Call it the Towering Shark Tank.
In a conference room on the 20th floor of Manchester's Hampshire Plaza, entrepreneurs took turns Thursday pitching their products before a judging panel convened by the NH High Tech Council. Each had 20 minutes to convince the group their innovation was worthy of the title Product of the Year.
Whether they were armed with a PowerPoint, a product demo or a scale model - one product would never have fit inside the room - the competitors were selling themselves as much as their next great game-changing idea.
Which one has the best shot at developing and marketing a product that will have a long-lasting impact, one that might change their industry's way of doing business and shake up the status quo? Judges made their choices based on such criteria.
The four companies selected each will each receive a POY Judges Award at the eighth annual event Nov. 12 at the Southeastern Regional Education Service Center in Bedford. The finalists will be on hand to discuss and demonstrate their product, and will make a seven-minute presentation to the audience.
After the presentations, the winner will be selected based on both the judges' evaluations and the audience vote. The trophy and the finalist's winning product will be on display at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
Past winners include Nanocomp Technologies, UltraVision, Insight Tech Gear, Holase Inc., Sky-Skan, Foss Manufacturing and Therma-Hexx. Here are this year's contenders:
BurstPoint Networks, Merrimack
BurstPoint Networks provides video streaming, recording and content management for business, education and government clients for such uses as virtual town meetings, distance learning and video on-demand.
In June, the company announced the latest generation of its video communications platform. I-STREAM delivers high-definition video streaming, recording, publishing and content management from a single box that carries a suggested retail price of $24,000. The company says I-STREAM offers three times the performance of competing products for a fraction of the price.
BurstPoint is relatively new to the Granite State. In August 2012, the company moved from Westborough, Mass., to 11 Continental Blvd. in Merrimack.
Patrick Clark, founder, president and CEO, a high-tech entrepreneur who has been involved with several startups, told the New Hampshire Union Leader he was drawn to the Granite State by a recruiting effort from state officials.
Granite State Manufacturing, Manchester
Granite State Manufacturing has developed a cargo container aimed at thwarting thieves trying to gain access to the valuable merchandise inside those giant boxes.
In June, the company outfitted a full-sized cargo carrier with an electronic security system for the Navy. "They said we can't tell you why we want it, but it's for something really important," Glenn Lawton, the company's president, told the Union Leader in July.
Granite State Manufacturing, which is partnering with TamperProof Global Systems Corp. of West Bend, Wis., employs a proprietary process that lines all six surfaces of the container with an electronic textile sensor system and makes it easy to convert an existing container into a tamper-proof system. It is designed to withstand the rigorous environments of land, sea and air transportation.
It can be retrofitted into existing container fleets and can detect breaches as small as 2 millimeters. The system also provides real-time data monitoring and alarm capabilities that can integrate with other communication networks.
Labsphere, North Sutton
Forty miles northwest of Manchester in the tiny town of North Sutton is the headquarters for Labsphere, a company founded in 1979 that specializes in the measurement of light for industrial manufacturers.
The company's Integral Light Measurement Software - Labsphere's first foray into the software - is the first light measurement software that uses HTML5 technology. It's platform independent, which means the software can be used with hardware made by Labsphere as well as with that of its competitors for both research and development and production.
Integral does not need to be installed on customer devices or tethered to light measurement equipment. The speed at which the light measurement scans are performed and data analyzed allows users to test more LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or products in a shorter amount of time, increasing productivity and efficiency, and shortening time to test and market lighting products.
LEDs are used as indicator lamps in many devices - the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 uses 500 LEDS rather than light bulbs - and are becoming increasingly common for use in general lighting.
Single Digits, Manchester
Single Digits aims to make it easier for travelers to instantly connect to the Internet via Facebook, Google or other applications that can authenticate their identity when they visit a hotel or coffee shop rather than having to finagle with a WiFi network provided by the business that requires using a password.
Its system also makes it easier for those businesses to make money from offering Internet access by partnering them with advertisers. The company's Open Network Exchange is the hub connecting users to a network, database service providers and app creators to large networks of users, and property owners to new revenue streams from their network. Through the interface, network owners can peruse a menu of options and turn on new services in their network. These services include advertising partners, rewards programs, and social media partners.
Single Digits - whose name alludes to the frigid winter temperatures in New Hampshire - operates the network as a neutral party to authenticate users, store credentials, set up policy and assign bandwidth, determine pricing and payment, track clicks, and allocate and distribute revenue.
The eighth annual Product of the Year event will be held at Southeastern Regional Education Service Center in Bedford at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 12. Tickets are $85 for nonmembers, $55 for NH High Tech Council members. To register, visit NHHTC.org.
Major sponsors are Cook, Little, Rosenblatt, and Manson PLLC; Cross Insurance; Dyn; FairPoint Communications; Public Service of New Hampshire, Hanover Insurance; and Nanocomp.