A startup backed by Tech Coast Angels, a clandestine chipmaker, and a spinoff from one of Orange County’s largest publicly traded companies will be among the locals to debut this week at CES, the world’s biggest technology trade show.
Orange-based grandPad will share digs with two other companies funded by the Irvine angel investor group at Eureka Park, the hot spot at the Las Vegas Convention Center designated for budding entrepreneurs and crowdfunded products.
GrandPad is scheduled to make a major partnership announcement with an international brand for its tablet that connects older people with family and friends.
Users can view photos and videos on social media, play games, check weather, listen to music, send voice mails, video chat, or make phone calls through voice activation or the touch of a button.
“At CES, this is a way to get out to the world and open new distribution and partnerships,” said former Intuit executive Scott Lien, who launched the company two years ago at the kitchen table with his son Isaac, an undergraduate at Chapman University who’s studying computer information systems. “For us, it’s all about sales and distribution.”
The device and service, which cost about $60 per month, drew a $1 million investment from Tech Coast Angels and has raised $2.1 million. The tablet went through months of testing with older neighbors like Hal Carlson, who had never used high-technology products, and with family members and strangers, such as 114-year-old Minnesotan Anna Stoehr, who news reports said was the seventh oldest person in the world when she died about a year ago.
Deborah Ferber, a Brandman University professor and Tech Coast Angel who funded the project, said the device has helped her mother engage after becoming sedentary and isolated following suffering a stroke about 18 months ago.
“It solved a solution for my mom. She loves it. I can stay in touch with her, and I’m less guilty during the day,” Ferber said.
Irvine-based Cercacor Laboratories Inc. will be exhibiting what it describes as the world’s first noninvasive hemoglobin tracker geared for athletes.
World-class professional triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker will be on hand to share his experiences with the Ember product, particularly for high-altitude training.
“CES will be a great opportunity to meet with media and communicate our message in a very succinct way,” said Mel Chiba, Cercacor’s vice president of marketing and business development. “There will be people within the cycling community there, as well.”
The Ember product, which costs about $500 for those who order by Feb. 20, allows athletes to quickly measure hemoglobin, pulse rate and elevation as frequently as desired through a finger-clasp, eight-LED light sensor. The data, available in less than 90 seconds, is transferred via Bluetooth to a downloadable smartphone app without the need for drawing blood or lab analysis.
Hemoglobin is the body’s key trans-porter of oxygen, and when levels are lower than normal, the heart and lungs must work harder to compensate, diminishing athletic performance.
Many elite athletes try to elevate hemoglobin levels—and endurance—prior to big competitions through altitude training.
Cercacor developed the technology in part based on groundbreaking work at Irvine-based Masimo Corp. Masimo developed Signal Extraction Technology for pulse oximetry, the prevailing technique used in hospitals and clinics to accurately measure the level of oxygen in blood through an electronic finger-clasp sensor.
“The previous solution was invasive blood draw,” said Sean Merritt, who oversees research and development and product development at Cercacor. “It was a huge breakthrough.”
Cercacor was born out of Masimo in 1998 and receives annual royalties through an exclusive cross-licensing agreement with Masimo that allows the company to use Cercacor’s technology in the professional-care market.
Irvine startup Morfis Semiconductor is largely keeping its CES plans under wraps. It did announce plans to emerge from stealth mode after two years of development and testing to debut the world’s smallest family of integrated radio-frequency chips targeting 2G, 3G and 4G LTE frequency bands. The company is known as a fabless chipmaker—it relies on contractors typically in Asia for production, akin to Broadcom Corp. in Irvine, which is being acquired for $37 billion by Avago Technologies Ltd. in Singapore (see related story, page 10).
Orange County typically sends more than 100 companies to Las Vegas for the mega tech convention, which will span 2.3 million square feet and draw more than 3,600 exhibitors. Last year’s show attracted a record 170,000 people from 153 countries.
Vizio, Western Digital
Two of OC’s largest consumer technology companies, Vizio Inc. and Western Digital Corp.—both based in Irvine—won’t have a major presence there. Vizio, which is seeking to raise $172.5 million in an initial public offering, won’t attend for the second straight year. Western Digital plans to demo some of its storage products at Pepcom’s Digital Experience event, which starts the day before the CES kickoff.
CES in the past five years or so has evolved from a TV and mobile gadget fest to an all-inclusive event showcasing automakers, medical device companies, the fitness industry and others.
Some new rollouts this year include the business-to-business Enterprise Solutions Marketplace; the eCommerce Marketplace for next-generation shopping technology for consumers and businesses; and the Augmented Reality Marketplace, where featured headsets, sensors and software could lead to big changes in the way people learn and experience the world.