Bullitt partners with University of Reading to launch design challenge

Consumer tech company Bullitt Group has partnered with the University of Reading to give students the chance to come up with a new smartphone feature.

Experts at the Reading-based company, which develops and manufactures rugged phones under license for brands such as Caterpillar and Land Rover, teamed up with the University to pose the challenge of creating a ‘unique proposition’ for the next generation of Cat devices.

 BullittThis could be a new piece of hardware (like a sensor or attachment), a new app or integrated software solution, some additional innovative materials, or a combination of two or more of these parts.

The students were given two days to develop their concepts before pitching them to a team of senior management at Bullitt.

The winning team, calling itself MedTech, came up with an ingenious integrated kinetic charging system for the Cat® S31, addressing a problem which affects all phone users. The device trickle-charges the phone constantly and is powered by movement.


The winning team are pictured above. From left to right - Amy Annear, Arnaud Lauriau, and Katie Stewart. 

Tim Shepherd, Director of Application and Market Intelligence at Bullitt Group, said: “The project was extremely well researched. The group found an actual device in development and worked out how it could fit into the Cat® S31. The team had a slick presentation, an idea that addressed a very real problem, and looked carefully at where it would sit in the overall Cat portfolio.

“We wanted to give talented young people the chance to benefit from industry expertise and address a real-world problem facing phones designers. It was genuinely exciting to see what innovative solutions the students could come up with.”

Around 30 students took part in the challenge at Bullitt’s HQ in Valpy Street, Reading.

Professor Rachel McCrindle from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading said: “We’re delighted to RDNG UNIVERSITYLOGO 041217be working with Bullitt Group to give our students the opportunity to benefit from commercial expertise and input, and learn valuable skills that will enhance their employability when they finish their studies.”

Other ideas that impressed the Bullitt judging team included:

A projector for use in construction

Given that a major market for Cat® phones is the construction industry, one team came up with a pico-projector that would sit at the top of the phone and allow for a quick reference to design plans and blueprints.

A solution for climbers

Focusing on our customers who need a robust phone for their leisure activities, another team came up with a joint software and hardware solution for climbers.

A carabiner loop was integrated into the bottom corner of the phone to allow it to be easily attached to a belt or rucksack, while inbuilt software assisted teams in keeping track of each other’s movements, or providing solo explorers with emergency check-in and response capabilities.

Support for the visually impaired

Another idea utilised the accelerometer in the phone to set up an alert for users, particularly the visually impaired, in the event of dropping their phone in a difficult to locate area. It also allowed users to activate the GPS on the phone to find the device remotely.

Medical and health conscious support

Given that many of the students participating were studying Biomedical Engineering, several of the ideas focused on medical applications. One team suggested bundling the device with a range of robust field-use medical peripherals, including scanners, a thermometer, and a heart rate monitor that, using a companion app, could be used for diagnoses in remote or challenging environments. Another team suggested an integrated sensor to detect asbestos and/or moisture in the walls of a building that can be harmful to users’ health.


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