West Lafayette, Ind.-based Ixana, inventor of a new wireless technology with the potential to transform human computer interaction, won the award for Startup of the year during TechPoint’s 24th annual Mira Awards gala honoring the best of tech in Indiana.

WATCH VIDEO: Product Engineer David Yang accepts the award for Startup of the year.

Ixana, an Indianapolis company that seems to have solved a billion-dollar problem that has vexed the global wearable tech market, has won the 2023 Mira Award for Startup of the Year.  

The award recognizes companies that are five years old or younger that have shown the greatest development, market traction and have the most promising potential for success, including substantial growth, and focused on company performance and the management team. 

For years, the world’s most well-known tech companies have tried to produce wearable tech like augmented reality (AR) headsets and smart glasses that can stay powered for long periods of time. Battery size and staying power had proven too high a hurdle, until 2022, when Ixana introduced a new way to transmit information using the electromagnetic field that surrounds each human body. 

Dubbed Wi-R technology, the body-guided wireless technology and silicon chip is based on research done at Purdue University. Wi-R behaves as a wire by confining the signal in a bubble around users’ bodies. Unlike radiative wireless technology like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Wi-R confines the signal only around the user or surfaces, leading to 100 times better energy efficiency. This also leads to the physical security of the signal such that individuals can transfer contacts, data, audio, video and more with just a touch. 

Using the technology, users could:  

  • Stream video all day to/from ultra-light Augmented Reality (AR) headsets
  • Securely pair mobile, smartwatch, and wearables with just a touch
  • Enjoy music on reliable, pairing-free wireless headphones
  • Accurately track devices and assets with real-time AI alerts, and
  • Exchange contacts and files with a fist bump 

The company previewed its first chip-based reference hardware at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2023. Within a month, Ixana was considering $35 million in proposed deals across commercial and defense sectors. Nearly 30 companies, including six of the large smartphone manufacturers in the world, are considering ways to adapt Ixana’s Wi-R technology in their devices. The company plans to grow to 100 employees over the next three years and projects revenue of $10 million by 2025. 

Ixana was co-founded by Chief Technology Officer Shreyas Sen, Chief Executive Officer Angik Sarkar and Head of Research Shovan Maity. The team is rounded out with alumnus of Intel, Qualcomm, Silicon Labs, Ford, Texas Instruments, and others. Sen is a semiconductor industry veteran of Intel, Qualcomm, a chair associate professor in chip design at Purdue and a prolific inventor who has been internationally recognized with numerous awards. Sarkar, a serial entrepreneur, and Intel alumni, obtained a Ph.D. in information processing and previously led machine learning startup Waylo to a successful exit in 2020. Maity, a Qualcomm alum, led the final design of the Ixana chip.  
The co-founders envision a future with distributed wearable computing. Similar to the human body, there would be multiple sensors on body, powered by one distributed computing hub, which they call a “Wearable Brain,” that would form a real-time dashboard of an individual’s health. They call the distributed computing platform an Electronic Nervous System.  

Part of the appeal of Ixana’s technology is that it overcomes the inherent shortcomings of the smartphone, which company officials say has nearly all of the components required to be an auxiliary brain. Smart as they are, smartphones, often stored in users’ pockets, don’t communicate with the brain, in real-time as smart watches, strapped to the skin, can.  

Based on market demand, consumers want the capability of smart watches, earbuds and other wearable fitness and physiological trackers.  

After determining that in a “metaverse” future, sensors on different parts of the body are mandatory to create our digital twin that closely mimics our physical self all day, the Ixana solution was to deconstruct the smartphone and place all of the smartphone components in their most desirable locations on the body. The Ixana team asked why a screen, processor, memory, sensors, input ports/protocols and battery had to be housed in a single package? What if the sensors, processors and screen were, instead, worn in different locations on the body?

In Ixana’s distributed computing vision, users’ bodies would have a few charging-free electronic patches containing sensors placed in relevant locations, as well as a camera/microphone on the head to register whatever you see and hear. A centrally placed processor communicates with these sensors unlike today’s wearables, where every wearable has its own CPU. 

And Ixana’s Wi-R technology, which uses the body’s natural ability as a conductor, powers that communication at a hundredth of the amount of energy typically used by WiFi and Bluetooth technology. 

See All Award Winners from the 2023 Mira Awards Gala.

TechPoint, the nonprofit, industry-led growth initiative for Indiana’s digital innovation economy, honored the state’s top successes and innovations during the 24th annual Mira Awards gala with presenting sponsors UKG, Salesforce and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

A total of 18 award winners and honorees were chosen from the 141 outstanding people, companies and products that were selected as nominees for their achievements during the 2022 calendar year.

Fifty-two independent, volunteer judges spent more than 850 total hours evaluating applications, interviewing nominees, and selecting this year’s winners. Judges included an impressive roster of company founders, CEOs and presidents, CTOs, CIOs, engineers and other industry professionals.

TechPoint’s Mira Awards are named after the first of the brilliant variable stars to be discovered—the Mira Star. It is also the Latin root meaning “worthy of admiration, wonderful, marvelous.” The awards represent the best of tech in Indiana each year.