Register for some of these informative online events happening throughout the month of December. Getty Images

It's the last monthly events roundup for 2020 — and this month, understandably, is a bit slow due to the holidays, but we have a roundup of the must-attend events for December.

From workshops and panels to summits and pitch parties, here are over 10 Houston innovation events you can attend virtually via online meetings. Note: This post will be updated to add more events.

December 1 — National Resilience Town Hall: Year in Review, Year Ahead

The Insurance Information Institute and ResilientH2O Partners, in partnership with the Resilience Accelerator, will hold the final session for 2020 in an ongoing series of thought-leadership among insurance, non-insurance, public sector, and technology senior executives. December's National Townhall will bring five unique perspectives together to discuss lessons-learned from 2020 and predictions for 2021's resilience and risk mitigation "agenda" across residential, commercial, industrial, government operations, infrastructure, facilities, and communities.

The event is on Tuesday, December 1, at 10 am. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 1 — Angel Investing 101

Learn about how to make effective angel investment decisions and find out more about the newly launched Chicago Booth Angels Network of Texas. The event's keynote speaker is Ashok Rao, serial entrepreneur and board member of Houston-based GOOSE Capital.

The event is on Tuesday, December 1, from 5 to 6 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 1 — The Ion's Industry Day

The goal of the inaugural Industry Day is to introduce and connect minority and women owned businesses (MWBE) with The Ion's Transwestern team. The hour long event is designed to facilitate networking and connect interested businesses with Transwestern, who will run operations for The Ion and catalyze local economic growth. Following the event, interested businesses can set up a walk through of The Ion in mid-December to finalize their bid.

The event is on Tuesday, December 1, from 6 to 7 pm. It's free and can be accessed through Zoom. Click here to register.

December 2 — NASA and Your Small Business: Understanding the NASA Procurement Process

Join The Ion to learn about NASA's commitment to providing access for all categories of small businesses to participate in the procurement process.

The event is on Wednesday, December 2, at noon. It's free and can be accessed through Zoom. Click here to register.

December 3 — Capital Factory's Venture Summit

Capital Factory is calling all investors, accelerator leaders, limited partners, and more to its annual venture summit, which is taking place virtually this year.

The event is on Thursday, December 3, from 9:45 to 2 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 3 — Evening of Pediatric Device Innovation

JLABS @ TMC and Southwest National Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium are teaming up for the sixth Annual Evening of Pediatric Device Innovation. The evening of innovation will host top experts from Houston and across the country will discuss their views on the latest in pediatric medical device innovation and updates on bringing a pediatric medical device to market.

The event is on Thursday, December 3, from 3:40 to 5 pm. It's free and can be accessed through Zoom. Click here to register.

December 3 — An Evening With Women in Corporate Innovation

Join General Assembly Houston to hear from inspiring female leaders in corporate innovation who have blazed the path to stand up and stand out. From learnings to failings and their secrets of success, this event is an opportunity to learn from the best — serious wisdom, from seriously cool women, all designed to supercharge you and your organization's success.

The event is on Thursday, December 3, from 5 to 6:30 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 7 — Pumps and Pipes 20/20 Vision

The annual Pumps & Pipes event is focused on convergence innovation in the fields of aerospace, energy and medicine: a truly uniquely Houston approach. The day-long summit features an expo and various panels and speakers.

The event is on Monday, December 7, from 8 am to 3 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 8 — The Cannon Q4 Pitch Party: Presented by Dell Technologies

Join The Cannon and Dell Technologies in hearing from new companies working in Digital Transformation Tech.

The event is on Tuesday, December 8, at 5:30 pm. It's free and can be accessed via Zoom. Click here to register.

December 8 — How to Start a Startup with Heath Butler of Mercury Fund

The Ion is hosting a startup 101 workshop with Heath Butler from Mercury Fund. You have an idea...now what? Before you start looking for funding, it's important to make sure that your idea is both viable and valuable — if it doesn't have a sound model and a market willing to pay for it, investors won't be interested anyway.

    The event is on Tuesday, December 8, at 5:30 pm. It's free and can be accessed via Zoom. Click here to register.

    December 10 — Greentown Lab's Energy Bar: Wrapping Up an Unprecedented Year

    Join Greentown Labs virtually for the final edition of the EnergyBar networking event for 2020. Greentown Labs is ready to put a wrap on 2020, an unprecedent year for us all. Between the opening of the new community in Houston and a renewed national policy focus on climate action, the organization is looking ahead to 2021. Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and friends of climatetech are invited to attend, meet colleagues, and engage in a community that is focused on climate action at work.

    The event is on Thursday, December 10, from 3:30 to 6:30 pm. It's free and can be access through Remo. Click here to register.

    December 15 — The State of Space

    The Greater Houston Partnership is hosting its first State of Space event featuring NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine as the keynote speaker. Since his appointment as Administrator in April of 2018, Bridenstine has led NASA in advancing American aeronautic, science, and space exploration objectives.

    The event is on Tuesday, December 15, at noon. It's $35 for GHP members and $60 for nonmembers. Click here to register.

    Here's what interactive, virtual events to log on to this month. Getty Images

    10+ can't-miss virtual business and innovation events in Houston for September

    Where to be online

    While September 1 might mean nearing fall to some, here in Houston we've got several more weeks of summer weather. However, encroaching fall also means the beginning of many annual events that happen in the Houston innovation ecosystem. This year, they'll be pivoting to virtual programming as social distancing continues to be encouraged in light of the pandemic.

    With that in mind, here are over 10 Houston innovation events you can attend virtually via online meetings. Be sure to register in advance, as most will send an access link ahead of the events.

    September 3 — Going From Target to Drug Candidate: A Protocol for Early Drug Development

    Join TMC's ACT program to discuss the step-by-step considerations when designing an early stage drug molecule, led by Entrepreneur in Residence Sarah Hein, PhD. This session will give an overview of the early discovery process, including considerations before starting. Attendees are encouraged to dialogue throughout the session, and to bring their own real-life examples and challenges.

    The event will take place online on Thursday, September 3, at 6 pm. Register here.

    September 8 — Prophetic City Lecture with Dr. Steven L. Klineberg

    Join The Ion and Stephen L. Klineberg, founding director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, for a discussion on how Houston exemplifies the trends that are transforming the social and political landscape across America. Klineberg recently released his book, Prophetic City: Houston on the Cusp of a Changing America, that explores over 30 years of research on Houston.

    The event will take place online on Tuesday, September 8, at noon. Register here.

    September 8 — Capital Factory's Latinx in Tech Summit

    Capital Factory welcomes you to its first virtual Latinx in Tech Summit. Attendees can look forward to a keynote chat from a serial entrepreneur or investor, insightful discussion sessions, a startup showcase pitch competition, Epic Office Hours, and panels on relevant topics facing the tech ecosystem.

    The event will take place online on Tuesday, September 8, at noon. Register here.

    September 10 — HXTV| VC Ask Me Anything Virtual Event featuring Texas HALO Fund

    Get some virtual face time with Texas HALO Fund's four managing directors at this free, livestreamed event.

    The event will take place online on Thursday, September 10, at 1 pm. Register here.

    September 14-18 — General Assembly's Shift[ED] Summit

    Now more than ever Texans need to be able to shift in their careers. From the current rate of unemployment due to COVID-19 to the rising need to be able to learn new technologies, careers aren't linear any more. Learn to shift your skill set through a week long of programming with experts across the Lone Star State from General Assembly.

    This event will take place online from Monday, September 14, to Friday, September 18. Register here.

    September 15-17 — 18th Annual Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum

    Meet the future of energy tech at the annual Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum. For three days, 40 companies will pitch virtually across energy technology, from power storage and carbon modeling to hydrogen innovations and solar energy.

    The event will take place online from Tuesday, September 15, to Thursday, September 17. Register here.

    September 17 — Now What? Resilience and Transformation Strategies for Small Businesses

    The landscape of how business gets done has undeniably changed in the era of COVID-19 - quite likely for years to come. Going digital means more than just digital calls, but instead requires a transformation in how companies should grow and ensure business continuity. Join The Ion and its guest speakers as they discuss how they've adapted to this brave new digital world and what companies can do not only to survive but thrive within it.

    The event will take place online on Thursday, September 17, at 1 pm. Register here.

    September 22 — Venture Debt Workshop

    The Houston Angel Network has teamed up with Silicon Valley Bank to explore venture debt and how it can support your investments and company.

    The event will take place online on Tuesday, September 22, at 11:30 am. Register here.

    September 23 — Why Venture Capitalists are Investing in "Software Beyond the Screen"

    Software has had an amazing decade, as it has transitioned from desktop computers into the cloud and onto smartphones. In the process, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have smartly capitalized on this trend. The next decade will focus on software making an even more important jump: moving beyond the screen and into the real world around us. In this talk hosted by Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Lilie), Sunil Nagaraj of Ubiquity Ventures will explore how software is beginning to animate, understand and navigate the real world with profound implications.

    The event will take place online on Wednesday, September 23, at 4 pm. Register here.

    September 25 — Design Thinking for Tech and Innovation Workshop | Idea Generation

    Join The Ion and speaker Tanveer Chaudhary to get a hands on lesson on how to generate ideas to solve your problem and how to express the finer details of the ideas to gain more clarity.

    The event will take place online on Tuesday, September 29, at 7 pm. Register here.

    September 29 — Startups and Venture Capital Investing in a Pandemic Environment

    Join the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Rice's Computer Science department, and featured Rice alumni as we discuss how COVID19 has affected launching and investing in startups.

    The event will take place online on Friday, September 25, at 11:30 am. Register here.

    Dallas Startup Week has pivoted to online panels and chats. Here's which ones Houston innovators shouldn't miss. Getty Images

    Here's what Dallas Startup Week events Houston entrepreneurs should attend

    where to be online

    While a 4-hour trip up Interstate 45 might, in years prior, could have caused Houston entrepreneurs pause from attending the annual Dallas Startup Week, this year there's no excuse.

    DSW is taking place online this year, and there are more than a couple virtual events Houston entrepreneurs need to attend. Here's which virtual events Houstonians should log on to.

    Monday - The State of Fundraising in Texas

    A panel of Texas-based venture experts will discuss the state of fundraising in Dallas and Texas as a whole. The panel includes:

    • Bryan Chambers, vice president of Accelerator & Investment Fund at Capital Factory
    • Cindy Revol, principal at Perot Jain
    • Laura Baldwin, managing director at Golden Seeds
    • Mike Marcantonio, principal at Live Oak Venture Partners

    The virtual panel is at 9 am on Monday, August 31. More information.

    Monday - Women Investing in Women

    Two Houston women — Leslie Goldman, co-founder and general partner of The Artemis Fund, and Kim Raath, co-founder and CEO of Topl — are taking the virtual stage to discuss women in investing.

    The virtual fireside chat is at 11 am on Monday, August 31. More information.

    Monday - Innovating in co-working in a COVID-19 world

    Trey Bowles and Delanie Majors from The DEC Network will host CEO and founder of Common Desk, Nick Clark, for a discussion on how COVID-19 affected co-working spaces and the entrepreneurs that used to work out of them.

    The virtual panel is at 11:30 am on Monday, August 31. More information.

    Tuesday - The Future of Marketing Post COVID-19

    In 2020, the world changed as we know it. Hear from these marketing leaders about how the landscape will continue to change, and how you can be equipped to market your business during and after a pandemic. Panelists include:
    • Ramon Mendez, co-founder of Brand Army
    • Phil Lockhart, partner & chief digital officer of Credera
    • Michael Pratt, founder of Digital Fight Club
    • Laci McKinney, founder of The People's Voice Creative Agency
    • Jennifer Cho, executive vice president and general manager if Weber Shandwick

    The virtual fireside chat is at 3:15 pm on Tuesday, September 1. More information.

    Wednesday - Do You Really Know Your Customer: Customer Segmentation is Key to Success

    Learn to keys to customer success from a panel of seven businesswomen, including:

    • Tracey Altman, principal, Altman Consulting
    • Sophia Johnson, founder & president at Alpha Business Images
    • Anjie Vichayanonda, founder & CEO of Leg Up Legal
    • Karen Jenkins, senior director and regional sales executive of Capital One
    • Kristy Alballero, co-founder & COO, IOOGO
    • Kristy Alballero is the co-founder and COO of IOOGO
    • Marty McDonald, CEO of Boss Women Media

    The virtual fireside chat is at 10:15 am on Wednesday, September 2. More information.

    Wednesday - How Smalls Can Win Big with Department of Defense

    Learning to win government contracts can be a challenging task, yet millions of startups in the United States are thriving because of them. As a founder, entrepreneur, or just a curious individual, check out this session to learn about the keys to success in government contracting. Panelists include:

    • David Shaw, co-founder and chief commercialization officer at Astrapi
    • Steve Guengerich, senior adviser at the University of Texas at Dallas
    • Dave Copps, CEO of Hypergiant Sensory Sciences
    • Sam Riehn, business development at Long Capture & Contract Management

    The virtual fireside chat is at 11 am on Wednesday, September 2. More information.

    Thursday - The State of Corporate Venture

    A panel of experts from some of the largest corporations in the world discuss how their companies work with and invest in startups. They will discuss ways to engage with them, what kinds of companies they look to invest in, and how investing has changed during a tumultuous 2020.

    • Duane Dankesreiter, senior vice president of Research and Innovation of Dallas Regional Chamber
    • Aman Sharma, partner of Capital One Ventures
    • Marisa Bertha, senior director at New Business Development & 7-Ventures, 7-Eleven
    • Jim Adler, founding managing director at Toyota Ventures

    The virtual fireside chat is at 1:05 pm on Thursday, September 3. More information.

    Here's what to keep in mind when planning a virtual event. Getty Images

    How to use tech to take your event virtual, according to this Houston expert

    Guest column

    As the long-term repercussions of the coronavirus set in around the world, the events space was one of the first to realize its need to change course. Events across the world that were scheduled for March through June and beyond are being canceled, rescheduled and rethought.

    As a business that has always operated in the live event and public space, my company, VISION Production Group had to quickly re-invent how our clients would be able engage with their audience under these strained circumstances.

    When an event is canceled or postponed in times of crisis, businesses still have important messaging to get out. They still have a need to sell, still have a need to engage, still have the need to get organizational support. Shifting live attended events into an online experience helps those businesses shape their original event into a 'show' format that encapsulates the fundamentals of the live event in a creative manner ideal for remote viewing.

    Instead of canceling the events, planners can be innovative and evolve their original format into one that allows them to still engage attendees and share their brand stories through virtual experiences.

    Event marketing is all about putting yourself in the shoes of your customers — they were excited to come to your event and see the live event, network with others in their industry, and ask their lists of questions to ask during your Q&A sessions. So, what do virtual events look like, and how can you turn them in to an opportunity to add even more value and deliver an experience that makes your potential clients thrilled to be taking part in?

    Creating a successful virtual event goes far beyond just a taped stream of speakers and the sharing of information. By utilizing the techniques below to create videos, creative content, 3D animation, motion graphics and other digital content, virtual events can become engaging productions that live on past the event itself.

    Know your options

    Pre-recorded videos

    With a prerecorded event, you have the option to provide access to videos of the event on demand and can even consider additional revenue streams with pay-per-view options.

    Utilize professional production and create an experience that combines brand elements and clear language with a captivating video presentation that makes attendees feel like they are turning their TVs onto a celebrity awards show. Once your pre-recorded virtual event has gone live, use video marketing to push out on your website or social media to share your brand story through packaged presentations.

    VISION is currently working with both the Kinder Institute and the Houston Holocaust Museum to turn their major May events into pre-recorded productions that will be able to engage an even larger audience than their normal events.

    Animated education content

    Another forward-thinking technique is to produce 2D and 3D content to reduce the production costs found in traditional video. This can be interfaced with recorded and live footage or be used to walk attendees through a product demo or setup process with ease.

    Think about utilizing this kind of virtual event if you are in an industry that relies heavily on trade shows. Instead of needing to be person-to-person for a demonstration, you can explain your product or service through 2D and 3D technology.

    Live streaming

    Get buy-in for digital events with a bit of live aspect, pulling groups together online for a shared remote experience. With a live stream event, you can have the benefits and production value of a pre-recorded event but incorporate the capability to take questions and engage your audience in real.

    Remote viewers won't want to miss out on asking questions in this community format and you can record the stream for future use as well.

    Virtual event panels and forums

    With virtual panels and forums, you can live stream from your anywhere. Hosting an online group is a great way to engage your audience with a live Q&A session and provide the human connection, digitally.

    This avenue is great if your event is typically comprised of panels and interactive breakout sessions for attendees.

    Tips and best practices

    Attendees flock to events to catch the latest innovations and network with industry leaders. Replicating that experience online isn't easy, but brands that get it right can attract big audiences, generate interest and increase brand visibility.

    Use these tips to compel your audience to take action:

    Develop a virtual event marketing strategy that aligns with your goals

    With a great strategy, you can turn any onsite exhibit into a virtual event.

    You may already offer online webinars or tutorials, but adding virtual events requires a little more planning. From accessibility to remote attendance monitoring, it's important to visualize each step in the strategy and planning of your event.

    Choose digital technology tools and formats that convey your message and create a clear and compelling story and video script to keep attendees tuned in and engage virtual attendees using high-quality videos, animation and graphics.

    Develop virtual events before a cancelation

    Don't wait for your next live event to get canceled. Instead, put together video assets now. Drop the travel expenses and live stream a panel right from your office. Virtual events give your audience the flexibility to experience your brand and products from anywhere.

    ------

    Tracey Shappro is the president and CEO of Houston-based VISION Production Group.

    It's a busy month in Houston. Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

    10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for March

    Where to be

    Editor's note: SXSW has been canceled due to the coronavirus since the publishing on this events roundup. The original version of this article is below.

    March is a busy month for Houston in general — but especially when it comes to innovation. The inaugural Houston Tech Rodeo starts out the month and the Rice Business Plan Competition closes out March in a few weeks — and the interactive weekend at SXSW falls right in the middle of the month for those planning the trip to Austin.

    But for the Houston innovators in the energy industry, March got a little less busy when CERAWeek by IHS Markit was canceled due to the growing threat of the coronavirus, or COVID19.

    Should any other events below have that same fate, this article will be updated.

    March 2-6 — Houston Tech Rodeo

    A week full of events, the Tech Rodeo is made up of over 30 innovation events across Houston. These are InnovationMap's picks for what to attend during the week. For a complete list of the events (most of which are free), head to the website.

    Details: The event is from Monday, March 2, to Friday, March 6 across Houston. Learn more.

    March 5 — Space Center Houston's Thought Leader Series: Designing for Human Performance

    Learn how human factors engineering relates to spacecraft and spacesuit design while celebrating Women's History Month and the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station. Speakers include Celena Dopart, human factors engineer for Starliner at Boeing, and Katie Spira, NASA flight controller.

    Details: The event is at 7 pm on Thursday, March 5, at Space Center Houston (1601 E NASA Pkwy). Learn more.

    March 6 — Premier Talks: Women in Innovation & Technology 

    Join this panel of accomplished women as they discuss the importance of being a woman in the current workforce and leading among your peers. Be empowered to self-evaluate, inspire those around you, and raise the bar on your professional goals. Discuss the challenges women face in a male dominated technology workforce and why it is important to take the limits off of your thinking.

    Details: The event is from 9:15 to 11 am on Friday, March 6, at GA Houston (1301 Fannin St, Floor 21). Learn more.

    March 6 — The Greater Houston Partnership’s Rise to the Top

    Celebrating International Women's Day, the Greater Houston Partnership and the Partnership's Women's Business Alliance brings the Rise to the Top event. Expect a keynote address from Gretchen Watkins, president atShell Oil Company and executive vice president at Global Unconventionals, Shell Oil Company, and candid conversations from a panel of female executives discussing the challenges and triumphs of succeeding as a woman in today's business environment.

    Details: The event is from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm on Friday, March 6, at Hilton Americas (1600 Lamar St.). Learn more.

    March 10 — Equinor & Techstars Energy Accelerator Meet & Greet

    If you're an energy-focused startup, don't miss this info session with the Equinor & Techstars Energy Accelerator, which is visiting Houston and looking for the 10 best energy companies for its next cohort.

    Details: The event is from 6 to 9 pm on Monday, March 10, at The Ion (1301 Fannin Street, Suite 2440). Learn more.

    March 10-11 — Energy 2.0: Equality, Environment, and the New Economy

    Join over 100,000 people taking part in Energy 2.0 2020; an innovative experience that addresses new frontiers in the energy industry where business, workforce, environment, innovation, and policy intersect. Spread across multiple locations and continents, corporate watch sites around the globe, and simulcast online, Energy 2.0 brings energy professionals and a diverse mix of experts across various disciplines together for learning and networking opportunities.

    Details: The event is from Monday, March 10, to Tuesday, March 11, online and at The Westin Houston, Memorial City (945 Gessner Rd.). Learn more.

    March 12 — Lunch n' Learn: In Today's Market - Do Patents Even Matter?

    Inventors and business professionals are asked to review the claims of their patent application before it is filed. This step is THE critical step that is supposed to ensure that the claims will protect their invention. The decision you make here determines if you will be part of the 97 percent of all patents that never recoup the cost of filing them.

    Details: The event is from noon to 1:30 pm on Wednesday, March 12, at The Ion (1301 Fannin Street, Suite 2440). Learn more.

    March 19 — Science First: How 3D Printing is Reshaping the Future of Healthcare

    Technology is evolving faster than ever – and advancements in 3D printing could revolutionize the delivery of healthcare products and solutions to change the trajectory of health for humanity.

    Details: The event is from 11:30 am to 2 pm on Wednesday, March 19, at JLABS @ TMC (2450 Holcombe Blvd.). Learn more.

    March 24 — How to Form a Micro VC Fund Workshop at Mercury Fund

    Welcoming all angels, previous founders, MBA students, aspiring and current venture capitalists that are interested in learning more about the basic essentials for starting a small venture fund. Speakers are Blair Garrou of Mercury Fund and Justin LaPoten of BADR Investments.

    Details: The event is from 10 to 11 am on Tuesday, March 24, at Mercury Fund (3737 Buffalo Speedway, #Suite 1750). Learn more.

    March 25 — 2020 H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge - Startup Competition

    The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge Startup Competition is Rice's newest entrepreneurship competition, awarding over $60,000 in prize money to Rice-affiliated teams. Students and alumni enter business ideas (high growth ventures or small business ideas) to compete.

    Details: The event is from 6 to 9 pm on Wednesday, March 25, at Liu Idea Lab For Innovation & Entrepreneurship (Rice University - Cambridge Office Building). Learn more.

    March 26 — T3CH Workshop: Grow With Google "Using Data to Drive Business Growth"

    In this T3CH workshop, you'll learn best practices on data-driven decision making; and get practical guidance on how to find and analyze trends regarding online customer engagement with your business, so you can turn those insights into well-informed, actionable decisions.

    Details: The event is from noon to 1 pm on Thursday, March 26, at Impact Hub Houston @ The Cannon Post Oak (675 Bering Drive, #200). Learn more.

    March 26-28 — Rice Business Plan Competition

    The event — dubbed the "world's richest and largest student startup competition" — begins later this month. The Rice Business Plan Competition will host 42 student teams from all over the world. The three-day contest consists of pitches, judging, and a closing banquet where the winners are revealed.

    Details: The event is from Thursday, March 26, to Saturday, March 28, at Rice University and the Hilton Americas. Learn more.

    Zenus Biometrics uses its facial recognition software to provide seamless check in at events around the world. Courtesy of Zenus Biometrics

    Growing Houston tech company using facial recognition for event security

    Face first

    Long, inefficient check-in lines at events or conferences could be a thing of the past with the technology from a Houston company.

    Zenus Biometrics, is changing the game of event registration and security through facial recognition.

    "Over the last 12 months, we've done more than 50 events all over the world," says co-founder Panos Moutafis. "And for the most part, what we're hearing from these planners is that this is a very new technology and they want to be at the forefront of it."

    The software system overlays on already-existing ticketing and registration platforms for event hosting companies. During the registration process, attendees are prompted to either take a selfie or upload an existing headshot. Those who are leery of the process or simply don't want to participate can easily opt out.

    Zenus' programming can take a group photo, select all the faces in it and prompt the attendee to select himself. It will also advise whether an image is too blurry for use and suggest uploading another image instead. Once participants arrive at the conference, they approach a camera at check-in. The software recognizes their faces and pops up a menu that asks them to confirm their identity. The process takes seconds.

    "This really allows for controlled access," said Moutafis. "Some people might look to game the system – they might register for themselves and then hand off their conference badge to someone who didn't pay to attend. Zenus allows companies to have more security over attendees."

    He said the system can also work to limit access. If a company wants to set up a VIP or secure space, they can upload images of those they wish to allow beyond a certain point into Zenus' platform and anyone who doesn't match the facial recognition will be turned away.

    The pioneering company operates from a headquarters in Houston's EaDo, and has clients around the globe. Back in November, it took home the prestigious Tech Award at IBTM World in Barcelona, one of the world's leading conferences for the meetings and event industries.

    Moutafis said that in addition to being a leading-edge service provider, Zenus balances privacy with innovation. The company doesn't record the emails, contact information or credit cards for conference attendees using the facial recognition platform — only the uploaded images. And those are deleted days after the conference ends. The opt-in feature means that anyone who might feel skittish about the technology doesn't need to use it, and traditional check-in methods will be available onsite for them.

    Over the next year, Zenus is perfecting and rolling out a new high-resolution camera that can be mounted in event rooms that will count the faces of those in the meeting or seminar. It's designed to provide a layer of analytics for event planners, capturing how many people attended the session. It can also record their expressions and provide data that can be used to determined how well the session was liked by the audience.

    "We just added two more people to our team, so we have a staff of about seven now," he said. "We also work with a team of consultants. Here in Houston, our headquarters has a vibrant, cool feel to it. We're growing and it's exciting."

    Born in Greece, Moutafis came to Houston in 2011 to work on his Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Houston. Armed with a B.A. in statistics, he was seeking a way to combine his analytical background with developing algorithms in artificial intelligence. It turned out that the lab he was attached to at UH was focused on facial recognition software.

    "That was a different kind of problem to me, and I like a challenge," he says. "And I was attracted to the idea of using facial recognition as a security measure. No matter where you go, whether it's the bank or using a credit card for a purchase in some places, you have to verify your ID. Facial recognition is one of the most frictionless ways to do this."

    In 2015, his last year of doctoral studies, he received an National Science Foundation grant that gave him funding to build a team and research what would become Zenus. He also received mentorship and advising about whether he had a viable idea and how to bring it to the marketplace. The following year, he massaged his concept, changed its logo and name, and Zenus was born.

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    Houston is poised to lead 5G growth in Texas, according to a new report

    leading the stream

    Based on one key measure, Houston sits at the forefront of a telecom revolution that could spark a regional economic impact of more than $30 billion.

    Data published recently by the Texas Comptroller's Office points out that as of last November and December, Houston led all cities in Texas for the number of so-called "small cells." Small cells are a key component in the rollout of ultra-high-speed 5G wireless communication throughout the Houston area and the country.

    As the Texas Comptroller's Office explains, small cells are low-powered antennas that communicate wirelessly via radio waves. They're usually installed on existing public infrastructure like street signs or utility poles, instead of the big communication towers that transmit 4G signals.

    The comptroller's tally shows Houston had approved 5,455 small-cell sites as of the November-December timeframe. That dwarfs the total number of sites (1,948) for the state's second-ranked city, Dallas.

    "Houston is in the vanguard of small cell permitting in Texas, and not just because it's the state's largest city; advocates have lauded its proactive approach to 5G. Other cities, particularly smaller ones, are lagging well behind," the Comptroller's Office notes.

    According to CTIA, a trade group for the wireless communications industry, 5G holds the promise to deliver an economic impact of $30.3 billion in the Houston area and create 93,700 jobs. The group says industries such as health care, energy, transportation, e-commerce, and logistics stand to benefit from the emergence of 5G.

    "Maintaining world-class communications infrastructure is a requirement for success in a rapidly changing global economy. Small cells and fiber technology are the key foundational components for network densification and robust 5G. Cities like Houston that have embraced the need for this infrastructure will see the benefits of 5G faster than others," Mandy Derr, government affairs director at Houston-based communications infrastructure REIT Crown Castle International Corp. and a member of the Texas 5G Alliance, tells InnovationMap.

    Derr says leaders in Houston have embraced the importance of small-cell technology through "reasonable and effective" regulations and processes aimed at boosting 5G capabilities. Three major providers of wireless service — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — offer 5G to customers in the Houston area.

    "More small cells and fiber provide greater and faster access for the masses, enabling the connectivity that is essential to our businesses today — whether it's accepting payments on a mobile card reader, completing a sale on the go, or reliably reaching consumers where they are," Derr says.

    In a blog post, Netrality Data Centers, which operates a data center in Houston, proclaims that Houston is shaping up to be a hub of 5G innovation.

    "Houston has always been on the frontline," Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a 5G roundtable discussion in 2019. "It is who we are. It is in our DNA. We are a leading city. We didn't wait for somebody else to go to the moon. Or to be the energy capital of the world. Or the largest medical center in the world. But you don't stay at the front if you don't continue to lead."

    Houston lands on list of nation's top spots for millennials on the move

    migration destination

    The Bayou City is shining as an attractive destination for young people on the move.

    According to the fifth-annual study from SmartAsset, millennials are fleeing cities like Los Angeles and Chicago and migrating to other areas in search of work and a better quality of life, with Houston landing as the No. 18 spot for young professionals age 25 to 39.

    In order to compile the list, SmartAsset dug into U.S. Census Bureau data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 180 specific cities. According to the findings, 18,035 millennials moved in to Houston in 2019, while 15,838 moved out. That makes a net migration of 2,197, per the study.

    When it comes to migrating millennials, the Lone Star State is tops, landing at No. 1 for states where millennials are moving, with more than 187,000 young people heading to Texas in the pre-pandemic year. Though some 154,000 millennials left Texas during the same time period, this results in a net gain of more than 33,000 millennial residents, the biggest net gain for the group in the country, giving Texas the lead in millennial migration for the second year in a row.

    In news that is hardly shocking, Austin landing as the No. 4 hot spot overall.

    While Austin ranks as the top Texas city where millennials are moving, one other Texas spot landed in the top 10, the Dallas suburb of Frisco (No. 6), with a net migration of 3,516 out-of-state millennials in 2019.

    Dallas just missed the top 10, landing at No. 11 on the list, with a net millennial migration of 2,525 in 2019. San Antonio (No. 22) showed a net migration of 1,865 millennials.

    The top city overall for millennial migration in 2019 was Denver, followed by Seattle.

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    This article originally ran on CultureMap.