Ken Childress of Ocean Aero holds a model of the company’s 14-foot-long Submaran S10. Photo by Chris Jennewein

From an autonomous ocean drone to smart earplugs, CONNECT on Tuesday recognized the most innovate products developed and launched this year in the San Diego region.

The winners in eight categories were announced at the 28th annual Most Innovative Product Awards at the Hyatt Regency Aventine before a dinner crowd of nearly 500.

Greg McKee, president and CEO of CONNECT, said local entrepreneurs “are changing the world right here from San Diego” and proposed a goal for his organization of helping build the next ten $1 billion companies.

“Companies of this size are a lifeblood to this community,” he said, serving as a magnet for the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders. “This is ambitious, but this is not unusual for San Diego.”

The awards, he said, “shine a spotlight on those standout entrepreneurs whose ideas are breathing new life into modern innovation.”

The eight award winners are:

Aerospace, Security & Cyber Technologies: Ocean Aero’s Submaran S10, an autonomous, hybrid surface and subsurface vessel for observing the ocean.

Cleantech: Q Factory 33’s B3 Bypass, a device that increases the energy potential of solar, wind, stationary battery backup systems and electrical generators.

Communications & IT: Mushroom Networks’s VOIP Armor, a telephone gateway device that automatically works around any network problems that distort calls.

Life Science Diagnostics & Research Tools: CureMetrix, an image analysis platform for early and accurate detection of breast cancer in mammograms.

Mobile Apps: Chalk Digital’s Instant Mobile Ad Platform, a do-it-yourself advertising solution for building locally targeted, affordable campaigns.

Pharmaceutical Drugs & Medical Devices: PureWick, safe and simple incontinence management for women in hospitals, nursing facilities and at home.

Software & Digital Media: Comhear’s MyBeam, a portable, a wireless sound bar that delivers virtual surround sound.

Sport & Active Lifestyle Technologies: Hush Technology’s Smart Earplugs, earplugs that help people sleep better in noisy environments.

To be eligible for the awards, the product must have been developed in the San Diego or Baja region, first introduced between March 2014 and August 2015, and have generated revenue.

In addition to the eight companies honored for their outstanding new products, the William W. Otterson Award was given to the RQ-4 Global Hawk, developed by Northrop Grumman in Rancho Bernardo. The award is CONNECT’s highest honor given to technology or product that has demonstrated a significant impact on society and on our quality of life.

The Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system in use by the U.S. military.

During the awards, JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced a major grant to the CONNECT Foundation. Brennon Crist, head of the company’s middle market commercial banking team in San Diego, presented a $230,000 check to McKee to support CONNECT in the development of small business clusters.

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