37 : UTC Startups - Series I

All vertical market segments are affected by digital innovations and by trends seen at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), undoubtedly the greatest hi-tech event in the world, which 3 UTC start-ups chose to attend.

37 : UTC Startups - Series I

FeelTact : Communicating by touch

We are saturated by visual and audio information all day every day, but how could we transmit information via our sense of touch, not used very much today? This is the question addressed by the UTC-Costech Lab via an innovative prize winning project at the Innovation Centre in 2010. After 3 years maturing, the two UTC graduates in charge of the project design Thibaud Severini and Vanessa Caignault created their company Novitact. What are the objectives of this start-up? The aim is to lend meaning to touch, notably through functions offered by the first product, the Feeltact vibratory comm-bracelet.

This bracelet is a connected object that transmits and receives tactile messages in the form of vibrations. “The lexicon of our sense of touch is adapted to the users. The messages can be easily interpreted as a function of duration, intensity, rhythm and number of oscillators set in motion”, says Thibaud Severeni, Chairman of Novitact. The bracelet is also connected to smartphones via a Bluetooth® connection. There are very numerous possible applications for Feeltact. These could lie with professionals but also with private individuals even if Novitact – in the first instance – has targeted the profession safety sector, for environments where visual and oral communication prove difficult, or even dangerous. “For example”, explains Vanessa Caignault, CEO of Novitact, “a ticket inspector on a train who feels he/she is in danger can discretely send a message via the bracelet to warn his/her colleagues and receive a message in return about their arrival possibilities”. This idea for a vibration based data transmission system emerged in 2010 through a proposal by Nicolas Esposito, a research scientist working with the UTC-Costech Laboratory. It was Nicolas who first contacted Thibaud Severino – a graduate in Computer sciences and engineering from UTC. Thibaud joined the adventure in June 2010, managing what was to become an innovating project, and he co-invented the the bracelet format. Then it was the turn of Vanessa Caignault to join the team (likewise a graduate from UTC specialised in innovating projects management). “After 10 years helping others to launch products and start-ups, I decided to ‘cross the line’ and get into entrepreneurship on my own”. This prize winning project benefited from funding by the Picardie Regional authorities, via the Maturation Fund and likewise from Europe via the FEDER (Regional development fund). The company was officially created in October 2013 and won the Digital Spring prize awarded June 5 this year, convened at the UTC Innovation Centre, thereby earning their tickets to seats on the French delegation who will be present at the next Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Las Vegas and this will surely add a lot of international visibility to the young company. “But the main objective this year’, says Thibaud Severini, “is to test the bracelets in real-life situations using some prototypes that we assembled as of April this year. The prototypes allowed them to contact several companies interested potentially in the product and to identify those who expressed a wish to join forces in a test phase to be conducted by end 2014.