Advanced Technology Development Center Adds “ATDC Select” Membership

In the past two years, membership in the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) has grown from 40 companies to more than 500, with members ranging from startups at the earliest conception stage to revenue generating, venture-fundable companies. Now, in an effort to better serve that diverse base, the Georgia Tech-based incubator is unveiling a new membership level aimed at startups ready for acceleration.

To be included in the “ATDC Select” membership group, which will launch on Jan. 1, startups must first be screened and selected based on readiness for acceleration and fit with ATDC services and staffing. The “select” distinction helps to clarify the difference between open and selective memberships. The benefits are similar: coaching, connecting and community. But while most ATDC events and programing are open to the broad membership base, ATDC Select members will be engaged on a more focused and individual level. In addition, they are candidates for ATDC’s annual graduation ceremony.

“We will continue to welcome and support all technology entrepreneurs in Georgia. From business coaching to networking, there are services we can offer to startups of all sizes,” said Nina Sawczuk, ATDC’s general manager and Georgia Tech’s director of startup services. “However, companies that have identified scalable business models and are ready to take advantage of ATDC’s more focused, individual support are encouraged to apply for the ATDC Select membership. This includes custom access to our entrepreneurs in residence (EIRs), mentors, graduate companies and sponsors, ultimately increasing access to potential investors and strategic partners.”

The ATDC Select level will help accommodate a massive membership base that developed when ATDC began welcoming all Georgia-based technology entrepreneurs two years ago. Historically, ATDC has had a selective process of admitting companies into its office and lab spaces in Midtown’s Technology Square and the satellite campus in Savannah. These “resident” companies have demonstrated growth significantly above and beyond that of the typical member, collectively raising more than $40 million in the last 12 months. They will now become the first members of “ATDC Select,” although the membership level is open to companies regardless of physical location.

“Back in 2009, ATDC established new programs to support the broader entrepreneurial community beyond Midtown Atlanta,” said Stephen Fleming, vice president of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the parent organization for ATDC. “This enabled the scaling of key ATDC services, including the EIR office hours, expanded mentor program, Startup Circles and Lunch-N-Learn educational series. These programs are designed for all ATDC members, while additional customized programs will focus on ATDC Select members.”

Sawczuk said introducing the two membership types will help boost member involvement and pave the way for more relevant member services, ultimately helping ATDC achieve its mission of “coaching, connecting, and community.”

The new membership structure is one of many recent changes at ATDC, including the development of the EIR program and the addition of Community Catalysts to support geographic outreach and further develop ATDC’s educational and mentor programs. Earlier this summer, ATDC worked with Georgia Tech to launch a four-month accelerator program called Flashpoint that is supporting an inaugural cohort of 17 startup teams in their search for a rapidly scalable business model.

About ATDC:
The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) serves as the hub for technology entrepreneurship in Georgia. Founded in 1980, ATDC helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful technology companies by providing coaching, connections, and community. Through business incubation and acceleration services, ATDC has supported the creation of hundreds of technology companies that have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing. Headquartered in Atlanta’s Technology Square, ATDC members benefit from a close proximity to Georgia Tech and connections with other Georgia research universities. ATDC was named one of the “10 technology incubators that are changing the world” by Forbes Magazine in 2010.

EDA i6 Challenge Grant Supports Medical Device Innovation Center

The worldwide market for medical devices is expected to top $300 billion this year and to continue growing, fueled by demands from a growing population and a U.S. baby boomer generation that expects a high level of healthcare services. That’s an economic development opportunity that many states and regions would like to tap.

In Atlanta, a partnership of research and medical institutions, supported by the public-private Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), has formed the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) to do just that. With assistance from the Economic Development Administration, GCMI recently began construction of what will be the Southeast’s first comprehensive medical device innovation center. The goal of the nonprofit center is to accelerate the development and commercialization of next-generation medical devices and technology.

Launched through a partnership of four leading research and healthcare organizations – the Georgia Institute of Technology, Saint Joseph’s Translational Research Institute, Piedmont Hospital and the GRA – the new center will fill a medical device commercialization gap for the region. GCMI will help new product teams shorten time to market, enhance their product development, achieve significant cost savings – and create new jobs and economic activity.

The center includes both a prototyping design and development facility – and an initiative to create new approaches for identifying, developing and moving technology from university laboratories, hospitals, companies and other organizations into the marketplace. An i6 Challenge Grant is helping GCMI bring together the key elements needed for developing medical devices: universities, research centers and clinicians; established drug and device companies; investors and early-stage companies.

The new center will be housed in a 12,000-square-foot facility being renovated in midtown Atlanta near the Georgia Tech campus. The facility, expected to open by the end of 2011, will house design, material and mechanical engineering resources, along with state-of-the-art rapid and functional prototyping equipment capable of producing a wide range of medical devices for development, pre-clinical testing and clinical studies.

As its name suggests, international partnerships will be a critical piece of GCMI’s strategy. Already, it has begun developing a medical device partnership with the National University of Ireland in Galway through Georgia Tech, which has relationships and a facility there. International university and clinical partnerships will facilitate the development and launch of groundbreaking medical devices evaluated in different regulatory environments and produced with lower development costs.

Atlanta-based companies such as CardioMEMS, MedShape Solutions and Zenda Technologies have shown that the area’s strong engineering and medical institutions can launch and build medical device companies. And a new survey of just one partner, Georgia Tech, shows more than two-dozen medical device technologies in the research and development pipeline.

GCMI will help Atlanta, Georgia and the Southeast expand what is already an important industry, building on the strengths of Georgia Tech, Emory and other research organizations; the real-world medical expertise and experience of area hospitals and clinicians; and the entrepreneurial know-how of investors and early-stage companies. Access to GCMI will allow Atlanta, Georgia and the Southeast to take better advantage of its resources to produce more investment and create more technology jobs for the area.

This article originally appeared in the Economic Development Administration’s electronic newsletter.

Writer: John Toon

Next Generation Manufacturing Event Spotlights Georgia Manufacturing Renaissance

Targeted innovation and growth can lead to a manufacturing renaissance in the state of Georgia – that was the message delivered to a sold-out industry-focused conference at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently.

Industry speakers at the Next Generation Manufacturing event, held Oct. 18 at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) Conference Center, told attendees that manufacturing is thriving in Georgia and that the right strategies will continue to lead to growth in jobs, revenues and the state’s economic base. Among the companies leading the discussion were KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Lockheed Martin Corp., Shaw Industries Group Inc. and TOTO USA Inc.

“This conference brought together a strong mix of state manufacturing companies, industry-leading speakers, and local and national trade resources,” said Chris Downing, director of the Industry Services Division of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, which helped organize the event. “The paramount focus was on educating state manufacturers about the many resources available to them – and also the real-world benefits of taking advantage of these resources.”

The event’s speakers shared their Georgia growth stories with more than 250 attendees. Speakers included Lockheed Martin Corp’s Michael Joyce, senior vice president of operations and programs; TOTO USA’s Bill Strang, senior vice president of operations; Vance Bell, CEO of Shaw Industries, and Randy Jackson, vice president of human resources and administration for KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia.

“Kia is very well positioned as we move into the next generation of manufacturing because of the lessons of continuous improvement and the one-system, one-team approach we teach through the Kia Way,” Jackson said. “As we move forward, we’re always looking to make tomorrow even better than today.”

Georgia Tech provided attendees with tours of three premier research centers: the Manufacturing Research Center (MaRC), the Institute of Paper Science and Technology (IPST) and the Food Processing Technology Division Center. Attendees were able to view first-hand many of the advanced manufacturing technologies and methodologies that Georgia Tech makes available to the state’s companies.

“Georgia has had a strong manufacturing presence for many decades,” said Downing, a mechanical engineer who leads an assistance program for companies throughout the state. “The conference helped attendees better understand how cutting-edge technologies and techniques are working for some of our most successful corporations, and how that knowledge can be applied to manufacturing enterprises across Georgia.”

Writer: Rick Robinson

Georgia Tech Selected as an Inaugural Team for National Science Foundation Innovation Corps

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of 21 teams selected for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) inaugural class of NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) awards.

The selection comes with $50,000 in funding that can be used to help develop scientific and engineering discoveries into useful technologies, processes and products. Beth Mynatt, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) and professor in the College of Computing, will serve as the principal investigator for the I-Corps initiative.

“Georgia Tech is actively and aggressively working to develop and commercialize the technologies developed here and to move these discoveries from the lab to marketplace,” said Stephen Fleming, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “I-Corps supports our strategic focus to foster innovation and entrepreneurship on campus and throughout the state to ultimately create jobs and stimulate economic growth.”

According to Fleming, a number of programs have been recently initiated to strengthen these strategic efforts, including IPaT, Georgia Tech Integrated Program for Startups (GT:IPS), and Georgia Tech Flashpoint, a new technology accelerator program. These programs are supported by VentureLab, the Institute’s comprehensive center for technology commercialization, and the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), which has helped launch and build successful technology companies for more than 30 years.

In total, the I-Corps awards are representative of six NSF directorates: Engineering; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Biology; Mathematics and Physical Sciences; Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences; and Education and Human Resources.

For awardees, the first in-depth phase of the I-Corps experience will begin on Oct. 10, 2011, when the participants arrive at Stanford University for the curriculum kickoff.

The I-Corps program selects up to 25 teams on a quarterly basis to assess the commercial viability of their previously supported basic research. For more on the Innovation Corps, see the NSF Special Report outlining the program.

Empowering Patients: Rome Project Joins 38 U.S. Organizations Making Commitments to Health Information Improvement

Representatives of a groundbreaking community health information demonstration project based in Rome, Ga., traveled to Washington, D.C. on September 12th to pledge their commitment to a national effort aimed at better engaging consumers in health care through the use of health information technology.

The goal for the project, which is being managed by Georgia Tech health care specialists, is to improve patient health and outcomes.  The Rome consumer-mediated health information exchange (CMHIE) project aims to put personal health information into the hands of patients — beginning with those who have cancer — so they can better manage their own health.

Representing the project at the Washington ceremony were Angie McWhorter, chief information officer of the Harbin Clinic in Rome, and Alan Wills, associate director of health at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. The group was among 39 organizations participating in the Consumer Health IT Summit, which was sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Rome project will add modern communications technology to the relationship among patients, doctors and hospitals. It will provide the tools to give patients access to their health information and enable secure two-way communication between providers and patients for outcomes reporting, subsequent treatment and other information.  The new CMHIE will allow individual health data to be sent to a patient’s personal health record (PHR), and patients will also be able to decide who will have access to their information.

The ONC has provided approximately $1.7 million in funding for the Rome demonstration project, which involves Floyd Medical Center, Harbin Clinic and Redmond Regional Medical Center.  The project is being administered through the Georgia Department of Community Health.

“Cancer is a complex disease that involves care from multiple providers,” explained Wills. “We believe that putting the patient into the equation is extremely beneficial to addressing the challenge of coordinating cancer care.”

The first component of the Rome initiative will focus on breast cancer patients.  Services for patients with other types of cancer will become available later, and the system could ultimately be made available more broadly to help all persons in the Rome community manage their health.

“The better informed that patients are about their health and the more involved they are in their care, the better the outcomes generally are,” McWhorter said.  “Our goals are to help patients have better access to their personal health information and to enhance communication with health care providers by building on the technology already established in our community.”

Organizations providing health care to Rome patients who have cancer are working together to implement the new project, which could show other communities around the country how to improve community health while delivering services more effectively.

“Floyd Medical Center, Harbin Clinic and Redmond Regional Medical Center have been collaborating on information technology initiatives for many years now for the benefit of our patients in an indirect way,” noted Brian Barnette, chief information officer of Floyd Medical Center. “The three entities collaborating on extending access to personal health information directly to the patient is a natural evolution of our efforts. The healthcare industry is going through a major technological shift right now, but we can’t lose sight of the real goal. Our three organizations compete on many levels, but we all have the same goal in mind – to improve the health and care of our patients.”

By facilitating the use of technology, organizers of the project expect it to give patients a better overall experience.

“The challenge grant is just another avenue that the health care community in the Rome area has taken to improve patient care,” said Brad Treglown, director of Information technology and services at HCA Healthcare, which operates Redmond Regional Medical Center.  “By facilitating the use of technology, the grant allows patients to be involved at every level of their care.  It will help to improve patient outcomes as well as the entire health care experience.”

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia  30308 USA

Media Relations Assistance: John Toon (404-894-6986)(ude.hcetagnull@nootj).

Writer: John Toon

Georgia Tech and Gwinnett Tech Receive $1.65 Million Grant to Boost Job Creation

The Georgia Institute of Technology and Gwinnett Technical College, part of the Atlanta Health Information Technology (HIT) cluster, have been awarded a $1.65 million grant to enhance the state’s capabilities in this sector. The initiative is part of the federal government’s Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a tri-agency competition initiated to support the advancement of 20 high-growth, regional industry clusters. The Atlanta HIT cluster’s proposal was one of 20 selected from 125 applicants.

The collaborative program, designed to quickly create jobs to fill demand in Georgia’s expanding HIT cluster, provides a commercialization pathway for the supply-side and training for the workforce on the provider side. The initiative also engages traditionally underserved businesses throughout the state’s economically distressed areas via technical assistance resources.

“Our ultimate goal is simple — to achieve higher-quality, lower-cost and more patient-centric health care throughout Georgia,” said Steve Rushing, director of HIT initiatives at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), who will serve as the general advisor for the integrated project plan.  “Through extensive collaboration and partnerships, this initiative leverages existing resources to boost job creation through technology deployment, and thus economic development.”

The HIT proposal is funded by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA). The Atlanta Development Authority (ADA) will assist with financing coordination on the SBA Scope of Work.

“ADA will focus on identifying and coordinating financing sources such as small business loans and equity from angel and venture capital firms to enhance this initiative,” says Brian McGowan, president and ADA CEO. “This grant will greatly expand our region’s capacity to create jobs and establish a global competitive edge in a highly sought after innovation cluster.”

In-kind donations and support for hiring program graduates have also come from the HIT industry and information technology providers. In addition, the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center will play a key role in identifying eligible and formerly under-served small businesses to participate in the program.

The centerpiece of the EDA funds provided by this grant will be the creation of an Interoperability Lab that will be funded for two years.  A standards-based facility located at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), the lab will test and evaluate cutting-edge health information technology software innovations originating from industry, researchers, faculty and students, inventors and other sources.

As part of the initiative, Gwinnett Technical College will develop a one-year certificate in health information technology. The “Feet on the Ground” program, designed for veterans and underemployed/unemployed individuals, will provide industry-designed training for employment in software development, sales and customer service, medical billing and coding, and computer networking positions within health care provider organizations.

“This grant and the resulting  Feet on the Ground’ program is great news for our veterans, those unemployed and underemployed, and individuals eager to enter the rapidly growing field of health information technology,” said Gwinnett Tech President Sharon Bartels. “HIT is a growing sector where there are jobs for those with the right skills and training. The program Gwinnett Tech will develop will help fill this unmet need for a skilled workforce and connect job seekers with employers.”

The “Feet on the Ground” certification program will undergo curriculum development and preparation for the initial project year. The target for years two and three will be to graduate more than 400 certified trainees annually, approximately half of them veterans.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Next Generation Manufacturing Event

The Next Generation Manufacturing conference, hosted by Georgia Tech, is designed to prepare your company for the future of manufacturing.

Event details: October 18 • $99 • Limited to 250 attendees

Georgia Tech to Offer New Professional Certificate in Lean Healthcare

To help address rising costs and improve patient care, Georgia Tech will begin offering a new professional certificate in lean healthcare this September. Medical professionals such as physicians, nurses, quality mangers, laboratory personnel and health care executives will learn lean management principles – a set of tools derived mostly from the Toyota Production System widely used in manufacturing – that helps identify and steadily eliminate waste from an organization’s operations.

Participants will work one-on-one with a lean health care expert to discover lean principles through health care simulations, apply lean thinking to their organizations and begin identifying areas of opportunity. The certificate program consists of four courses: Lean Healthcare Introduction – A Case Study Review, How to Apply Lean Thinking to Healthcare Organizations, Applying Value Stream Mapping and A3 Problem-Solving Methods, and Turnover Time Reduction.

“In this era of decreasing reimbursements and increasing costs, lean methodology can ensure that health care organizations remain viable and safe,” said Richard Mitchell, M.D., medical director of Georgia Tech’s Healthcare Performance Group. “Obtaining your certification as a lean practitioner can put you in a position to help lead your organization into the future.”

For six years, Georgia Tech has been working with health care professionals to conduct lean assessments, teach basic lean concepts, develop value stream maps to analyze the flow of materials and information, and implement rapid process improvement projects. The Healthcare Performance Group has worked with more than 15 hospitals across the state.

“Lean helped us get to the root of our problems in health care: waste. Until you can see it, you don’t appreciate how rampant it is,” said Leigh Hamby, M.D., chief medical officer of Piedmont Healthcare. “Lean tools help you identify and eliminate waste.”

The first hands-on course in the certificate series – How to Apply Lean Thinking to Healthcare Organizations – will be held Oct. 3 through 7 in Atlanta. Enrollment in the courses, totaling 5.4 CEUs, is $3,780. Each paid attendee can register a colleague at no cost. For more information or to register, call 404-385-3501 or visit www.pe.gatech.edu/leanhealth.

For more information on health care performance improvement services offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, contact Kelley Hundt (404-894-4607); E-mail: (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@tdnuh.yellek).

 

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

 

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

 

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

 

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

 

Project Management Consultants Expand Business with Help from Georgia Tech

Project Success, Inc. (PSI), an Atlanta-based project management training and consulting firm, recently utilized the services of Georgia Tech’s Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) to expand its business into the government sector. GTPAC is a program that assists companies with all aspects of government procurement processes.

“We’ve been in business for almost 28 years now, and we teach the practical aspects of project management. We work in all industry sectors, in manufacturing, energy, marketing, software and IT,” said David Halm, a senior consultant at the company. “With the downturn in the economy in late 2008, we recognized that the manufacturing sector was going to continue to decline, so we took a suggestion from one of our consultants to get on the U.S. General Services Administration schedule.”

The General Services Administration (GSA) oversees the business of the U.S. federal government. According to its website, GSA supplies federal purchasers with “cost-effective, high-quality products and services from commercial vendors.” Halm was referred to GTPAC after attending a GSA-sponsored event in Atlanta.

“We learned about the educational and classroom offerings through GTPAC, and I took several classes, including Introduction to Government Contracting, Understanding the GSA Schedules Process and Using the Computer to Win Government Contracts,” Halm recalled. “Those classes allowed me to get connected to Chuck Schadl, director of GTPAC, and Joe Beaulieu, a procurement counselor. As we researched the GSA requirements, we jotted down ideas about the best way to structure our proposal.”

Beaulieu helped PSI structure a proposal under GSA’s Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services, or MOBIS. Under the MOBIS schedule, PSI may provide mission oriented business integrated services and products to U.S. Government agencies. The MOBIS objective is to enable federal agencies to improve performance, quality, timeliness and efficiencies throughout their organizations.

“Getting a GSA contract basically means that all the negotiating points – the pricing, the delivery – all those terms have already been negotiated. So a government agency can purchase from Project Success through the GSA process. It opens a lot of doors,” Halm noted. “In the GSA seminar, the speaker said that more than 90 percent of companies that set out to get a GSA contract never get there. Having this contract offers great marketing potential and has helped us maintain and generate business in this downturn.”

GTPAC, part of the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, provides no-cost assistance with government procurement to any company licensed to do business in Georgia. Each year, GTPAC conducts seminars in Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Carrollton, Columbus, Gainesville, Rockmart, Savannah and Warner Robins. The center assists companies with all aspects of federal, state and local government procurement processes, including solicitation analysis, proposal preparation, pre- and post-award counseling, and quality and accounting systems. Procurement counselors also analyze whether companies have the potential for participating in the government procurement process.

“It’s very useful to be able to use GTPAC as a sounding board, because the counselors understand the specific requirements,” Halm said. “In dealing with us, Joe helped us maintain the confidence we needed to stay on track. GTPAC provided tangible, direct guidance, as well as the more intangible, but equally important, encouragement.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

 

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

 

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

 

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

 

Atlanta Company Uses Georgia Tech Innovation to Provide Stronger Security for Wireless Financial Transactions

Startup company Whisper Communications is developing software to provide improved security for financial transactions that use the new “digital wallet” technology now under development.

Startup company Whisper Communications is developing software to provide improved security for financial transactions that use the new “digital wallet” technology now under development.

The quality of signals transmitted from devices such as smart phones can degrade dramatically with distance.  Whisper Communications is taking advantage of that basic law of physics to provide more secure wireless communication, including protection for financial transactions that use the “digital wallet” technology now under development.

Based on patent-pending technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Atlanta company has developed an encoding methodology that makes data signals transmitted beyond its “cone of silence” useless to any eavesdroppers.  Whisper is now working with First Data, a major payment processing provider, to demonstrate this layer of security using two of the newest Android phones.

“Our product will give consumers a higher degree of confidence that their private information is being protected during transactions, without them having to do anything,” said Steven McLaughlin, co-developer of the technology and a Ken Byers Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Digital wallet technology will enable consumers to use their smart phones and other devices to make financial transactions, replacing traditional plastic credit cards.  But without strong security, transferring data from the phones to merchant terminals could expose it to theft from “sniffer” devices that can capture wireless information.

Whisper’s software would be installed on mobile devices carrying the digital wallet technology, said Jeffrey McConnell, CEO of the company.  It would automatically encode the users’ credit card information, which would then be decoded by similar software on the merchant side of the transaction.  Because of the company’s proprietary coding, the information would only be readable within two or three feet of the merchant terminal – and hopelessly garbled beyond that distance.

“Once you get outside of that cone of silence, communications is no longer possible,” McConnell explained.  “An eavesdropper hoping to get confidential information would get nothing.  This allows us to set a defined zone within which secure communication can occur.  Once you get beyond that boundary, no usable information can get out.”

The company believes that mobile financial transactions are the most compelling first application for the product, but the technology could be used wherever data traveling wirelessly needs to be protected.  Other uses might be in medical devices that transmit wirelessly, in the electronic check-in pads being developed to gather patient information in medical offices, and in streaming video played via wireless devices, McConnell said.

“Our technology is an encoding methodology, so the methodology is the same with any application, whether it’s for mobile payments or high-speed video,” said McConnell, who has a background with payment processing companies including American Express, First Data and Western Union.

Whisper Communications has so far received seed funding from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) VentureLab program, Atlanta-based Imlay Investments and the Georgia Tech Edison Fund.  It has also received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The company has been working with First Data to evaluate the new product.  A full demonstration is planned for this summer, and McConnell said the software could be ready for the marketplace within six months.

The company expects to license its product to the developers of digital wallets, and to the makers of merchant terminals. Worldwide, there are about 20 million terminals in operation, and most of them would be candidates for the Whisper software.  In the United States alone, there are 150 million smart phones.

With its strong roots in financial services and information security, Atlanta is a good place to build a company like Whisper, McLaughlin noted.

“Atlanta is an ideal city for the mobile payments and security approach that Whisper is taking,” he said.  “It has always been known as a go-to place for cybersecurity and has the largest concentration of credit card payment companies in the United States, so the combination of security and payments is a natural.”

Whisper’s original technology was developed by McLaughlin and Georgia Tech alumni Cenk Argon and Demijan Klinc.  It has roots going back to “quantum key distribution” research done at Georgia Tech’s Lorraine campus with collaborators from Portugal.

McLaughlin, who is also Georgia Tech’s Vice Provost for International Initiatives, realized that technology developed for the earlier project could have applications in securing wireless communications.  But he didn’t have a startup company in mind until he was approached by staff from the Georgia Tech VentureLab program.  The VentureLab team, which included Paul Freet, Keith McGreggor and Stephen Fleming, learned of the technology and approached McLaughlin about forming a company.

“VentureLab has been nothing less than fantastic for us,” said McLaughlin.  “From the very beginning, we felt high interest, support and a push to succeed.”

VentureLab introduced McLaughlin to McConnell, and was instrumental in obtaining funding to support early commercialization studies.

“We have created a good product, none of which would have been there without what VentureLab did,” said McConnell.  “They helped the researchers and pushed them to explore how this technology could be turned into a viable company.”

VentureLab is Georgia Tech’s comprehensive center for technology commercialization, open to all faculty, research staff and students who want to form startup companies based upon their research. Part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, VentureLab transforms innovations into companies by developing engaging business models, connecting researchers with experienced entrepreneurs, locating sources of early-stage financing and preparing these new companies for global markets.

Many companies created within VentureLab become part of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator.  ATDC has been helping to launch and build successful technology companies for more than 30 years.

 

Research News & Publications Office

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia  30308  USA

 

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986)(ude.hcetagnull@nootj).

Writer: John Toon