Alabama presence at high-tech CES show includes inventions, recruiting push

Alabama presence at high-tech CES show includes inventions, recruiting push
DEFT Dynamics' startup Robotical.ly attracts visitors to its booth at the CES 2019 show. The DEFT team is back in Las Vegas at CES 2020 to showcase a mix of startups. (DEFT Dynamics)

CES 2020, the world’s largest consumer technology event, is getting under way today, and Alabama companies are on hand to show off their forward-thinking products and technologies.

Vince Perez, a senior project manager at the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the state’s presence at CES 2020 aligns with a strategic economic development goal of fostering growth in Alabama’s innovation economy and creating new knowledge-based jobs.

“CES is an excellent opportunity for the State of Alabama to support homegrown, innovative companies, while building relationships with leaders across industry sectors,” said Perez, who is representing the Commerce Department at the trade show.

“From the electrification and automation of the automotive industry to continuing our partnership with Techstars, this event allows us to stay on the leading edge of the new economy,” he said.

Techstars, a worldwide network supporting entrepreneurs, is teaming with Alabama Power Co., the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and the Commerce Department to open a startup accelerator in Birmingham focusing on innovations in energy technology.

“Alabama offers an increasingly competitive environment for startups in an array of advanced fields, and we want to see the state become home to more companies like those highlighting their technological capabilities at CES,” said Blair King, manager of economic development and existing industry with Alabama Power Co.

Perez and King will engage in a half-dozen scheduled appointments with companies attending the event to advance Alabama in their future growth plans.

Showcasing innovation

Alabama-based companies at CES 2020 represent a diverse mix of tech-focused enterprises.

Birmingham-based AerBetic is developing a non-invasive, wearable diabetic alert device, using state-of-the-art nanotechnology to develop very small wearable air sensors that can detect atmospheric gases with sensitivities at the parts-per-billion level.

These sensors will be programmed to detect the exhaled gases indicative of hypo- and hyperglycemic episodes, and AerBetic’s device, through Bluetooth and wireless technologies, will notify the patient and caregivers to a suspected event.

Aerbetic says it’s the high-tech equivalent of a diabetic alert dog.

“Since launching our concept and prototype at CES 2019, we’ve received worldwide attention and interest from potential partners and customers. In October, we were recognized with a CES Innovation Award in the Health and Wellness Category,” said Eric Housh, AerBetic’s chief operating officer and co-founder.

“At CES 2020, we will share further progress in our development of the device and our quest to deliver the world’s first truly non-invasive diabetes monitor,” he said.

DEFT Dynamics Startup Studio will have a booth at CES that showcases several startups in the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and robotics fields that have sprung up in the company’s 5,000-square-foot Birmingham facility.

Key startups are DEFT Dynamics, Moxie, Apex Pro and Tocaro Blue.

Ross Wesson, co-founder of DEFT Dynamics, said CES offers the studio’s startups an unrivaled platform to get their technologies in front of industry decision-makers and to get instant feedback.

After last year’s event, DEFT’s robotics startup, Robotical.ly, shifted its focus from consumer applications to industrial operations in physically hazardous environments. It’s now teaming with Birmingham’s Southern Research to develop smart robots for next-generation nuclear reactors under a Department of Energy grant.

At CES 2020, Wesson expects DEFT startup Moxie, which focuses on end-to-end IoT systems, to make waves. He says the venture benefits from the co-location of hardware and software teams, and access to unlimited industrial shop space for manufacturing and rapid prototyping, giving Moxie competitive advantages.

“Alabama’s workforce dynamics and the state’s dedication to economic development makes cities like Birmingham suddenly highly attractive locations for today’s new wave of technology companies — where hardware and software must be developed, prototyped and even manufactured by teams working side by side under the same roof — something that could never be feasible in the ultra-expensive tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York City,” Wesson said.

“At the end of the day, it’s just smart business. It’s why DEFT Dynamics and its member startups like Moxie are proud to state: ‘Built in Alabama. Trusted Globally,’” he said.

Representatives from Madison-based Audiowell International will also be attending CES 2020.

Audiowell is a specialized piezoelectric ceramic products manufacturer and has developed more than 20 kinds of ceramic materials to meet diverse production needs. Its products include microporous atomizers, level sensors and ultrasonic flow sensors.

A piezoelectric ceramic is a smart material that converts movement or vibration into an electrical signal detectable by a sensor.

‘Global stage’

CES calls itself the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace. Last year, more than 175,000 people attended the trade show, where more than 4,500 companies staged exhibits.

This year’s show in Las Vegas begins today and runs through Friday.

The automotive industry – a key sector for Alabama’s business recruiters – will have a high profile at CES 2020. That includes companies that have a major Alabama presence, including automakers Honda, Hyundai and Toyota, as well as large suppliers.

One of the event’s keynote speakers is Ola Källenius, the chairman of the board of management at Daimler AG who once headed Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama plant. Källenius presented a groundbreaking concept car on Monday night.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the Alabama presence at CES 2020 underscores the robust pipeline of innovative products and technologies that are being developed in the state.

“There’s a vibrant network of tech entrepreneurs and support programs in communities across Alabama, and we’re excited to see what they come up with in the future,” he said.

Canfield is serving as chairman of the Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Associated Technologies, a panel that will explore how the state should prepare for the impact of future technologies.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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