A Kanata firm that designs graphical user interfaces for internet-connected devices such as wearables and appliances is making a splash in the automotive space after its technology was chosen for a groundbreaking new solar-powered vehicle.
Crank Software, which develops software for embedded screens and displays, is part of the team working with San Diego-based Aptera Motors on what the California manufacturer says will be the world’s first electric vehicle that requires no charging for most daily use.
Crank is building the central infotainment system for the lightweight three-wheeled car, which became available for preorder on Dec. 4. The Ottawa company designed the embedded liquid-crystal screen that displays the speedometer, HVAC controls, mapping functions and charging data.
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Now at more than 40 employees, Crank has built up a list of high-profile clients that includes Coca-Cola, GE Appliances, John Deere and Nintendo. Co-founder and president Brian Edmond says demand for the company’s services is growing year after year as embedded screens become ubiquitous in devices ranging from smart watches to coffee-makers.
“Your cellphone’s in your pocket and it looks like this, and everybody’s (asking), ‘Why doesn’t everything I touch have that look and feel?’” he says.
Still, the Aptera project proved to be a particular challenge. The budding automaker is aiming to start rolling its new vehicle off the assembly line next year, and Crank’s development team had less than eight weeks to take the car’s infotainment system from PowerPoint sketches to a fully functioning unit ready for installation.
Edmond notes with pride that the Ottawa company was up to the task.
“It was a very seamless transition from our development to actually running it in the vehicle,” he says.
Founded 13 years ago, the bootstrapped enterprise has matured into a profitable company with steady revenue growth and more than 250 customers. Last year, Crank moved into a new office on Innovation Drive.
While the firm has hit a few bumps in the road as clients navigate their way through the pandemic, Edmond says it’s been on a smoother path lately as a tumultuous 2020 draws to a close.
The company has added four new hires in the last three months, and many customers that put projects on hold earlier in the year are now back in spending mode.
“Especially in the last few months, things have been picking up and moving in a really positive direction,” Edmond says. “I would envision more growth for us next year and more hiring.”