Smart Boards get smarter

NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., use it for the manned mission to Mars project. Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson uses it during half time to illustrate to his players the game-plan for the rest of the game. Lucent software engineers in India write code on it

so they can collaborate with their colleagues in multiple locations overseas. Somewhere in the Middle East soldiers in the back of Hummer use it to plan out strategy on a map downloaded from an AWAC plane.

What these people are using is a Smart Board with Digital Vision Touch (DViT) technology developed by Calgary-based Smart Technologies Inc.

DViT technology uses proprietary digital cameras that can determine the contact of a finger, stylus, pointer or other object on a plasma screen or rear projection display.

Cameras are fixed in each corner of the display to communicate the position of a person’s finger or stylus back to a digital signal processor.

According to Smart, no special pens or tools are required and the screen does not have any special materials.

“The technology is in the screen,” says David Martin, chairman and co-CEO of Smart.

“The plan was to move from analog to digital and we needed to build a whiteboard capture system with high resolution real time capture so we moved the camera from up high to each corner,” Martin adds.

The DViT-based Smart Board is being introduced on two of Smart’s line up — the rear projection Smart Board 3000i and the Smart Board for plasma display.

“In 1998, we started developing plasma technology because plasma is great for walls and can be mounted. It is the truest in terms of colour reproduction with the least amount of footprint,” Martin says.

The Smart Board is also used in meeting rooms, training and as a presentation tool.

Currently, only four people can write or draw in any colour on the screen and collaborate. More are possible depending on processor strength, Martin says. “It is a performance and bandwidth question. It can get up to eight to 12 people,” he says.

The future for DViT technology would see the Smart Board curved so that users can access an Excel spreadsheet from January all the way to December. The Smart Board can be a table as well.

“We are just learning what our customers want. Last year we created 14 new products and this year it is 25,” Martin says.

Smart has a about 30 VARs in Canada each making between 20 to 40 per cent margins developing Smart Board solutions.

Smart has grown 45 per cent CAGR each of the last six years and has more than 50 per cent marketshare.

“We are the gorilla in this space,” Martin says.

VARs getting into this field will be in new areas such as kiosks, retail, and broadcasting,” Martin said.

The suggested retail price of the rear projection Smart Board

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