crowdsourcing
Desktop Management

Crowdsourcing Innovation: Murat Erdogan, CEO of Lucan Technologies

Crowdfunding sites are offering a new path for inventors with original ideas. We talk to inventors looking to gain the public’s favour with something new to offer. Is this a business of the future?

murat-erdogan Name: Murat Erdogan

 Job title: CEO and Founder

 Organisation: Lucan Technologies, Inc.

 Location: Greeley, Colorado, USA

 


Product: LUCAN™ Companion PCkb-bumps

What it does & How it works:

LUCAN™ PC is the latest evolution of touch screen devices to increase user experience of interacting with their computers, increase productivity and make PCs fun again!

It is a unique tablet that provides very flexible and customizable input capabilities.  Unlike other tablet products, it has a unique form factor designed to replace keyboards and be used as a Desktop Tablet PC.  The main vision of the design is to extend the life of PCs by introducing touch capabilities in an innovative design.

What makes it special:

Our primary goal was to develop a technology that can slow down the rate of PCs from becoming e-waste.  Analysts predict that we will have more than 2 billion PCs in use by 2020, most of which lack touch input capabilities. We wanted to give the consumers a clear alternative to replacing or dumping their devices prematurely.  But that had to be done with a unique but familiar device, hence our Desktop Tablet PC form factor.

It can be used as a full PC connected to a monitor, an innovative input device by replacing the keyboard and mouse of a PC, or a standalone Tablet PC. When combined with Windows 8 upgrade, the product will reduce e-waste by introducing touch capabilities and other new features to the PCs.

Unlike other tablets, the product also has patent pending SW that allows for concurrent application execution with multiple windows.  This is to allow for the best user experience possible and deliver a product that is more than just a Keyboard. We wanted evolution and convergence to give the users a fun product that would improve their lives and reduce e-waste, which we believe is achieved with the Companion PC.

What’s your background, and what inspired you to come up with the idea?

I worked for Intel Corporation developing desktop and notebook products for about 10 years.  I also started a couple companies and worked for EnergyHub, an energy conservation hardware company in NYC for 2+ years.  During my employment at Intel we produced millions of devices per year.  I travelled frequently to Asia and lived in Taipei for Intel for a few months. 

The inspiration for this project came from multiple life experiences:

- Almost everyone I know has one or more PCs and most are underutilized, not used or disposed of prematurely.

- I have seen “recycling facilities” where the extraction of metals is done in unhealthy and hazardous environments.  

- I upgraded a couple of my older PCs to Windows 8 and my experience without a touch input was dismal.  It was near impossible to navigate the new interface using mouse and Keyboard.

- I correspond internationally in multiple languages.  Typing in multiple languages using a Keyboard is near impossible. 

- I visited a local school and noticed that the PCs are using full size keyboards.  I watched small hands trying to jump back and forth on giant keyboards that were clearly not appropriate for small hands.  I also talked with people that are using touch devices in schools - the enthusiasm and creativity seemed to have increased where touch devices are used.

The bottom line is that I wanted to design a product that is in a familiar form, easy to repair and upgrade, lasts a long time and reduces e-waste, while modernizing the PCs in every way.

This product is part of a bigger vision: A modular, repairable, reusable architecture that will reduce e-waste at a large scale.

Why Indiegogo?

We chose Indiegogo because they are one of the popular sites and they recently featured Ubuntu Edge, an open platform phone promoting convergence.  The second reason was that Indiegogo does not require a physical prototype.  We have working mock-ups, but developing actual form factor prototypes would have cost us more time and resources.

Is Crowdfunding good for innovation? How so?

Definitely! Crowdfunding offers a lot of benefits that are not available on traditional funding, or would cost time and money to obtain.  You get your idea validated at lightning speed; you work with enthusiast customers that are not shy from giving you direct feedback, and above all stay outside of VC control.  This hopefully will lead to “out of the box” and creative products.

Reactions on IGG so far?

I set up the campaign on a flexible plan, meaning that we will keep the funding even if we do not reach our goal.  We believe we can find the balance within our circle of support if we fail to reach the full amount.  We have been live for a little over two days, we get traffic, but I have had a few comments where the supporters want to wait and see.  They will fund us, if we actually hit our goal.

Not surprising, the second comment from potential supporters is that we have a relatively high cost product.  People want to think about spending $475, before they support the project.

What have you learned from your campaign so far?

We just went live and are starting to reach out to our immediate support circles.  Simply putting a product on Indiegogo does not provide traffic or interest.  There are many products on these platforms and the possibility of someone finding yours, casually, is slim to none.

We have to generate that interest and traffic through press releases, blogs, and social reach. We are also trying Thunderclap as an experiment to see if we can generate some interest that way.

lucan-companion

What’s been the most difficult part in creating the Companion PC?

The product is a complex hardware and software product.  It requires innovation and determination.  The biggest challenge has been to try to decide on the guts of the platform, specifically the processors.  I spent a lot of time with ARM CPU vendors, which have some capable products at very reasonable prices.  However, the products are not quite ready to scale to our product needs.  We want to be able to run Android, Ubuntu and Windows 8, which is not quite possible with most ARM CPUs yet.

How does the Companion PC help extend PC life, and is it as effective as an independent tablet device?

As I stated earlier, unlike other tablet products, it has a unique form factor designed to replace keyboards and be used as a Desktop Tablet PC.  Although it will have a battery, it is not intended to be carried around as a typical Tablet device.  We wanted a familiar but flexible device.  This device can be used as a standalone desktop tablet, as a PC with a monitor attached, or a sophisticated input device with a PC replacing the keyboard.

For over two decades, the industry has been struggling with the PCs: is it dead or is it not?  This has created confusion in the industry and for consumers.  It has also slowed down the innovation that has gone into PCs.  The touch interface has become the dominant input method, and is on more than 80% of active devices in use today.  Keep in mind that the prediction is more than 2 billion PCs in use by 2016, most of which will not have a comfortable touch input device.

This device introduces touch input in a very familiar form factor, a keyboard.  It also claims the space of the Keyboard.  Specifically, when combined with a Windows 8 upgrade, this device brings the PCs back to life.  It allows you to do everything you can do on your tablet or smart phone and even more.  You can type in any language, sign documents, run Android or Windows Apps and more.

The device is modular, how difficult will it be to remove/upgrade the different components?

How modular this device end up being really depends on how much funds we raise.  Our goal is to develop a 100% modular device where all parts that might need service, upgrade or repair are removable.  Our vision is to put the motherboard on a removable CPU card that can be shared between multiple enclosures like a tablet, laptop and our companion PC.

How big of a problem is e-Waste?

The e-waste problem is big and getting bigger.  As of 2007, we have more devices in use than the total population.  Today, the average device per person is 3 and a Cisco survey claims that the number of devices per person will be about 7 per person by 2020. 

In 2010 the US created some 2.4 million tons of e-waste, where we only had 1.84 devices per person.  If you assume that the number of devices per person will increase 4X, the US will roughly produce 10 million Tons e-waste by 2020. A recent CNN report stated that Greenpeace estimates the global e-waste now amounts to 20-50 million tons each year.  They also said that if all that e-waste was to be loaded on container trains, would stretch all the way around the world.

Dave Hakken’s Phonebloks & Motorola’s Project Ara are very similar in concept to what you are looking to do, what are your thoughts on their idea? And have you seen some of the posts that have been critical about the idea?

I actually reached out to Dave Hakken and his team looking for some synergy.  It was clear that they were working on the deal with Motorola, and frankly that is the best place to make Phonebloks work. I think modularity is a great idea and the technology has advanced enough to make it possible.  Keep in mind though that standardization and modular design will impact design elements, such as size and feel. 

The only way this will be successful if both the industry and consumers are willing to compromise.  Based on my experience, Europe is very environmentally conscious, Asia is fashion or trend driven, and the US is price sensitive.  It is going to be a huge challenge to come up with a design that meets all three geography needs and wants.

Let me give you an example.  Laptops today are very thin and have very nice Industrial designs.  Every supplier or designer tries their best to make the next generation lighter, thinner and faster, independent to any specs or each other.  I was in Taipei as an expat for Intel managing an effort to standardize laptop form factor.  The idea was that we could produce a common form factor laptop, with common peripherals that multiple ODMs could produce. The plan was to introduce these product into Channel market and create flexibility for upgrades, configuration etc.  The end result was really a failure: Thicker and heavier laptops that looked identical and unattractive.

I have a little bit of advantage over Phonebloks – PCs have always been modular to a point.  There was a time when DIY was thriving and building or upgrading your PC was not unusual.  My challenge begins when I push for convergence.  Designing a common system board that is easily removable and usable across multiple form factors is a huge undertaking.  There are thermal, mechanical, electrical, and other concerns. 

But if done correctly, our lives will become easier.  You could simply remove your CPU card from your desktop after work; plug it into your tablet during your commute, or your laptop at home.  All your data, contacts and configuration will be with you at all times. You would not need to transfer files between your multiple devices or need Wi-Fi to access a file on your desktop.  They are all the same, at least internally.

Possible business use?

One of the segments we will target is the Business or Corporations.  The Total Cost of Ownership per device is increasing.  The IT department is struggling with managing multiple devices per user and BYOD trends.  Any time you mix multiple devices or remote and local devices, security, data integrity, and updates become a huge challenge. 

Our product simplifies the multi-device management.  The user could have as many devices as they choose, a tablet, a Laptop, two desktops, it does not matter.  IT has to manage one system board profile that is tightly managed and controlled.  Also modularity allows for lower cost, easier deployments, and possible space sharing.  You see since the enclosures are shared, anyone that has a CPU card can use any available system without concern over security.

This product will also be the best touch input thin client available for companies that prefer cloud based Operating Systems or applications.

Aims for the future?

Intel CEO Paul Ottellini recently stated "The PC is not going to go away anytime soon, if ever. It’s going to continue to evolve. Right now, it’s the most powerful tool you can have…” During his Ubuntu Edge campaign, Mark Shuttleworth said “Convergence is future of computing”

Our modular design offers an evolutionary design that makes convergence of software and hardware a reality.  I only hope that I am able to communicate the vision correctly to get the support we need to move forward.


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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