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Hi-G-Tek, Inc Get $10 Million Financing

Battelle Ventures, L.P., and its affiliate, Innovation Valley Partners, are investors in the $10-million financing of Hi-G-Tek, Inc., a deal led by L Capital Partners. The Rockville, Maryland-based company provides new active-RFID products for monitoring and control of high-value physical assets and sensitive materials.

Says Battelle Ventures General Partner Ralph Taylor-Smith: “Hi-G-Tek’s electronic tags, locks and seals allow for unprecedented levels of real-time security and ‘sensing’ of key assets, whether they are stationary or in transit, indoors or outdoors. It’s not just about ‘monitoring’ an asset, but also about detecting its status or condition in real time. When combined with asset location or any common long-range communication system, such as cellular, radio or satellite, Hi-G-Tek’s products immediately deliver mission-critical data to the customer, anywhere in the world.

“For example, a customer in New York would be alerted immediately if a hatch or valve on a fuel tanker in Bogotá, Columbia, is opened or just tampered with, or if the temperature, pressure or other critical aspect of the cargo is at any given moment outside predetermined normal limits.”

Battelle Ventures, adds Taylor-Smith, had been aware of the company because it has the exclusive license to patented active-RFID technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, one of the five National Laboratories that the firm’s sole limited partner, Battelle Memorial Institute, manages or co-manages for the U.S. Department of Energy. “We knew who they were,” he says, “but hadn’t closely looked at them because the company was in Israel, and our fund invests only in U.S. companies. So, when L Capital Partners said they were interested in reestablishing the company here, we took a deeper look.”

Attracted to Hi-G-Tek’s “multiple applications in multiple markets” opportunities, says Taylor-Smith, Battelle Ventures joined L Capital Partners in the deal and participated in the search for “the right CEO,” who turned out to be Larry Blue, most recently vice president and general manager of the RFID tag sector of Symbol Technologies (NYSE: SBL).

Blue, who began his career at IBM and later was a vice president at Hughes Network Systems, has almost three decades of management experience with RF and microprocessor technology. He says, “Hi-G-Tek’s sensors deliver, for the first time, full visibility from the physical asset to the control center. We, in essence, electronically extend the senses; you not only can see an asset, but also ‘touch,’ ‘taste’ and ‘smell’ it, as if it were right in front of you.”

Hi-G-Tek’s products also allow changes to be made while an asset is “in process,” says Blue, noting that a shipment originally classified as temperature-sensitive could be reclassified as temperature- and time-sensitive while en route.

“For example, by using Hi-G-Tek’s real-time sensing throughout what’s called the ‘cold chain,’ if refrigeration fails during transport of, say, fresh fish, alerted personnel, whether local or remote, can instantly reclassify the shipment for rerouting, because now time also is an issue.

Hi-G-Tek, adds Blue, has been working on a federally funded pilot project called U.S. Operation Safe Commerce (OSC), in cooperative partnership with TransCore and Unisys. OSC, he explains, is a test-bed for new security techniques, technologies and best practices for the electronic monitoring of container shipments to increase security while at the same time enable “green lighting” of known shippers through customs, facilitating efficient cross-border movement of legitimate commerce and avoiding costly delays.

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