Lance Heron had a varied career, and he always took time for sports, especially competitive football. After serving in the military, he became a law enforcement officer, but then was severely injured in an accident and developed a chronic pain condition, which forced him into retirement. He shifted his focus to coaching, which took him to many countries where he worked with winning teams.
Communicating with the teams he coached was always difficult, so he came up with an idea for a wristwatch-like invention to provide direction to individual players. Fortunately, he was able to work with Gerhard De Beer, a football player who was also sidelined by an injury and had both business and computer programming skills. Together they formed a company, Armilla Technology and with electronic device expert Barry Moss and the Canadian company, NeuronicWorks, they turned the prototype device into a product that is now manufactured in Toronto.
Using an Armilla system, coaches can provide directions from their hand-held tablet to their players’ lightweight wrist receivers without using cellular, wi-fi or Bluetooth. For football a coach can click on the planned play and instantly the quarterback knows what to do and for baseball, the pitcher knows what type of ball to throw. The wrist units are built tough to handle hits, collisions and general wear and tear that is part of every game, and the displays are easy to read either during the day or night.
With Armilla technology, there is no longer any need for yelling calls, hand signals or sending someone into a huddle. Coaches can quickly add and edit plays from the sideline and players have a clear understanding of the directions provided by their coaches. The system uses radio waves and can reach 180 yards with direct line of sight.
Lance had been living in Vernon where his wife was a teacher until they moved to Europe where he coached for two years. Upon returning, they decided to find a small acreage where they could enjoy country living, as well as have space for developing the business. They are now centred in Silver Creek, where their business is a growing enterprise, with ten employees.
In Toronto, Armilla partners with NeuronicWorks, a product design and manufacturing service that works with a wide diversity of industries, including medical, transportation, agricultural, and entertainment companies.
The future is looking good for Armilla, as its technology has been approved for use by both the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which oversees most college football and the US Specialty Sports Association that oversees baseball. So far there are 70 teams using the Armilla communication system and now many high schools are looking at using the devices, which allows a coach to call three times as many plays.
There is also potential for the Armilla system to be used by other sectors. Lance’s research and development team is currently investigating how their communication devices can be adapted to assist both the military and the police.
It is wonderful to see an innovative technology firm set up shop in the Shuswap and Armilla is now one of many companies here that are at the cutting edge of the 21st century economy.
Given that our region has good access, is close to larger centres and has so much to offer for those who prefer an outdoor lifestyle, it is no doubt that more high-tech companies will choose to be based here.