The history of SMART
Twenty Years of Touch
2011 marks SMART's 25th anniversary as a company and the 20th anniversary of the SMART Board interactive whiteboard. These milestones reflect the company's enduring dedication to innovation – a philosophy that resonates with today's educators and business professionals. More than two million SMART Board interactive whiteboards have now been installed around the world.
When people first see our products, they're delighted and intrigued by the "magic" that happens before their eyes. The real value, though, is in the daily benefits that SMART products have provided our customers since the company began.
Creating a company
In 1986, David Martin and Nancy Knowlton were driving through upstate New York when David first described a product idea he'd been working on to Nancy. A year later, SMART was founded. Originally, the company was the Canadian distributor for a U.S. projector company, and revenue was generated through projector sales. That revenue was directed toward the research and development of the SMART Board interactive whiteboard, which would combine the simplicity of a whiteboard with the power of a computer.
Introducing touch control
The SMART Board interactive whiteboard was the first interactive whiteboard to provide touch control of computer applications and the ability to write over standard Microsoft Windows applications. Connected to an LCD panel and a computer, the SMART Board interactive whiteboard brought interactive technology to classrooms, meeting rooms and boardrooms. Three patents were granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in recognition of this innovation.
The beginning of an industry
Back then, no one knew about interactive whiteboards, much less why they might want or need one. It took substantial effort to inform people about our products and their benefits. Educators who needed to give lectures at a distance were among the first to recognize the potential of the interactive whiteboard, as they had been giving lectures using low-speed modems and early versions of operating systems that were often unstable, slow and offered few graphics capabilities. Gradually, educators, business people and government staff around the world came to appreciate the new ways in which they could work and collaborate using the SMART Board interactive whiteboard – and a new product category was officially created.
Those early years were characterized by a great deal of financial uncertainty, and at various times, SMART's future was in serious doubt. However, with a long-term focus, a firm belief in the opportunity to forge a new way for people everywhere to work and the patience of its bankers, SMART got through the many difficulties. In the process, it developed most of the key operating parameters that define the way SMART runs its business and serves its customers.
In 1992, SMART formed a strategic alliance with Intel Corporation, which resulted in joint product development, joint marketing efforts and Intel's equity ownership in SMART. Other than the Intel equity investment and some small investments from family and friends, the company relied on its retained earnings to fuel growth in these early years.
That relationship with Intel was one of the key building blocks in SMART's history. The equity investment helped SMART's hardware and software development activities. Perhaps, just as importantly, SMART staff felt something akin to a "seal of approval" for all of the pioneering efforts they had undertaken with the SMART Board interactive whiteboard and in trying to improve the way people work and learn.
Never content, we continue to develop new generations of groundbreaking interactive technology and remain intensely focused on creating new products to meet customers' needs.
When we think of the future, we envision classrooms and meeting rooms where images, applications and information are at everyone's fingertips. We envision students around the world experiencing the rewards of learning, whether they learn best by seeing, hearing or doing. We envision teams collaborating and developing ideas on SMART Board interactive whiteboards, making decisions quickly and communicating with other teams across distances as if everyone was in the same room.
We look forward to the next 20 years of innovation, so we can continue to change the way the world works and learns.