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BittWare: From downtown Concord to the rails of France and beyond

  • Founder and Chairman Jim Bittman of Bittware looks over a board in their office at 45 South Main Street

    Founder and Chairman Jim Bittman of Bittware looks over a board in their office at 45 South Main Street

  • Founder and Chairman Jim Bittman of Bittware looks over a board in their office at 45 South Main Street

As the train roared past at 357 mph, observers barely saw it, they said later.

And they definitely didn’t see the contribution of BittWare. The Concord company makes the computer board that helped keep the wheels on the tracks, even though the train was traveling as fast as a short-distance plane.

BittWare, founded in 1989 by Jim Bittman, has been in Concord for about 20 years. In 1999, Bittman relinquished executive control of the company so he could return to the engineering desk. He stayed on as chairman of the company and still has a corner office, but he sits behind his desk in the same blue smock as all other engineers.

About 50 percent of the company’s business is outside the United States. Clients include Alstom, the French transportation company that makes trains like the record-breaking V150.

BittWare makes about 1,000 signal processing boards for Alstom each year, one for every rail car the company adds to its fleet.

The boards are able to sense, in the real-time world of microseconds, what each wheel on the train is doing – how and whether it is connecting with the track – and communicate whether the conductor needs to make adjustments, said Darren Taylor, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Roughly 25 of the company’s 30 employees work out of a custom-designed space in the basement level of the Love building downtown.

That’s where they design the boards to clients’ specifications, and source all of the materials needed to assemble the boards. A Massachusetts company creates a prototype based on the Concord design, and sends the sample back to Concord for testing.

Once the board has been verified as performing up to standard, the subcontractors start making more.

Beyond trains, the boards are also used for radar and sonar equipment, unmanned vehicles and medical imaging equipment. The most recent new client performs high-speed, high-frequency financial trading, though most clients aren’t chatty with details, Taylor said.

“Honestly, sometimes the clients don’t even tell us the end use,” he said. “Between the military vehicles or the financial trading, it can be some very sensitive things, but we don’t get to know about all that. We just design the boards.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of BittWare and the company’s correct location.

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