The main manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone just invested in an Austin-based semiconductor startup.
The company plans to spend the cash on bringing its sensory delivery technology from prototype to production. Eventually, every industry will use SigmaSense, said CEO Rick Seger.
“We’ve now come up with a way to do sensing that is a foundational change to how sensing is done, not just for touch, but that is going to change how we do sensing for a number of different industries,” Seger told Built In.
Founded in 2015, SigmaSense is the product of three touchscreen industry veterans. Seger formerly served as president of N-trig Inc., a maker of touchscreen technology that Microsoft eventually acquired for about $30 million.
Around the time of the sale, Seger was approached by brothers Shawn and Troy Gray. Both had backgrounds in touchscreen innovation, with Troy previously serving as the lead engineer at Carroll Touch, which is credited with producing the first, high-volume touchscreens in the world.
Troy had invented a new way to sort the signal-to-noise ratio of traditional touchscreens, which refers to the measure of a signal’s strength compared to background noise. His innovation offered a much higher resolution, operated at lower voltages and collected better data than previous systems, Seger said. Seger added that it was the first time the process for delivering sensors had been updated in at least 35 years.
“We’ve been able to prove that we’re between 100 and 1,000 times better signal to noise than traditional touch controllers,” Seger said. “It’s a significant advantage over how people have been doing touch for the last several generations of products.”
The group decided to work together on developing the technology and launched SigmaSense, which has so far focused its energy on developing interactive digital signage. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated both business and consumer demand for this tech, Seger said, with an increasing number of businesses investing in the startup’s touchless kiosks and sales of SigmaSense’s home workstations growing by the double digits.
“As sad as [the pandemic] is, I think it is going to inspire us to build better systems for interactivity, and workspaces that are more engaging at home,” Seger said.
Going forward, Seger said the startup plans to introduce its sensory delivery technology to the medical sensing, automotive, Internet of Things, robotics and communications industries. The startup’s entrance into these new fields will rely on new talent, he said. The 40-person company currently has plans to hire five people, with openings for embedded software developers, test engineers and ASIC verification engineers. As it grows, and receives more funding, Seger said the company will hire further.
SigmaSense has so far raised about $28 million, with its customers investing in this current round. Foxconn Technology Group led the Series A round, with participation from Corning, E Ink, GIS, MRI and Tom Meredith, the former chief financial officer at Dell.