Market ripe for tech start-ups

Gatorade to market biosensor developed at Wright-Patt lab.

Gatorade expects to market an Air Force Research Laboratory-developed biosensor that checks hydration levels of elite athletes, the company has announced.

The commercialization of the AFRL-derived technology, developed with the University of Cincinnati and a Virginia-based start-up called CoreSyte, marks the first of what Wright Brothers Institute officials hope will lead to start-ups in the Dayton region in four technical areas.

WBI has called on technologists and investors for ideas over the next 16 months to tackle issues in precision agriculture, energy, human performance enhancement and environmental monitoring.

“We essentially looked at sort of big market areas that affect the state,” said Craig A. Steffen, a WBI technology transfer manager.

The best ideas will be vetted for market demand with the hope of creating start-ups in the Dayton region, officials said.

Ideas can be submitted through a “blue paper” to the WBI website at

“We’re not just looking to involve people we are already aware of,” Steffen said. “We’re looking for fresh innovation coming from sources that we don’t yet know about.”

Wright Brothers Institute would explore market research to determine the economic viability of an idea.

“It’s the market that decides,” Steffen said. “The market is going to tell us what they want and how much they’ll pay for it and when they want it.”

A Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment grant meant to diversify Dayton’s economy beyond the influence of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the defense industry covers research costs, but technologists and entrepreneurs will have to produce or find seed money, officials said.

Tec^Edge Ventures, a WBI and SP Global-launched non-profit entity, would “mentor” the projects selected as the best and help find funding, said Kim Frazier, a WBI senior collaboration strategist.

WBI officials will focus on precision agriculture the first few months, but ideas in any of the four areas will be accepted and evaluated, officials said.

But there’s no guarantee a company would bring jobs at a new start-up tech firm to the Dayton region, a point Dale Kirby, a past president of the Dayton Area Defense Contractors, broached with WBI leaders Thursday with an audience of dozens of technologists and potential investors.

“We need to create incentives for the investors to keep the investment here in Ohio,” he said in an interview, adding outside investors could dictate a start-up locate outside of the region. “We have to show them that we support those companies from inception to full success.”

A digital sweat patch

WBI leaders, who traditionally have acted as a non-profit intermediary to bring AFRL technology to market, say their role to help create the CoreSyte start-up is an example of the potential to launch tech start-ups that reach deals with companies like Gatorade.

Gatorade has tested the digital sweat patch as part of a “hydration customization platform” that offers recommendations to athletes on when to refuel, according to Xavi Cortadellas, global innovation and design senior director at Gatorade.

The patch will show on an app in real time an athlete’s hydration level. The biosensor monitors an athlete’s “sweat profile” by tracking sodium and potassium loss and chloride levels, he said.

A microchip-embedded “smart cap” on top of a bottle tracks how much he is drinking and “telling him if he is ahead or behind their target,” Cortadellas said. A light on top of the bottle tells the athlete when to drink.

Combined, the two sets of data — from the sensor and the smart cap — tells an athlete how he or she needs to refuel to reach a greater performance level.

The beverage maker hopes to offer the product to college and professional sports teams and “everyday athletes who are really committed to their performance,” Cortadellas said.

“The system is still a work in progress and we do not know exact launch timing of smart cap bottle or digital sweat patch,” Gatorade spokesman Noah Gold said in an email Friday. “Obviously the hope would be to go to market sooner rather than later but it’s dependent on a number of factors.”

The company has featured the technology in a recent television commercial.

Tracking troop performance

AFRL researchers teamed with the University of Cincinnati to create the sweat sensors to track the performance of special forces troops. Dayton-headquartered Emitti, a software and mobile app company, also developed software to collect and analyze biomaker data from the sensor, officials said.

CoreSyte and Cincinnati-based Eccrine Systems, Inc., a sweat sensor technology firm, have a licensing agreement on the Band-Aid sized sweat patch, according to WBI. Eccrine would collect royalties and share the money with AFRL and the University of Cincinnati, WBI said.