Innovation is all around us in Cleveland, NE Ohio: Tech Czar Talk

Cleveland.com I Michael C. DeAloia

CLEVELAND, Ohio – From where does innovation come?

Too many people in this region believe innovation comes from elsewhere, such as Silicon Valley, or Austin, or Boston or New York. But there is marvelous innovation around us. At times, it is invisible and lurking in some of the most unique places.

But take stock, Cleveland is home to great innovation. There is a promising mobile app created in one of the more surprising locations in Northeast Ohio. A local CEO is leading the national charge in the firmware industry and a local medical application is getting recognition from another Rust Belt city.

All of these companies are challenging the status quo with revolutionary innovation.

There’s an App for That. It’s rare to encounter a new mobile app that hasn’t been designed before. Yet there is a unique app being built in Berea that is offering fresh insight into workplace-change management.

The application was developed by Stegmeier Consulting Group. The consulting company was founded by Diane Stegmeier to help large organizations strategize and monitor significant workplace changes. Stegmeier also authored Innovations in Office Design, a comprehensive review of workplace behavior in companies undergoing transformation. For 20 years, her company has conducted research and provided counsel for nearly 200 organizations in a variety of industries.

WorkSlice is a mobile app that can be used by companies to measure the impact of various work space settings on the productivity of the end user. It is a cool tool that offers crowdsourced workplace data in real time.

For the past six years, the app has been the focus of Matthew Stegmeier, son of Diane Stegmeier. It focuses on the real estate or working environment of a company and its effects on workforce productivity. With an intuitive interface, the app measures which office and conference rooms are being utilized and who is using the various environments to complete work.

The interface also employs a bit of gamification with points being allocated each time an employee ranks a space within an office environment. Data then are sent to the human resources group to study. If the new employee lounge continues to receive poor ratings, management can step in and alter the lounge and in turn possibly make employees happier and more productive.

Having seen the app in action, I can say it is the real deal. Cutting edge, intuitive with benefits to the users and to HR groups. This app can make a huge difference for a firm contemplating or realizing significant change to the work environment.

Mr. Firmware. In the Internet of Things, everyday objects such as refrigerators and TV’s now have network connectivity allowing the devices to send and receive data. What separates the IoT from typical software and web development is that electronics are involved. A special level of “software,” called firmware, has to be included to control the electrical applications of the device.

Cleveland is blessed with a wealth of participants in the firmware industry, which is a cross-pollination of electrical engineers and developers. And one local company is leading the way.

Bob Scaccia, CEO of USA Firmware, has been a national leader in raising awareness for the firmware industry. The company, based in Brecksville, specializes in firmware development, as well as hardware and IoT products design.

Scaccia cut his teeth at Keithley and Raytheon here in Cleveland, working as an electrical engineer. He understands the complexities involved with designing firmware. And after making two stops as an executive in other electrical engineering firms, and a little nudge from his wife, Scaccia launched USA Firmware seven years ago.

His firm is booming as the IoT revolution takes hold with 85 percent of his customer base in Northeast Ohio.

He also is a national advocate for firmware. Scaccia launched the Firmware Engineers of Northeast Ohio (FENEO) and has grown it to more than 200 members from 70 companies in the region.

“Cleveland has the most organized firmware industry in the U.S.,” Scaccia is quick to point out.

The IoT is the next big thing and Cleveland is well positioned to participate. And it doesn’t hurt to have a local growing firmware company and advocate paving the way.

Cleveland to Buffalo. 43North recently announced 142 companies made the semifinal round of its annual pitch competition, and one of the semifinalists is from the Cleveland/Akron area.

iRx Reminder is a mobile application that captures key data for clinical trials. CEO of iRx Reminder Dr. Anthony Sterns was proud of the company’s selection by 43North.

“Winning would give us the funds to grow forward, create our sales team and hire internal programmers. It’s fuel. A big tank of gas,” he said.

iRx Reminder has been successful in raising capital. In early 2014, the company announced a $250,000 investment from a Washington, D.C., angel group. An additional $100,000 was raised from the Innovation Fund based at Glide and an initial $5,000 was won at the TIE Ohio Business Plan Competition.

Winner of the 43North contest receives $1 million while other companies are eligible to receive $500,000 to $600,000 in start-up investments. Winners will be announced on Oct. 27, 2016.

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