Our beginnings go back to 1997 when WetPC Pty Ltd was established by Peter Moran and Bruce Macdonald to commercialise the WetPC® Underwater Computer - which had been invented by Bruce in 1993 to enable scientists to enter data whilst underwater.
During its first year of operation the company was based in Townsville but subsequently moved to Canberra in early 1999 so that it could be in close proximity to the Australian Defence headquarters – seen to be the major source of potential business at the time.
In its early years WetPC mainly worked with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) which led to development of a hand-held computer called the SeaSlate; designed to enable Mine Clearance Divers to record their position and swim path underwater. A collaboration with Nautronix Ltd ensued culminating in the signing of a sublicence in June 2000. Subsequently, and after many false starts and long delays, Nautronix won a contract to provide Mine Warfare Underwater Combat Systems (MUCS) to the RAN which were eventually accepted into service in mid 2009.
During those formative years, perceiving that there were more significant markets, the company began to shift its focus to above water applications, and in particular those relating to soldier systems. In mid 2005 it established a collaboration with ADI Limited (now Thales Australia) to develop a generic controller called the Rifle Input Control (RIC) for the Austeyr Rifle - which is used by Australian soldiers. Early prototypes drew strong interest from both local and overseas defence forces indicating that the companies were on the right path.
WetPC’s increasing involvement in army applications caused a rethink of the company’s business strategies and structure. In response, the Kord Group was formed in May 2007 to provide a structure that facilitated growth and investment and was more aligned with future strategic and commercial objectives.
Shortly after Kord Defence was formed it signed a Collaboration Agreement with Thales Australia in order to formalise the relationship between the two companies with respect to planned technical and business activities. Continued close interaction culminated in the signing of a Sublicence and Distribution Agreement in October 2008 and the release of a ruggedized prototype RIC for trial by the Australian Army in late 2009.
In early January 2010 Kord Defence began a concerted effort to market the SmartGrip RIC to the US military with the support of Washington based Elegua Consulting. In November 2010 the US Department of Defense announced that the SmartGrip RIC had been selected for evaluation by the US Marine Corps (USMC) although the project has yet to proceed - mainly for budgetary reasons.
In late 2011 Thales Australia decided to discontinue its development work in favour of other high priority activities. As a result the Sublicense and Distribution Agreement was mutually terminated earlier this year.
A number of promising commercial opportunities are now starting to emerge in other countries and we are expanding our marketing efforts accordingly. We continue to seek in-country strategic partners who are interested in working with us to secure these new opportunities.
We continue to develop the SmartGrip RIC based on feedback from potential customers and a pre-production prototype is due for completion later this year. It will have improved ergonomics and environmental protection, production firmware and circuitry as well as provision for both cabled and wireless connectivity.