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New Zealand company at top of data acquisition

20 July, 2005

Commitment and innovation puts New Zealand company at the head of data acquisition

A small Auckland company, ranked in an elite group at the cutting edge of data gathering for the motor sport industry, has successfully adapted its technology to provide sophisticated tools for the international transport sector.

On the back of a passion for motor sport racing, Kiwi ingenuity and excellent science, ETS Instruments has positioned itself as a global leader in converting data acquisition into a critical industrial and commercial tool for verification, validation and control.

The company’s high performance, rugged and miniaturized range of systems range from real-time data display units to remote access ‘black box’ data reporting loggers. They are being used as a tracking and management tool for the road, rail, marine and aviation industries and by industrial companies with equipment that needs detailed monitoring.

In the motor sport industry the technology is used to scrutinise engine and vehicle set up, preparation and performance including evaluating both the vehicle and the driver and comparing new parts and settings. In more recent applications it is being used by trucking firms in Auckland to monitor the exact location and movement of each vehicle in their fleet and to remotely track the progress of rail cars carrying perishable food in the United States. New business opportunities are being cemented in verifying the time-in-motion flying hours of aircraft.

Ashburton company, DesignLine City Buses is one company that recognises the huge benefits from adopting the technology. DesignLine build and export an advanced hybrid electric bus which is attracting significant international interest and orders. The utilisation of the ETS data logger technology, interfaced with Designline's protocol, now enable Designline engineers sitting at their workstations in Ashburton, to monitor and analyse vital operational data from the vehicles anywhere in the world in real or logged time.

This enables Designline to provide immediate assistance and support, develop strategies and solutions, or provide their clients with updated performance reports which assists in providing greater confidence in their total bus package, whilst also validating any warranties. The latest innovation from ETS Instruments is an advanced Controller Area Network (CAN) data platform which will replace the bulky cable entry to the data logging box with a small plug connecting a twin twisted and shielded wire. As well as being compact and robust, the new platform is suitable for both motor sport and industrial applications and speeds up data processing, increasing the number of signals copied for simultaneous data acquisition from just a few to up to 182.

Murray Tippins, ETS Instruments Managing Director, says this platform capability is unique on the international market, bringing both Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and smaller businesses flocking to ETS’s door, for help with anything from simple tasks, such as vehicle or temperature tracking, to sophisticated monitoring and control solutions.

“Configuring the platform is so easy, simple or complex advanced solutions can quickly be completed at attractive costs,” says Mr Tippins.

Ranked by the prestigious UK Racecar Engineering Magazine as one of the world’s six movers and shakers in performance data acquisition, ETS owes its success to Murray Tippin’s vision of world-class engineering expertise.

Tippins started working on data acquisition technology when he was asked to help an Auckland jet ski racing team improve its performance by getting data from the boat back to shore in real time.

The mysterious appearance of an advertisement for ETS in a US motor cross magazine (Tippins believes it was placed by an anonymous friend) led to an international contract for the company, providing data logging technology for the world’s first jet ski with fuel injection capability.

The jet ski was being developed by Robert Bosch Corporation, with the reliability of the ETS product being a key factor in the US company getting its product to market six months ahead of schedule and winning a prestigious product development award.

“That success showed us the huge business opportunity in developing improved data logging technology,” says Murray Tippins. “We then began intensive research and development to create high speed electronics that would perform reliably in rugged environments.

“The challenge was to develop systems that would read multiple inputs fast, and deliver a stable result in an environment characterised by noise, temperature extremes and super high vibration levels.”

Belief in the company’s technology and a commitment to innovation have kept ETS going through some difficult years when it battled to gain a foothold in the tough US market and fought off potential IP grabs by hungry competitors.

Support from the government, through the Technology New Zealand suite of investment schemes, has also been crucial to the company’s ongoing R&D. ETS has received nearly $205,000 over the past 8 years, helping to develop the new CAN platform and high-speed display products and sensors that have enhanced the company’s product line up.

A new investment of $216,000, through the Technology New Zealand Technology for Business Growth (TBG) scheme, has just been confirmed for a sophisticated electronic control development that will enable ETS to release innovative performance and industrial products in early 2006. Tippins says the Technology New Zealand investment has enabled ETS to ‘take risks and aggressively push the development boundaries’.

A Business Manager for the TBG scheme, Matt Yallop, says ETS Instruments is poised for explosive growth and the investment agency will continue to work with the company on further innovations to ensure it remains a market leader.

ETS has recently secured a US partner - Competition Cams Inc, a leading North American automotive performance parts manufacturer and distributor, which has bought a 50% shareholding in ETS Instruments and given the New Zealand company a base in Memphis, with a 24 hour call centre and access to established accounts.

Mr Tippins says the ETS product range is being introduced to Competition Cam’s wide distribution channels and accounts, incorporating 1260 reps in North and South America and Europe.

“Our partnership with Competition Cams gives us access to the top level of buyers in our market. They are a strong and credible company which is strong on marketing and can give us the financial backing we need to grow.”

For Competition Cams, the relationship also provides the opportunity to use New Zealand and Australia as a test bed for new products.

New innovations are continuing to roll off the presses at ETS Instruments.

The company has recently released the ZX5 Prodash for the international street car market, featuring a 6-inch smart display function that captures ¼ mile times and basic engine data.

A smart in flight data recorder is also attracting strong interest from international air authorities with further ground-breaking applications of its technology in the pipeline.

The suite of Technology New Zealand investment schemes are part of the research investment portfolio managed on behalf of the Government by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST). Each year the Foundation invests $450 million in innovation and fostering the creation of new knowledge through a range of funds and schemes. For more information visit: www.frst.govt.nz

ENDS

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