Cleantech Recylcer EcoATM Among Winners of San Diego’s “Most Innovative Products” Awards

12/11/09Follow @bvbigelow

EcoATM is on a tear. The San Diego startup founded last year has developed automated kiosks that enable consumers to recycle their used cell phones and other devices (and get a redemption) was today named the most innovative product in the cleantech category by Connect, the non-profit organization that supports technology and entrepreneurship.

Just last week, ecoATM picked up the $20,000 first-place award in the 10th annual “PitchFest” business plan competition put on by the San Diego Venture Group, a venture networking association. And in November, Coinstar named ecoATM as the winner of its “Big Idea” contest, which included a $10,000 check that was presented to ecoATM’s Mark Bowles at the KioskCom Self Service Expo in New York.

ecoATM kiosk

ecoATM kiosk

EcoATM’s big idea is to reward consumers who recycle their “retired” mobile phones by providing, in exchange, a “trade up” discount coupon, gift card, or charitable donation to a participating organization. The company’s automated recycling kiosks use patented technology to visually and electronically identify a handset or device, determine its value, and offer a trade-in promotion or redemption. The company installed its first kiosk at the Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha on Sept. 21.

The startup says mobile handsets that are less than two years old retain an average value of $18 at collection and an average value of $50 after they are refurbished. Phones more than two years old retain an average value of $2, and even “end-of-life” phones are worth about 75 cents when smelted to reclaim precious metals. (Consumers can reject or accept the exchange offer.) EcoATM, which has been forming partnerships with consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers, estimates that 1 billion used phones are languishing in closets and drawers—at a total value that could be as much as $12.2 billion.

Connect announced ecoATM’s award at a luncheon ceremony today, along with winners in seven other categories of the group’s 22nd annual “MIP” Most Innovative Products awards. The organization previously named the unmanned Predator military surveillance aircraft developed by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems as the recipient of this year’s William W. Otterson Award. The winners are:

Hardware and General Technology: Cymer for the XLR 600ix, the latest version of the specialized laser maker’s cabinet-sized deep ultraviolet light sources, which are part of the photolithography process used by the semiconductor industry to create integrated circuit patterns on silicon wafers. Cymer says its XLR 600ix enables 32 nanometer double patterning, and beyond.

Life Science-Medical Diagnostics and Research Tools: Naviscan for its Stereo Navigator Breast Biopsy Accessory. The medical diagnostics company specializes in PET scanner technology that includes advanced photonics and image processing to provide high-resolution images of abnormal tissue in breasts and small body parts.

Life Science-Medical Products: SynergEyes for ClearKone. The Carlsbad, CA, startup founded in 2001 develops hybrid contact lenses that combine the superior visual acuity of a rigid gas permeable lens with the comfort of a soft contact lens.

Software: Verance Corp. for Cinavia. Verance specializes in proprietary technologies and software designed to enhance media content and protect copyrighted material through digital “watermarks” for recorded music, film, and television content. Its Cinavia software was developed for Blu-ray formatted devices.

Communications & IT: Nextivity for Cel-Fi. Nextivity specializes in self-configuring, environmentally aware technology to optimize wireless 3G transmissions and reception. Its Cel-Fi product is intended to “light up” the interior of a house with significantly enhanced signal levels.

Aerospace and Security Technologies: Intevac Photonics for Night Port. A subsidiary of Santa Clara, CA-based Intevac, Intevac Photonics specializes in extreme low-light imaging technologies, including cameras, systems, and sensors for both military and commercial customers.

Action and Sport Technologies: Neptunic Technologies for its Neptech mesh protective material used to make the company’s Sharksuits for scuba divers.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Jake

    Cool. How about a bigger box for obsolete laptops?

  • Mark

    Jake, I work for ecoATM. Our system will handle PC, laptops, and other big CE devices in a future generation (2011). The machine will process and pay for those but won’t bin them inside the machine. Instead, ecoATM will print a reciept and asset tag to attach to the device and the store will physically handle these devices through the customer service desk or the like.