MIPS 25th Anniversary Profile: Alertus Technologies–emergency alert messaging system

Leading up to (and beyond) the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) 25th Anniversary Gala, each weekday we will briefly profile one of the 500+ companies that have utilized MIPS funding to bring innovations to market and create jobs in Maryland. These profiles will be collected in a commemorative book, released at the celebration on November 7.

Alertus Technologies’ wall-mounted Alert Beacon® captures the attention of building occupants with flashing strobes and a sounder, and notifies what the emergency is and how to respond. The units are typically mounted in lobbies and prominent areas as a cost effective solution to equip multi-building facilities with reliable emergency notification in the absence of a conventional public address system. Alert Beacons® are today installed in hundreds of campuses and other facilities.

Project Manager:  Jason Volk;  Principal Investigator:  Steven Tretter, UMD
Location:  Beltsville, Maryland – Prince George’s County;  Project Start Date:  8/1/2002

Business Description
Alertus Technologies has a decade of experience in developing emergency alert systems for campuses and large-area, high-occupancy facilities. The Alertus Emergency Notification System is designed to cost-effectively retrofit in-building spaces through innovative technologies such as the Alert Beacon®, while leveraging and integrating existing facility infrastructure and IT assets. The outcome is a single, integrated “easy button” alerting capability to ensure timely, consistent notifications to everyone enterprise-wide. Alertus is recognized worldwide for its unparalleled reliability, affordability, and interoperability. The company’s clients can attest to the reliability of the Alertus solution, having activated the system during real emergencies and threats to save lives, protect property, and maintain continuity of operations.

Challenge
In 2001, a tornado ripped through the University of Maryland, tragically killing two students and injuring others. Unfortunately, like most campuses, the buildings did not have a public address system.  Alertus Technologies was founded by a university student, Jason Volk (’03, MBA ’05), then 19 years old, with an innovative idea for equipping campuses with prominently placed, wall-mounted, audible-visual notification appliances using a reliable, cost-effective transmission medium, FM radio data subcarriers. To put the idea into practice, the technology would need to be optimized and prototyped.

MIPS Role
Through MIPS, Alertus Technologies completed a prototype of the company’s Alert Beacon® and validated the system’s radio subcarrier technology.

Results
Alertus Technologies now has 20 employees, multi-million dollar revenue, and a continually expanding product line. The company has hundreds of customers, including the U.S. Capitol and other government facilities, universities and schools, medical centers, military bases, and commercial facilities. Alertus’ products are distributed by Honeywell Fire Systems and serve as a receiving device for WeatherBug’s lightning detection stations in school systems and airports across the country. Alertus Technologies has developed additional products related to its Alert Beacon®, including a text-to-speech interface for public address (PA) systems, digital signage override software, Alertus Desktop for computer networks, cable TV override, LED marquees, VOIP alerts, and a fire alarm interface.

Interesting Facts
Alertus Technologies was the first student-formed company to receive MIPS funding. Just as the company’s MIPS project ended, Alertus received funding from an NCIIA grant, business plan competitions, and TEDCO grants to bring the invention to market.

Several key member’s of Alertus’ team were participants of the university’s Hinman CEOs Program, the nation’s first undergraduate living-learning entrepreneurship initiative. Blake Robertson, CTO, connected with Jason in 2003 while both were in Hinman.

FEMA partnered with Alertus during the past few years on its initiative to create a next-generation national Integrated Public Alert Warning System. Alertus was awarded a contract for the study and testing of its radio subcarrier technology and has assisted in other areas such as alerting individuals with disabilities.

MIPS-Related Quote
“MIPS funding was pivotal. It enabled us to validate the invention’s commercialization potential and get onto the path to our first customers. Without MIPS, we would not have been able to get our first product out the door and land those first few key customers.”
– Jason Volk, CEO, Alertus Technologies

Download the Alertus Technologies spread from the upcoming book, “MIPS 25thAnniversary Commemorative Collection: Creating Partners in Innovation,” to be released at the MIPS 25th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 7.

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