Smart device startup T-Worx Inc. wants to bring military weapons into the internet age.
The Sterling company has spent nearly eight years developing an “intelligent rail” that can be placed on rifles and other weapons to provide physical space to integrate real-time video and other analytics, transmitting the info back to a command center. It also serves as a power source and software platform for other technologies — such as ammunition counters — that can help make weapons and physical hardware (think drones) smarter and more responsive, according to executive chairman Devin Schain.
“The I-Rail system is able to connect to the battlefield network streaming video and data that was previously unavailable,” Schain, a serial entrepreneurial who owns a controlling interest in the company, said in an email. “A system like the I-Rail enhances situational awareness for the soldiers and commanders with rounds fired, positional data, and targeting imagery, to name a few.”
“Situational awareness” is, to put it simply, the ability for military leaders and others to know what is happening in any given situation and to make better decisions faster without having military personnel stop what they are doing. Or in other words: “You don’t have to take your hand off the rifle to see what is going on or to communicate with headquarters,” Schain said about the technology.
The desire of the military to upgrade its weapons is part of what Schain estimates as a $10 billion market opportunity spread across the Defense Department, overseas allies and for local government uses (such as law enforcement). The Army alone said it was dedicating $25 billion to its effort to produce a new generation of smarter weaponry and more intelligent command systems.
Now T-Worx is aiming to raise $5 million in new funding, the last funding round Schain said the startup needs before the company will seek to be acquired by a larger entity that can more easily scale the business globally, he said, adding “it’s too big an opportunity to go it alone.” He set that timeline around late 2019 to early 2020.
The startup was funded in part with $4.8 million in Army grants through its Small Business Innovation Research program. Private investors also put in another $15 million in funding over its lifetime, Schain said. And T-Worx is rapidly building itself into the supply chain of larger partners who will help supply the military with its next-generation weapons, he added.
T-Worx has about 12 employees, and 15 awarded patents (with six more pending) that an independent third-party valued at $34 million, Schain said.
The research and development is staring to pay off, with the company reporting $400,000 for the first 10 months of 2018. It also means three separate revenue streams for the company. The first is to sell the hardware to large government contractors and the second is to charge a royalty for each end user. The third revenue stream is the use of the operating system that comes with the intelligent rail, a monthly recurring amount most likely between $10 to $20 per month, Schain said.