ARCHIVED - Seeing clear success at 30,000 feet
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GateKeeper Systems Inc.
June 15, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario
"School buses were our starting market," says Doug Dyment, President of Gatekeeper Systems Inc. (GSI), manufacturer of hi-resolution video and audio data recording systems. "Our early systems were analog; slow and cumbersome to extract information from. They were selling well because our data resolution was good and customers were getting great support, but to remain competitive and go global, we knew we had to go digital."
GSI had a vision of full vertical integration; designing, testing and manufacturing a new generation of high quality digital systems, but they knew they would need help. There is a lot more to these video recording systems than meets the eye. Noise, dust, heat and cold, vandalism, notoriously unreliable power sources and particularly vibration, all compound to make a school bus a very inhospitable digital environment; especially for the resolutions they were looking to achieve.
"We had some application ideas that we believed were going to take us beyond the school bus market," comments Dyment.
In 2002, GSI approached Canada's National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) to help them build the concept prototype for a new digital recording platform. It would integrate both software and hardware. They also wanted help developing a blueprint for fully vertically integrating their production procedures.
NRC-IRAP provided funding for this initial project, as well as a wealth of industrial, engineering and market-specific expertise. The result was a very successful prototype.
But, a prototype is one thing, now on to production, GSI needed to resolve some of the problems like reliability that are typical of prototype programs. They wanted a first-class commercial production facility with design, testing and manufacturing all in-house. To test video and system performance within extreme vibration environments, NRC-IRAP installed the GSI recording system on their own Bell 412 helicopter, an Advanced Systems Research Aircraft laboratory. "The systems have performed so flawlessly. In fact, NRC is now using the Viperfish® ASX Digital Video Recorder to record pilot movements; an "Airborne Neural Recording Program" being conducted by NRC's Institute of Aerospace Research to measure pilot brain activity," says GSI's NRC-IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor, Tony Edgar.
"We were looking for more funding from NRC-IRAP, but again we got a lot more," says Dyment. "They shared valuable industry knowledge for transforming new products from product development to production. Together our teams were able to cross-pollinate lean manufacturing techniques and cell structures used in non-related industries – they helped design our production floor. A new standard for design and prototype methodologies was created and we put in new program and production systems."
The NRC-IRAP programs helped them resolve issues in three categories: software, system and hardware. It helped GSI develop testing facilities for shock treatment, installing vibration tables, thermal chambers and more. "The support of my ITA, Tony Edgar went well beyond my initial expectations," remembers Dyment. "He pushed us hard to think, and to look at ideas from different perspectives."
"Our new generation of digital systems with their ultra-stable hard drive data and storage cores are opening up major market channels" explains an enthused Dyment. "We're meeting opportunities in critical marine, aerospace, military, policing and homeland security applications."
Today GSI is competing on a global scale – and winning. Dyment smiles, "We've just signed contracts to install surveillance systems on aircraft with the US Air force, the Columbian Air force and recently the RCMP. We're signing a number of marine and land based contracts as well."
"Since the first NRC-IRAP project Gatekeeper Systems Inc. has changed dramatically," says Edgar. "They've come from a 7-person value-add integrator of imported parts, to a 57-person fully integrated manufacturer." Sales for 2007, expected to increase 66%, mean more staff additions in Engineering, Operations, Sales and Manufacturing.
Asked if they could have done this without NRC-IRAP's help, Dyment responded that without a doubt the ideas, the encouragement, and all the technical expertise provided by NRC-IRAP and his ITA were and still are huge factors in Gatekeeper's success.
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