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Heartbeat as a password? Four Canadian startup ideas that wow Silicon Valley

Bionym, pictured, is one of 17 of Canada’s most promising startups – selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants – in San Francisco for a conference called 48 Hours In The Valley.

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There are 17 of Canada's most promising startups in San Francisco this week, for the C100 conference called 48 Hours In The Valley. Here's a sample of what Canadians are building:

Figure 1: Photo-sharing networks are rarely known for their strict privacy settings, but Figure 1 is certainly an exception. The startup designed a tool that lets medical professionals share photos of various patient illnesses and conditions with their colleagues, in order to solicit opinions and advice. In order to ensure patient privacy, Figure 1 developed technology to automatically detect and blur faces. It is that sort of technology, as well as the software's under-served niche market, that has caught investors' attention.

Bionym: Spun out of research first undertaken at the University of Toronto, Bionym is a kind of always-on biometrics tool. The company's hardware consists of a wristband that recognizes and monitors a user's unique cardiac rhythm. While the device is worn, the user is in a state of constant authentication, theoretically rendering conventional passwords obsolete. Initially, the technology's creators considered licensing it to various device makers. But instead, they've decided to create a product from scratch.

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iPowow: The Toronto company describes its area of expertise as "participation TV." The example put forward by the company's directors is a close call during a soccer game – did the goal count or not? With iPowow's platform, users can vote on whether they think the goal counted as they wait on an official decision. Such audience participation tools have become important parts of the broadcast on many sports networks, including ESPN. And with the rise of "second screen" tablets and smartphones, iPowow is trying to cash in on what it believes is a growing market.

BusBud: Calling itself "the Expedia of busses," BusBud is an aggregator focused on just one kind of transport. The free mobile app now collects bus trip information and schedules for some 4,000 cities in 70 countries and 10 languages. The app also allows users to purchase tickets, and hopes to corner the niche market in the same way larger sites have done for hotel, airplane and car rental sales.

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