Clearpath Expands Line Of Self-Driving Vehicles For Industry

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OTTO 100 provides light-load material transport for today’s modern factories and warehouses

Clearpath Robotics expanded the OTTO line of self-driving vehicles with OTTO 100. The vehicle is designed for autonomous light-load material transport in factories and warehouses.

“The OTTO 100 takes the high quality and reliability of the OTTO 1500 and puts those advanced capabilities into a smaller form factor.” said Matt Rendall, Chief Executive Officer at Clearpath. “This enables new self-driving services in distribution, e-commerce, and manufacturing.”

The OTTO 100 system delivers dynamic and efficient light-load transport in increasingly congested industrial operations.  Traditional material handling systems require costly and rigid changes to infrastructure, cannot adapt to a changing environment, and are not safe for collaboration with warehouse personnel.  OTTO does not rely on external infrastructure for navigation, making implementation hassle-free and highly scalable.  OTTO 100 uses Clearpath’s self-driving OS to provide autonomous transport up to 220lb loads at speeds up to 4.5mph, while tracking along optimal paths and safely avoiding collisions.

OTTO 100 can be configured with a lift, bin carrier, or cart and integrates directly with ERPs via the OTTO enterprise fleet management system.

The OTTO family of self-driving vehicles includes OTTO 100 for light-load material transport and OTTO 1500 for heavy-load material transport. The entire OTTO material transport ecosystem will be showcased at MODEX 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia April 4-7 at Booth 3771.

For more information about the OTTO 100 self-driving vehicle, visit www.clearpathrobotics.com/otto-100.

Waterloo-Based Aterlo Networks Raises $1 Million

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By Jessica Galang

Aterlo Networks, a company dedicated to building technology for bandwidth or broadband usage-limited homes to enjoy high-quality streaming video, has closed $1 million in funding led by the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund.

The MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund provides early-stage investment to Ontario-based companies with terms meant to attract future investors, and invests up to $500,000 in privately-held companies with no significant revenue or institutional investment. BDC Capital and Sandvine, which recently received $15 million from the provincial government, also invested in the round.

Aterlo will use the funding to expand features of its NightShift product, which pre-loads video during off-peak hours so content is stored closer to the subscriber. The company said these times often coincide with free zones offered by ISPs, so all of the downloading is done without impacting the subscriber’s datacap.

“Internet subscribers not being able to stream high definition video is a much bigger problem than most people realize,” said Gerrit Nagelhout, CEO of Aterlo Networks. “Their bandwidth is almost high enough to stream it, but it just misses the mark. Streaming just an hour of HD video a day uses 3GB, so many households very quickly collide with their data caps. With 4K video content coming and the desire for several video active video streams, the problem will only get worse.”

The company will also use the funding to hire local talent and expand its marketing team.

Excited to Partner with Bereskin & Parr for New Business and IP Initiative

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The Accelerator Centre is pleased to announce it has entered into a new partnership with Bereskin & Parr, a leading Canadian intellectual property law firm. The AC is dedicated to commercializing research and developing globally competitive businesses. The partnership aims to provide businesses with strategic intellectual property (“IP”) information and legal services required to grow their companies in Canada and abroad.

“We are very excited to be involved with the Accelerator Centre,” says Jason Hynes, partner with Bereskin & Parr. “We are looking forward to working with companies at an earlier stage and helping to develop the necessary IP foundation to assist them long-term.”

Bereskin & Parr works extensively with current Accelerator Centre Clients and Graduates. The firm plans to expand these relationships and assist clients to develop their business by providing IP education and one-on-one consultations.

“The Accelerator Centre has some of the most innovative and promising companies in the country,” says Jim Hinton, associate with Bereskin & Parr. “This new initiative allows us to be at the forefront of Waterloo’s technology scene while helping innovators strategically use their IP as they commercialize and grow.”

“We’re excited about this partnership and the opportunity it presents for our Clients,” says Paul Salvini, the Accelerator Centre’s CEO. “Helping the companies we work with to develop and protect intellectual property is a core part of our program and a critical component in their business success.”

Bereskin & Parr is proud to partner with a dedicated business resource in its ongoing mission to provide world-leading IP law services and expertise to build strong relationships with clients, firms, researchers and educators.

Hockey coaching startup in Waterloo connects players with NHL vets

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WATERLOO — Adam Oates.

Hockey Hall of Famer. Five-time all-star. Seventh in all-time NHL assists.

Personal coach to your son or daughter?

What sounds like a hockey fantasy is now a reality thanks to a Waterloo-based startup called My Pro Hero.

The service allows you to connect with a roster of coaches for live one-on-one, group or team webcast sessions.

“Adam has the philosophy to coach the best players in the world,” says Steve Wicklum, who, along with Todd Bidner, founded My Pro Hero.

But the vast majority of players wouldn’t have dreamt of being able to connect with a veteran of Oates’ calibre.

Enter My Pro Hero, which got its start about two years ago at Lambton College in Sarnia and moved to the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo last fall.

“My Pro Hero is the vehicle to get that access,” Wicklum says.

Users can browse a list of coaches and make their pick based on the specific skills they want to address, then upload video of a practice session or game for the coach to analyze.

The coach then provides direct feedback in a live, interactive session conducted via laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Coaches can use a telestrator and slow-motion features to provide in-depth video analysis. Coaching sessions can also be recorded and shared for future reference.

In addition to Oates, My Pro Hero’s roster of coaches includes former NHLers Bryan Trottier, Ric Nattress, Dennis Maruk and Darren Veitch. Other coaches are drawn from the professional coaching and college, junior and international hockey ranks.

“Everybody’s got a different angle in terms of how to engage the kids,” Bidner says.

Prices vary depending on the coach, but many one-on-one sessions range from $20 to $150, Wicklum says. Sessions with higher-profile coaches cost more. A percentage of the fee goes to the business, while the majority goes to the coach.

“It just made sense to me,” Oates says of the My Pro Hero concept. “For me personally, it’s another way for me to spread my gospel.”

After retiring as a player in 2004, Oates went on to NHL coaching stints in Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Washington.

Oates was on hand this week at the Columbia Icefields at the University of Waterloo to film a video for My Pro Hero.

He called the app “a perfect marriage,” with players learning from the best and coaches having another avenue to share their years of experience with a wider audience.

Oates says if he’d had the chance as a young player to learn from a player he admired like Darryl Sittler, “I would have lost my mind.”

Bidner and Wicklum credit the Accelerator Centre with providing essential mentorship for things such as marketing, public relations and sales.

“They’ve coached us like we’re coaching kids,” Bidner says. “We couldn’t foresee success if we hadn’t been engaged with these guys.”

My Pro Hero is geared toward players from the novice level and up, its creators said.

The program will also allow players and teams to purchase instructional videos and other features without booking a personalized session.

“We’re not trying to take away from what these kids’ (regular) coaches have taught them,” says Bidner, whose hockey career took him from a brief stint with the Washington Capitals to the British Hockey League.

“We’re just adding another tool to the tool box.”

bdavis@therecord.com , Twitter: @DavisRecord

AC Grad TextNow Wants to Fix Canada’s Broken Wireless Industry – But the Big Three Won’t Let Them

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By Jacob Serebrin

TextNow is a Canadian company, but its low-cost cellphone plans are only available in the United States.

That’s not because TextNow doesn’t want to offer them here, but because it can’t.

“We have a team of almost 80 people here in Waterloo, Ontario,” says Derek Ting, TextNow’s CEO. “One of the biggest conversations, that comes up every day, is ‘when are we going to bring our service to Canada so we all can use it’ and, so far, it has not been encouraging news.”

TextNow is a mobile virtual network operator. It buys access to wireless networks at wholesale prices, and then re-sells that access to its customers. In the U.S., TextNow buys access from Sprint, the country’s fourth-largest wireless carrier, but in Canada, it can’t find a wireless carrier willing to sell it access.

“We’ve kind of hit a brick wall with that,” says Ting. “We tried diligently. We went through a 12-month process with Rogers and at the end they said no.”

Ting says he thinks that Canada’s big three wireless carriers are “kind of in a pact to keep the market sealed from guys like us.”

It’s a different story in the U.S., where every major cell phone provider sells mobile network access on the wholesale market.

“The reason they do it is because of the competition, they truly compete with each other. They’re not in some pact to close the market off,” Ting says.

And that means incumbents win and consumers lose, he says.

“The Canadian consumer is the one who gets screwed in the end,” Ting says.

TextNow uses software to switch everything a phone sends and receives – including calls and texts – to WiFi whenever it’s available, allowing it to cut down on the amount of network time it uses and charge lower prices than incumbent providers.

While Ting says he’d like there to a market-based solution to the problem, he thinks any changes in the market will have to come from the federal government.

“Other countries either have perfect competition, like in the U.S., or when they don’t have perfect competition, the regulators mandate some sort of allocation of spectrum to smaller players,” he says. “We don’t, and as a result, we have the most unaffordable market.”

There is a precedent in Canada, incumbent cable and phone companies are already required to sell wholesale access to their wired networks.

But last month, the CRTC, rejected an appeal by a group of MNVOs to expand that regulation to cover wireless networks on the grounds that it would disincentivize incumbent carriers from making investments in their networks.

Ting doesn’t buy it, he says similar regulations have been implemented in countries like Germany with no impact on network quality.

“Long-term, the ideal situation, is the CRTC stops siding with Telus, Bell and Rogers and starts thinking about regulation that benefits Canadians as a whole, not just the interests of the big three,” he says.

That change, though, will likely have to come from politicians, instead of regulators and there’s no sign that will be coming any time soon.

Intellijoint Surgical and Corin Group enter strategic partnership for intellijoint HIP

Waterloo, Ontario, March 17, 2016 – Intellijoint Surgical Inc., a privately held Canadian medical technology company committed to developing and commercializing miniaturized surgical smart tools announced today the signing of a distribution agreement with Corin Group. The deal gives Corin distribution rights for Intellijoint’s flagship product, intellijoint HIP, in Australia and paves the way for broader distribution and co-development between the two companies.

intellijoint HIP provides surgeons with vital intraoperative measurements in real time, enabling proper establishment of cup position, equalization of leg length and restoration of hip offset. These critical measurements enable surgeons and hospitals to improve surgical outcomes by reducing uncertainty and risk, while improving patient outcomes and economics.

Russ Mably, Corin’s Chief Operating Officer commented, “We are delighted to partner with such a progressive company as Intellijoint Surgical, and are excited about our future collaboration. This partnership will further strengthen our market leading position in functional implant positioning with our existing OPS Technology (Optimized Positioning System), and underlines our commitment to continue to invest in Personalized Procedural Innovation”.

“We are pleased to partner with Corin to offer intellijoint HIP to surgeons in Australia.  The broader capability of Corin’s organization and their commitment to innovation will expand access to the latest technology available for 3D surgical measurement to the growing Australian hip replacement market where surgeons currently perform about 45,000 procedures annually.  We look forward to the beginning of a meaningful relationship between our two companies and are excited about future opportunities,” says Armen Bakirtzian, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Intellijoint Surgical.

About Intellijoint Surgical Inc.

Intellijoint Surgical is a Waterloo-based innovative medical technology company. Founded in 2010, they develop and commercialize miniaturized surgical smart tools that enhance surgeon accuracy, increase hospital economic efficiencies, and improve patient outcomes.  The company’s R&D team is led by the former co-founder of Medtronic’s computer assisted surgery division, and driven by a team of renowned orthopaedic surgeons:  Drs. Allan Gross and David Backstein in Toronto, Dr. Wayne Paprosky in Chicago, Dr. Javad Parvizi in Philadelphia and Drs. Michael Cross and Ran Schwarzkopf in New York.

About Corin Group

As a leader in orthopaedic innovation, Corin has pioneered a number of landmark developments since it was founded in 1985. Corin is very proud to have been able to improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of patients around the world through the introduction of these groundbreaking products, and believes that this heritage distinguishes Corin within the global orthopaedic market. Corin’s talented and dedicated teams share a common commitment – to deliver quality orthopaedic products, procedural innovation technologies and services to patients, surgeons and healthcare providers, which exceed their expectations and positively impact their lives, through Responsible Innovation.

Waterloo startup uses drones to inspect all buildings

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By Terry Pender

WATERLOO — Workers inspecting the outside of a highrise taped a camera to a broomstick to get photos of the structure around the corner of the building.

They worked from a platform that dangled on ropes from the roof, a so-called swing stage, to complete the mandatory visual check of the building’s exterior for cracks, shoddy work and other defects.

Filip Sobotka was working nearby with his father’s construction company and he could not believe his eyes.

“It is just insane. We are dangling humans off the side of a building,” Sobotka says. “That is the best we have come up with so far.”

His father wondered if robots or drones would not do a better job.

“That was the eureka moment,” Sobotka says. “We just thought: ‘There has to be a better way.'”

Sobotka launched a startup based in the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo called FTD Highrise Inspection Inc. that uses drones to take detailed pictures of outside walls, balconies, windows, railings, ledges, bays and the decorative mouldings at the tops of buildings.

“The drones are just a natural fit for this,” Sobotka says. “This is a good opportunity.”

The startup was already generating revenue before it moved into the Accelerator Centre in the David Johnston Research and Technology Park one year ago. The company also is hiring an engineer, a software developer and a machine-learning specialist.

“I like to say: ‘We are not just an idea, this is working, we are doing buildings,” Sobotka says. “We have done 25 to 30 buildings to date.”

Those buildings are across Southern Ontario, including in Waterloo, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Guelph and London.

There are about 4,000 tall buildings in the Greater Toronto Area that require regular inspections, says Sobotka. There are about 60 in Waterloo Region. New York City is the big market, though, with 700,000 tall buildings.

“We will be there eventually, but we want to hit our stride here,” Sobotka says.

Operators of drones used for research or work, regardless of the size, must file a Special Flight Operations Certificate with Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Office. The application must include contact information and describe how, when and where the drone will be used. The application must spell out how the operator plans to handle any safety issues.

Sobotka says Highrise Inspection won’t put a drone in the air if the winds are higher than 15 km/h and it never deploys one near airports. The company also notifies everyone in the building ahead of time to allay concerns about privacy. Sobotka notes that having a drone fly past a window is probably less invasive than having workers taking photos from a swing stage.

Photos taken by the startup’s drones are stored on a platform that clients can access at any time. Building owners and managers get a complete visual record of their property, for insurance and maintenance schedules.

The software platform being developed by Highrise Inspection will use the visual data and algorithms to predict further deterioration. That information can be used for preventive maintenance and repairs before problems become more expensive to fix.

“That is a bit long-term, but we are working on it right now,” Sobotka says. “That will happen in a year or two when we will have a machine-learning aspect to it.”

Once he hires the rest of the team, Sobotka wants to focus on raising funds to grow the business.

“Then I can go to an investor and say: ‘Here is what I need your money for,'” he says. “And I have the team in place.”

Sobotka, 29, did a degree in commerce at McMaster University in Hamilton, but his family background is in construction. His father’s company, JB&FT Construction in Mississauga specializes in caulking.

Sobotka’s father came up with the idea for using drones to inspect buildings, and spent years trying to develop a business around it. A few years ago, Sobotka took it over to pursue it full-time.

“I saw the potential in this,” he says. “I am off and running with it, and it is exciting. It’s working.”

tpender@therecord.com

The AC Celebrates Our Newest Graduates

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Alaunus and TrafficSoda mark milestone as the AC approaches 10 years!

The Accelerator Centre is very proud to continue building on our track record for fostering amazing, successful tech  companies with the Graduation of Alaunus and TrafficSoda, our 50th and 51st Graduates. This milestone graduation coincides with our 10th anniversary, capping off a decade of supporting some of the most innovative and successful companies anywhere. We’re excited to welcome Alaunus and TrafficSoda to the elite club of AC Graduates, which includes Canadian tech stars such as Axonify, Clearpath Robotics, Kik, Magnet Forensics, Miovision, Plasticity and Top Hat.

Founded in 2011, by Wilfrid Laurier University graduate Andrew Ringer, Alaunus provides mobile IT solutions for the Canadian healthcare landscape. The company’s flagship product HealthPlanr is a fully mobile practice management solution that allows care providers to increase efficiency, improve care and collaborate securely.

TrafficSoda, founded by Wilfrid Laurier University business graduate Jessica Chalk, is a powerful B2B platform that helps businesses drive prospects to their website and convert those visitors into buying customers. Jessica was recently nominated for a 2016 Business Excellence Award in the category of Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

“We are incredibly proud of our Graduates and the contribution they are making every day to economic growth in Waterloo Region. These are tomorrow’s business and technology leaders,” says Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre. “Collectively our Grads have created 1,500+ jobs, and have generated more than $500M in investment and revenue. That’s a hugely impressive achievement over just a decade of effort.”

ExVivo Wins $25K CBMC Prize

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by Peter Moreira

This post originally appeared in Entrevestor

ExVivo Labs of the University of Waterloo won the $25,000 first prize at fourth annual Canada’s Business Model Competition at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Saturday.

Co-Founders Christian Brum and Eric Blondeel won the prize for a poised and focused presentation on the development of their product, which reduces the pain and wait times involved in testing for allergies.

The pair will now proceed to the International Business Model Competition at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, in late April.

The pitchers described current tests for allergies as primitive, painful and inconvenient. People who believe they have an allergy now have to wait several months for a test, which involves placing substances on a needle, pricking the skin, and looking to see if there is a reaction. This is repeated with different substances until there’s a reaction.

ExVivo has developed a simple, painless patch that detects allergens through biomarkers present in the skin. Once the product is launched, patients could buy it at a pharmacy and apply it at home. If there’s a positive reading, they can book an appointment with an allergist. If not, they’ve saved a lot of hassle. It could reduce the wait times, which can stretch to more than a year.

“That’s why we’re calling it the home pregnancy test of allergies,” said Blondeel. “We’re not trying to take away the allergist. We are trying to find the right people who should be going to see an allergist.”

Lumos, Ohm Claim CBMC Prizes

ExVivo has been working with Velocity Science at the University of Waterloo and the Waterloo Accelerator Centre’s ACJumpstart program, and is now preparing for its first clinical trials.

It is also now trying to raise investment capital. CEO Moufeed Kaddoura was unable to attend the competition in Halifax because he was at an allergy conference in Las Vegas, meeting with potential investors.

Brum and Blondeel charted the progress of the company, which previously received funding from the Velocity Fund.

As well as interviewing allergists, pharmacists and allergy patients, the team at one point surveyed 700 people across the country, many of whom said they would test repeatedly with the product. The main reason for wanting the patch was to speed up the testing process and be able to use it at home. And mothers of children with allergies don’t want their children subjected to the repeated pinpricks.

The team is preparing for an initial product that will test for grass allergies, which are increasingly common.

They added that the patch could be used by researchers to generate an early income stream. Clinical researchers need to find people with allergies to conduct their tests, but they can only determine whether people have allergies using the existing primitive process. By using the ExVivo patch, researchers could quickly find a group of people with allergies, cutting time and costs of the trials. And ExVivo would not have to go through the lengthy regulatory process to sell to researchers.

The Canadian and International Business Model Competitions assess student entrepreneurship teams based on the process they used in building their company. They place particular emphasis on the use of a lean canvas and interviewing potential customers and partners to shape the business case.

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