Business & Tech

hiawatha bray | tech lab

Local companies pitch the next big tech thing

Cambridge Sound Management's Nightingale
Cambridge Sound Management
Cambridge Sound Management's Nightingale

LAS VEGAS — Greater Boston creates lots of brilliant technologies, but not a lot of great consumer technology companies. Still, local entrepreneurs never stop trying. Every year, a cluster of Bay State innovators comes to the Consumer Electronics Show to demonstrate new gadgets that may or may not put some of their companies on the map.

Will Graylin’s already had his share of success. A couple of years ago he came to CES with LoopPay, a system to let people use their smartphones to make credit card payments. Samsung Corp. bought the company and used the technology to create the Samsung Pay service on the company’s Galaxy S line of smartphones.

Graylin is still a general manager of Samsung Pay. But he’s also executive chairman of ONvocal, a Northborough startup that’s created what Graylin calls “a wearable voice assistant.”


The device, OV, is a sleek Bluetooth wireless headset that works with’s Alexa speech control system. Alexa connects to a home’s computer network and the Internet, and it lets users control many common devices — audio equipment, TVs, heating and air conditioning systems, even cars — with simple verbal commands

OV lets users issue any of these commands by touching a button and speaking. So this headset does a lot more than play music. A user can start his car remotely, turn off the television, and lower the thermostat to 68, just by saying the words. And OV also works with two other popular speech control systems, Apple’s Siri and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Now.

OV, at $399, goes on sale this month.

A much bigger local company, Boston’s Liberty Mutual Group, came to Las Vegas last year with RightTrack, a system that lets the insurer track their customers’ driving habits with an electronic device plugged into their cars. Customers who drive slower and more carefully are entitled to cheaper rates.

OV headphones by ONvocal
OV headphones by ONvocal

This year, Liberty Mutual wants to make safe driving a game that anybody can play. The company’s new HighwayHero app is a free download for Apple and Android devices. The app uses the phone’s motion detection chips to measure speed, acceleration, and braking, to determine whether the user is driving carefully. Users can compete with each other in local competitions to choose the safest driver in that community. In 16 US states — not including Massachusetts — Liberty Mutual will reward the safest drivers with lower insurance rates.


WiTricity Corp. of Watertown, a maker of wireless battery charging systems, has worked with computer giant Dell Technologies to make a laptop that never needs plugging into a power outlet. The Dell Latitude 7285 incorporates WiTricity’s AirFuel system, so its battery can be recharged simply by placing the laptop on an AirFuel charging pad.

Last month, WiTricity struck a deal with General Motors to develop car-sized charging pads for feeding wireless power to electric cars.

Immedia Inc., a microchip design company in Andover, scored a major hit last year with Blink, a high-resolution Internet-linked home security camera powered by two standard AA batteries. The company says it’s sold 250,000 of them so far. At CES, Immedia has introduced a stack of new devices in a bid to become a full-service provider of home security hardware.

These include a weatherproof outdoor version of the original Blink camera; entry sensors to protect doors and windows; a keypad to arm or disarm the system; moisture sensors to detect plumbing or roof leaks; and a control hub that connects the Blink devices to a cellular data network and has battery backup in case of power outages. A starter kit of Blink products costs $339, plus an additional $19.95 monthly fee to have a security company monitor the user’s home.

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Perhaps the most unusual offering from Greater Boston comes from Cambridge Sound Management, an 18-year-old company in Woburn that makes sound generation gear to suppress unwanted noises. Many business offices use such equipment to hide distracting sounds and help workers concentrate.


Now Cambridge Sound Management has created its first product for the home. Nightingale is a $249 system that features two audio devices that are plugged into a room’s electrical outlets. Together they generate a “sound blanket” that suppresses outside noise by flooding the room with waves of peaceful sound.

Each Nightingale can be programmed to suit the acoustic qualities of a particular room. And multiple devices can be installed throughout the house and controlled through a smartphone app. The Nightingale can also be integrated with popular smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo, allowing users to turn it on and off with voice commands.

It’s a pretty elaborate answer to the quest for a good night’s sleep. But Cambridge Sound Management hopes it’s exactly what restless people have been waiting for.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.