IoT entrepreneurs create a wealth of smart stuff

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ASU’s entrepreneurial ecosystem gives rise to smart devices that improve our health, security and well-being.

By Madison Arnold and Jean Clare Sarmiento

May 23, 2019

What happens when you combine the opportunities created through internet of things technologies with Arizona State University’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? You get a proliferation of IoT devices that can improve our health, enhance our security and increase our overall well-being. The following are a sampling of smart technologies developed by ASU faculty and students.

Smart, safe pool gates

ASU engineering students Kevin Hale and Grayson Allen wanted to design a product for pool gates to help secure pool areas and reduce drowning. This is critically important in Arizona, where child drownings occur at nearly twice the national rate.

Halen pest control animation
Gate access animation courtesy of Halen.

The students launched Halen, a startup company, and developed GateSense, a technology that allows users to lock and unlock gates from anywhere through a mobile app or voice-activated speakers. In addition to pool gates, the product can be used on side gates, patio gates or RV gates. Users can also create schedules for when the gate should be locked and get notifications when there is activity.

GateSense can operate as a stand-alone unit or include a keypad to share an access code, which can be changed at any time. Users can conveniently and securely allow service providers to enter without a physical key or permanent access code. This application could also assist individuals renting homes for vacations.

The company is currently beta testing GateSense to ensure that a functional and reliable product goes to market.

“We envision consumers using this product as a way to have greater security and peace of mind knowing that they can check the status of their gate at any time,” says Hale.

Hale, a software engineering major, and Allen, a manufacturing engineering major, received their bachelor’s degrees from ASU in spring 2019. They received startup support through ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs.

AI is my copilot

Ashraf Gaffar, an assistant professor in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, and his colleagues have created and licensed a suite of technologies in the smart-car space. One of these is an intelligent co-driver that Gaffar built in his Human-Car Interaction (HCaI) lab and tested on an ASU simulator. The co-driver monitors driving quality, whether human or autonomous, and makes the car immediately correct actions.

This is an improvement on other technologies that simply provide the driver with a warning. The co-driver uses deep machine learning, which allows for better comprehension and processing of complex data in short amounts of time.

“These technologies will provide human-level intelligence and are designed to work alongside humans to provide intelligent decision support,” says Gaffar.

Read more about Gaffar’s automotive AI research.


Ashraf Gaffar takes a spin in an automotive simulator on the ASU Polytechnic campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Ashraf Gaffar takes a spin in an automotive simulator on the ASU Polytechnic campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Electronic pill to monitor health

Winner of the Skysong Innovations faculty startup competition, Vantronics was launched by Hanqing Jiang, a professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. Jiang and his colleagues have developed an edible electronic device that can monitor gastric pH levels. This information can be important to patients with disorders such as acid reflux. Currently available techniques for monitoring gastric pH levels are invasive, uncomfortable and require administration by a health professional.

Vantronics’ edible electronics are the size of a typical pill, so patients can easily swallow them. Built-in communication systems within the pill allow the device to communicate with outside devices (e.g., a cellphone) to provide real-time gastric pH levels. All of the materials in the pill eventually dissolve inside the body.

Vantronics’ edible device can monitor gastric pH levels. llustration by Charles Shockley
Vantronics’ edible device can monitor gastric pH levels. llustration by Charles Shockley

Know your metabolic rate

Breezing has developed the only mobile diagnostic device that can measure metabolic data at gold standard levels of precision. The company was founded in 2011 by N.J. Tao, director of the Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors in the ASU Biodesign Institute, and Erica Forzani, a researcher in the center and associate professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

“The biggest breakthrough is our proprietary chemical sensor technology, which allows us to perform metabolic assessment more easily and cost effectively than any other solution on the market,” Tao says.

The company is currently seeking FDA registration for its technology, with which it plans to aggressively pursue obesity-related chronic disease treatment markets including type 2 diabetes, COPD and cardiovascular disease.

Breezing was named a winner of the Arizona Innovation Challenge by the Arizona Commerce Authority in December 2018. The company is preparing to launch its second-generation device, Breezing Pro, later this year. Breezing Pro has been designed specifically as a diagnostic device for health care professionals, incorporating much of the feedback received from customers of the first-generation product.

Cloud-free data processing

Teuvonet Technologies, led by Asim Roy, a professor in the W.P. Carey School of Business, has developed a small, self-contained “system on a chip.” Unlike other IoT technologies that process data through the cloud, Teuvonet Technologies’ system processes data internally for increased convenience and security.

It is designed to gather large amounts of data through sensors and to process that data in real time to make predictions. The system can use the analysis to change the actions of the sensor or convey the information to another system, such as a mobile device.

Applications could include predicting component failure in aircrafts, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation or infrastructure, or predicting onset of medical problems or failure in medical equipment. Teuvonet is currently working on a version of the technology that can be programmed in the field based on desired application. Once this is complete, they plan to partner with advanced technology companies to create new products that would learn in real time from streaming sensor data at the edge of IoT.

Putting idle resources to work

Smartiply, co-founded in 2015 by Junshan Zhang, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, is a high-tech fog computing startup company delivering boosted network connectivity and embedded artificial intelligence for internet of things devices.

Smartiply screen shot
Smartiply screenshot courtesy of Smartiply.

It specializes in the internetworking of physical devices, sensors, gateways and smart devices, enabling a sharing economy by leveraging idle resources on connected devices. Currently, the company has built two products that enable resource sharing (communication, sensing and storage) among devices in close proximity.

“Smartiply teams are currently building an IoT platform that applies fog computing and machine learning technologies to solve difficult problems faced by IoT applications,” Zhang says.

These are just a few of the novel products and services that ASU faculty, students and staff are creating, with many more on the horizon. Do you have a big idea for a new product or service? The following resources at ASU can help you:

ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E+I) connects students, faculty, staff and community members with the information, resources and people to help turn their ideas into reality.

Skysong Innovations is ASU’s exclusive technology transfer and intellectual property management organization. Skysong Innovations can help you protect your IP, apply for a patent, assess your invention's market potential and connect with companies who want to license your technology. 

ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E+I) is partially supported by Arizona’s Technology and Research Initiative Fund. TRIF investment has enabled hands-on training for tens of thousands of students across Arizona’s universities, thousands of scientific discoveries and patented technologies, and hundreds of new start-up companies. Publicly supported through voter approval, TRIF is an essential resource for growing Arizona’s economy and providing opportunities for Arizona residents to work, learn and thrive.