Thursday, March 26, 2009

Winston-Salem Technology Briefing

We attended the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce's 8th Annual Technology Briefing on Tuesday. And it is only a briefing, the entire presentation is 2 hours. With 10 companies presenting, that doesn't allow for much more than an overview of each company's latest project, but the presenters did a great job within their five minute allotments.

I thought I'd give a quick rundown of the companies and the product or service they introduced at the briefing. Here they are, in the order in which they presented.

Talon for Healthcare: Talon is a spin off from Bald Eagle Technologies, a well known and respected local IT solutions provider. Talon is a secure web portal that hosts medical practice-specific educational content. A doctor can provide their patient access to the portal. The patient then visits the portal and receives information on their treatment plan. It may be a reiteration of their consultation, drug interaction information, etc. Quizzes are given to the patient to test their retention and refer them to information that they need to review. The portal and all communication between doctor and patient is secure and HIPAA compliant.

WFU Physicians Information Systems presented a system that expedites and streamlines the communications that take place between a medical provider and insurance providers. This is especially relevant as the number of medical codes is set to rise from 17,000 to over 155,000.

Keiger Printing introduced their new operating division, Keiger Direct, and their new product line, LYNX. LYNX allows marketing campaigns to be very personal - each recipient of the campaign receives a personalized email, postcard, or web address. The campaign is able to track data and then use it to refine the message, even as the campaign is ongoing.

Algaen did not present a new product, but touted the benefits of micro-algae. Their company has developed ways to economically extract the essential oils from algae to produce bio-diesel. Algae is easy to grow (in fact, it's hard to stop it from growing - ask anyone with a pool) and grows faster than any other photosynthesizing plant - it has harvest cycles of 7-9 days. Algaen has selected and optimized oil rich algae strains and plans to reach the market in 2-3 years.

Techatronics is an engineering and automation firm focusing in the tobacco, pharmaceutical, medical, and Quality Assurance markets. They previewed a tool that would allow real-time web-based tracking of bio-medical shipments (i.e. tracking a biopsy or drug screen sample). They are also building a custom smoking machine for R J Reynolds, but couldn't tell us anything more about it.

BioBotz is attempting to introduce children to the intricacies of cellular biology through the use of plush toys, a video game, and a Pixar-quality animation (directed by seniors from Atkins High School). None of these projects have yet reached the market, but they have partnered with Maxis (creators of "The Sims" and "Spore") to create the video game. Their goal is to create characters that children can identify with, hoping to spark an interest at an early age that will carry over into career paths in microbiology.

The Center for Design Innovation is an inter-institutional research center of UNC. Their goal is to promote economic growth by supporting the growth of creative enterprises. They previewed their planned motion capture facility that will be available for researchers and introduced a new addition to their team, Nickolay Hristov. CDI also holds weekly Idea Exchanges that are open to the public.

VG Innovations, a medical device company, introduced the VerteLoc minimally Invasive Spine Stabilization System. The Verteloc system replaces round dowels with oblong, almost rectangular, dowels that support spinal forces on the vertical axis. This prevents horizontal forces from causing separation, allowing the bones to fuse. There is also a dramatic reduction in the amount of time required for this procedure, compared to traditional back surgery.

Arctic is a company that has found a way to recycle CO2, bottle it, and use it to kill weeds and crabgrass. It is currently undergoing testing and expects to be on the market next year.

Out of Our Minds Animation Studios previewed some of their animation work and updated everyone on the progress of their new feature "The Magistical". Unfortunately, The Magistical will not be exhibited in Winston-Salem anytime soon, but it is doing well in other Film Festivals. Two of the previous presenters, BioBotz and VerteLoc, had used animations from Out of Our Minds in their presentations.

Over all the Tech Briefing was a good experience. If our local economy is to recover, it will based on the innovative productivity of companies like these.