Innovation at Dexcel covers full gamut from military to mobiles

From Anand Parthasarathy, Editor, IndiaTechOnline
Bangalore May 4 2013: IT industry watchers say 2013 may be the Year of Tap and Pay for mobile phones. New models increasingly come pre installed with NFC or Near Field Communication technology, which will allow the mobile hand set to be used in a contactless way – or by a simple tap – to make payments much as one uses a credit card these days.
But what about the millions of phones currently in use, which DON’T have NFC technology? Would their owners have to throw away their handsets in buy new NFC-enabled devices to experience the convenience and security of tap and pay?

Not if Bangalore-based Dexcel Electronics Designs’ clever add-on is used. The company, a well-established embedded product engineering player with an enviable roster of demanding defence and aerospace clients, has recently developed a wafer- thin flexible PCB that is placed between the SIM card and the handset. A tiny antenna sticks out of the phone, providing the NFC connectivity… and lo! a non NFC phone has become an NFC phone.

I first saw this device at the expo held on the sidelines of the India Electronics &  Semiconductor Association’s annual Vision Summit earlier this year. Even amongst the pushing and shoving crowds at the exhibition, the idea looked exciting. I decided to have closer and calmer look on Dexcel’s home ground on the Old Airport Road in Bangalore – and last week their CEO Amit Sinha, walked me through their approximately development labs, where I was amazed to see the wide range of innovations flowing from this Indian product house. 

This NFC add-on was created for Motorola, Nokia Siemens Networks and Red Knee Corporation under their direction and funding, with Dexcel managing the lifecycle from concept stage to a working solution that is now ready for commercial rollout. The NFC add-on would soon be available to thousands of customers of leading bank in the SAARC region, to fuel the bank’s mobile payments business. I felt sad that it was not an Indian bank that was the first to realize the huge and exciting possibilities thrown up by the NFC add-on in developing economies which are only just opening their micro banking systems to the advantages of mobile based customer interfaces.

Another Dexcel product that I was privileged to be one of the first media persons to see and handle was a cute, cigarette case sized Oscilloscope: it comes with a USB connector. Attach it to any PC, laptop, or Tablet – and you have turned it into a full-fledged oscilloscope, a truly exciting prospect to simplify lab and field test and measurements.

From the very small to the very big …. I also had a look at the electronics that Dexcel is using to drive huge stadium-sized LCD video walls .. products for which it has already started an order book.

If I say that all this is relatively trivial in Dexcel’s product line – that is not to belittle these mass consumer-oriented outreaches. Rather I would like to stress that Dexcel’s has an equally large if not larger line in solutions for demanding mil-standard-driven defence and aerospace customers. I am not at liberty to fully describe some of solutions that I saw – but as a former Indian defence scientist myself, I could appreciate the significant contribution that Dexcel’s own technology is making to mission critical battlefield and aerospace systems.
After seeing all this, I learned to my surprise, that the total creative workforce at Dexcel is less than 140 … even as the company partners a roll call of leading semiconductor and embedded players from Intel to Xilinx to Altera to TI to Analog Devices.
The challenge to provide India’s military developers and factories with battle-hardened electronics may be the bigger challenge – but I dare say when technologies like the NFC-add-on hit critical numbers, Dexcel would have truly touched the lives of the aam janatha, the average Indian like you and me, who will find the sending and receiving of money or services, that much easier, more secure. But we may never encounter their name: It  is the fate and the very nature of embedded electronics innovations that they are destined to hide their light under a bushel – or in this case, under the hood of a phone!