Among the interesting gizmos and gadgets revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month was a device engineered by three Maine brothers – Aron, Eric and Evan Semle – who grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine with engineering and computer science degrees.

The trio is developing upBed, a software application that works with a special sock designed by Sensoria Inc. to track wandering Alzheimer’s patients. The app connects to Sensoria’s smart sock, which has textile pressure sensors, detects when a patient leaves a bed and immediately notifies caregivers via text messages.

“We feel the caregiver market is primed for innovation, and we’re excited to apply Sensoria’s wearable technology to this new market,” said Aron Semle. Sensoria is a Redmond, Washington, company that makes computerized garments.

The Alzheimer’s Association says more than 5 million Americans suffer from the disease, and 60 percent of them are prone to wandering. Patients in the later stages of the disease are also prone to falling, requiring caregivers to be present when they wake up, Sensoria said in a news release. The company said existing technology relies on bedside alarms and pagers to notify caregivers.

Aron Semle said the partnership came indirectly through a hackathon sponsored by aizoOn, a technology consulting firm in Lewiston. For the hackathon, the brothers wanted to do something to help factory workers with foot problems, and Rob Dolci, president of aizoOn, pointed them to Sensoria.

“We reverse-engineered their sock technology and created an app to detect how long a worker was standing and the force on their feet. We submitted the project, competed against Ph.Ds and scientists, and won!” Semle said in an email to the Press Herald. “We were one of the few teams that had a working prototype. Rob put us in touch with Sensoria – they were impressed that we reverse-engineered their stuff and wanted to work with us more.”

From that connection the group brainstormed the upBed idea, created it and prepared a prototype that was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The feedback at CES was positive, so the Semle brothers are ramping up operations.

“If all goes well, we’ll create a company and start selling/improving the app,” said Semle. “Sensoria will sell the hardware/sock, and we’ll sell the app.”

In the national spotlight … again

Jeanne Hulit is a banker with a national reputation.

From September 2013 to February 2014, she was the acting administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet. After she returned home to Maine, she took a position with Northeast Bank in Lewiston, becoming president of its community banking division. In 2014, the bank launched an SBA Lending division to serve Maine and New England businesses with SBA-backed loans. Since then, the division has grown in markets around the country.

In fiscal year 2016, the bank ranked 68th out of the top 100 SBA lenders, making 23 loans valued at $13.2 million. Not bad for a bank with $858 million in assets.

By comparison, the bank that ranked No. 67, BancFirst in Oklahoma City, has $6.4 billion in assets.

Hulit is now back on a national stage, having just been elected to the board of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders. The association is the only national trade group that represents the interests of the SBA lending community, and supports its efforts to finance small-business needs through the SBA’s primary loan program, the 7(a) program.

She is one of five board members elected by the membership in 2015 to serve three-year terms, starting this month.

“I am excited to join their effort to support SBA lenders across the country, and ensure small businesses receive the capital they need to grow,” Hulit said in a news release.

 


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