Behind a small screen embedded in golf carts is a computer that tells golfers how far they are from the next hole, keeps their score and allows them to order drinks after they tee off.
It's the same computer that tells the carwash how much soap and rinse to use on each car as it drives through, or allows racetrack visitors to place bets from the track's dining room.
"You can bet without leaving the table," said Alain G. Philippe, director of engineering for Applied Data Systems Inc.
Columbia-based Applied Data Systems Inc. designs the embedded systems that are integrated with such software applications. With a grant of about $45,000 from the University of Maryland and the school's Maryland Industrial Partnerships program - augmented by about $22,500 from the company - officials at Applied Data Systems can prove to their customers that their product will work in temperatures from minus 40 degrees to 85 degrees Celsius (minus 70 degrees to 155 degrees Fahrenheit).
On Thursday, Howard County's Center for Business and Technology Development will honor Applied Data Systems and 10 other Howard County companies that have received MIPS grants in the past several years.
"It does show there's a lot of innovation taking place - especially in the small companies - in Howard County, and it does show that that innovation is well respected at the highest academic level," said Michael Haines, director of business development for the NeoTech incubator, where the ceremony will be held.
The MIPS awards are matching grants that pay for collaborative research projects between technology companies and the University of Maryland, said Peter Hudson, associate director of the MIPS program at the university.
Although the grants help companies develop technology, Hudson said, they also benefit the university. Researchers gain a sense of what's important in the marketplace, the university gets feedback on its curriculum, and graduate students gain first-hand experience in commercializing research and finding potential job opportunities.
The program began in 1987 to stimulate technical innovation and enterprise in Maryland, and about 40 grants are awarded every year, each one up to $100,000, depending on the size of the company, Hudson said.
Since 1987, 612 awards have been made, 80 of them in Howard County, Hudson said.
The grant pays for university researchers and graduate students to work on projects that will be commercialized by the company. Applied Data Systems, for instance, used its grant to pay for researchers at the University of Maryland to test its Graphics Client Plus embedded systems computer in different temperatures.
The research, completed this month, included putting the computer in an oven to see how it would withstand heat, said Dr. Patrick McCluskey, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, who did the research with a graduate student.
Aside from being used with software on golf carts, at racetracks and at carwashes, the Applied Data Systems' computer is used in vending machines and cash machines, Philippe said. The company also designs other embedded systems, such as one in tractors that measures the fertilizer needed in each row of crops.
Before the testing, officials at Applied Data Systems had no validation from an impartial party that their computers could withstand a broad range of temperatures. Now they do.
Applied Data Systems, which received the grant in June, is Howard County's most recent MIPS grant recipient. Grants to other companies being honored date to 1995.
The other companies to be recognized at the ceremony Thursday are Essex Corp. of Columbia, which received $65,299 from the MIPS program and the University of Maryland; Igene Biotechnology Inc., $68,850; Martek Biosciences Corp., $45,436; WisdomBuilder LLC, $42,048; Arbitron Co., $20,850; Baltimore Aircoil Co., $42,015; Cylex Inc., $50,000; and Stellar Bio Systems Inc., $38,064.
View Systems Inc. and Paratek Microwave Inc. also received grants of about $50,000 each, which includes some funding from the Johns Hopkins University.