Giving back to the community you come from is something that PADT strongly believes in. We extend this belief not just to charities, but also to the technology business community that helped to create the company we are today. One way in which we do that is through strategic Angel investments in local technology startup companies.
Serious Integrated, Inc. is a company focused on one simple mission: doing away with buttons on machines. Most mechanical systems need some sort of human-machine interface, and in the past this has consisted of buttons in some sort of control panel with a small monochrome screen that is hard to read and does not give enough information. The current trend is to replace this interface with a color touch screen that can be programed to have whatever interface the equipment manufacturer want. The problem that the manufacturer faces is that they have to design the screen and all the electronic hardware behind it, source it, program it, and integrate it with their system. Serious Integrated has solved this problem with a family of modular interfaces and a GUI development environment. A six month development process to just get a prototype can now be done in a few weeks.
Serious Integrated was founded by Terry West and Gregg Lahti because they saw a need in the market. With experience from RIM, Intel, Microchip and Sun Microsystems, along with a few startups, they knew how to take this need and build a product and services around it. They are currently growing at the Chandler Innovations Incubator in Chandler, AZ by adding other seasoned professionals to their staff.
Terry and Gregg Show off two Modules
It is truly rare to sit in a room at a startup and be surrounded by people with as much experience as Serious Integrated brings to the table, and not just on the technical side, but also in operations, legal, and finance. One of the ways that this has manifested itself is in establishing partnerships with a suppliers like Renasas and Microchip. This also showed in the quick selection of the Serious modules as listed products by heavyweight distributors Arrow Electronics and Digi-key along with a host of well respected electronics manufacturers’ representatives.
The management team has been able to grow quickly and efficiently through many obstacles and are already generating revenue, delivering multiple product options, releasing software, and finding time to do custom design work. Such a strong start is a good indicator of a very successful future.
The technology that Serious Integrated offers is an off-the-shelf solution that consists of already assembled components on a custom board with a standard operating system already installed. This is combined with a GUI development environment created by the company to offer a complete modular solution that eliminates the lengthy development process required if you decide to roll your own interface.
If you want to know more specifics about the hardware technology, you need to contact Serious Integrated. Because I am a mechanical engineer, much of what they do in these modules is black magic to me. I do know it works, and if I want to use it on one of our projects, I do not have to budget for an electrical engineer to spend 3 months designing it for me. Modules cost between $120 and $200 depending on size and features in small quantities, which is such an affordable price point it makes sense to just try one out.
I can speak to the software, which was just put out in beta release. Ship is a complete rapid GUI development system that uses a WYSIWYG interface (SHIPTide) that allows you to design your interface in a virtual space by dragging-and-dropping components. You can layout your GUI, define events or actions, build your resource library, and create a package that you can upload to your hardware with ease. Something even a mechanical engineer can use.
SHIPEngine is the runtime engine that sits on the board. It can be loaded on a Serious Integrated module, or on your own hardware. It takes the package you make with SHIPTide and runs your GUI. No need to write for a specific microcontroller and/or RTOS. Serious Integrated also offers services to help with the GUI design or to help with custom content for your GUI.
So you can go with their modules, or your own hardware, and use the SHIP environment to drastically reduce your development time. Many companies consider the use of a Serious Integrated module for their product development phase, and then going to their own hardware for mass production. With Serious Integrated, you have the option to do it whatever way is best for your needs.
The current trend in product development is smart products. Everything has some sort of controller and a way to interface with it far beyond on-off switches and simple buttons or dials. New products must not only have more sophisticated controls, they must have human-machine interfaces that are robust, easy-to-use, and easily configured. Serious Integrated has created a hardware and software solution that has huge advantages over developing your own interface. This is a product we recommend to our customers.
We also really like the team. They are smart, experienced, and very knowledgeable. They also have contacts in the world of machine interface and control that we find very useful. Our involvement with them has already been beneficial and we learn things every time we interact. As Serious Integrated grows we hope to be able to offer PADT’s services to some of their customers, and we will continue to introduce our customers and vendors to their technology and services.
All and all, this has been one of the more beneficial partnering relationships that PADT has done through an angel investment.
Serious Integrated is currently in a great place for a new startup – they have orders with revenue coming in the door, product shipping, new products in the pipeline, and are building a positive reputation in the market. Their focus right now is on raising the funds needed to meet the demands of their growing market and on executing their plan efficiently. So far things have gone well and they have been able to verify their initial assumptions about the market and the features/functions of a product that will meet those needs.
If you have a need for a human-machine interface, you can help yourself and PADT out by taking a look at Serious Integrated and trying one of their modules and the GUI development environment. Let us know what you think.