[Freelancer Givon Zirkind visited almost every booth at Propelify. Here is his first story on what he found.]
Propelify's second annual “Innovation Festival” was held on May 18 in Hoboken, in the park by the Hudson River waterfront. Many anxiously awaited this event, which was attended by thousands. This year, Propelify was a bit of a family event, with a Ferris wheel, juggler—courtesy of Jet.com—and parents who brought their children to experience innovation firsthand and learn about entrepreneurship and business skills. Jet was even conducting interviews on its Ferris wheel. Innovators and their inventions were everywhere. In fact, there was a wide diversity of new products that almost defies categorization.
Entrepreneurs of all stripes were present—not just technology inventors. For instance, there was Eric Pearson, founder and owner of Nomad Oil (Montclair). There is nothing novel about changing your oil, right? Actually, there is: Nomad comes directly to your home to change the oil in your car which is arranged via an app. Although Pearson belongs to the “app” generation, and Nomad Oil does have an app, the app is not required to get service and for this reason, the company reaches more customers and its service is all the more convenient. Nomad is so confident that first-time users will become repeat users, it was offering Propelify attendees their first oil change for free.
There were many app developers at Propelify. Some of them, like the Elizabeth-based originators of Networkd, provide business services such as connecting members live. There were also e-commerce vendors with a twist, like Boxed (Union) and Flow (Hoboken). Boxed sells food online and delivers it to your door. Flow provides APIs that enable websites to handle international business transactions. Also represented at Propelify was Sfara (Hoboken), a personal safety app that uses smart device sensors to turn a phone into a monitoring system.
This year, there were a number of apps targeting the entertainment industry. iHeartMedia (New York) displayed its radio-show-streaming app, the first to enable listeners to instantly save and replay songs from live radio; there is also an on-demand service. At the booth from the Stevens Institute of Technology’s College of Arts and Letters, sponsors showed off technology from the school’s Music & Technology program, such as loudspeakers for cell phones, surround-sound audio decoders and digital signal processing (DSP) products.
There were quite a few brainy products using AI. Arria (Parsippany) is a Natural Language Generation (NLG) software program that takes quantitative data and turns it into readable reports in ordinary English. Enigma (New York) has taken large amounts of public data from disparate formats and merged them into a standardized format for data extraction. Vidyo.io (Hackensack) is another very techy vendor: It produces its own video conferencing with no transcoding (i.e., conversion of signals from one standard or format to another), and it’s HIPPA-compliant.
A unique participant at Propelify was RWJBarnabas Health (West Orange) — a user, not a vendor, of technology. The reps showed off some of the innovative, life-saving technologies the company uses in its affiliated hospitals. One of them, the Mobile Area Routing and Vehicle Location Information System (MARVLIS), is a predictive emergency response technology used for ambulance deployment. According to the company, it cuts the call-response time in half.
The mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer, had this to say about Propelify: “The City of Hoboken is a great home to innovators. ...We are proud to host Propelify to showcase our incredible local talent and bring together innovators from across the country."
Below is a roundup, in order of presentation, of the companies that presented their inventions and services in exhibitor booths. Here is some further information about the companies mentioned above, as well as information on the other companies:
Staff Trader (Leander, Texas) is software that connects job seekers with employers, mostly in IT. The company offers end-to-end hiring services for employers, including post-employment evaluations and an app that businesses can use for hiring and scheduling interviews with candidates, making it easy for them to reach applicants. Staff Trader also provides payroll services.
Boxed is a Web-based nationwide food distributor that delivers wholesale-sized boxes to your door, usually within two days. The wholesale sizes of the purchases mean that users get better value for their money and won’t have to shop so often. Also, first orders and any orders over $49 are shipped free.
Networkd is an app that alerts members to the presence of other members nearby. The app is intended to help professionals meet each other in such places as coworking spaces and cafés, like a real-world LinkedIn. Networkd is designed to work with Bluetooth at the maximum range of 30 feet. It is a professional of CheekD which uses a similar technology, but is designed for dating. Both apps are currently free.
Vidyo.io provides sophisticated, scalable video-conferencing software. The company has built a platform that does not use any transcoding. Mercy Health (Cincinnati, Ohio), a major client, uses Vidyo.io for patient monitoring and for video-enabled beds. Vidyo.io also provides conventional corporate conferencing and unified communications.
Nomad, a custom auto company, offers an app that it says no one else is using for this kind of in-person service. Nomad’s primary function consists of home visits to provide oil changes and tire inflation. Customers know up front that oil and air filter changes, which are not always essential, are charged extra. Additional services are also available. The company provides full price transparency — with no upselling.
IMEX (International Monetary Exchange), in Manalapan, is a money transfer service that works with DUET debit cards. Money can be transferred from one DUET account to another or from a DUET account to a bank account. Money transfers are free, and IMEX claims that it offers better exchange rates than you’ll get from banks. Although IMEX is not new (it’s seven years old), it keeps releasing new products.
Sfara is an app and online data portal developed using AI and machine learning technology that interprets a person's surroundings via smart device sensors. For example, in transportation the app can detect car crashes and distracted driving behavior, and notify an emergency call center or send real-time alerts to stop the behavior.
RWJBarnabas Health showcased the MARVLIS predictive EMS software, which the company has been using since 2006. Based on 15 years of statistical data that includes locations, times, dates and events, the software predicts where calls will come from, and ambulances and EMTs are dynamically deployed. In fact, an ambulance could be very close to the location of a call before it is received. By logging into the system for a demonstration, the reps were coincidentally able to show one such response. The Jersey City Medical Center is the only user of MARVLIS in New Jersey.
TapSnap (Medford) is a franchise that provides branded photo booths. Photos can be retrieved on a USB and in the form of 4-by-6-inch prints. Users can brand their pictures by imprinting them with company logos and slogans, and photos can be streamed onto social media. TapSnap has professional and personal applications, such as conferences and weddings.
iHeartRadio is a streaming app that provides live radio nationwide. While there are other radio apps and radio-streaming apps, iHeartRadio says that it’s the only radio-streaming app that offers the majority of radio shows, nationwide, live. iHeartRadio also features music collections, custom stations and podcasts.
Flow offers a business-to-business e-commerce solution for websites doing business internationally. It provides APIs that deal with customs, translation and data, in order to make the international sales experience easier and more pleasant.
Arria is a Natural Language Generation (NLG) software program that works with financial data and produces reports in English. The software is AI-driven, rather than template-driven, and it establishes business rules as well as a domain. Arria is becoming a part of the New Jersey business ecosystem: The company is moving its headquarters to Parsippany from New York.
NY Women in VR (New York) is a meetup community dedicated to connecting, empowering and promoting women involved in virtual reality.
Jornu (New York) is an app that allows readers to follow their favorite journalists. A representative from Jornu explained that many readers follow certain reporters, rather than specific news publications. Jornu will follow a journalist and alert the reader to whenever and wherever a particular writer is published online.
Anjali Deshmukh is a communications consultant and artist, whose works have been displayed in DUMBO and India. She uses games in her work, and had one on hand for a demonstration. The game she showed was designed to get people to leave their comfort zones. Her objective was to demonstrate the difference between fate and determination, and thus help people learn to take action, a necessary skill for entrepreneurs.
JET-11 (New York) is a leather goods manufacturer that uses an innovative method to produce “techno leather,” which has a shiny, textured finish that’s very different from the smooth surfaces of traditional leather. It is water-resistant and lightweight. The company also displayed high-quality conventional leather products.
Representatives of Taiwan Startup Stadium came all the way from Taipei to promote their incubator and to feature some of their startups, such as Akohub, an AI-marketing platform that keeps customers connected with vendors, and Jobalaya, a recruitment site that is introvert-friendly.
Enigma’s motto is “Find the truth in data.” This tech firm provides public data to anyone, free of charge. As part of a project, Enigma took public data, which existed in disparate formats, and brought it into one place, arranging everything into a table view, the company said. After completing the project, Enigma realized that this solution would be valuable to large concerns with disparate data sets. Enigma now offers cross-platform data-integration services for merging data sets with public data sets.