Ari Naim and Israel Amir

Ari Naim
Ari Naim ’87, ’89 MS, ’92 PhD

When location-services company CenTrak sold for $140 million earlier this year, the four Drexel University graduates—two from the College of Engineering—who founded the start-up didn’t throw a party.

“We didn’t even have a dinner,” says Ari Naim ’87, ’89 MS, ’92 PhD., 53, co-founder, president and CEO of the Newtown, Pa., company.

It wasn’t a reflection of the deal with British holding company Halma. Rather, CenTrak has no time to waste. With the management team intact after the sale, Naim says he has big goals: To use his real-time locating systems to significantly impact the delivery of healthcare.

The technology tracks medical equipment as well as patients, nurses and other staff, and, with the generation of big data, can improve the efficiency of the healthcare system, according to Naim, who studied electrical and computer engineering at Drexel.

“Knowing where medical equipment is at any given time is important,” he says, adding that location services can reduce capital costs, shrinkage and the need for rentals.

Israel Amir
Israel Amir ’85 PhD

“The use of location services is much more interesting when you track all your patients and your staff,” he adds. “Then you can do things like automate all sorts of events. I can tell you how long nurses spend with patients, how long they are walking the floor looking for equipment, or if a nurse is delivering the right medication to the right patient at the right time.”

Think of it as the Uber of healthcare. “Think of how Uber transformed the taxi and limousine service industry by leveraging outdoor location services to deliver the right resource to the right place at the right time,” says Israel Amir ’85 PhD, co-founder and chief technology officer. “We are doing the same for healthcare.”

 

The time appears ripe for the infrared-based technology, which typically uses fixed-location sensors that receive wireless signals from small ID badges or tags attached to equipment or people. CenTrak’s revenues, says Naim, are trending double digits from the previous year.

“Healthcare is the right of every citizen,” Naim says. “Unfortunately, the cost is overwhelming, and it’s very difficult to deliver it. ... Our mission over the next five years is to pursue this [solution] and really create the standards in the industry.”

Naim and two other Drexel graduates—Gideon Naim ’92 M.B.A., CenTrak’s chief financial officer and Naim’s brother, and Karuppiah Annamalai, ’94, CenTrak’s vice president of engineering—started working together while at Drexel on the start-up Reshet, an engineering R&D company.

“I wanted to create things,” Naim says.

Amir, who initially worked at Bell Labs, joined the other three to work on Digital 5, a 1994 start-up that commercialized portable chip-based recording technology. The company created the first Internet-connected digital audio player and became the leading provider of MP3 Players, according to Naim.

“Bell-Labs had a retirement package I could not refuse,” Amir says. “I was also looking for more excitement.”

In 2003, CenTrak was founded. Its first significant sales occurred three years later, and in 2008, the company received a sizable investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The 150-employee company has clients across the United States, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and acute-care and outpatient facilities, and in many parts of the world. In 2014, global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan selected CenTrak for its Product Line Strategy Leadership award.

Naim advises entrepreneur wannabes to seek out co-ops and internships at start-ups. “If you’re really smart, come and interview with CenTrak,” he says.

Success, of course, can be hard won. “The overnight success takes a decade,” Naim says. “You have to be ready for ups and downs. … You have to do your homework. It’s a combination of being very diligent and aggressive in pursuing a concept idea, but at the same time being humble enough to take in information and understand the reality.”

By Lini S. Kadaba