Certon’s Culture Keeps the Balance that Sustains their Edge on Innovation

The sun is rising on a new day in Brevard County, illuminating the sky over the Space Coast. It’s 6 am and the first of several flights out of MLB airport is now boarding through Gate 2 with pilots, crew, and passengers all expecting to taxi, take-off, fly and land safely at their destination in ATL. CERTON’s CEO and President Timothy Stockton is on this flight connecting to Central America for one of many educational surf trips this year with his family. He knows firsthand what goes into establishing this level of confidence shared by the flying public.

timothy-stocktonStockton founded CERTON, an engineering company located just minutes away from MLB, nearly 10 years ago to ensure aircraft transportation remains one of the safest modes of travel available. CERTON now employs more than 50 engineers and growing here in Melbourne, working on “safety-critical” systems, software, and electronic hardware programs in the aerospace, medical, and transportation industries. 

Upon entering the McDonnell Douglas MD-90, one look in the cockpit reveals the impressive amount of technology that is now used to navigate, communicate, monitor, and control these iron birds that fill the skies overhead. Today, most avionics systems are electronically controlled by software and complex hardware, instead of being purely mechanical. 

Justin Bragan, CERTON’s director of sales explains, “Unlike your personal computer, tablet, or smart phone, most of these systems are controlled by software and electronic hardware that absolutely cannot fail… EVER.” For example, if the in-flight entertainment software fails to respond, that is simply annoying and you can’t watch a movie. However, if the flight computers that are wired to the actuation controls of the spoilers, ailerons, rudder, and elevator in a Fly-by-Wire (FBW) system that must be fully operational at all times fails, the software won’t be the only thing that crashes. Lives may be lost. 

Tools to Streamline Certification 

The FAA and other certification authorities, such as EASA, ANAC, and Transport Canada, have adopted rigorous process guidelines developed for approving software and electronic hardware to be installed for operation on commercial aircraft. CERTON specializes in all aspects of these certification approval guidelines for Electronic Systems (ARP-4754A), Software (DO-178C), and Hardware (DO-254). 

CERTON’s primary focus has been to create tools and technology to streamline the development, validation, and verification of safety-critical products under these guidelines. This combined with a highly skilled staff has made all the difference when it comes to competitive advantages for CERTON over the last nine years, and the employees are well aware of how important their work is to society. 

Stockton elaborates, “CertSAFE and CertBENCH provide an end to end solution for embedded systems product design, simulation, validation, and fully integrated target hardware lab verification with a level of speed, accuracy, visibility, and automation that is unprecedented. Combine that with our level of engineering services that is unmatched and you have a powerful combination in our customers’ favor. Ultimately, if you fly on an airplane, we consider you to be our customer.” 

CertSAFE is a unique model based development and verification (MBDV) tool that effectively bridges the vast gap between many systems and software teams and allows rapid prototyping with validated requirements to ensure the correct system is being built before the need to have hardware and target software. “Early detection of errors in every level of the requirements, code, and integration is one of the biggest cost saving objectives in safety-critical engineering,” Stockton explained. CertSAFE gives the engineering teams the ability to work interactively with robust features that include vertical and horizontal navigation of complex systems and real-time simulation with immediate access to any point of the system at any time. The interface is fast and easy to use with open file formats to support automation by the end user and consumption by fully automated lab test environments, such as CertBENCH. 

According to Victor DiGiovine, CERTON’s director of marketing, “CERTON has several patents related to CertSAFE technology with more than eight years of evolution and application on multiple FAA approved safety-critical systems along with CertBENCH and other commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) test environments. This uniqueness is representative of the CERTON brand.” 

Maintaining Balance and Innovation

On a lighter note, CERTON is a company that fosters a “work smart, play hard” mentality with a culture that was born out of the owner’s love for family and surfing. “A lot of my best ideas have come while I was waiting on a set wave in the ocean or playing golf with friends and family,” Stockton said. 

“I’m an engineer/entrepreneur, but I believe a healthy balance in life is essential to motivation, creativity, and productivity. This is why our employees also have direct access to alternative activities to free their minds during the day,” Stockton observed. He adds, “We also take the work we do very serious, since we spend a lot of time in the air and we’re very aware of the significance of safety-critical engineering.” 

As the morning flight into ATL nears final approach, Stockton looks out the window at the control surfaces on the wing and reflects back on all the work that goes into these safety-critical systems thinking, “CERTON matters and our employees make a real difference.”  

This article appears in the October 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Business.
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