San Diego’s Human Engines Makes Commercial Debut with Mobile Visualization Tool

8/10/11Follow @bvbigelow

A San Diego startup founded by a couple of Qualcomm alums yesterday introduced its first commercial product, a system for Android-based mobile devices that organizes the daily flood of e-mail, calendar notices, alerts, text messages, and social media messages.

Baback Elmieh and Rachid El Guerrab founded Human Engines in 2008, initially providing customized user-interface technologies for Qualcomm and other “big brand” clients and partners that now include Google, Kyocera, and Lenovo. Because venture capital has been hard to find in San Diego, Elmieh says they initially bootstrapped Human Engines, and later raised some capital from their friends and families.

“We were immediately cash-flow positive and revenue-generating,” Elmieh says. “We’re 10 people and one of the cool things about the company is that we’re very interdisciplinary.”

The company describes Influx, its new commercial product, as a next-generation “universal inbox” that manages and streamlines the information overload that can burden heavily scheduled mobile users.

Influx organizes all of the events on your Android calendar into a daily “timeline viewer,” a display that Human Engines describes as its key innovation. The timeline, which can be scrolled, automatically combines incoming messages from a variety of sources and sorts them, according to when they came in, along the timeline. In essence, Influx is a visualization tool that flows like a river of information throughout the day.

“Currently, most people have to access corporate email, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, calendar, and browser alerts in separate applications,” Elmieh says in a statement the company issued today. “It’s enough to create more than a little confusion in our busy lives. Influx simplifies things, and puts the focus back on the comprehensive user experience versus individual applications.”

Elmieh says the multi-disciplinary nature of Influx represents a new category of what he calls user experience (UX) technologies. It also explains why Human Engines has assembled its diverse expertise in graphic design, software, chip development, mobile operating systems, and video gaming.

Yet even with its first commercial product, Human Engines is not targeting consumer markets. Rather, the company is selling Influx as a white label technology to smartphone and tablet makers. Influx is not software that can be installed by downloading a file, but requires some integration with the mobile device. The big selling point, Elmieh explained, is that Influx offers device makers a way to dramatically differentiate their Android-enabled mobile devices from all the other Android devices out there.

The competition in the Android market is so fierce that user experience is really the only way to differentiate devices, Elmieh says.

Human Engines says Influx already has been commercially deployed as “SocialTouch” on the Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 and ThinkPad Tablet, which were introduced in late July. Both of those tablets are based on the Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) operating system.

For the time being, Elmieh says it’s only possible to install Influx on an Android-based device. Still, the technology is basically device-agnostic, and as Elmieh puts it, “There are plans for other types of devices and operating systems.”

But Human Engines has not put Apple at the top of that list, even though its iPad is the runaway market leader in mobile tablets. “While I think [Influx] would add a lot of value to iOS, we see a more significant advantage for companies that are developing their own devices,” Elmieh says.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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