Tundra founder and SiGEM: recent volume...|
Anyone know more about one of Tundra's founders, John Roberts, who has started SiGEM? Getting funding from Terry Matthew's of Newbridge Networks/Celtic House and Bell Mobility and their engineers (Kanata-based) are working on wearable, wireless devices designed to track people/objects/assets via the Web.
Ten times avg. volume last week (SGEM:CDN), trading at about $1.40 U.S. (but no recent news)...
The Ottawa Citizen
November 26, 1999, FINAL
SECTION: Business; D3
LENGTH: 922 words
HEADLINE: Kanata firm's tracker 'pings' to pinpoint its target: Device can be used by parents to monitor movements of young children
BYLINE: Christopher Guly
New technology being developed by a Kanata firm will soon provide parents and caregivers with an extra pair of eyes.
SiGEM Inc., a two-year- old company, has created ePING, a device the size of a small pager that fits into a leather pouch and that can be worn on a belt by a young child or someone with Alzheimer's disease to monitor their movements.
'If you wander off or in some way lose your way, this device would transmit back, upon request, exactly where you are,' according to John Roberts, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of SiGEM.
Yesterday, the firm obtained $400,000 from a $6-million initiative launched last year and funded by TELUS Mobility and Bell Wireless Alliance, which includes Bell Mobility Inc.
SiGEM was among nine 'innovative emerging Canadian companies' that received $2.4-million worth of contracts under the initial phase of the funders' Wireless Telecommunications R&D Investment Program, which received 181 project proposals.
Next year, Bell Wireless Alliance and TELUS plan to allocate the remaining $2.6 million.
Managed by Ottawa-based CANARIE Inc., which has developed a high-speed national optical research-and-development Internet, the wireless telecom R&D investment program is intended to support innovative projects by startups to provide cutting-edge products and services to the wireless marketplace.
The funding also reflects the federal government's requirement that roughly two per cent of gross revenues from wireless companies go toward R&D as part of the conditions for obtaining a spectrum license from Industry Canada.
The amount handed to SiGEM will cover a third of the cost to develop ePING, according to Mr. Roberts, who says his firm has already spent $75,000 in feasibility studies on the miniature remote electronic monitor.
ePING's tracking capability is based on global position system (GPS), wireless and Internet technologies.
The device contains a tiny GPS receiver that transmits the data signal of the exact location of a person or object -- like a briefcase or laptop computer -- over the same cell phone network used for voice traffic to an Internet service provider (ISP). Using special software, also developed by SiGEM, the ISP transfers the information on to an electronic map that identifies the precise position with a red dot.
Mr. Roberts added that ePING is also capable of establishing an 'electronic fence,' whereby a young child who strays too far from home will activate the 'ping' part of the device and notify a parent by telephone via the ISP.
However, consumers will have to wait 15 months from now before they will be able to purchase or lease the device, which will come with a battery designed to last three months.
For now, though, ePING is still at the R&D stage.
Founded in 1997 as a spin-off from Ottawa-based silicon germanium chipmaker SiGe Microsystems Inc. (both partially owned by the same holding company, SGMI Technologies Inc.), SiGEM acquired, in April, longtime collaborator Cygnus Satellite Systems Inc., a Stittsville-based firm that specialized in satellite technology.
To date, Mr. Roberts said that SiGEM, which employs 23 people, has raised $4.5 million, is currently trying to generate another $2 million and plans to attract a further $7 million to $10 million in capital by the end of next year. SiGEM has also acquired $500,000 in funding from Kanata-based Celtic House Inc., a venture capital firm owned by Newbridge Networks Corp. founder and chairman Terence Matthews.
In late September, SiGEM went public on the Canadian Dealing Network. Share prices closed yesterday at $1.
Mr. Roberts says that SiGEM plans to attract private placements through 'high net-worth' individuals and companies that might serve as suppliers, or have 'strategic interests' in the technology.
On the technological front, the firm is certainly following a new direction.
Up until now, SiGEM has focused on manufacturing GPS components used primarily for tracking trucks. The miniaturization trend occurring within the industry changed things.
'As the GPS receivers got smaller, we suddenly conceived the idea of tracking people,' Mr. Roberts said.
Thus, the concept for ePING was born.
Beyond keeping an eye on people, the lightweight device can also help locate inanimate objects, such as finding your car in a parking lot.
Once the hardware transmits the electronic ping identifying the position to your ISP, ePING's software dimension takes over and downloads a map of the immediate area.
Mr. Roberts hopes to have ePING ready for demonstration purposes by this April, though the device won't be commercially available until 2001.
By then, he expects the cost to purchase it won't exceed $300.
Likely, the more popular route will initially involve ISPs including ePING as a value-added service where Internet account holders will lease the electronic tracker for a monthly fee based on a set number of hours of usage.
Mr. Roberts said that with 42 per cent of people in North America having access to the Internet, 'almost half the people can access a device like this to track people and things.'
According to the director of R&D for Bell Mobility in Dorval who helped select SiGEM's proposal, the company is laudably targeting the safety-minded within the consumer market.
'There's a great business and marketing opportunity to exploit positioning in that space,' said Jean Barrette.
GRAPHIC: P Black & White Photo: Bruno Schlumberger, The Ottawa Citizen / SiGEM co- founder John Roberts shows off his company's new device, ePING, which is the size of a small pager that fits into a leather pouch and can be worn on a belt by a young child or someone with Alzheimer's disease to monitor their movements.