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Clark School Tech Startup Wins $500K Global Security Challenge

Clark School Tech Startup Wins $500K Global Security Challenge

From left to right: TRX CEO Carole Teolis (Ph.D., E.E., '94), TRX COO Karina Drees, and Jeff David of TSWG. Photo courtesy Simon Schneider, Global Security Challenge.
From left to right: TRX CEO Carole Teolis (Ph.D., E.E., '94), TRX COO Karina Drees, and Jeff David of TSWG. Photo courtesy Simon Schneider, Global Security Challenge.

TRX Systems, a company founded by University of Maryland Professor and Associate Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Gil Blankenship, nurtured in the university's tech company incubator and assisted by the university's Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, has won first place in the third annual Global Security Challenge (GSC) competition.

At the international final competition held in London on November 13, TRX Systems beat out five other semi-final winners from the American, Asian and European regionals. For winning the "Most Promising Security Start-up 2008" award, TRX Systems receives a $500,000 federal contract from the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG), the U.S. national forum that identifies, prioritizes, and coordinates interagency and international research and development requirements for combating terrorism.

TRX qualified for the GSC final by making it through two earlier rounds of judging, including co-winning the American Regional Semi-Final held at the University of Maryland in September. Chief Executive Officer, Carole Teolis (Ph.D., E.E., '94), and TRX Chief Operating Officer Karina Drees presented the TRX SentinelTM first responder personnel location, tracking, and monitoring technology in London.

"Winning the Global Security Challenge is a tremendous accomplishment for TRX Systems," said COO Drees, who led the company's presentations at both the GSC regional and global competitions. "It provides enormous recognition and a great boost to the development of the company and its products."

TRX Systems, based in Greenbelt, MD, recently graduated from the Technology Advancement Program, the incubator facility for startups that is part of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), a unit of the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering. Earlier this year, the company was named the Maryland Incubator Company of the Year for Homeland Security. TRX employs 17 people-seven full-time, seven part-time, and three consultants. All but three are University of Maryland alumni.

"The University of Maryland has a strong history of creating and supporting successful start up companies," said Brian Darmody, associate vice president for research and economic development. "And we believe the emergence of such private-sector, intelligence-related firms is an excellent trend for the economic development of the state and region," said Darmody, who attended the GSC competition final in London and helped to organize the American Semi-Final competition hosted at the University of Maryland in September.

“We are very proud of this important entrepreneurial achievement by our faculty, students and alumni associated with TRX,” said Dr. Patrick O’Shea, chairman of the ECE Department at the University of Maryland. “This is a great example of our emphasis on research efforts translating into real outcomes that offer tremendous benefits to society.”

TRX's presentation at the GSC showcased the prototype system, which, according to the company, can effectively track individuals inside multi-story buildings with no special instrumentation or preparation of the incident site required. The system provides accurate, reliable locations in 3-dimensions, indoors and outside regardless of the local environment, weather conditions, availability of GPS, etc, it says.

TRX's innovative map generation software is a key part of the company's IP according to TRX's Drees. "The map generation software enables the responders to generate a floor plan if one is not available when first responders arrive on scene. These floor plans can greatly improve situational awareness as well as improve tracking capability," she said. In addition to superior incident management of resources, the system's precision location and health information for deployed personnel permits a dramatic decrease in rescue time for distressed or downed firefighters.

"Interaction with firefighters from the start has been critical to the development of a system that firefighters will use and that meets their requirements," said TRX CEO Teolis. "The involvement of the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute has been vital in the development of the TRX system," she said.

Teolis, a 1994 Ph.D. graduate in electrical engineering, was advised by Professor John Baras (ECE/ISR). Teolis also holds a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Maryland.

Prior to its GSC victory, TRX's research and development had already drawn support from the National Science Foundation, the TSWG, the Department of Homeland Security, the Laboratory for Physical Sciences, the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI), and the Center for Fire Safety Research and Development (CFSRD) and private investors. The State of Maryland has also supported TRX Systems through the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), the Maryland Industrial Partnership (MIPS) Program, and the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) Program.

"The Global Security Challenge is so important because it reaches the new, small, non-traditional players that so frequently drive innovations," said Jeff David, deputy director of the TSWG that is providing TRX with the winner's $500,000 contract. "We are proud to sponsor the award for the GSC winner because the GSC is an effective launching pad for security entrepreneurs."

November 17, 2008


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