How LAVA Pivoted to Mobile Technology
By: Adam Swimmer
3 Min Read
November 1, 2023
In the 1980s and 1990s, LAVA had the best technology around when it came to serial and parallel ports. However, the market slowly started to disappear as USB began to gain popularity. At first, LAVA was still doing good business and chose not to develop its own chip to do USB. However, after the 2008 financial crisis hit the U.S. and spread to Europe the following year, the bottom dropped out. In two months, sales plummeted to a third of what they were and never recovered since.
Amidst the crisis, founder Roman Wynnyckyj had to do some soul searching. In 2012-2013, Roman and engineer Paul Vail first starting working on LAVA IP Systems (LIPS) – LAVA’s version of Internet of Things, which at the time was still in its infancy. However, when Roman was contacted by customers from Salt Lake City, Utah – everything changed.
New deal leads to transformation
The Utah customers were familiar with LAVA. They planned to build a loyalty rewards system for the submarine sandwich chain, Quiznos, who was already a long-time customer. At the time, loyalty rewards systems of this kind were just starting out. Usually, only large companies with huge infrastructure budgets would have them. This Utah group intended to use a Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet to intercept data sent from the cash register for analysis before it was sent to the receipt printer.
Roman sat down with them for two-to-three weeks to discuss the idea. He was fascinated by the tablet and its 32-pin connector. While he was aware of iPads, this was Roman’s first interaction with an Android tablet.
While playing around with the tablet, LAVA engineers realized that the tablet couldn’t be connected to power and charging when it was communicating with the peripherals. You can read more about this in Roman’s own words. The end solution was the development of a SimulCharge adapter, which allows simultaneous charging and access to data.
Canadian Tire puts SimulCharge on the map
Then came Canadian Tire in 2014. The retailer wanted to build an in-aisle digital catalogue kiosk using a Samsung tablet. Like LAVA’s Utah customers, they needed the tablet to charge and access data at the same time. However, they couldn’t get it to work.
Even the assigned Samsung rep didn’t think it could be done. It went against the core understanding of how tablets worked at the time. To communicate with USB accessories, a tablet had to be in USB Host mode. The belief was that no tablet could charge while it was in this mode. However, after discovering our new SimulCharge adapter, the rep brought us into the project.
The kiosk featured a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 (SM-T530) micro USB tablet, a LAVA PoE SimulCharge adapter and a 2D scanner for price-checking items. Given its success, Canadian Tire ordered around 3,400 units, with an initial pilot of 750 units being shipped across Canada.
How Battery Modulation came about
LAVA’s partnership with Canadian Tire also led to the development of a new technology—Battery Modulation.
A little under a year after the units shipped, we learned a few hundred of them suffered battery issues. It turned out, the tablets’ batteries literally expanded and warped — a little known phenomenon at the time called battery bloating or swelling.
After thoroughly investigating the issue, LAVA discovered this issue was the result of constant overcharging. It made sense since these tablets were left plugged in even when the store was closed so they were receiving a charge all the time. This discovery led to LAVA’s team developing new adapters with the previously mentioned Battery Modulation to protect the tablets from overcharging, and insuring the newer units didn’t experience any bloating issues.
Making a name in the B2B mobile space
With the development of SimulCharge and Battery Modulation, LAVA secured a foothold in the B2B mobile space. While similar capabilities are built into the USB-C PD spec and some mobile devices offer built-in battery protection, SimulCharge has no competitors in the space of micro USB devices to this day while the battery-protection offerings are not as robust as LAVA’s RBM.
To learn more about LAVA’s products and technologies, check out our website or contact our sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-674-5942.
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