Roper Mobile announced that it was buying Black Diamond Advanced Technology, creator of the SwitchBack super-rugged UMPC. The machine debuted last fall, wooing fans with its hot-swappable batteries, all-weather reflective screen and full waterproofing to three meters underwater. But until now no one could actually buy one. Though not many knew it, SwitchBack was also the brains used in Intel's Satanic Chopper. Today the computers are finally for sale. We talked to creator Todd Einck about his uniquely kick-ass UMPC:
The problem the company dealt with was this: how do you build a PC capable of withstanding extremes of temperature, moisture, impact and dust, but then let some dude in the field plug in his iPod or digital camera, and screw it all up? Says Einck: "How do you hang on to a tablet if it has all this junk hanging off it? We embed all that stuff in BackPacks."
BackPacks are modules that can attach to (yes) the back of a SwitchBack PC for added functionality that can have equally ruggedized certification. Some BackPacks will be standard. The first includes "all the ports you would get on a PC," says Einck: PC card, USB 2.0, serial port, VGA, audio in and out. But Einck says the real point is to customize BackPacks for specialized needs: "You could have a BackPack with a 3-megapixel camera, iPod dock, and temperature probe to check the weather," he says.
Although the target for SwitchBack today is military and on-site heavy-duty commercial work, Einck sees the BackPacks as a way to integrate work and (rough) play, with BackPack style docking at home, at work, and in your car:
"Pop it in your desk, it handles all your work stuff, then take it home, put it in your dock at home. When you go hiking, you use the built-in GPS to get yourself out of whatever quagmire you got into, then pop it back in your jeep and go."
SwitchBack has a few other hardcore technologies up its sleeve:
• Its "black box" software combines accelerometer data with time stamps to provide a blow-by-blow account of all the crap that happens to it. Even if the SwitchBack ends up totally annihilated, you can find out what the hell happened.
• An optional second CE-strength processor (in addition to its 1GHz Celeron or 1.6GHz Core Duo) could be used to run a less battery draining interface out in the field, then take a back seat once you are in a less hostile environment and want to boot up Windows XP. [Roper Mobile
ROPER MOBILE TECHNOLOGY ACQUIRES BLACK DIAMOND ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY; ANNOUNCES SHIPPING OF SWITCHBACK RUGGED ULTRA MOBILE PC
Shipments of SwitchBack PC Commence for Customers in
Military and Industrial Markets
October 29, 2007—Tempe, AZ—Roper Mobile Technology today announced the acquisition of technology development firm Black Diamond Advanced Technology. Roper Mobile Technology, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Roper Industries (NYSE: ROP), is a leading provider of fully rugged, highly customizable mobile computing solutions for challenging environments. With this acquisition, Roper Mobile Technology announces the commercial availability of its flagship product, the SwitchBack PC. Debuted last fall as the world's first rugged UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer), the SwitchBack is a powerful Windows XP-based PC in a lightweight, rugged form factor.
"Over the last year, we have experienced an overwhelmingly positive market response to the SwitchBack PC and its unique modular design. With the completion of this acquisition, the SwitchBack is exploding onto the market and our first customers have been pleased with the technology and service we are providing," said Justin Dyster, former President of Black Diamond Advanced Technology and current Vice President of Engineering at Roper Mobile Technology. "Our BackPack initiative is already a success, with many customers placing orders for the Standard BackPack and with several more in military markets ordering Custom BackPacks or working with us to develop their own."
"The UMPC is emerging as a highly viable form factor for use in vertical applications currently supported by rugged mobile computers," said David Krebs, Practice Director, Venture Development Corporation. "The SwitchBack is uniquely positioned to support many of these applications and its design emphasizes the need for more platform-based modular computing solutions."
"The strength of Black Diamond's highly talented Research and Development team combined with Roper Mobile's established global resources in sales and service will greatly accelerate SwitchBack's market success," said Gene Yazbak, President of Roper Mobile Technology. "Roper Mobile is pleased to expand our capabilities in order to retain our fierce focus on innovating disruptive technologies, like the SwitchBack, that go the extra step to anticipate customer needs in harsh environments."
The latest version of the SwitchBack PC is the most powerful version yet. Operating on a Windows XP or Windows Vista platform, it utilizes a 1.0 GHz Intel® Celeron® M processor, 2GB of 400 MHz DDR2 and up to 120GB of optional storage. It has passed rigorous environmental testing and meets military specification MIL-STD-810F and IEC 60529 standard IP-67 for operating in conditions of extreme shock, vibration, temperature and immersion.
The standard SwitchBack PC is equipped with a condensed QWERTY keyboard, removable hard drive, hot swappable battery and a 5.6-inch WSVGA sunlight viewable touch screen with stylus. Wireless capabilities like Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi b/g and GPS can be integrated. The newest SwitchBack also has a patent-pending Status & Control feature that enables remote diagnostics for automatic troubleshooting in the field. This first of its kind diagnostic tool intelligently manages and controls vital functions of the PC including:
Primary & secondary battery levels
Accelerometer to measure drops
Input and output shortages
The BackPack Program
The SwitchBack's patent-pending BackPack Technology allows the user to incorporate multiple devices into a single BackPack such as a digital camera, biometric security, an RFID reader or any combination of I/O options.
The BackPack (standard or custom) attaches onto the back of the SwitchBack and interfaces to the computer through a special ultra-wide, high-speed connection to the Switchback. This design is so flexible almost any electronic peripheral can be designed to interface with the SwitchBack.
Today, customers can order the Standard BackPack which includes:
Type II PCMCIA
USB 2.0 Port
Audio Line In
Audio Line out
Roper Mobile also works closely with its customers to design customized BackPacks that are right for them. In addition, customers can choose to utilize Roper Mobile's BackPack Development Kit which allows them to build their own BackPacks.
Pricing & Availability
The SwitchBack PC and the Standard BackPack are available immediately through Roper Mobile Technology. For pricing and information on custom BackPack Modules or a BackPack Development Kit, contact Roper Mobile at 480-705-4200 x 230 or at email@example.com