Counterfeit Medicine Fighter Sproxil Declared Winner at IBM SmartCamp Event Spotlighting Technology that Improves the Physical World

6/4/10Follow @xconomy

IBM predicts the next big set of opportunities in technology will be in the “intersection of the physical and digital world,” says Deborah Magid, a director in the company’s Venture Capital Group.

“It used to be where IT was never a part of our lives,” she said at an event Thursday celebrating the use of IT in the physical world. The event came as part of IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative, which focuses on the “smart” technology that’s used to track and enhance the efficiency of a slew of activities, including home energy use, travel, traffic monitoring, purchasing medicine, parking, food processing, and much more.

Yesterday, Big Blue held the Boston-area installment of the SmartCamp program, in which startups in the smart tech area head to IBM for a day of intensive mentoring and product development. A group of judges pronounces a winner at the end of the day, after the companies have presented their concepts to an audience of media, investors, entrepreneurs, and other members of the tech community.

Yesterday’s top honor went to Sproxil, a Somerville, MA-based company that’s using smart technology to fight counterfeit production of medicine, which is about a $75 billion problem in developing nations, according CEO Ashifi Gogo. Companies that use Sproxil’s “mobile product authentication” service package their products with scratch-off labels that reveal an item-unique code. Customers then text that code to Sproxil, which confirms whether or not the item is the real thing.

Sproxil’s smart product wasn’t necessarily the most high tech of those presented, but its ability to solve a real problem and its ease-of-use in countries such as Nigeria (Sproxil’s main market), where scratch-off labels are familiar to consumers, is what I think attracted the judges. The company enrolled BIOFEM Pharmaceuticals, Merck KGaA’s sole distributor in Nigeria, in a pilot test of its service, and BIOFEM has already signed up to use the service officially, Gogo told me after the event.

The SmartCamp winner gets 12 weeks of mentoring from IBM, and also some additional coaching from TechStars, which partnered in the event. In November, IBM will round up the winners of each of its seven SmartCamps this year, for a faceoff in Dublin to pronounce which company is the globe’s “smartest.”

“It should help us grow beyond the 12-person startup phase that we’re in,” Gogo said of Sproxil’s win.

The other Boston SmartCamp participants covered the travel, medical devices, and mapping spaces. They included: GIS Cloud, a provider of Web-based geoinformatics, or more intelligent mapping, and … Next Page »

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