software engineer, technical sales engineer and UX researcher/developer.
Precision Therapeutics on the South Side and Lawrenceville, a diagnostics company that provides cancer patients and their doctors with personalized cancer treatment, is hiring for seven positions: immunohistochemistry technician, software developers, finance, automation specialist, clinical information analyst, laboratory accessioner, part-time and clinical lab technician.
Combinenet, a SciQuest company, in the Strip District is looking to hire a full time unix administrator with five or more years experience in maintaining a production environment.  

Dick's Sporting Goods is hiring a marketing content editor to support the brand's mission.

Carlow University is hiring a communications strategist for a 12-month position to support a full range of Carlow's communications efforts.

The Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania are looking for a cookie sales coordinator to plan and implement the overall sales strategy of this major annual fundraiser. 

Looking for a little extra work for the holidays? FedEx Ground is hiring about 100 workers to support its operation on Neville Island, off I-79. Pay starts at $10 an hour.

Have hiring news? Email Pop City and include the career links.

Writer: Deb Smit

MakerSwarm, MAYA Design's life-changing, revolutionary do-it-yourself app creation tool

The Internet of Everything is a deceivingly simple yet revolutionary concept that suggests that everyday gadgets—doorknobs, light switches, ovens—can be controlled or manipulated by us through the internet.
Imagine a world where everything is embedded with a radio frequency identification tag (RFID) tag. Many everyday products—like cars and retail products—already are. What if you could take these things, create your own app and control everything from your mobile phone?
For example, turn on the coffee maker in the morning? Open your garage door?
Always looking to the future, MAYA Design has tapped this concept with a product it’s calling MakerSwarm, a software kit that will allow everyone to cobble themselves some cool apps without ever writing a single line of code.
While still in development, MakerSwarm promises to unlock the power of trillions of connected devices, revolutionizing home security, our very way of life, say its makers. Think smarter buildings, smarter energy grids and smarter human networks.
MakerSwarm started out as a project for DARPA, the government agency that drove the creation of the internet and driverless cars. Seeing the potential, MAYA wanted to create something with a consumer orientation, says Stuart Roth, senior software engineer.
Say you want your garage door opener to turn on your house lights every time you pull in the driveway, explains Matthew Casebeer, senior software engineer and game designer. With MakerSwarm, you physically draw a line on your tablet with your finger, connecting a picture of the garage door opener to one of the light switch.
Voila, a mobile app! A do-it-yourself smart-house in a package. The possibilities are endless, the team says.
“Think of asset tracking,” says Casebeer. “Businesses and hospitals know how much they have of important stock at all times and supplies are reordered automatically. Doctors remotely monitor patient health automatically. The list goes on.”
“We’re not creating this with a specific idea of how it will be used,” adds Roth. “Our hope is people will begin telling us ways to use it, which will generate more ideas.”
To further facilitate the research, the MAYA team launched a Kickstarter this month to raise money to complete alpha and beta testing. The team is also working with Pittsburgh high school students who are testing the early versions in preparation for the full-scale product, which is about six months away.
“MakerSwarm is lowering the entry point to creating your own app,” says Yu-Ling Behr, MakerSwarm community manager. “I’m the least techy person ever, yet I can connect things without knowing one line of programming.”
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: MAYA Design

Need storage? Help balancing your budget? AlphaLab Demo Day shows and tells all

The AlphaLab Demo Day & Technology Preview proved yet again that entrepreneurs and startups are a big draw in Pittsburgh.
More than 375 people attended the presentations of six university tech startups and nine Innovation Works AlphaLab companies at the New Hazlett this week. Many stuck around to meet the companies afterward during an informal lunch mixer.
“The companies gained market traction and validation during the AlphaLab program and did an excellent job of presenting their products and companies at Demo Day,” said Jim Jen of IW. “This cycle’s companies continued the tradition of raising the bar for future AlphaLab classes.”
This year marked the first time that National Energy Technology Laboratory joined the lineup.  
The preview opened with university technologies, ranging from Lightside, an online platform that instantly assesses student writing and offers feedback to both teachers and student writers, to Diamond Kinetics, which is in the throes of commercializing technology that improves the performance of baseball and softball players.
The current crop of AlphaLab companies were equally compelling, ranging from reality-based gaming to a look at the savvy new age of college-level athletic recruiting. 
A few highlights:
What is augmented-reality gaming? MegaBits CEO Patrick Perini explained how his new game brings the gaming world and real world together. The game is based on a player’s physical location, allowing gamers to chase and battle monsters and feed and train them, in all kinds of real world weather.
It’s catching on. Nearly 200 applicants signed up in the first two hours of MegaBits’ launch, said Perini.
Ever lose an important file, or key nugget of information on your computer? Steve Cotter of Collected wants to streamline the way you find it by providing intelligent authoring technology to help you quickly access frequently used content. Not only does it speed up access, but also it can drill down contents on a Google drive and costs, at minimum, $10 a month. Launching in January.
Forget reconciling your bank statements across several apps. BudgetSimple tracks your spending and income all in one place and keeps it up-to-date.
“The most successful budget is one where you can keep the things that are important and eliminate the waste,” says CEO Phil Anderson, a successful internet marketer who previously worked for Vivisimo (before it was acquired by IBM) and LunaMetrics in Pittsburgh. BudgetSimple has 130,000 users signed on to date.
Wing Ma'am, a fast growing mobile app, is bringing bring LBGT women together as a resource for one another. It already attracted 108,000 users to date and is on target in reach 2 million in the next two years, says CEO Ariella Furman.
It’s also the only app of its kind that searches for events, not just people, she says.
If you’ve ever tried to stay abreast of a high school or collegiate athletic team’s changing schedule, you will appreciate the value of AthleteTrax. The startup is working with high school and collegiate club teams to provide an online tool that puts all a team’s information in one place, a sort of dashboard for athletics.
Lacking space for storage? Have space to rent? Spacefinity matches the have-nots with the haves and helps the haves convert their extra space into cash. The startup is tapping into the $22 billion storage industry and has 70 live space lords in Pittsburgh so far, says CEO Alex Hendershott.
Those looking for motivation to keep up with their physical therapy routines will gain support from Hability, a mobile tool that keeps patients engaged and therapists and family in the loop. “Compliance is in the root of attendance,” says CEO James Lomuscio.
Crowdasaurus stands at the intersection of crowdfunding and digital marketing. Projects with crowdfunding campaigns are matched with like-minded organizations—nonprofits or media outlets—who can benefit from the exposure they will receive by having content appear on the same page, says Josh Lucas, CEO. The Pittsburgh Foundation is already one of several beta testers on board. 
Finally, a senior at Grove City College believes the college athletic recruiting system is broken. Her startup, ProfilePasser, is the only platform that brings players and coaches together on the field where the players can be seen and recruited, says Sam Weber, founder. The app is available in the iTunes store now.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: AlphaLab, Innovation Works

Calling all Pittsburgh creatives in business, art, innovation and more. Pittsburgh needs your input!

The Pittsburgh region’s creative and innovation sectors have a great reputation. All we need now is the hard data to back it up.
To accomplish this, The Pittsburgh Technology Council is conducting an online survey of our region’s creative industries to determine exactly how the region stacks up to other benchmark regions--the Pittsburgh Regional Workforce & Quality of Life Assessment. To ensure its success, everyone in the Pittsburgh creative sector is encouraged to participate. 
Those who play a role that dips into art, design, creativity, new product development, consulting, R&D and innovation are asked to complete a short online survey. This includes software professionals, design freelancers and engineers, says Lou Musante, co-founder of Thrive, a local startup, and a founding partner of Pittsburgh-based Echo Strategies, which is executing the survey.
There’s an incentive: Survey participants will be invited to attend the 2014 Creative Industry Summit and will be eligible to win one of several prizes, including a few iPad Minis.
“There’s usually a lot of fiction around these sectors; how credible are they?" says Lou Musante, “We need credible, defensible data that supports these beliefs. We need to get our arms around it." 
The initial inspiration for the study came from Richard Florida’s theory on the rise of the creative class, says Musante. The next step is to pull together hard data on the region’s creative economy, to understand both our strengths and our weaknesses. 
The information will help local leaders appraise the creative sector more effectively and more jobs around the cluster.  The final study will provide another set of indicators and benchmarks for Pittsburgh Today,
The region needs to ask itself how big is our software sector? The engineering sector? “We’re determined to find out exactly who is out there and how these sectors are growing,” Musante says. “Are we moving the needle?”
Creative Industries Study is part of the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Creative Technology Network, presented in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Toronto Rotman School, Echo Strategies, Dollar Bank and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
Take the survey now at createPGH.com  The study will be open online until Thursday Oct. 31st.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Lou Musante, Echo Strategies
1877 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts