DBusiness Daily Update: Ten ‘Micro Makers’ Pitch to Become Next Big Thing at LTU, and More

By Jake Bekemeyer, Tim Keenan and R.J. King | June 27, 2022

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Ten companies pitched their products to judges in a “MicroMakers Pitch Event” at Lawrence Tech last week. // Courtesy of LTU

Ten ‘Micro Makers’ Pitch to Become Next Big Thing at LTU

Ten companies pitched their novel products to judges and an online audience of more than 50 people in a “MicroMakers Pitch Event,” conducted last week by the Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.

The event featured startups creating innovative physical products that are being established by historically underrepresented populations in the city of Southfield and Wayne County.

Judges for the event were Southfield Mayor Ken Siver; Wafa Dinaro, executive director of the New Economy Initiative; Nezar Akeel, founder and CEO of exercise equipment maker MaxPro; Rochelle Freeman, director of business development for the city of Southfield; Paul Riser, senior program officer at the Ralph Wilson Foundation; and David Farbman, partner at Farbman Group.

Winning the $10,000 for best early stage company was LucyPop with best early stage runner up going to Carpet Puller.

Southfield-based LucyPop, founded by licensed nail technician Tomia Osby, has developed a patented, microfiber-based nail product that allows regular nail polish to last up to three weeks. Osby said the product uses sustainable materials that unlike a lot of nail products today won’t damage fingernails. The product is in a prelaunch with early adopters. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Osby studied public relations and computer science at DePaul University.

Southfield-based Carpet Puller, led by veteran carpeting contractor Woody Gneckow is developing an “easier-to-use” tool for the removal of old carpeting, where there hasn’t been a technological advance in the tools of the trade in 50 years. The patented product shows promise in massively reducing the time it takes to remove old carpet, reduce workplace injuries, and improve recycling rates. The company’s slogan: “Pull carpet, not muscles.”

Winning the $10,000 for best growth stage company was Celsius with best growth stage company runner up going to AptumBuild and Wareologie.

Celsius founder Rakesh Katragadda has developed ionized water products with natural herbs that are shown to kill bacteria and viruses. Markets for the products include shampoos and other personal hygiene products, household and industrial cleaning, hydroponics, and pet care.

Madison Heights-based AptumBuild, led by longtime builders and auto engineers, has developed a modular structure system that allows buildings to be built quickly and inexpensively, with no nails or screws and no sawing required, by aligning and clicking panels together. Founder and CEO Bill Schofield said the structures offer good insulation and are tested in 150-mph winds.

The initial markets for the structures are recreational and park homes, with eventual inroads planned into disaster relief and affordable housing. In only four months, the company attracted $3.1 million in orders. The cost of the buildings? Just $40 a square foot.

Livonia-based Wareologie first developed Buttons2Button, a magnetic system for fastening buttons for people with limited dexterity. Now, founder Gina Adams said, the company has developed a portable parallel bar system for use in physical therapy.

Developed through a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the patent-pending unit replaces permanent installations that can’t be moved and today’s flimsy and unsafe portable units. Adams said the system will allow patients to access therapy sooner, regain mobility faster, and be discharged from the hospital earlier. The units will be sold direct to hospitals as well as to the wholesale market through medical device companies.

The winner of a $5,000 People’s Choice Award — sponsored by Ward Law, an intellectual property law firm with offices in Southfield and Tiffin, Ohio — was VersaWare. Developed by a group of former Divison I college athletes, VersaWare is developing a nutritional device that consists of a bowl and a cutting board with built-in scales and a small tablet computer that attaches to them—allowing users to easily calculate the precise nutritional value of every meal.

The product replaces apps that require much data entry in spreadsheets. Co-founder Jacob Lindberg said the product already has $125,000 in preorders. It’ll be pitched first to the 1.2 million Americans who “religiously track every single thing that they put into their body.”

Other participating companies were:

  • Leafinator: Developers of a rugged, all-in-one leaf and lawn care cleanup device.
  • Pareto Aluminum Systems LLC: Developers of lightweight, easy to assemble, low-cost, flooring systems for wheelchair users in vans, buses, and specialty vehicles.
  • Pingree Detroit: Developers of hand-crafted bags, accessories, and footwear, using high-quality leather and other materials reclaimed from the auto industry.
  • PlugZen LLC: Manufacturers and distributors of electric vehicle charging systems.

For more information, visit here.

Allbridge Expands Warehouse Footprint in Taylor

Allbridge, a North Carolina-based property technology solutions provider, has expanded its warehouse and logistics operations in Taylor allowing the company to fully stage 20-35 full-property technology projects at once.

“With our significant growth, we needed to expand our physical warehouse space,” says Vin Zachariah, COO at Allbridge, “We needed a facility close to our existing warehouse operations in Ann Arbor and be in close proximity to our primary distributors and avail ourselves of the shipping capabilities in the metro Detroit.

“We were fortunate to find a space that met our needs, allowed us to build on our existing team and within a few-mile distance to the Detroit airport. We now have enough space to store, configure, and ship an entire seamless project in one space and send it along to a job site ready to go.”

The new space, located at 22701 Trolley Industrial Dr. in Taylor, spans 52,000 square feet.

This facility expansion comes as more multifamily and hospitality properties are looking for ways to leverage technology and deliver exceptional resident and guest experiences that will differentiate the Company from its competition. The ability to stage, configure, and test equipment prior to onsite delivery allows Allbridge to deliver a seamless, end-to-end connected experience.

“This warehouse expansion took a great deal of time and consideration on our part, but it was well worth the effort,” says Eric Klumb, director of supply chain management at Allbridge. “We are now able to exhaustively and robustly support our existing clients while we service new full property tech (proptech) projects.

“It’s not just about extra space, but, for us, a boost to our entire business model. We can now easily handle a capacity of up to 35 full-service projects at a time, which really changes the game for us with regard to sales and services on the ground at our various existing client sites and new projects.”

For more information on Allbridge, visit allbridge.com.

Flag to Fly at Half-mast at Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to Honor Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson

On July 8 at 8:00 a.m., the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, owner of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center (CAYMC) in Detroit, will fly its flag at half-mast to honor the life and legacy of Tuskegee Airman Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson.

“In the annals of American and World History, Tuskegee Airman Jefferson is a hero who lived his life with purpose and distinction during the time of segregation in the U.S. Armed Services. He achieved in all aspects of his life serving in the U.S. Air Force, education, and as a proud lifelong Detroiter. He led by example,” says Sharon Madison, chair of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority.

As guests of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, at the CAYMC annual flag-raisings for each military branch on their national day of honor, Tuskegee Airmen attend and represent Lt. Col. Jefferson and other members, including the building’s namesake, Lt. Coleman A. Young, Detroit’s longest serving and first African American mayor.

The public is invited to attend the flag-raising.

Building Technology Flow in Commercial Construction Projects

By Gary Davila | November 1, 2022

Multifamily commercial real-estate continues to be at an all-time high across the country. But one area is often overlooked: building technology flow into a project.

With the current rising inflation across the country, one market has pressed forward based on the increasing demand: multifamily commercial real-estate (CRE). CRE continues to be at an all-time high across the country. But one area is often overlooked – building technology flow into a project in order to meet the increasing demands and expectations of guests and residents.

Photo credit: ©Sundry Photography – stock.adobe.com

Building technology interoperability, intuitiveness, scalability, or user experience are often not part of the building programming and design process. Most often, if technology is considered before construction, it occurs after the building floor plans are already defined and is limited to bandwidth, coverage, cabling runs, access control, or security systems. The secret to managing technology and ensuring that future demands are met lies in careful preparation.

The ideal time to start designing a strong foundation to support scalable technologies is early in the development planning process. Undoubtedly, building a new property, multifamily complex or mixed-use development involves more technology complexity now than ever before with an average of over 30 systems that need to interoperate, making it a challenge to implement while staying on schedule and within budget. When the owner or the developer engages a complete property technology partner with design capabilities early in the planning phase of the project, there is a vast opportunity to optimize the infrastructure of the building and the performance of the systems.

Many providers offer individual point solutions; however, a complete property technology provider can partner with the construction team to deliver professional new construction planning services from inception to completion to design, build and support an integrated, scalable ecosystem for all property technologies. The upside here is that there is specialization in the understanding of the latest technology trends, system requirements and future demands to ensure maximum performance.

Technology savvy developers and owners implement an approach balancing building operations with customer experience. This approach, when done well, prioritizes the user experience. The user experience is not limited to connectivity and security but considers space, lighting, aesthetics, reliability, intuitiveness, and the result is a “flow.”

Flow can be defined as a seamless and intuitive experience for the end user. A hotel customer experiences “flow” when they can check and access their room using their phone, as they move throughout the property their device automatically connects to secure networks, their room is already set to their desired temperature, the TV menu is familiar, they can order or services directly from their device, and all the hotel amenities are at their fingertips.

Multifamily resident flow is most often driven by tenant demographics or resident type. Older demographics may define flow as intuitiveness, convenience, security, and ease of use. Younger demographics may stress lighting, location of data ports, location of charging ports, multimedia amenities, and connectivity.

In either case “flow” is further enhanced by the intangible experience of intelligent and integrated design. When not considered during the design phase, technology components like access points (the devices that broadcast the Wi-Fi signal), entertainment set top boxes, routers, cameras, access control devices (card readers, magnetic locks) can appear as bolt on appendages to an otherwise beautiful space. Truth is much of the poor aesthetics of technology devices are attributable to device manufacturers themselves. However, when considered as part of the design, owners and designers can prioritize device aesthetics along with performance and function.

Once a plan is in place, the ability to handle the design of the infrastructure and cabling—in addition to the installation of the technologies that run off the network—can make or break a construction timeline and budget. When a thorough technology planning process is followed, developers can rest assured that no system is unaccounted for during the schematic design phase, systems are deployed with future requirements in mind and the project completes on time, within budget and with all architectural and functional needs met. All of this provides the overall flow for residents and guests.

Additionally, proper planning and project management provides the interior design team with the opportunity to align the implementation of the systems with the aesthetic needs of the building, minimizing the risk of incurring additional expense or delays in opening. In addition to building the technology flow into projects, developers can eliminate the stress and potential timeline constraints of having to coordinate the deployment of multiple technologies by separate vendors throughout the various stages in the project by engaging with a complete property technology provider.

By contemplating property wide end-user applications and services early in the development process, developers can also reduce capital expenditures and ongoing operating expenses by centralizing their technology needs with a single partner who manages all technology needs from project inception through to ongoing managed support. Implementing these traditionally disparate systems as a fully integrated solution offers cost synergies of 15-20% in upfront costs when factoring in hardware, installation and configuration. Additionally, a reputable technology provider can advise building automation enhancements in the planning stage that can result in government incentives for added savings once implemented.

Symbiotic to the guest or resident experience is the building operator and ownership experience. The user experience and aesthetic may drive the user interface, but the interoperability, scalability, reliability, ease of management, serviceability, and return on investment are driven by an intelligent and comprehensive design that is completely integrated with the building architecture.

When technology is considered early in the programming phase, and integrated with the building design, thought is given to cabling, serviceability, location of data closets, locations of visible devices, system scalability (future proofing by providing additional switching and routing capacity or additional cabling for instance), accessibility (how key components can be accessed for servicing or replacement).

Five Proptech Considerations to Ensure Hoteliers Meet Changing Guest Expectations

By Todd Johnstone CEO, Allbridge | January 2023

The effects of the pandemic on the hospitality industry have been truly transformative.

During this period guests stays – whether transient or planned – fell considerably.

The business conference industry came to a standstill and unsurprisingly weddings dropped off, as well. The industry gradually began showing signs of life and with it came changes to what customers were seeking in their hotel experiences. The effects of the pandemic were so profound that we felt it was important to take a moment to reflect and understand how it had altered the expectations for guests and the hoteliers themselves.

To do this we took a deep dive with decision markers in hospitality to inquire as to how they were responding to new expectations from their clientele. The following conclusions are drawn from a survey of these professionals to better understand the priorities that sit at the intersection of PropTech and customer satisfaction.

1. Convenience and Smart Tech are Top Priorities.

Respondents signaled that tech amenities were among the highest priorities–particularly due to the rise in contactless technology necessitated by the pandemic, and the increasing integration of smart devices in our daily lives.

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Changing The Paradigm of Hotel Revenue Management – With One Common Denominator

By Todd Johnstone CEO, Allbridge | October 2022

The hospitality industry was hit hard enough by a worldwide pandemic that forced many changes – some temporary, and some permanent.
Within the industry today, there’s closer consideration given to how revenues are generated, with many new ideas sprouting up that may potentially generate incremental new revenues. The revenue paradigm, it seems, is changing.

And there is one common denominator that is most likely to influence hotel revenue management: technology. Technology is the cornerstone to any differentiators for today’s modern property. Not only does it support property team members, but it is relied on heavily by guests looking for a superior customer experience.

Total Revenues and Ancillary Revenue Sources

Traditional revenue models focused on revenues per available room. But now, instead of revenues per available room, there’s a fresh new holistic way of looking at the model: it’s “total” revenues per square foot – the total revenue opportunity per square foot of hospitality space. Within a hotel property there are revenues from ancillary services and sources that can help total revenue management.

What kind of ancillary services can do this?

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