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Matthew Sheridan, B.Eng.Mgt. '12

(Mechatronics Engineering) | Big Ideas: A Tape Measure for Colour

Eyeing up Matthew Sheridan’s success would make any ambitious entrepreneur green with envy. And thanks to Sheridan and his game-changing portable invention, the Nix Pro Colour Sensor, the world can now measure exactly that shade of green.

Designers can make sure it doesn’t clash with the carpet or the logo, while manufacturers can ensure perfect replication. Quality-control folks can measure the range of variation, and anyone else who cares can discover if envy is nearer to emerald, sage or lime.

The McMaster Engineering grad’s 2012 invention captures the colour of any surface and sends that info to a smart-phone app that allows users to save, share, match and compare tones.

It’s now shipping to more than 50 countries, while the lower-priced Nix Mini Colour Sensor released last summer is bringing the technology to a whole new market. Last Christmas, the gadget even made it onto GQ’s list of best technology gifts for men.

“Our vision was to build something that had the accuracy of a scientific tool, but that could actually be used by an average person -- a homeowner, contractor or designer,” Sheridan explains.

Only six years after graduating with his degree in Mechatronics Engineering and Management, Sheridan has turned inspiration into success. His 20-employee company Nix Sensor Ltd., based out of the McMaster Innovation Park, is currently seeking a $5 million Series A from investors. The cash will allow the company to double its number of employees, in order to build more software to help people organize and share their colour and paint choices.

“We’re in the era where you can order a burrito from your phone on your couch. But paint is still four or five hours of trips back to the store, on average,” he explains. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

That need for improvement in the colour industry came to Sheridan years ago, as he watched his mother, an interior designer, lug around a heavy bag of colour swatches and samples.

“As an engineer, it just didn’t make any sense to me that that's how they did it,” he says.

The idea for a low-cost portable colour sensor simmered in the back of his mind until he met a woman making custom makeup for burn victims, who also needed such a device. That opened his eyes to the potential markets for what he envisioned as a measuring tape for colour – a device that would span the gap between existing expensive scientific equipment and simply eyeballing colour.

Several prototypes later, Sheridan and his team turned to Kickstarter, which had just launched in Canada, to really evaluate the merit of his idea.


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