Meacham: Tulsa firm highlights cycle of innovation
From cars to refrigerators to doorbells, the machines we use every day are getting smarter every year.
McKinsey reports that the Internet of Things (IoT) — the network of interconnected devices that collect and exchange data — is one of the three most impactful technological advancements we will see before 2030.
IoT devices, embedded with sensors, software, network connectivity and advanced electronics that enable them to "talk" to each other and to humans, are taking over tasks that range from mundane (turning lights on and off) to more complex (managing the energy requirements and consumption of a 50,000 square foot warehouse).
Embedded systems and custom electronic printed circuit boards, like those used in IoT and beyond, call for extreme innovation in electronics.
Virtuoso Software, a young Tulsa firm, is at the forefront of that innovation.
Embedded systems are made up of software and hardware components that are integrated in complex ways. Engineers need both software and hardware components to iterate through coding, testing, and debugging. Nothing about engineering these microprocessor components is easy, but multiple software iterations by their very nature can happen more quickly than iterations of hardware.
Software engineers don't have to fabricate or modify physical components. But they must have the hardware to test and debug code.
Virtuoso gives engineers tools to create a "virtual" hardware environment that allows software engineers to test concepts much sooner and with more iterations. Not having to worry about buying parts, getting them delivered and then putting them on a circuit board speeds up development and contributes to more exciting products.
"When a project gets wrapped around the axle on hardware design, software developers can write and test their code virtually," said Jonathan Torkelson, CEO of Virtuoso.
The software allows custom electronic printed circuit board hardware to be virtualized for development. This means that firmware application developers can drag-and-drop commonly used components like LEDs, touch screens, and keypads or develop new components from scratch, and start developing applications.
A graduate of the University of Tulsa's Electrical Engineering program, Torkelson also serves on the department's Industrial Advisory Board. One of Virtuoso's goals is to work with undergraduate students.
"We are partnering with TU and have hired a number of TU interns who have become full-time employees," Torkelson said.
Dr. Kaveh Ashenayi, chairman of the University of Tulsa's Electrical Engineering and Computing Department, said he looks forward to getting this technology in our students' hands and seeing what applications they can make with it, without having to spend any money on hardware.
"At TU," Ashenayi said, "we are growing and very insistent on students having the highest level of knowledge and the best education. We work to accomplish this with people like Jonathan who appreciate the education they got and are paying it back to the department. We are going gangbusters, improving laboratories with new equipment, improving teaching courses, expanding research and getting really active with NASA and DOD with autonomous devices; we are pushing the envelope."
This is one of those virtuous cycles of innovation — TU graduates an exceptional engineer, who starts a company, develops a breakthrough solution, engages with TU engineering to hire interns who become full-time employees who, in turn, collaborate with TU on new projects.
Makes for a very Happy New Year!
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.