Pranam Ben’s The Garage immediately reminds visitors of a home workshop.
The exposed brick, writing on the walls and windows, and gray vinyl floors of the downtown Orlando, Fla., office evoke the feel of a garage where people brainstorm ideas.
“When I named my company The Garage,” Ben says, “I wanted to honor the founders of Apple, Google and other companies who had their garage moments where they turned out something new and wonderful.”
A set of cushioned office seats resembling Tetris video game tiles and a poster of a motorcycle with its parts labeled “mobility” and “Web apps” hint that this place runs on high technology and a little elbow grease.
Ben, a 36-year-old entrepreneur and CEO of The Garage, describes his firm as an “online, mobile and hands-free technology company that operates like a factory, churning out health care innovations to market, rapidly and consistently.”
Ben and his team of developers are working on a hands-free program, using a Microsoft Kinect motion sensing device, to prevent doctors from operating on the wrong body part – a common medical error affecting the health care industry across the nation.
It functions by following the doctor’s hand gestures and voice commands, a combination of video game and mobile technology.
“It’s a game-changing technology,” Ben says.
The Garage, established in 2012, is a 2,000-square-foot space on the fifth floor a building in downtown Orlando.
Ben and his staff of nine employees in Orlando and 35 in India are working on several projects being tested at medical facilities across Central Florida. He wouldn’t discuss the finances of his privately held company.
The Clermont (Fla.) Ambulatory Surgical Center currently is testing the device powered by Kinect. Officials at that facility did not return calls to the Orlando Sentinel.
Another product, Engage, runs on an iPad. It helps patients who often spend hours in the waiting room with little to do to pass the time.
Engage offers patients health videos, access to email, ability to set up appointments and play health-related games, among other features. Florida doctors’ offices in Clermont, Winter Park and Port St. Lucie are using Engage.
His developers also are laying the groundwork for a social media platform specialized for health care providers.
Ben said the focus on health care technology is “all about giving patients their information at their fingertips.”
“Patients are more empowered and demanding of their health care providers,” he said. “They are playing a more active role, and we’re providing them with the tools they need.”
The Garage is not the first Central Florida technology company Ben founded that focuses on health care.
In 2008, he created Visions@work in Clermont. That company developed Preferr, a physician software that allows doctors and other health care providers to communicate with each other over the Internet. It streamlines and reduces the costs of certain administrative procedures.
IT company NIIT Technologies acquired Preferr from Ben in 2010. He did not disclose the financial terms of the acquisition.
Ben already is banking on the success of his current products.
“I expect to double my staff in the next six months and expand into the space next door,” he said. “Our plan is also to go global. We’re already talking about launching a site in Dubai and another in the United Kingdom in 2014.”
Ray Gilley, former Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission chief executive and advisory board member of The Garage, said he’s been following Ben’s success since 2008.
“This is technology that can have a nationwide impact, and it’s being created here in Central Florida,” Gilley said. “I’m confident these products will play a role throughout the country.”
But for now, Ben says he’s focusing on continuing his work in Central Florida.
“We have a great opportunity here with Lake Nona’s Medical City and the other health care systems,” Ben said. “Central Florida could be a Mecca for health care IT.”