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How’s this for a fantasy come true: never having to remember — or reset — another password?
A startup with employees in Boston and San Francisco is developing technology for a smartphone app to make logging in to a website less frustrating and more secure. Certus Technology Systems has raised about $375,000 in seed funding from individual investors and is conducting its first pilot test.
“The basic idea is that a smartphone can serve as a high-tech authentication device, communicating with your laptop or tablet using high-frequency sound waves,” says Andrew Grochal, Certus’s vice president of operations. “Every time you log into a site, we’re generating a unique, one-time-use password that only exists for a split second. It’s a kind of sound fingerprint that your smartphone creates and the other device hears.”
Certus can also use the smartphone’s unique ID, an identifier built into its app, and the phone’s location to authenticate that you are the person who should have access to a given brokerage account, for instance.
“If you always log in from your home in the Back Bay, and then one day you’re logging in from China, we can pose some additional challenge questions for you,” Grochal says.
Additional layers of authentication the company is considering include voice and facial recognition.
Certus’s chief technology officer is Jack Wolosewicz, who founded the company in early 2013. Previously, Wolosewicz started Verance Corp., which created and licenses a digital watermarking technology intended to prevent music and video piracy.
Certus has four employees in Boston and two in San Francisco, including Wolosewicz.
In February, Google acquired a company that’s developing similar technology, SlickLogin. That could be good for Certus (allowing it to bring an independent solution to the market) or bad (Google, you may have noticed, has a lot of money to throw at R&D, product development, and marketing).
Certus has filed four patent applications related to its product, and Grochal calls SlickLogin “a simplified version of everything we are building here.”
Partners introduces incentive to innovate
I recently interviewed Salesforce president Keith Block about how a large company can innovate like a startup. But there’s one strategy he didn’t mention: handing out cash.
Partners HealthCare has started cutting $50,000 checks to employees who come up with creative treatment ideas that could be commercially viable. The awards must be used to fund projects and are part of the health care network’s Innovation Development Grant program, unveiled Thursday. Partners plans to make this an annual contest to encourage doctors and researchers to think beyond current practices.
“Our vision is to foster the spirit of innovation that exists among our 60,000 employees, as well as encourage first-time innovators,” said Chris Coburn, Partners vice president for innovation.
The first 20 winners — from among 350 applicants — proposed ideas that include new treatments for ovarian cancer and kidney and liver disease; a nonsurgical alternative to gastric bypass surgery for patients with type 2 diabetes; and sensors for monitoring anesthesia in pediatric patients.
Partners already helps employees take health care products to market through its innovation division, led by Coburn. The company owns the intellectual property rights to employees’ inventions and splits the proceeds of commercial licensing agreements, with 25 percent going to the creator, 25 percent to his or her lab, 25 percent to his or her department, and 25 percent to Partners.
The grants should accelerate commercialization efforts, said Anne Klibanski, the company’s chief academic officer.
“Working successfully with industry is a high priority for Partners HealthCare,” she said. “This new program is an important tool to speed the breakthrough innovations of our staff into new patient-benefiting products.”