This fall, Dr. Allison Mathews met a young woman who had fallen in love. But there was a complication: her partner was HIV-positive and didn’t have access to medication.
Mathews was uniquely positioned to help. Her startup, Digital LinCS, connects such at-risk patients with medication and other health resources, and was in the midst of a 12-week pilot program with the Durham County Public Health Department as part of the 2018 Innovate Durham program.
Mathews was able to walk the woman through the necessary (online) paperwork and get approval for the meds. Without Digital LinCS, filling out pen-and-paper forms takes more like three hours—and waiting for approval can take up to three months.
That was just one success story from the Innovate Durham program, which concluded Tuesday night when the six participating startups that completed a 12-week pilot with a branch of either the City or County of Durham presented at a Demo Day held at Durham’s Hayti Heritage Center.
For Mathews and Digital LinCS, Innovate Durham is more of a beginning than an end. Digital LinCS secured licensing agreements with six local clinics and has kicked off a large patient enrollment drive to meet the Jan. 1 deadline that’s required by many programs.
“It really catapulted our platform,” says Mathews of the 12-week program. “It got us access to all these government systems to have a chance to think through how to integrate with them. We didn’t have those kinds of resources before. And now we can say that we had a pilot program with the County Health Department to help sign up new partners.”
The other five startups that presented on Tuesday felt they had made similar progress thanks to the chance to embed with a branch of the city or county government to test their products or services in real-life situations while getting invaluable feedback. Besides Digital LinCS, the other companies were:
Deep Visual Insights, presented by Daniel Reichman — The company used its tech to help Duke University automatically track which of its 1,000+ security cameras might need maintenance at any given time.
State of Place, presented by Devin Nieusma (Duke senior) — Using predictive analytics, the company assessed a score on its State of Play index to 300+ intersections in Durham to measure, among other things, how various factors correlated with vehicular and pedestrian accidents. The goal was to help the City of Durham Transportation Department’s Vision Zero efforts, which aim for zero fatalities or serious injuries from traffic accidents.
Hoverly, presented by Nicolas Robbe — Partnering with the Durham County Library & Engineering Services Department, Hoverly used its augmented reality (AR) application to create descriptive multimedia presentations that users can access via their phone camera when physically present at specific city landmarks, such as the still-under-construction Main Library branch.
TRASHR, presented by Nick Conlon (NC State senior) — The company placed IoT sensors in six “fringe” dumpsters — trash containers that were far from the city center — to provide data to the City of Durham’s Solid Waste Department to devise an optimal dumpster-emptying schedule that saves time, labor and gasoline expense.
Rownd, presented by Sarah and Rob Thelan — Embedded with the City of Durham Fleet department, IoT platform Rownd built tools to help the city monitor and manage the use of its 1,500+ vehicles, both on the micro and macro level.
This was the second cohort of the Innovate Durham program, and the first that involved the County of Durham in addition to the City. And according the Eric Marsh, a strategic initiatives analyst for the county who helped run the program, it’s just the start.
“Change doesn’t happen linearly, but exponentially,” he said. “We see the quality, quantity, and diversity of our applicants just increasing. We reap benefits on both sides. The companies get a proof of concept with someone respectable while getting real insight from real-world players, and the local governments benefit from the latest technology to solve problems.”