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Hardware can be a tough world, but the Pacific Northwest is replete with ambitious gadget makers looking for creative solutions to problems of all sorts.

Private email servers, heart monitors, smart home gadgets and a drone well-versed in operating in tight spaces — this year’s crop of finalists for Hardware/Gadget of the Year at the 2019 GeekWire Awards has it all.

Led by serial entrepreneurs and alums of some of the world’s biggest companies, the finalists — Bardy Diagnostics, Helm, Lubn, Vtrus and Wyze Labs — are aiming to upend their markets.

We’ve opened voting in 11 GeekWire Awards categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from our more than 30 judges (see here). On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19.

Last year, the high tech manufactured housing startup Blokable took home the hardware in our hardware category. Other past winners include Moment, Microsoft’s Surface Book, Meld, and Poppy.

Read about the finalists and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to grab your tickets, as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year.

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Bardy Diagnostics

The Carnation Ambulatory Monitor, or CAM for short, is designed to be worn comfortably for approximately a week, with the goal of improving patient compliance. (Bardy Diagnostics Photo)

Bardy Diagnostics wants to change the way medical professionals monitor heart conditions.

The Seattle company makes a non-invasive cardiac monitor patch that helps detect arrhythmia. The Carnation Ambulatory Monitor, or CAM for short, is designed to be worn comfortably for approximately a week, with the goal of improving patient compliance.

Last summer, Bardy raised a funding round of undisclosed size to grow its sales team and monitoring services, advance research and development programs and accelerate development of artificial intelligence diagnostic capabilities.

The company recently expanded its reach to Canada through an alliance with JNC Medical, a medical technologies distributor based in Ottawa, Ontario. News of the expansion came just a few weeks after Bardy said it reached a milestone of 40,000 customers for the CAM patch in January.

Bardy is led by Gust Bardy, a long-time cardiac electrophysiologist who also serves as a clinical professor of medicine, cardiology, at the University of Washington and is the director of the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research. Bardy sold his previous company, Cameron Health, to Boston Scientific in 2012.

Helm

The Helm. (Helm Photo)

This Seattle-area startup wants to redefine email at a time when privacy and security issues related to personal data hosted by big tech companies in the cloud are top of mind.

Helm, formerly known as Privacy Labs, last year unveiled a $499 device that lets consumers send and receive email from their own domain, in addition to saving contacts and calendar events. The company’s personal physical email server puts it squarely in the crosshairs of tech giants such as Google.

The device is about the size of a router and looks like an upside-down book placed on a table. It connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm supports standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting connection between the device and the apps.

According to the company’s website, the device is sold out right now, but Helm promises to make more. Buyers can reserve their spot in line for $99.

The idea comes from Giri Sreenivas and Dirk Sigurdson, two entrepreneurs who previously sold a security startup. The co-founders, based in Bellevue, Wash., raised a $4 million seed round from top venture capital firms in 2017.

Lubn

The LTE smart key box by Seattle startup Lubn won a 2019 CES Innovation Award in the smart home category. (Photo: Lubn)

Lubn is part of a movement toward a smarter lock-and-key solutions.

The startup is developing hardware and software products designed for property managers, retail store owners and others to remotely manage who comes and goes at their properties. Its main product is a smart key box with visual authentication that connects to the cloud via 4G LTE.

The LubnBox was a recipient of a CES Innovation Award at the giant electronics show in Las Vegas this past January and last year the company appeared on GeekWire’s Elevator Pitch show. Lubn also offers an app and dashboard to let users remotely control who can enter their properties and at what times.

As a father who was juggling a career at Microsoft while also managing multiple rental properties scattered internationally, Lubn co-founder and CEO Yuan-Chou “YC” Chung got the idea for the product from his own experience. He wanted a simple solution for controlling and coordinating access to the properties to give him more time for family. He teamed up with fellow co-founders Autumn Li, who is the company’s CTO, and Charles Chang, adviser, to create Lubn. The company is based at WeWork Labs in Seattle.

Vtrus

Drones are everywhere these days, but it’s still unclear what their best use will be. A Seattle startup is seizing on the technology to conduct precision inspections of industrial facilities.

Vtrus, based near the Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, has developed an indoor autonomous drone known as the ABI Zero that can navigate its way around the tricky surroundings of a warehouse environment without the need for a remote operator or GPS waypoints. The company, which has skirted Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on outdoor drone flights because it works exclusively indoors, is raising cash to continue refining its offerings.

ABI Zero can conduct an aerial survey for as long as 10 minutes, and then return to its base station for charging. The base also serves as a WiFi-enabled link for receiving streaming data from the drone and relaying it to Vtrus’ cloud service.

Vtrus takes advantage of a computer vision technique called SLAM (Simultaneous Location and Mapping), which enables drones to build a high-fidelity map of their surroundings. Thirty times a second, the SLAM software keeps track of 300,000 depth points captured by an array of cameras and sensors.

Renato Salas-Moreno, CEO, previously co-founded Surreal Vision, a computer vision startup that sold in 2015 to Oculus, Facebook’s VR subsidiary. He went on to work at Oculus VR for more than a year as a research scientist in Redmond, Wash., then helped lay the groundwork for Vtrus, which he launched in 2017 with chief technology officer Jonathan Lenoff and chief design officer Carlos Sanchez.

Wyze Labs

Fresh off raising $20 million earlier this year, Kirkland, Wash.-based Wyze Labs is making waves in the smart home security market with its low-cost camera.

Wyze was founded by Amazon veterans Yun Zhang, Dave Crosby, Elana Fishman and Dongsheng Song in 2017. Later that year, the startup launched its WyzeCam camera with 1080p HD video and 14 days of free cloud storage. At $19.99, the price severely undercut the group’s former employer, as Amazon released its own Cloud Cam for $119.99 around the same time.

Fishman appeared on an episode of GeekWire’s Elevator Pitch this past summer and said at the time that the company had sold over a quarter-million units in less than six months.

The company launched another piece of hardware, the $29.99 WyzeCam Pan, in May 2018.

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