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ANDalyze analyzes water contaminants through portable unit


Pipeline H2O, a new water technology accelerator program based at The Hamilton Mill, welcomed its first class last week. The eight cohort members represent local and national companies, including Champaign, Ill.,-based ANDalyze.

“ANDalyze is always on the lookout for ways to build awareness of its technology and meet new customers and water industry VIPs,” says Marty Dugan, the company's chief marketing officer. “We found the application submission invitation online and thought Pipeline looked like something ANDalyze was a great fit for.”

The company grew from technology developed in the chemistry labs at the University of Illinois. Using DNA enzymes, ANDalyze devices can detect and measure water contaminants with portable testing units.

“Existing field test kits are notoriously inaccurate and difficult to use," Dugan says. "You really need to be a trained chemist to use the old-style kits. ANDalyze products are used by water quality professionals in a variety of industries, including municipal drinking water, industrial water processes, environmental water, mining and laboratory testing. The value to these customers is the speed and accuracy of the measurement of testing water on site and the cost savings as compared to testing in a laboratory.”

The U.S. EPA provided a testing and validation report for the portable meters and its sensors in 2014. Since then, ANDalyze has sold 200 meters and more than 100,000 sensors. They're hoping Pipeline will help them grow their existing product, as well as roll out a new product.

“In 2017, we will launch an automated system that can test for two metals concurrently and send test data through a network to warn cities and towns of unacceptable levels of heavy metals in their drinking water,” Dugan says. “Trials are taking place in school systems around the country.”
 
The automated system would be installed at a specific site and run water tests on a set schedule. The results of the tests would be reported through a computer network to the system owner, allowing for consistent monitoring of water safety.
 
“Small companies like ANDalyze always struggle to get noticed,” Dugan says. “We are hoping to learn ways to better use our limited resources to get exposure to customers and strategic partner companies from the Pipeline H2O experience. We are confident that after customers try our product, it will become an integral part of their water quality operations to identify heavy metals in their drinking water supply network and in school buildings.”
 
ANDalyze is also hoping Pipeline’s “region as lab” philosophy will help them find a partner municipality or industrial customer to test their new product.
 
“We hope to understand better the needs of the water utility market,” Dugan says. “We are also looking for insight on how to develop partnerships with larger water technology companies who may be interested in ANDalyze products to sell in their sales channels.”

Read last week's profile of Searen, another Pipeline cohort member, here.
 

Hyperloop UC team advances in final round of SpaceX competition


University of Cincinnati students were on one of 29 teams to compete in the Official SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition, the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The competition was held on Jan. 29 in Hawthorne, Cali., just outside of the SpaceX headquarters.
 
The team ultimately ran out of time, along with 25 other finalists, to pass final testing to be approved for the mile-long Hypertube Competition. Only three teams managed to pass all final approval testing: Delft University from the Netherlands, Technical University from Munich and M.I.T.
 
"It is great to reach so far in the competition," says Hyperloop UC president Dhaval Shiyani. "When we started the project, we never imagined to get the phenomenal support and attention that we have gotten. That keeps us motivated to achieve more and pushes us to make our supporters and the community proud."

The team was placed in the top half of the competition based on scoring and will continue to refine the design and go forward.

"The company at the competition was an icing on the cake," Shiyani continues. "When people from such esteemed backgrounds praise your work, it is definitely a morale booster. We exchanged ideas on what the Hyperloop can be and we hope to keep doing that moving forward. The competition was a great celebration in how great technology can work toward improving human lives."
 
The Hyperloop UC team is in the process of examining the information it has collected thus far in Competition I, and preparing an entry for Competition II this summer.

"We will keep working toward refining our prototype and bringing a strong design to Competition II," Shiyani says. "The team is excited about our future prospects and the experiences of Competition I will go a long way to streamline our Competition II design."
 
In 2013, renowned engineer and inventor Elon Musk introduced the concept for a high-speed transport unit that would connect cities within a 900-mile radius in a matter of minutes — using this technology, the trip from Cincinnati to Chicago, for example, could be made in just 30 minutes.
 
The Hyperloop soon gained attention from technology manufacturer SpaceX, and the resulting competition drew applicants from more than 1,200 universities, high schools and companies around the world.
 
Due to overwhelming interest, Musk has announced that there will be numerous Hyperloop competitions.
 
The competitions are designed to engage the world’s foremost engineering talent to create a mode of everyday transportation that is safer, faster, cheaper, more convenient, more sustainable and less susceptible to weather than today’s options.

"Hyperloop is closer to reality than anyone would imagine," Shiyani says. "The SpaceX competition generated a lot of attention around the idea and it only goes to highlight that a lot of smart people are working actively toward making Hyperloop a reality."
 

84.51 to host Women in Analytics storytelling workshop on Feb. 2


When it comes to effective storytelling, how do you decide what information is indispensable and what can be discarded as irrelevant? How do you hone your message for maximum impact?
 
Female analytics professionals from consumer-insights giant 84.51 will explore these questions and more during their Women in Analytics event on Thursday at their offices at Fifth and Race streets downtown.
 
Women in Analytics was created by the Advertising Research Foundation with a particular focus on supporting women in the traditionally male-dominated field of analytics. The event is expected to draw more than 100 attendees locally and regionally — both men and women in the field of analytics — and will feature expert speakers and an interactive workshop.

"There is a significant community of professionals in the area of analytics in our region, but no major organized event to bring this group together," says 84.51's VP of Insights Sandy Stieger. "84.51 and the ARF brainstormed on potential topics that would be meaningful to potential attendees. Storytelling is a theme that is fairly broad, but in terms of analytics, is vital to understanding how to telegraph an impactful narrative using data insights."
 
The focus of the event is on storytelling, with the agenda as follows:
  • 1 to 1:30 p.m. — Arrival & Registration, followed by opening remarks
  • 1:40 to 2:10 p.m. — Keynote: How Do You Craft a Story?
    Learn key pointers on how to consolidate research materials and craft a “sticky” story from WatersonGarner LLC's co-founder Katie Waterson.
  • 2:10 to 3 p.m. — Storytellers in Action
    Industry leaders Angie Ficek (Twitter), Michelle Tower (Procter & Gamble) and Julie Pahutski (Empower MediaMarketing) will share storytelling successes and their key learning moments.
  • 3:20 to 3:40 p.m. — Storyteller Panel
    Best practices and specific takeaways from those on the front lines. (Brand relationship expert Elle Morris will moderate.)
  • 3:40 – 4 p.m. — Table Discussions
    Small, moderated groups will explore how to apply insights learned to your next presentation.
  • 4 – 4:20 p.m. — Speed Round
    Table moderators will synthesize and report back on discussions.
The event will close with a cocktail reception and networking opportunity.
    
To learn more about ARF's Women in Analytics event, click here.
 

Pipeline H2O announces first class of water tech companies


Pipeline H2O, the region’s first water technology accelerator program, recently announced the members of its first cohort, which will begin work in February at The Hamilton Mill.
 
“We received 66 applications from 14 countries on five continents,” says Rahul Bawa, board chairman of Pipeline H2O and The Hamilton Mill. “Our selection committee chose companies where we could really make an impact and that represented a cross section of the water technology sector.”
 
The eight members of the inaugural cohort are:
  • Champaign, Ill.-based, ANDalyze, which offers products for testing heavy metal levels in water using DNA technology.
  • AguaClara — from Cornell University — provides gravity-driven, large-scale surface water treatment technologies to underserved communities.
  • Hamilton's own kW River Hydroelectric, which is working to further develop and commercialize the Williams Cross-Flow Turbine. 
  • PowerTech Water out of Lexington offers a new low-cost low-waste water treatment technology that removes salts, minerals and toxic metals.
  • Searen uses sustainable technologies to create water treatment solutions right here in Greater Cincinnati.
  • Slipstream ZLD from Albuquerque manufactures a crystallization system that eliminates wastewater for low-volume manufacturing facilities and metal finishing shops.
  • Waterstep, which is based in Louisville, developed a rapid-response mini-water treatment plant that can be used in disasters and for system safety redundancies.
  • WEL Enterprise, also from Hamilton, created a platform that handles both treatment and reclamation of wastewater. It can currently be seen in action at Municiple Brew Works.
The members of the first Pipeline class are all well beyond the ideation stage, with either functioning prototypes or pilot projects. The program, which runs from February-May, includes an intensive week each month that mixes curriculum from the Village Capital model and project-specific field work. The remaining weeks of each month will be devoted to mentoring, homework and continuing to test and improve products.
 
“The city-as-lab model at The Hamilton Mill has grown to the region-as-lab thanks to support from city and county municipalities,” Bawa says. “Pipeline participants will access pilots, customers and revenue, while leveraging local expertise in the water sector. We will adapt the Mill’s concierge-level mentoring to create a targeted experience that fits the needs of each member of the class. We are still building a mentor network with help from The Brandery, Cintrifuse and Confluence.”
 
Regulation of water technology is one area where all cohort members are seeking guidance. The complicated interactions of federal, state and local regulations can be daunting for a startup wanting to enter the water sector.
 
“We are fortunate the EPA has a water research and development facility in Cincinnati,” Bawa says. “The state and federal EPA staff and our partners at Confluence will help the class understand the specific categories of water technology regulation and how to navigate the process.”
 
Pipeline’s first cohort will be featured in a pitch competition during the first week of the program, as part of the OVALS Water Technologies: The Wave of the Future program at the University of Cincinnati on Feb. 16. The two-day conference will feature presentations by University and industry experts, and is organized by Indiana University, Ohio University, The Ohio State University, UC, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. For those unable to attend the OVALS pitch competition, Pipeline’s end-of-program Demo Day in May will be open to the public.
 
“The projects in development by our first Pipeline class can make a real difference in the world,” Bawa says. “Our region has the expertise to be a leader in the water technology sector.”
 

Watch list: Five local startups positioned for big growth in 2017


As Greater Cincinnati’s tech scene continues to experience rapid growth — jumping from 35th to 16th out of 40 metro areas polled in 2016 — a few startups have begun to break from the pack and show serious promise.
 
Here are five tech companies to watch in the coming year:
 
Astronomer: Veteran entrepreneurs Ry Walker and Tim Brunk secured $1.9 million in seed capital to found this big-data startup, which in 2016 scored some big-name clients as well as a partnership with CVG to analyze airport-collected data.

Everything but the House: Since the estate-sale marketplace launched in 2008, EBTH has raised $84.5 million in capital, and they’re not slowing down anytime soon. Currently active in 27 U.S. markets, the startup is growing at a rate of one new MSA per month.

FamilyTech: What started in 2012 as the popular ChoreMonster app has become a behemoth organization aimed at helping families stay connected as they grow. Millions of families worldwide now access the FamilyTech suite of apps, which includes Mothershp, ChoreMonster and Landra.
 
Lisnr: Billed as “the world’s most advanced ultrasonic audio technology,” Lisnr started out as an app to unlock special content from music. It has since grown into a unique service that allows users to transfer data using sounds inaudible to the human ear, with in-app capabilities that include mobile payment, event ticketing, instant replay and more.
 
MedaCheck: “Never forget to take your medications again,” is the tagline for this tablet-based service, which experienced meteoric growth in 2016 after a successful pilot with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The startup also recently expanded its audience to include adolescents and seniors, and they’re exploring further expansion in the coming year.
 

NKU hosts national cyber security symposium, encourages awareness of hackers


On Oct. 21, Northern Kentucky University hosted a Cyber Security Symposium. It was the ninth annual event, and featured national and local experts in the field of cyber security.
 
The symposium focused on online privacy and ethics in the information age; how to secure mobile apps, cloud storage and databases against cyber attacks; and security for the medical industry.
 
NKU was designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in information assurance and cyber defense. It’s also the first university in Greater Cincinnati to offer cyber security programs, such as minors in information security and computer forensics, and graduate certificates in secure software engineering and corporate information security — these programs were all added to the course catalog in 2006.
 
“In 2016, we have a large team of security-oriented faculty and we offer a broad array of cyber security education programs,” said Dr. James Walden, director of the Center for Information Security.
 
The symposium is more important now than ever as hackers are obtaining consumers’ credit card information daily, and both local, national and international websites are hacked regularly as well.
 
“Prevention technologies like firewalls only slow attackers,” Walden said. “It is essential for an organization to have robust incident detection and response capabilities.”
 
He encourages people to use fully updated software and two-factor authentication.
 
“Citizens need to understand public issues related to cyber security, like why it will never be secure to vote online, why backdoors inserted by law enforcement make computers less secure for everyone, and how corporate and government surveillance of individuals and groups impacts their lives and futures.”
 

Artrageous cultivates next gen innovation where science, art, history, engineering meet


Innovation and creativity are sought after traits in the startup community, but nurturing and encouraging those qualities in the next generation in an era focused on STEM and standardized testing can be difficult. Nathan Heck addresses that challenge through his web series Artrageous with Nate.
 
“Creativity happens everywhere,” Heck said. “You don't have to be a painter to be creative. I want to change the conversation about innovation and look at it in the world, outside of siloed school subjects.”
 
The web series, available on YouTube and PBS Digital, takes a multi-disciplinary approach, exploring a different artist, style, or subject in each episode. The art historical cannon is well represented, but with a twist.
 
“Our episode on Michelangelo looked at his art, but also pulled back the curtain on what was happening at the time that allowed (artists) to be so creative and innovative,” Heck said.
 
Artrageous with Nate also tackles subjects that might not be considered art, including episodes on design and engineering at Delta Faucet, microscopic views of kidney cells, and the process of developing a roller coaster at an amusement park. Heck explores the intersection of science, engineering, history, and art.
 
For historical figures, episodes focus on little known biographic facts, like the name of their dog, to make them relatable as people.
 
“These artists were rebels who made their own path,” Heck said. “Some died in poverty. Some never sold anything. Yet today they’re world famous.”
 
Heck also interviews contemporary artists to talk about their process, and for those working in non-traditional art environments, how their creativity fits in with their colleagues who are scientists and engineers. Each episode ends with a hands-on activity inspired by the subject.
 
“I am all about the process, not the finished product,” Heck said. “Art materials are expensive, so I try to come up with things people can make with what they have handy.”
 
Heck collaborates with museums, including the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) , on his program. He has filmed three episodes at CAM featuring the Damascus Room, a dress by Issey Miyake, and a portrait by Gainsborough.
 
His most recent partnership, with the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, will create an app for museum users. Heck is also working to bring Artrageous to the Curiosity network, a spinoff of the Discovery Channel.
 
Heck will talk about his methods for encouraging creativity at the 2016 Day of Innovation conference at Butler University on Oct. 13.
 
“I love talking to business people about art and creativity,” Heck said. “It's important they understand creativity, what happens in the brain when you're being creative, and how broad creativity is. I want everyone to walk out thinking about how they are creative and innovative.”
 
The event is familiar to Heck. Artrageous with Nate won an Indiana Innovation Award at the 2014 conference.
 
“Nate's program impressed our judges with its very unique and fun approach and the show's combination of art, history and creativity,” said Jason Williams, executive director of Centric. “Nate is taking a lot of interesting material and making it more approachable. Artrageous is passionate about inspiring creativity inside and outside of the art studio.”
 
“We focus so much on measurable results,” Heck said. “But the things you can’t measure are what makes people unique and creative. If we lose creativity, we lose innovation.”
 
Those attending his session at the Day of Innovation should be ready to explore their creative side.
 
“I love to have fun with big, massive art projects,” said Heck. “So I’m planning something that everyone can do, but it won’t be too messy since it’s a conference after all.”
 
 
 
 

FEASTY app joins Startups in Residence program at 84.51


FEASTY, which is the first app to connect people with restaurants in real-time, recently moved offices to the 84.51° building to be part of the company’s Startup in Residence program. The program launched in June 2015, and provides co-working space and mentorship opportunities to four companies at a time, all of which are graduates of regional accelerator programs.
 
Startups in Residence is part of 84.51°’s Innovation initiative, which focuses on connecting, empowering and transforming associates, the community and customers.
 
FEASTY — a 2016 graduate of OCEAN acceleratorlaunched in March with two full-time employees, and has since added four more full-time employees. The app aims to connect those who love to eat food with those who create it.
 
“There are two problems when it comes to dining out: people can’t make decisions about where to eat, and the second is that restaurants don’t know how to drive customers into their restaurants in real-time,” says FEASTY founder Anthony Breen.  
 
FEASTY allows restaurants to post offers or incentives in real-time based on how they’re doing at that moment and drive traffic during slow periods. Those offers go out to users, and they can swipe and search deals, choosing one that will work for them.
 
Since March, FEASTY has evolved. It now tailors offers to each individual user.
 
“We started gathering and collecting data about what users like to eat, what types of deals they like and any dietary restrictions they might have,” Breen says. “FEASTY can then post intelligent offers for customers, and make sure they’re seeing customized deals.”
 
Tony Blankemeyer, startup liaison at 84.51°, sought out Breen because FEASTY fits well into the Startups in Residence program, as it is interested in companies that are leading in the field of data. 84.51°, a.k.a. Kroger, has significant data around in-home grocery purchases and is interested in learning more about the patterns and behaviors of people when they’re looking for somewhere to dine out.
 
“84.51° is home to some of the best data scientists in the world, and being in that community, engaging and connecting with those scientists will be an awesome opportunity,” Breen says.
 
Although no formal partnerships have been announced, FEASTY hopes to incorporate some of the data 84.51° has and make the app experience better for users.
 
FEASTY currently serves over 200 restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area, including new partners like Q’Doba, The Rook and ZBGB. A 2.0 version of FEASTY will come out later this year, which includes a total revamp of the app. After the relaunch, Breen plans to begin scaling into other cities as quickly as possible.
 
“We’re excited to get as much knowledge from the Startups in Residence program as possible,” he says. “It will really help us make the right scaling decisions and moves, as well as help us establish the right contacts and networks.”
 
FEASTY is free and available for download on iOS, Android and the Apple Watch.
 

Arts Atlas data tool to help local arts organizations target programming to underserved communities

 
ArtsWave has created a first-in-the-nation model with the new Arts Atlas online tool that integrates data on arts organizations and their programming with community demographic data.
 
Arts Atlas offers a searchable aggregation of community data — such as income, age, households and ethnicity — and arts data including organization locations, services and partnerships. Users can search around a specific Zip code, address or by a host of other criteria.
 
“As ArtsWave shifted our funding approach, we started to think about data around community impact: how to collect it, how to analyze it, what that would look like,” ArtsWave Chief Impact Strategy Officer Tara Townsend says. “Arts Atlas evolved from the need for a place to collect and analyze data while also understanding the gap in access to the arts around the region.”
 
In order to keep the data current, ArtsWave is working with PolicyMap, a national data gathering organization. PolicyMap collects, organizes and maps the public data while ArtsWave manages the arts- and culture-related data that’s specific to Greater Cincinnati.
 
ArtsWave anticipates that Arts Atlas will eventually be used by a range of audiences, from parents and educators to funders and Realtors, but the initial focus in rolling out the program is arts organizations.
 
“We view Arts Atlas as strategic tool to help justify where ArtsWave is making investments and for arts organizations deciding where they invest their time and energy in terms of their programming,” Townsend says. “We are also currently using the Arts Atlas to provide information about which schools have art and music teachers and which don’t for the Cincinnati Public Schools’ subcommittee on arts and culture as they advocate for how CPS’s new equity policy should relate to arts education.”
 
Arts Atlas will also be a helpful tool for CPS Resource Coordinators in neighborhood Community Learning Centers.
 
“Resource Coordinators need to be able to connect the dots between the services offered at the school and those offered by other organizations,” ArtsWave Impact Specialist Alison Taylor says. “With the Arts Atlas they’ll be able to look for arts and cultural organizations to partner with to provide programming for the students in their school.”
 
The ability to drill down into the arts and cultural resources in a particular geographic area could be a useful tool for many audiences: parents seeking classes for their children, Realtors talking up the assets of a neighborhood or businesses recruiting new talent to Cincinnati.
 
ArtsWave staff are currently offering free general Arts Atlas demonstrations on the third Thursday of each month that are open to anyone with advance registration; register for the June 16 event here. They’re also providing targeted introductions to specific groups.
 
In addition to its practical application, ArtsWave also hopes that Arts Atlas will help regional arts organizations leverage new funding.
 
“We scoured through PolicyMap’s available data to find data sets that would support a better understanding of the community within this region,” Townsend says. “It is extremely valuable to have in one place all of the data that you would need to make a case for why a particular program should happen in a particular community, school or school district. Arts Atlas does that.”
 
Although Arts Atlas just launched at the end of May, it’s already garnered national attention.
 
“The original funding came from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust at PNC Bank, so the NEA has been watching the development very closely and they’re very excited about what we ultimately created,” Townsend says. “Americans for the Arts approached us and are very interested in talking about it. The ArtPlace blog of the National Creative Placemaking Funding Initiative will also be writing about it.”
 
Once again, the innovation in Cincinnati’s arts community is putting the region on the map.
 

Per Scholas software testing class shows promise thanks to unique partnership


Cincinnati’s technology and innovation sector is often described as an ecosystem, with companies and organizations working together and relying on each other in order to create economic impact.
 
Recently, three different organizations – Per Scholas, Ingage Partners and Thrive Urban Impact Sourcing – came together to make sure the information technology sector is providing opportunities for those most in need. The partnership’s result is an eight-week intensive course in quality assurance software testing for Cincinnatians unemployed or below the poverty line and a promise by Thrive to hire at least half of the graduating class.
 
Per Scholas is a nonprofit organization founded nearly 20 years ago in New York City to provide free intensive IT training and job placement to individuals living in poverty. It now operates in several cities around the country and started its IT training program in Cincinnati about three and half years ago.
 
Per Scholas is able to expand its offerings to this software testing course with the help of Ingage Partners, a management and technology consulting company that strives for a “business for good” model, and its new organization, Thrive, which practices Urban Impact Sourcing.
 
The idea of impact sourcing is to make a dent in poverty by connecting well-paying jobs and opportunities for advancement with the underutilized talent pool of people living in poverty. According to Ingage/Thrive Co-Founder Michael Kroeger, it’s often been practiced in rural areas in countries like India, and Thrive is pioneering the model in an urban environment.
 
Impact sourcing more or less aims to reverse outsourcing by bringing often-outsourced technology jobs back into places like Cincinnati and making sure there’s a trained talent pool to fill those jobs. That means the model fits perfectly for software testing positions.
 
While most software testing has been outsourced for the past few decades, language and time zone barriers and rising overseas labor costs mean the market is ripe to bring those jobs back to the local market, says Per Scholas Managing Director Paul Cashen, adding that Per Scholas aims for its training programs to be market-driven.
 
“Software testing is in especially high demand and is a skill that can be trained in a reasonable amount of time,” Kroeger says. “We saw this as a way to quickly make strides to end poverty in our region while meeting market demands.”
 
“We were very excited about the fact that we drew interest from both alumni and new students,” Cashen says.
 
Cashen describes the collaboration of Per Scholas, Ingage and Thrive as a win-win-win situation: Per Scholas provides the curriculum and technical training the organization specializes in, Thrive and Ingage support the program and the job opportunities for graduates and the software testing students receive training and opportunities that can transform their lives and help end the cycle of poverty.
 
“For our students, the impact is not only from a career and competence standpoint but also about confidence,” Cashen says. “It has an emotional and mental impact, not just on their pocketbooks.”
 
Kroeger also emphasizes this impact on students’ confidence.
 
“They come out of this course with the confidence that they have the acquired technical knowledge needed for a career in software testing along with life skills that will help them maintain a successful career,” he says. “Thrive has committed to hire at least half of every class, including benefits and a competitive salary.”
 
For this class however, Thrive has far exceeded that promise.
 
“We're excited that 21 students are set to graduate next week and Thrive has already made offers to 15 of them,” Kroeger says.
 
The software testing course and partnership is so successful that Per Scholas is already taking applications for the next course, set to begin July 18. Classes are held at CityLink Center in the West End.
 

Inventor's Council awards prizes to members trying to bring their inventions to life


The Inventor’s Council of Cincinnati recently held its third annual First Filament Awards, a competition for members to be judged by experts and to receive cash prizes to fund development costs of their inventions.
 
The awards are just one way that ICC provides support for its member inventors. The Council also invites experts as monthly speakers and provides networking opportunities, offers classes in patents and trademarking and hosts one-on-one mentoring with board members.
 
For co-founder Jackie Diaz, one of the most important resources ICC provides is the community and support from other inventors. She’s been active in local inventors’ groups for nearly 25 years, since launching her first invention, the Culinique Surprise Inside baking pan, in 1991.
 
“As I started to look at commercialization, I got to thinking, ‘Maybe there’s help locally,’” Diaz says.
 
That led her first to the Cincinnati Inventor’s Club and, when that group disbanded, to a Cincinnati spinoff of the Inventor’s Council of Dayton founded by George Pierce.
 
“Unfortunately, in 2004 George found the management of the ICC, as well as several other satellite organizations in surrounding cities, to be taking too much of his time and had to call a halt,” Diaz says. “As the only board member interested in moving forward at the time, I recruited a President and she and I co-founded the current 501c3 organization.”
 
Diaz also helped found the First Filament Awards three years ago.
 
“I wanted to create a program that would help get our members out of the garage and onto the freeway, not only for their own benefit but for the sake of the community at large,” she says.
 
The awards ($1,000, $750 and $500 for the three finalists) are designed to make it possible for the winners to commercialize their ideas. This year’s winners were Joseph Collins for a child safety product for door jambs, Geoff Saylors for a construction tool that makes finding studs easier when on a ladder and Tom Hortel and Mike Mullens for a new and improved way of cleaning stains from rugs and carpets.
 
First Filament competition participants must be members of the Inventor’s Council of Cincinnati. Diaz stresses that the group is always looking to expand its membership and provide training and a support forum to more area inventors.
 

Startup Weekend focuses on social entrepreneurship via United Way partnership


Startup Weekend Cincinnati returns May 20-22 with a special edition focusing on social entrepreneurship in partnership with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
 
“The United Way came to us in December and proposed working with Startup Weekend to engage the community in coming up with creative solutions to problems affecting the region,” says Julia Chick, content partnership manager at Ahalogy and a member of the Startup Weekend Cincinnati organizing team.
 
United Way launched its Bold Goals initiative in 2011, directing resources toward making significant improvements in education, income and health for area residents by 2020.
 
“In 2014, we took a step back to see how we were doing in making progress against those goals,” says Mike Baker, United Way’s director of community impact. “Although we were making progress, it was incremental. So we looked at what we could do to accelerate the pace of change in the community and encourage innovation in the social sector.
 
“One of the things we could do was expand the circle of people focused on the issues we care most about, particularly by connecting with the corporate sectors and startup community. Startup Weekend is a really great opportunity to get to know the people in the startup community and to attract their minds and resources to issues around education, income and health.”
 
Startup Weekend: Social Edition will work much like other startup weekends and hackathons, with a key difference — the event’s focus is creating a business or product that solves a social problem. On the Startup Weekend website, the organizers have included an explanation of social entrepreneurship as well as some “idea starters” related to the Bold Goals issues.
 
“The weekend itself is open to any ideas or creative solutions that attendees bring,” Chick says. “We worked with the United Way to come up with some thought starters to give examples of the problems facing the region. The idea is not to limit participants but to jump-start them.”
 
Mentors and coaches from the social enterprise sector will be around throughout the weekend to make sure the ideas that teams pursue really will address a particular issue. Their guidance will be reinforced by Saturday morning speakers Keri Dooley Stephens and Keith Romer from The Garage Group, who will talk about consumer validation.
 
Anyone can participate in Startup Weekend: Social Edition as long as they register before the program starts at 6 p.m. on Friday. The event is being hosted at the 84.51° headquarters downtown.
 
“There is great energy around a startup weekend,” Baker says. “It’s a really awesome way to get involved in the community, meet other people who care about the same issues you do and potentially solve big hairy issues. We’re looking for people who are willing to bring their creativity and ask the ‘why not’ questions: Why not try this? Why not move forward?”
 
Startup Weekend will provide food and beverages for the participants throughout the weekend to ensure teams can focus on developing their ideas. Everyone is encouraged to bring his or her own laptop and iPad and any other materials they’ll need in their work process.
 
“There are a lot of passionate people out there who may have some creative solutions to the problems United Way is addressing,” Chick says. “By bringing people together, we can collaborate to make Cincinnati an even greater place.”
 
Those unable to participate in the entire weekend can register for the free Demo Day event at 5 p.m. Sunday, when teams will pitch their ideas to the judges. The winning team will receive pro-bono consulting services from FlyWheel Cincinnati to help develop and implement their idea.
 
“I think Startup Weekend will be a great opportunity for people to experience the hustle and fast-paced creativity, problem solving and adjusting on the fly that goes into a startup, while connecting with and making improvements against the important issues so many of us care about in the community,” Baker says. “It will be both meaningful and fun for everyone participating.”
 

UC School of IT awarded exclusive national designation for cybersecurity program


The University of Cincinnati’s Information Technology School was recently designated by the National Security Administration and Department for Homeland Security as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), a title awarded to just nine U.S. universities so far. The designation will last until 2021, and in addition to prestige it gives UC’s IT program access to special funding and grants open only to schools with CAE-CDE designation.
 
The exclusive designation is impressive, especially considering that cybersecurity is still a new program at UC’s School of IT.
 
“The Cybersecurity specialty (track) accepted its first class of 40 students in the fall of 2014,” School Head and Associate Professor Hazem Said says. “A year later, more than 100 students are selecting cybersecurity as their technical track.”
 
Said explains that several factors set the UC program apart from many other cybersecurity courses of study. Grounded in the university’s school of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, the program supplements the technical skills necessary for cybersecurity expertise with contextual knowledge of business and other disciplines.
 
The program provides a variety of opportunities for personalization and project-based learning and requires co-ops for on-the-job experience. The program also aims to develop interpersonal skills, most notably communication, with three writing classes required of cybersecurity students and oral presentations wound throughout the curriculum. The goal is for students to be able to communicate the value and concepts of cybersecurity work to a variety of audiences, both with and without technical expertise.
 
“For the students, this designation significantly increases the value of their degree,” Said says. “The CAE-CDE designation opens experiential experiences in highly advanced and critical functions of the government and the private sector.”
 
While the term “cybersecurity” might bring up images of the NSA and hacking nuclear programs, UC’s graduates have many more opportunities than just government or military jobs. Said and his colleague ChengCheng Li, Assistant Professor in the School of IT, explain that thanks to the proliferation of digital data cybersecurity impacts all of us every day.
 
“The data we care about are being digitized,” Said says. “The more we put it on the digital network, the more it becomes not only important but also political. The ’90s were all about efficiency. There’s a lot of work now coming after the fact but also to set up the future.”
 
Since data is something we all use, more and more companies, from the startup level to Fortune 500, will be interested in hiring cybersecurity analysts in the near future to make sure their data networks are secure, defend them from attacks and gather the data necessary to prosecute attackers if necessary.
 
“Cybersecurity is becoming more and more important, cybersecurity nationally and cybersecurity locally,” Li says. “We will need more of a cybersecurity workforce in the next decade.”
 

The art of intractive technology sprouts at Cincinnati Art Museum

 
The Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) might be 135 years old, but the organization embraces technology as an innovative way to engage visitors.
 
In 2013, CAM joined the Google Cultural Institute, offering a virtual walk through of the museum and access to digital versions works of art.
 
“We’re also using Google to put together small online exhibitions,” says Emily Holtrop, Director of Learning and Interpretation. “For the opening of Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt in June, we are creating an online exhibit of other cats you can see at the museum. We hope to create more of these smaller web-based exhibits using themes that bring together objects from the permanent collection that would not usually be seen together.”
 
The success of these initial online efforts led to other opportunities to use technology to enhance the visitor experience. Last year, CAM started offering docent-led iPad tours of the Schmidlapp Wing, where many of the iconic pieces in the museum’s collection are displayed.
 
“Docents are able to use iPads to share additional content that supports the conversation,” Holtrop says. “For example, looking at our Robert S. Duncanson painting ‘Blue Hole, Flood Waters, Little Miami River,’ a docent is able to use the iPad to pull up a photograph of what John Bryant State Park looks like today. Or they’re able to show other Gainsborough portraits and compare them to ours. The iPad doesn’t replace looking at the object, it supports the looking and the conversation around the art.”
 
The iPads are also allowing docents to incorporate multimedia on their tours. Tours of the current 30 Americans exhibition may include listening to a piece of music by Charlie Bird Parker while viewing a painting of Parker by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
 
In October, CAM made a commitment to incorporate technology into the museum experience with the opening of its new Antiquities Gallery, which included two touch tables created by Paperplane Creative and Clifton Labs.
 
“The touch tables let us show the objects in the gallery as what they were, items from daily life,” Holtrop says. “They’re only considered art today because they’re displayed in a museum. They really are things like makeup compacts, vases and containers for storing wine. Now we can show visitors how these pieces were used.”
 
The touch tables offer multiple views of each object on display, fun facts and how it was acquired by the museum. An interactive map and timeline will show where the object was created as well as other objects in the gallery that were made around the same time.
 
In addition to providing layers of information, the touch tables also include games related to the objects. Visitors can make a virtual vase or mummy, and other games explore languages and religions of the ancient world.
 
At the end of April, CAM launched two new touchpad interactive features. Leave Your Impression in the Impressionist gallery encourages visitors to try their hand at “painting” part of a work by Renoir, Monet or Sisley. Context and Discovery lets visitors explore six 20th Century American masterpieces in greater detail, including additional information on the artists and the works.
 
CAM also continues to incorporate analog interactive features in the galleries. Visitors to the Asian art galleries can touch actual brushes, and 30 Americans has a feedback wall asking visitors to comment on pieces in the exhibition.
 
“We could have used technology to ask people how they felt about a particular object,” Holtrop says. “But being able to see everyone else’s responses is so much more impactful and creates conversations.”
 
CAM also participated in the Arts x Tech hackathon last month with a challenge that would allow people to pre-plan their visit and to create their own gallery of favorites from the museum collection.
 
“We aren’t going to use technology just because its flashy and fun, if it doesn’t get the message across,” Holtrop says. “Emerging technology in museums is great. But we’re surrounded by screens all the time, and that can interfere with what we’re looking at, so it’s about finding the balance between having too many screens or using screens as support. We want to encourage people to come into the museum and enjoy looking at art while extending their museum experience beyond their visit.”
 

Aitken to discuss using data to build strong customer relationships at Goering Center event


The Goering Center for Family & Private Business dives into data at its April 20 Luncheon Series event, “The Data Revolution” with 84.51 CEO Stuart Aitken.
 
Affiliated with the University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business, the Goering Center provides educational programs and resources to help family-owned and private businesses grow and network. Aitken’s 84.51 collects and mines customer data to inform business decisions and build strong customer relationships, issues important to businesses of all sizes.
 
“I’ve had the good fortune to work for many great companies and to really understand how basic business principals apply to big companies or brands just as well as they do to small companies,” Aitken says. “From a data and loyalty perspective, focusing on the customer is something that any size business can employ. It’s more a matter of what’s relevant to your customers and how, as a small business owner, you can inspire loyalty through the service you provide.
 
“The customer should be at the center of everything — knowing your customers as individuals, not based on generalities or demographics.”
 
The constant collection of data today can raise questions for businesses and customers about how much is enough.
 
“It’s not really about the quantity of the data as it is about the quality of the data,” Aitken says. “Looking at data over time actually helps us to be more personal with our customer outreach. We can understand what’s changing in their lives and that what may have been relevant a year ago may not necessarily be relevant today. Our customers provide feedback that they appreciate that level of personalization and that we understand how to reach them at the right time with the right message with the right channel.”
 
Aitken’s customer-centric approach to data has applications not only for product development but also for the marketing community.
 
“Since Procter & Gamble was established in Cincinnati nearly 150 years ago, Cincinnati has been recognized as a branding hub,” he says. “We have some of the largest and most well-known marketers right here — P&G, Kroger and Macy’s as well as world-class creative firms and academic institutions like UC’s DAAP — that produce creative and technology talents influencing brands and businesses everywhere.”
 
84.51 is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortune 500 company Kroger, and the firm is also invested in the Cincinnati entrepreneurial community through its startup-in-residence program. Aitken’s extensive experience working with established and new companies and how both categories collect and use data should generate an interesting and informative presentation.
 
The Goering Center Luncheon Series is open to the public, though reservations are required. The programs take place monthly with guest speakers on trending business topics. Upcoming events feature discussions on the economic and lending environment, attracting and retaining talent and business risks.

Family and private businesses are also able to join the Goering Center as Core Members for access to additional training, education and development programs.

“The Data Revolution” will be held 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. April 20 at the Sharonville Convention Center. Admission is $39 for Goering Center members and $99 for nonmembers. Register here.
 
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