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Rose-Hulman Ventures Helps Give Simma Software High-Tech Edge

Friday, September 26, 2014
RHV VNA Device

Low-Cost Alternative: Rose-Hulman Ventures helped Simma Software develop the VNA family of devices, which identify protocol errors, idle line detection, and collision detection for large-scale trucks.

As a software engineer, Simma Software Inc. owner JR Simma may seem to be an unlikely candidate to be a client of Rose-Hulman Ventures.

However, as a one-person enterprise at the time, Simma needed assistance with hardware design that would allow his software to be used in a completely new format. Rose-Hulman Ventures has proven to be the ideal partner for conceptualizing those products.

"Rose-Hulman Ventures is my partner. It's an arm of my business," says Simma.

Talented professional project managers and capable student interns gave Simma the confidence to work with Rose-Hulman Ventures, a program of the nation's No. 1-ranked undergraduate engineering college. "I don't have to oversee the projects," Simma says. "We've built a trust with the project managers and student interns."

Six to eight people at Rose-Hulman Ventures may be working with Simma on a project, expanding his company's workforce to meet the demands of each project.

Simma, a native of Riley, Indiana, has worked with Rose-Hulman Ventures for seven years. He had extensive experience developing vehicle software solutions. However, his customers began asking for hardware that could communicate vehicle data (such as odometer, fuel economy, and hours of service) to the driver.

Data that was historically tracked using paper logbooks was transitioning to a system that used an electronic on-board recorder. Devices that were already on the market did not meet performance metrics.

Rose-Hulman Ventures was brought in to create an adapter that would work smoothly with the software. While Simma had the ability to write the software, he didn't have the knowledge to develop the hardware.

This technology development gave Simma Software an edge in the industry. The VNA family of devices was born, and more than 30,000 units have been sold of the first-generation product, VNA-232.

Simma didn't stop there, and once again looked upon Rose-Hulman Ventures for assistance.

"We wanted to upgrade the microcontroller, make it faster, requiring lower power, and make it cheaper," says Patrick Browne, Simma Software's director of business development.

RHV Simma Software

Creative Solutions: JR Simma, owner of Simma Software Inc., works with a student intern at Rose-Hulman Ventures to develop innovative products for the automotive industry. (Photos by Shawn Spence)

The market-driven company is meeting industry needs while helping customers prepare for impending government regulations that require digital driving records. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has disclosed plans for future electronic record-keeping requirements. Simma Software is preparing for those changes, and Rose-Hulman Ventures is helping the company give customers even more.

The upgraded system developed by Simma Software and Rose-Hulman Ventures works with laptop computers, tablets, or smart phones. The VNA-Mini connects directly to a vehicle's diagnostics port, requiring no cables inside the cab. Bluetooth technology allows the device to communicate wirelessly, reducing production time and cost. Meanwhile, statistics about the vehicles performance reduces operating costs for the trucking company.

About Rose-Hulman Ventures:

Rose-Hulman Ventures, located at Rose-Hulman's South Campus, is a unique operational model for university/industry interaction. It offers clients access to top-caliber creative thinkers and problem solvers and gives students real-world, hands-on learning experiences. Student interns with Rose-Hulman Ventures aren't just learning about engineering; they're practicing it to drive real business value for clients. Learn more at www.rhventures.org.

About the Simma Family of Products:

The VNA family of devices delivers high performance with low cost and low latency for heavy-duty vehicles. They also provide internal buffers with up to 300 filters, largely reducing the overhead for the host. The adapters identify protocol errors, inter-character spacing, idle line detection, collision detection, and implements automatic retries.