Seattle Roundup: CES News from Satellites to Connected Cars, & More

With CES sucking up all the early 2016 air, we’ve cherry picked a few announcements from the big technology show from Seattle-area companies including Planetary Resources, Kymeta, and UIEvolution. (Our correspondent João-Pierre S. Ruth is on the scene, covering all the droids you’re looking for and more.) We’re also tracking a merger between TalentWise and SterlingBackcheck, and a related technology integration with Jobaline; a new asset from the University of Washington for healthcare innovators looking to connect with primary care doctors; and a new venture partner at Madrona Venture Group, Bill Richter. Read on for details:

Planetary Resources—the Seattle-area company with perhaps the grandest ambition: mining near-Earth asteroids for fun and profit—showed off an object at CES printed from asteroid metals. The first-of-its-kind object is a small “spacecraft prototype … reminiscent of a design that could originate from a 3-D printer in the zero-gravity environment of space,” Planetary Resources says in a blog post.

In this instance, the material was sourced from a meteorite found at the Campo Del Cielo impact in Argentina, rather than an asteroid captured in space. The meteorite, composed of iron, nickel, and cobalt, was “pulverized, powdered, and processed on the new 3-D Systems ProX DMP 320 metals 3-D printer.” Way cooler than a plastic ash tray, IMO.

In other 3-D-printed spacecraft news, J-P reports on a partnership between SyFy cable network and MakerBot enabling fans of The Expanse to print replica space vehicles from the show.

Kymeta, the maker of small, lightweight metamaterials satellite antennas, has inked a deal with Panasonic Avionics for “a significant volume” of the company’s flat-panel antennas and other technology to sell to the maritime market. Panisonic will manufacture and distribute the marine satellite terminals, with commercial availability set for 2017.

Metamaterials antennas have several significant advantages over existing technology, Kymeta says. They are lighter, quicker to install, and have no mechanical components. They track satellites from a moving platform using electronically steered beams.

Kymeta spun out of Intellectual Ventures and raised $50 million in 2013.

UIEvolution, the Kirkland, WA, company making software for application delivery on multiple platforms, landed significant wins at CES in the connected car business with Ford and Toyota.

UIEvolution is adopting Ford’s open-source smartphone interface for cars, SmartDeviceLink. Toyota announced that it is adopting the software, which gives drivers control over their smartphone apps using voice commands. Several other car makers are also exploring it.

Toyota is also working with UIEvolution on middleware for connecting Toyota approved apps and services with vehicle data to improve safety and security.

Also, a Toyota-backed fund, Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership, made a $5 million investment in UIEvolution late last year, the company announced.

And make sure to check out J-P’s dispatch on the road ahead for autonomous cars from CES.

—Bothell-based TalentWise, which conducts automated background and drug screenings, is merging with SterlingBackcheck, based in New York, which provides similar services to employers. Terms of the merger were not disclosed.

Meanwhile, Jobaline, which makes a mobile, bilingual platform for recruiting hourly workers, announced a partnership with TalentWise. The integration will allow employers to initiate these screenings from within Jobaline’s cloud-based recruiting system. The companies say this will give employers who hire hourly workers in high volumes better visibility into how each candidate is progressing through the process, while maintaining a positive experience for candidates.

TalentWise CEO Todd Owens says the Jobaline integration will benefit from the TalentWise-SterlingBackcheck merger.

“It is extremely positive news insofar as our integrated technology platform will now be powered by the market share leader in North America,” he says via e-mail. “Sterling has a huge focus on retail and hospitality.”

Bill Richter is joining Madrona Venture Group as a venture partner, following a year “in residence” with the firm advising and making angel investments in startups. Richter was at the financial controls of Isilon, the enterprise storage company, as CFO during its time as a public company and through its acquisition for $2.5 billion by EMC in 2010. He went on to other senior executive roles within EMC, most recently including president of the Isilon Storage Division.

—We covered the University of Washington’s new Primary Care Innovations Lab, which aims to help healthcare innovators large and small get real-world feedback from the front-line doctors who would use their technologies.

—Worth a read: The Seattle Times’ Ron Judd unpacks the secrets of Seattle’s current success, zooming in on: The good fortune of having Bill, Bill, and Jeff—Boeing, Gates, and Bezos—establish what would become world-changing businesses here. But he also credits the foresight of Seattle’s forebears in advocating for “the establishment and steady growth of the University of Washington, the scientific hub at the center of much of the region’s economic activity” and for keeping their eyes on the Pacific Rim, leveraging the natural advantage of the region’s physical location. Credit is given to a Congressional delegation that consistently brought home the bacon, particularly large defense contracts for Boeing back in the day. And of course no tally could be complete without a nod to the natural wonders of the Northwest, and the much vaunted quality of life that attracts and retains talented people.

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