Peratech presses smart button for touch expansion

Article By : Junko Yoshida

By rolling out its QTC development kit, Peratech wants developers to try “reconfigurable super buttons”-enabled by quantum tunnelling composites.

« Previously: Printed force sensors stamp out punching little holes

U.K.-based Peratech, which invented quantum tunnelling composites (QTC) materials, is leveraging its intellectual property to design touch/force-sensing solutions.

Peratech isn’t exactly a start-up. The company was founded in 1996. Peratech spent more than a decade vending proprietary materials and software, with the company’s business squarely focused on licensing. Peratech eventually closed this business in 2013.

With the company’s core IP fully intact, Peratech was reborn in July 2014, under new ownership, new management and a new business model.

A team of 30 people, including six engineers from the original Peratech, is now run by Jon Stark, former vice president and general manager of printed electronics at MFLEX, the largest flexible printed circuit firm in the United States. Stark also has management consulting experience at JP Morgan Chase, Virgin Mobile USA.

The Peratech team also includes chief commercial officer Michael Levin, who’s no stranger to the touch-sensing technology. Levin was senior business manager at Synaptics, vice president of business development at Pacinian and vice president of technology & partnerships/general manager of touch interface products at Immersion.

Stark has shifted Peratech’s business model from IP licensing to product commercialisation. “The licensing model just takes too long,” said Stark.

By rolling out its QTC development kit, Peratech wants as many developers as possible to try “reconfigurable super buttons”-enabled by QTC. Such developers include the maker community, robotic group to automotive tier ones and large CE companies.

Knowing where to exit, adding more testing

But the Peratech CEO is also mindful of a common trap for many technology start-ups. They stretch themselves too thin trying to support too many customers and projects.

In support of customers, Peratech takes pride in functioning almost as a “product coach.” Peratech closely follows customers’ product development life cycle. This cycle typically involves design concept, proof of technology, proof of product concept, design in and proof of manufacturing. Peratech does a risk analysis, explained Stark. “We try to understanding the promise of a product our clients are making, and knowing what would take to guarantee that promise.”

Most important is “to know where to exit,” when things aren’t working out.

This rule of thumb—the ability to make big decisions early on—is described by David Matheson, who teaches at Stanford Univ. and co-founded SmartOrg, explained Stark.

After such a “risk-addressed, uncertainty-aware proof of concept stage,” Peratech offers clients rigorous testing during product development. “We add value in testing,” said Levin. With 30 people working around the clock—the team is dispersed from South Korea, Stockholm, Sweden to North Yorkshire, the U.K. and California—“we provide our support around the clock, spot problems and make changes.”

Competitive landscape

Naturally, Peratech isn’t the only company offering flexible touch technology. Its competitors include: Japan’s Nissha Printing Co. claims to have “touch panels” that lead in touch input technology. Canatu in Finland is a manufacturer of transparent conductive films for an entirely new class of touch applications. Plastic Logic (Dresden, Germany) says it’s a leader “in the design and manufacture of flexible, glass-free electrophoretic displays (EPD).”

Peratech believes its advantage is in the ease of integrating its technology into many standard processes, explained Stark. Further, Peratech is also striving to spread its application IPs as widely as possible, while protecting its core IP.

Peratech is now engaged in 12 concurrent projects, including “design contracts with Tier Ones” in the automotive industry.

This article first appeared on EE Times U.S.

« Previously: Printed force sensors stamp out punching little holes

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