The Accelerator Centre partners with Inertia to help companies scale in new hardware lab

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The Accelerator Centre (AC) and Inertia are pleased to announce a new partnership aimed at supporting the growth and scale of early stage hardware companies in Waterloo Region.

 

Toronto-based Inertia will establish a presence at the AC’s new hardware innovation lab in the heart of downtown Kitchener. Located at 44 Gaukel St., the lab offers 10,000 square feet prototyping and lab space, access to tools and resources, including 3D printers, as well as a freight elevator and loading dock for shipping and receiving.

Inertia, in partnership with the AC’s renowned team of mentors, will work directly with hardware, IoT, and advanced manufacturing companies to tackle challenges such as design and prototyping, contract manufacturing, supply chain and cash flow management, as well as preparing for international growth.

The partnership will see expanded, in-depth hardware support for over 30 current Clients of the AC, as well as providing opportunity for hardware related companies that have graduated from the award-winning centre.

“We’re continuing to see increased need for support of hardware companies, particularly here in Waterloo, due very much in part to the incredible talent coming out of the University of Waterloo and the emphasis that they place on entrepreneurship. Both faculty and students are increasingly designing hardware solutions to complex problems, and they want to turn those ideas into solid businesses – that’s when they come to the AC. Having the support of Inertia as they grow will be invaluable for their long-term success.”

Paul Salvini, CEO, Accelerator Centre

“We are seeing some amazing things happening in Waterloo right now, from IoT and robotics, to 3D printing and drones; it only makes sense that Inertia’s first Canadian expansion outside Toronto would be to a place where advanced manufacturing is really taking off. Partnering with the AC allows us to plug into these companies at an early stage and help them start off on the right track as they work towards growing internationally.”

Ray Minato, President & CEO, Inertia

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About the Accelerator Centre

The Accelerator Centre (AC) is dedicated to building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive technology firms; and to commercializing advanced research technologies emerging from academic institutions. The AC offers an intensive, milestone-driven program to help Clients gain traction and establish early growth; begin to scale and prepare for global expansion.

Since 2006, the AC has supported over 250 early-stage technology companies, who have created 1500+ new jobs, and generated more than two billion in valuations. Fifty-five companies have graduated from the Accelerator Centre, with over 90 percent of companies still active after two years. For more information visit www.acceleratorcentre.com.

 

About Inertia

Inertia is a product design, manufacturing, and supply chain management services company. For the past 12 years Inertia has helped hardware start-ups turn their ideas into award-winning physical products in industries ranging from medical, safety and security, and consumer products.

Inertia’s open, collaborative, and systematic approach to supporting early-stage companies results in a faster time to market, higher return on investment, and peace of mind that comes with the confidence they are doing the right things, the best way, at the right time.

Inertia is headquartered in Toronto and has an office in Dongguan China to support rapid prototype and manufacturing activities. For more information visit www.inertiaengineering.com.

 

Media contacts

Emily Jackson
Director, Client Experience and Special Projects
Accelerator Centre
226-972-8592
ejackson@acceleratorcentre.com

Ray Minato
President & CEO
Inertia
416-537-0505

rminato@inertiaengineering.com

How a new wave of startups are bringing law enforcement into the digital age

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At home and abroad, Canadian companies like HealthIM are using new technologies to help police forces solve cold cases and deal with 21st century threats

When Alexandra Brown set out to create a tool that would show people what they might look like when they get older, she never expected to receive a call from the police.

She wasn’t in any sort of trouble—rather, the police wanted to learn more about her software.

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Unlike novelty smartphone apps that use simple algorithms to morph users’ features into different shapes and permutations, Brown’s AprilAge relies on a database housing thousands of scanned images of real faces to predict future appearances based on age, gender, ethnicity and lifestyle.

For law enforcement officials, it has proven to be a helpful tool in the search for suspects and missing persons involved in cold cases.

“You need the image to be realistic and believable,” Brown says. AprilAge assures police officers the image they’re looking at is “a statistically significant result.”

Founded in 2010, the Toronto-based company’s first customer in blue was the forensic services branch of the South Australia Police. These days, Brown primarily targets health and wellness providers, who use the software to show patients the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, but she continues to sign up police forces in the United States, Poland, Ecuador and Turkey.

AprilAge is just one example of law enforcement agencies’ newfound appetite for technology and innovation, observers say. While the industry is known for its stodginess and traditionalism, a growing number of police forces are discovering that startups can help make their lives easier.

“Where there is a problem with paperwork or something like that, it can really make a lot of sense for a private firm to step in and provide assistance,” says Christopher Parsons, managing director of the Telecom Transparency Project at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.

Several opportunity-driven Canadian startups—including HealthIM and Labforge, both based in Kitchener, Ont.—are rising to the challenge.

HealthIM, started in 2014 by University of Waterloo students Daniel MacKenzie and Daniel Pearson Hirdes, makes software that improves how police respond to situations involving mentally unstable individuals.

Police don’t currently have any tools for dealing with such circumstances, MacKenzie says. Officers typically apprehend people they suspect might need help and then take those individuals to a hospital for assessment. The process can take hours and involve a lot of paperwork, only to result in the individuals’ eventual release. This happens about 60% of the time, he adds.

HealthIM’s tool is installed directly in police car computers. Officers fill out a patient profile and send it to a hospital. Medical staff can then prepare an assessment and provide police with a preliminary report before they arrive at the hospital.

The system provides benefits to police, medical staff and detained individuals.

“If you’re not stuck under police guard in a hospital for hours, that just helps make everyone’s life better,” MacKenzie says.

HealthIM won $25,000 in funding last fall from the University of Waterloo’s Velocity accelerator hub and a further $60,000 from the school’s AC JumpStart program earlier this year. Unlike AprilAge, the company is specifically targeting police departments and has signed up two so far in Ontario, in Brantford and London.

MacKenzie credits HealthIM adviser Ron Hoffman, a former mental health training co-ordinator for the Ontario Police College, with landing the deals. Once he gathered everyone at the table, the company found police to be eager customers.

“They are more progressive than I thought in terms of innovation and tech,” MacKenzie says. “They’re always looking for solutions to make their lives easier.”

Apply for AC JumpStart Funding at acjumpstart.com

Labforge, founded in 2014, has also brought in advisers with law enforcement and security backgrounds to open doors. Clint Robinson, former head of government relations with BlackBerry, is helping the company showcase its technology with police and military forces.

Labforge is working on systems that incorporate drones, wearable sensors and smart cameras to give security forces “situational awareness” or a better idea of what’s happening around their personnel in the field.

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Currently, when police officers enter a building, they often don’t know what they’re getting into. A system that identifies and differentiates friendly individuals from unfriendly ones can potentially save lives.

“[When you enter a building,] you don’t know where the good guys are or where the bad guys are. Technically, the whole place is a hostile environment,” says co-founder Yassir Rizwan. “If you can put trackers on your guys, then the story changes.”

Labforge’s smart cameras can also identify details officers might otherwise miss. They can, for example, spot licence plates of stolen cars or missing children via image recognition. The company is currently talking to several law enforcement agencies about potential trials, Rizwan says.

Despite the opportunities, security-oriented startups face a number of challenges. Chief among them are privacy concerns and the public’s ill ease with law enforcement using advanced technology to gather data on their whereabouts. Startups dealing in the space would do well to be as open about their technologies as possible, says Citizen Lab’s Parsons.

Often, it’s enforcement agencies and not the companies themselves that are engendering public distrust. Police may be enthusiastic about adopting new technology, but they’re usually not as forthcoming in disclosing how it’s being used, he adds.

It’s incumbent on the firms, then, to push their customers toward improved transparency as well.

“They’re trying to sell into an aspect of government that is very, very secretive, which isn’t very helpful for the public’s trust in law and order,” Parsons says. “That can boomerang back on companies.”

If both businesses and law enforcement give prompt, upfront disclosure of what technology is being used and in what manner, it will make it easier for startups to do business and help ease people’s concerns, says Tamir Israel, a staff lawyer with the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

“You do need to deal with the friction upfront, kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid,” Israel says.

Clearpath raises $30M to expand indoor self-driving vehicle market

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Funding from iNovia Capital, Caterpillar Ventures, GE Ventures and previous investors will expand AC Grad’s new OTTO Motors division

Clearpath Robotics, a leading provider of self-driving vehicle solutions, announced today the completion of a $30 million (USD) investment led by iNovia Capital with participation from Caterpillar Ventures, GE Ventures, Eclipse Ventures, RRE Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.

Clearpath will use the funding to grow the company’s industrial division, OTTO Motors. Clearpath launched OTTO Motors in 2015 to focus on self-driving vehicles for material transport inside manufacturing and warehouse operations.

“Factories operate like small indoor cities, complete with roads, traffic, intersections and pedestrians,” said Matt Rendall, CEO and co-founder of Clearpath. “Unlike city streets, a factory floor is a controlled environment, which makes it an ideal place to introduce self-driving vehicles at scale. Companies like Google, Tesla and Uber are still testing, whereas our self-driving vehicles are commercially available today.”
Companies including GE and John Deere have deployed OTTO’s material handling equipment in their facilities.

“The market for self-driving passenger vehicles will be over $80 billion by 2030,” Rendall said. “We believe the market for self-driving materials handling vehicles will be equally significant.  Clearpath has a big head start, and this new funding will allow us to further accelerate the development of the best self-driving software in the industry – and bring more OTTOs into the world faster.”

“Software-differentiated hardware will disrupt every major sector over the next decade,” said Karam Nijjar, Partner at iNovia Capital. “Self-driving vehicles are already revolutionizing transportation. Clearpath has built a world-class team, technology and customer base to accelerate that vision. Clearpath isn’t just building the factory of the future; they are laying the foundation for entirely new business models enabled by artificial intelligence, autonomy and automation.”

Manufacturers need flexible and efficient automation more than ever due to rapidly changing market demands. The U.S. alone anticipates a shortage of more than two million skilled manufacturing workers over the next decade. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly demanding ethically sourced, domestically made products. OTTO Motors’ self-driving indoor vehicles help fill the labor gap while providing manufacturers an affordable way to keep or return operations onshore. Clearpath is helping create a new industry and category of domestic jobs developing, servicing and working with their self-driving vehicles.

“Clearpath is developing exciting self-driving vehicle technology for industrial environments,” says Michael Young, Director at Caterpillar Ventures. “We look forward to collaborating with Clearpath to drive efficiency gains in Caterpillar facilities.”

Clearpath previously raised $11.2 million (USD) in a January 2015 Series A round led by RRE Ventures with participation from iNovia Capital, GE Ventures and Eclipse Ventures to develop their OTTO product line. Officially launched in 2009, Clearpath’s founders established the company by participating in a U.S. Department of Defense-funded robotics competition to design a robot that could detect and remove land mines. With help from a $300,000 angel investment the following year, the team pivoted from mine removal to providing unmanned vehicle development platforms for the global research community. After launching the first OTTO product in September 2015, Clearpath established its OTTO Motors division to focus on self-driving vehicles for materials handling.

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