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09/01/2009 - Triangle Welcomes Softech

Along with their expansion into the Sirti Technology Center (STC), Softechnologies, Inc (Softech) will preserve six or more high tech jobs for Spokane, according to Vance Blakely, President and CEO. Softech chose the STC because they need the fiber-based, high speed, secure communications infrastructure available there to deliver their services. Although new to the Terabyte Triangle, Softech is a venerable company, especially in terms of high technology. Their history explains the capability for their expansion.

Softech began fourteen years ago in October 1996. It started as a professional services provider to local companies, doing anything and everything including software design, development, and consulting. This evolved into Web development, custom and embedded programming, test automation services and training. Softech developed clients across North America, Asia and Europe. Among those clients were long standing relationships with Itron and General Dynamics Itronix (GD-Itronix).

Over the past several years, Softech developed a focus in mobility and mobile technologies. They began working very closely with Dexterra, a middleware software supplier. Working with Dexterra, Softech conducted numerous individual projects, configurations of software and systems, supplied training materials and collateral, and delivered training as well. "Dexterra was understaffed," explains Blakely, "so we executed a number of outsourced projects for them, and we were very willing to provide the support that was needed." Softech worked with very large enterprise clients, e.g. Motorola, 3M, and Sylvania, who used very large, difficult to use, and hard to integrate systems. Softech augmented Dexterra's professional services first, then provided services to the engineering group. The greatest share of Sof tech's business over the course of the previous 6 years was working with Dexterra.

In Q3, 2009 Dexterra's business began to decline; therefore, so did Softech's. Recently, Dexterra was bought by Antenna Software, and Softech had to reinvent, regenerate, and reinvigorate itself. "It forced us to think about our own product development," says Blakely. "We knew we had a lot of skills and knowledge, but we had to determine how to take advantage of that competency." Softech focused on mobility and mobile technology. "Mobility is a very active area 'there is much opportunity as well as much competition," says Blakely.

Their mobile software products to date are branded as the Field Mobility Suite (FMS). Their focus is on the Small and Medium Business (SMB) mobility marketplace that is comprised of organizations with 100 or fewer field workers. Their FMS offering consists of several industry specific and purpose-built applications designed to fit the needs of targeted enterprises. This means they are "out of the box" which keeps the cost down. "We will customize if needed, but it increases the expense and effort to deploy. We listen to ideas and features that the customers might want and need so that we can add those in the FMS product roadmap," says Blakely.

Multi-trade contractors are one of the industries targeted by FMS technologies. This includes providers of HVAC services, Electric/mechanical services, yard care services, as well as pest control. The mobile device of choice is the Motorola MC70 platform with Windows Mobile operating system, which integrates Wide Area or WiFi technology. It has an integrated bar code scanner, a mobile phone, GPS receiver and more. The functions supported by FieldTech include dispatching, tracking of labor time, materials used, and any other costs related to a job. It collects the customer's signature, and reports time sheet information for payroll.

Other software in the software suite includes FieldOrder for field sales representatives to use for taking product orders in the field on a business-to-business basis. FieldCustody is used in data recovery in the field. This is used primarily for forensics and legal uses where a secure chain of custody must be retained.

What are they doing in their new premises at STC? Through the years, Softech maintained a close relationship with GD-Itronix. When that company closed their Spokane facility, a group of irreplaceable high tech workers remained behind. Softech formed a division to absorb the team, retain their jobs in Spokane, and perform an outsource service for GD-Itronix.

The team produces binary disk images used in GD-Itronix mobile computing devices. In the manufacturing process, the mobile devices get loaded with software and configurations by having an image "blown onto the hard drive." The Softech team builds the disk image; they test it to be sure it works; and then they verify standards and logo compliance. Finally they produce the disk image to be used on the mobile device. The devices are built by original design manufacturers (ODMs) in Asia, and the disk images are shipped to them electronically. The images must arrive at their destination quickly, intact and secure. STC has the infrastructure available for the dedicated, high speed, fiber-based high bandwidth and secure connection that is needed.

Softech will need a project management specialist in the near future to work with the new team. "This is a very complex process," says Blakely. The ideal candidate has 5 years of experience managing technology projects, is familiar with contract manufacturing processes and procedures, and can demonstrate competency relative to mobile computing technology. Anyone interested in applying, contact Vance Blakely at vance@softechnologies.com or telephone (509) 327-4624.

To learn more about Softech, visit www.softechnologies.com .

To learn more about the Motorola MC70 handheld mobile device, visit www.motorola.com/business/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=d3da7b103d175110VgnVCM1000008406b00aRCRD

Billie Moreland
 
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