Guest Blog: The Common Thread of Innovation

  • The Common Thread of Innovation

    If you’re reading this, you’re familiar with at least one winner of the 2014 Chicago Innovation Awards. Maybe you cast one of the 30,000 votes for the People’s Choice Award, which alligatortek took home on October 30th at the 13th annual Chicago Innovation Awards ceremony. I enjoyed meeting the fun people behind this innovative company that night, and they’ve invited me to introduce you to our other exciting winners.

    Like alligatortek, each of these companies has innovation at their core, and their winning product or service was considered by our team of judges to be among the year’s very best. Each saw an unmet need and developed an innovative solution – a solution that stood out among the year’s 552 nominees.

    But that’s largely where the similarities end. You can see the Chicago Innovation Award winners as a spectrum of innovation that runs across all industries, sectors, and sizes – from large corporations to small start-ups, high tech or no tech, government and non-profit – all with their own unique solution to change their market, the Chicago region, even the world.

    In many cases, the need was obvious but the solution was tricky.

    Take Keeper Security, who developed a password manager that runs on phones, tablets, and computers. With identity theft and data breaches rising in tandem with web-based transactions, it’s a tough ask to get someone to store all their passwords in one spot. But Keeper Security developed an “un-hackable” system, the first of its kind.

    Some innovations are underground, like LMK Technologies’ solution for leaky sewer pipes. This problem can be so pervasive, it nearly drove the city of Naperville to spend millions on water treatment. But that wasn’t necessary when they caught wind of LMK’s T-Liner, a textile sleeve that slips onto existing pipes to prevent sewage seepage.

    There are some needs we didn’t even know existed until the solution was presented.

    In the case of Mattersight, they knew that communication between customers and call centers could not only be improved, but transformed into a positive experience. They developed a complex process of behavioral data analysis to match callers with like-minded phone operators, and the results have attracted some of the country’s top corporations to the service.

    Then there’s dough, Inc., which acts as a gateway for inexperienced investors into the world of options trading. By making investment activity interactive and easy to understand, they’ve opened up trading to an entirely untapped demographic.

    A trend we noticed over the past year was healthcare innovation. This is a field that is constantly evolving – and needs to be.

    But quick change over so many areas makes it difficult for hospitals to develop efficient financial practices while keeping the focus on quality of care. The StrataJazz platform from Strata Decision Technology takes the bulk of cost data and streamlines it to provide quick, accurate insights that inform operating budgets, saving hospitals millions in unnecessary spending.

    The second healthcare winner was a patient-focused innovation developed by Horizon Pharma. For years, those receiving ibuprofen to quell the pain of arthritis had to confront the ugly side effect of stomach ulcers. Horizon identified this problem and, combining ibuprofen with famotidine, created a medication that both treats arthritis and protects the stomach.

    Winners also came from the more tangible world of product innovation.

    The 97-year-old toy manufacturer Radio Flyer showed off its innovation chops with the Ziggle – a tricycle-like rider that requires kids to wiggle in order to propel forward. The tech whizzes behind Swingbyte saw to it that adults weren’t left out of the fun, winning for their mobile golf swing analyzer. The device, which attaches directly to the club, sends a complete 3-D animation of the swing to the user’s mobile phone, allowing for immediate and precise analysis.

    Lastly, we have two companies that operate in very different worlds, both using technology to drive returns.

    Rise Interactive developed a marketing analysis framework called Interactive Investment Management, which zones in on numerous marketing channels used by a given company and sifts through all the data to find the concrete results. This makes marketing analysis quick and efficient, allowing marketers to identify the most fruitful methods.

    AuctionsByCellular uses mobile technology to drive returns from charitable auctions. Giving donors the option to bid with their phones opens up an array of possibilities. Donors can bid from anywhere, keep track of an item’s progress in real time, receive text communication from the host, and experience the bidding process in the most fun and competitive way yet imagined. This leads to significant returns and less hassle for charities.

    All of these impressive winners offer a glimpse into Chicago’s innovation landscape. You can view videos of each company and see every winner from the Chicago Innovation Awards’ thirteen-year history here.

    Where will the next big ideas come from?

     

    About Paul Kitti

    Paul Kitti is the Program Coordinator for the Chicago Innovation Awards and works to engage the community through event production, digital media, and communications. A University of Michigan graduate, he has experience in marketing, journalism, graphic design, and events. When he is not working, Paul enjoys bold ideas, innovative thinkers, West Highland Terriers, weird movies, and Detroit sports.

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