“Intrinsically Safe” applies to electrical equipment designed to operate in potentially hazardous environments such as flammable gas or explosive dust. But what if it is a device designed for everyday use rather than such a specialized application?

XCIEL, Inc. of Richmond, TX, has a solution specific to Apple iPhones and iPads, said Xavier Balourdet, founder and business development manager.

“I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and make a new tablet or phone from scratch,” he said.

Instead, the XCIEL solution involves sealing the hand-held devices in either a specially designed aluminum or rubber/nylon enclosure to protect them from not only the environment but potential physical abuse in an industrial setting.

“There are intrinsically safe phones out there, but they are not smart phones,” he said. “That’s where we broke the barrier.”

Thinking of the XCIEL solution as simply a custom case or rugged case for a cell phone is a mistake. Developing and certifying the Intrinsically Safe solution required months of research.

“We needed to study the Apple device itself,” Balourdet said.

That research, together with a working model of the enclosure, was turned over to Intertek, an internationally recognized testing company, for third-party confirmation of its performance.

“You can throw this case with the iPad inside on the floor 200 times and it won’t break,” Balourdet said. “I’ve never been able to break one.”

iPad fans have a choice of the XC milled aluminum case or the XCR rubber-nylon case, certified as Class 1 (gas or vapor), Division 2 (abnormal conditions) safe under the National Electrical Code in the U.S. and Canada. Both cases are resistant to shocks, vibrations, dust and water.

The XC case allows connection through Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G (iPad 2, 3 or 4). The XCR case only permits Wi-Fi and 4G connection (new iPad4 model). XCIEL has plans to introduce a Class 1, Division 2 enclosure adapted to a Windows 8 tablet PC in the near future.

As for iPhone fans, XCIEL offers an enclosure that is also Class1, Division 2 certified that allows connection through Wi-Fi or 4G (iPhone 4S) or LTE (iPhone5).

XCIEL introduced its iPad cases in 2012 and its iPhone case earlier this year. Almost immediately, the folks at Apple got in touch, Balourdet said.

“We were invited to their headquarters in Cupertino, CA, to show them our solution,” he said. “They made sure we weren’t infringing on their patents. It is our agreement with Apple that we will not touch their device.”

XCIEL is the only company permitted to install or remove the Apple devices from the specialized cases. Otherwise, the devices remain sealed inside the cases permanently.

Balourdet founded XCIEL two years ago after a career as a sales engineer in the oil and gas industry for a company specializing in intrinsically safe wall mounted computers.

“I decided to start my own company concentrating on mobile devices instead of heavy wall mounted computers,” he said. “When we looked at what were the most popular mobile devices, it was obviously the iPad and iPhone.”

T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T have been in touch with XCIEL about the possibility of offering the enclosed devices as inducement to purchase carrier contracts, Balourdet said.

“We’ve brought a whole new market to Apple,” he said.