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a coming showdown between the two companies. Hart says he wouldn’t be surprised if even more rivals pop up in the future “Siemens and other major manufacturers have had their own development projects, but we don’t know what stage they’ve reached,” Hart says.
Lantos brings quite a bit of engineering prowess to its ear scanner. Before founding the company, Hart co-founded Brontes Technologies, which was bought by St. Paul, MN-based 3M for $95 million in 2006. Brontes, which developed a 3D oral imaging system, was co-founded by engineer Federico Frigerio, who joined Hart at Lantos and now serves as the company’s chief scientific officer.
Hart was inspired to move from the mouth to the ears by his father, who has struggled with hearing problems. ”My dad is an engineer himself and quite an inventor,” Hart says. “He was frustrated because he’d want to call me up on the phone and talk and we couldn’t do that. In the process, I realized that most hearing aids just don’t function properly.” After delving into the audiology industry, Hart learned that when it comes to typical problems people face with their hearing aids—such as pesky feedback or just plain ineffectiveness—poor fit is often the culprit.
Hart says he can’t predict when the FDA might approve the 3D ear scanner, but the company is already getting its commercialization plan in place, he says. Lantos plans to build its own sales force and to form distribution partnerships with other companies, he says. “We’re in negotiations with multiple companies. The [sales] model will be a combination of shared revenue as well as selling directly to audiologists.”
Hart envisions an audience for Lantos’s technology beyond the audiology community, too. “There’s also an emerging market of custom-fit audio devices, from headphones to tools for in-your-ear health monitoring,” Hart says. Lantos has already heard from companies that make audio earphones, such as Park City, Utah-based Skullcandy, Hart says. “We’re currently focused only on the hearing market, but when you look at other opportunities, there’s a huge list.”