Vancouver-based Pacific Design Engineering (PDE) Ltd. was one of several successful spinoffs from MPR Teltech Ltd, the research arm of the former BC Tel Companies. Their award-winning engineers, designers and craftspeople have been bringing specialized product design knowledge and experience to various technology products since 1988. With their 25th anniversary next year, PDE is now one of the largest independent contract design and development companies in Western Canada.
I recently had the chance to speak with Derek Pyner, vice-president at Pacific Design Engineering, who shared some stories on what helped make PDE a Western Canadian success story.
“We had a great start as we were the first spinoff from MPR Teltech,” says Pyner. The demise of MPR Teltech led to the start and success of several successful companies including PMC-Sierra and Sierra Wireless. “Since then, we have also worked really hard to build relationships with others, such Texas Instruments (TI), with whom we are a Design Network Platinum member. We have a similar relationship with Altera and we are also an ACES member with Arrow.”
Partnerships such as these can give one design firm an edge over the competition giving designers and their clients access to road maps and support above and beyond that of the regular public.
“Building strong relationships with our suppliers and partners is one of the key reasons for our growth,” Pyner explains.
Q: Bluetooth 4.0 low energy (BLE): Why should BLE interest consumers?
“When it first arrived, it was called Wibree until it was adopted by Bluetooth,” says Pyner. BLE was conceived by Nokia and it gives mobile phones the ability to control devices from virtually anywhere, allowing users to, for instance, adjust thermostats or activate light switches. Pyner explains, “The key here is that Bluetooth chose this technology as an adjunct to add a low energy communication solution to it’s existing offerings.”
Q: Apple is now on board, with the iPhone 4s, iPhone5 and iPad. What does this signify?
“As you likely know, if you are creating hardware to work for the iPhone, you must be involved in the MFi program,” says Pyner. The MFi program is the ‘Made For iPhone, iPad and iPod’ program that requires the OEM to follow tight restrictions as they work through Apple’s lengthy approval process. Pyner describes the difference with BLE, “with Bluetooth low energy, you do not have these restrictions. Apple has made it easier for designers and OEM’s to create products that utilize Bluetooth low energy.” With more than 400-million iOS products available, this capability is a bit of a hidden gem for Canada’s OEMs.
Q: How does this translate into opportunities for Canada's OEM's?
“BLE opens up the door to integration with most sensor applications,” says Pyner. “The iPhone can be utilized as a user interface, and you can develop the sensor side that talks to the iPhone, making it relatively easy to create new products.” This leaves the door open for new ideas and products because the breadth of applications is so large.
Q: Any words of advice for a Canadian tech entrepreneur?
“I think that this is an interesting time for entrepreneurs,” says Pyner. “Anybody can develop a BLE product. There are no restrictions. Concepts like kickstarter can help get your products and ideas tested and sold to consumers, turning your design concepts into reality. The big deal is that you can get your ideas off the ground without losing your intellectual property.”
The possibilities seem endless at technology’s new frontier! BLE, and Apple’s unrestricted adoption of BLE, opens the door for smaller Canadian businesses to develop ingenious solutions. Development firms such as PDE can help with the design implementation of these new technologies, leading to growth that benefits all stakeholders in Canada’s technology sector.