Ingram Micro to distribute Calgary’s unique SMART Technologies’ digital capture board

SMART kapp is a unique electronic replacement for dry erase boards and flipcharts which will appeal to A/V resellers, but could be sold by anyone who sells into an office environment.

SMART Closeup 400Calgary’s SMART Technologies has made smartboards for the education and enterprise market for years, but they are now bringing to market a new type of product. SMART kapp, which is much less expensive than smartboards, allows users to work as if they were on a dry erase board or a flipchart, while sharing it through a mobile application with other users. Ingram Micro, with its broad channel of both office supplies dealers and traditional VARs, has been selected to distribute it in North America.

“It’s a replacement for a flip chart or dry erase board, which have been around for decades and have never evolved,” said Jeff Lowe, VP of Global Marketing at SMART. Typewriters and white-out were in the office with these devices, and Lowe has said the time has come to update what the boards do with cloud technology.

SMART is a long-established company, which has made smartboards for over 20 years, with most of their customers being in the U,S, and Europe.

“We started in the education business in K-12 with the invention of the smartboard and grew a large market share in the education space,” Lowe said. “We provided business collaboration tools since Day One, but not formally until a couple years back, when we broke the company into two business units – Education and Enterprise. SMART kapp goes across both segments, both Education and Enterprise.”

Smartboards are hardware, but are fundamentally software-driven collaboration solutions, where a teacher or facilitator can prepare a lesson plan or a project, and students or workers can use the same software to get engaged in the content, or can break down into smaller groups, with their work all projecting to a larger display in the room. The SMART kapp, on the other hand, lets a user instantly transfer what’s written on their electronic board to any device, and share this content in real-time through a mobile application to anyone, anywhere in the world, in JPEG or PDF format.

“It only costs a couple hundred dollars more than a regular board, and you can share the content with anyone, interacting from the cloud,” Lowe said. “It’s a software driven solution, using cloud computing and leveraging the power of mobile devices. You download a free app for Apple or Android, and pair the phones using a Bluetooth connection to the board. Whatever is written on the board will appear on the phone. You invite others onto the phone through a web browser. They don’t even need to have the app.

“You won’t put a smartboard everywhere for cost reasons, but while SMART kapp doesn’t do everything a smartboard can, it does a couple of things very well, and is at a much lower price point,” Lowe said. “A 42 inch board is $899 and an 84 inch board $1199 – a third or fourth the price of a smartboard.” The larger board is also available for $999 during the pre-order period.

The product was announced last June, and SMART began technical trials after that and through the fourth quarter, when they selectively launched with around a dozen traditional AV channel partners. The first customer shipments began in January. Now they have signed two distribution deals, one in the U.K., and the one with Ingram Micro for North America.

“It’s too early to tell where the real vertical play will be for this, but higher education and the development community have been really interesting so far,” Lowe said. “Hotels have also been an early adopter, for their meeting and conference room space. SMBs in general, even SOHOs, have shown interest as well.”

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“We have been in the A/V space from a channel perspective, but we see most sales of this not coming through that channel, “Lowe said. “Ingram Micro has a very strong presence in the office supply market, and that will be a major channel for this. Ingram is also strong in mobile phones and cloud-based computing.”

Ingram Micro also has a broad reach, and SMART wants this to go out to large numbers of resellers.

“We are thinking broad, because this is ubiquitous in terms of where it fits, everywhere you see a dry erase board or a flip chart,” Lowe said. “We don’t want to rely on a small number of resellers or AV partners to take it to market.”

Ingram Micro also sees this as a broad fit for many resellers, not just an office products or a AV VAR play, although they expect it will prove strong in those markets.

“I think there is a big opportunity for VARs selling office products, and those who are involved in unified communication products,” said Kevin Prewett, senior director, ProAV & Digital Signage, at Ingram Micro. “I also think it’s a pretty good margin opportunity. It adds a dynamic to any office with a conference room, or a classroom, or health care – anywhere where they have people in meetings.”

Prewett agreed that the SMART kapp is unique in the market.

“They reached out and said they have a game-changing product,” he said. “We get a lot of those emails, but they attached a video, which is now on YouTube, and it seemed pretty cool. Seeing it live was another step beyond that. VARs have to get a demo unit and get it in front of their customers, because when they see what it does, it’s incredible. I absolutely believe this could be a game changer in collaboration.”