Lafayette Internet venture recalled at technology event

On the first day of the technology-driven Innov8 Lafayette festival, Lafayette Utilities System Director Terry Huval remembered the forces he and others had to fight to install a fiber-optic network that brought super-fast Internet to all city residents.

“We were crazy enough to do it,” Huval said Wednesday of the 1 gigabyte per second fiber network completed in 2010.

Huval, who also heads the company that brings customers the broadband, LUS Fiber, recalled how the audacious fiber-to-the-home idea encountered all manner of opposition from entrenched interests: telecommunications, cable TV providers and others.

He said it was not lost on him how hard it was to reach the point LUS Fiber and the city found itself in Wednesday: hosting the t hird annual Innov8 Lafayette, a festival that advocates wide-ranging entrepreneurial goals and has a particular focus on technology.

Huval kicked off Innov8’s first day at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise Center by introducing health care professionals whose jobs have been made more efficient by technology.

Bradley Cruice, a medical professional who works for the Lafayette Parish school system, and Geoff Daily, of the Lafayette General Foundation, described how schoolchildren in Lafayette Parish are healthier and learning more through telemedicine, which allows doctors miles away to interpret students’ vital signs or symptoms and make a diagnosis.

Cruice said it allows the student to stay in school, and also allows the student’s parents to stay at work rather than take time off to care for their kid.

“Healthier students also are better behaved students,” Cruice said.

On the other end of the age spectrum, technology is helping care for the elderly, whose numbers are growing while the number of beds and facilities for the elderly are stagnant or declining, said Keith Speights, of the medical company RosieConnect LLC.

Speights’ company developed a robot that gathers a patient’s medical information quickly for the medical chart, and also to alert a physician if there is something wrong.

He said the technology is needed to take care of the growing population of older people who need care.

“What used to be adequate for health care is now about a quart low,” Speights said.

At the Acadiana Center for the Arts in downtown Lafayette, young lawyers Jessica Allain and Laura Pryor told budding business owners it’s important to think out how a business will be set up, and how to protect what’s proprietary in a business.

Allain said a business owner needs to decide what business structure fits best. She recommended establishing a limited liability company because “it’s extremely flexible.”

Allain said a 50-50 partnership with someone else with no tiebreaker “is a no-no.”

A business setup with equal partners that looks good now, she said, may not be so attractive as time goes by, and the efforts put in by each partner could be uneven.

“Being able to get rid of dead weight is a great thing,” Allain said.

Pryor said there are a number of ways to protect what makes a business profitable. Trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets can offer legal protection, she said.

Innov8 Lafayette continues at 7 a.m. Thursday with a 12-hour computer coding competition called CajunCodeFest 3.0.

The competition will award the best app or software program written for the health care industry.

Also Thursday, innovations made for Louisiana’s energy sector will be awarded at a social sponsored by the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition.