We caught up with Henry Nurser of Blu Wireless to hear his views on emerging trends in network technology.
Why was the business started?
Historically, radio frequencies (RF) focused on a low frequency range but around 15 years ago, we saw an emerging trend where corporate organisations wanted to explore higher radio frequencies to achieve more bandwidth and throughput. Effectively, the higher you go, the more available bandwidth there is, and more bandwidth equates to more data throughput.
However, at that time, these very high frequencies were solely being used by the likes of the military or other expensive applications. This was because the market perception was that the silicon needed for these high frequencies was costly and somewhat rare.
Yet, as the dimensions for conventional processors used in consumer applications became smaller and smaller, radio frequency engineers quickly realised that they no longer needed this type of ‘exotic’ silicon and could, in fact, utilise conventional technologies to support their drive towards higher frequencies of operation. And so, a lot of excitement and obsession around developing radios using these low-cost silicon processors followed but people started to ignore the digital aspect of converting that radio into digital throughput.
In 2009, we identified the need for processing technology. In other words, digital technology to address multi-gigabit communications which would support the high frequency radio. Consider the thunderbolt connector which provides consumers with the ability to sync/move large amounts of data very quickly – we wanted to be able to do the same thing but through wireless technology.
Unfortunately, the market in the consumer space didn’t really take off but there was a recognition that using that same technology for transportation and infrastructure type applications could prove to be an optimum solution and we began to see a pull from the market. It’s for this reason that much of our business focus is now on vertical markets such as public safety, perimeter security and defence.
If I think about the DNA of the company, it is all about high performance communication. More specifically, it is about providing flexible and robust solutions for very high-speed communications within the mmWave space which is very much a growing market.
How are you different?
One of the areas we’ve focused on and spent significant time nurturing over the past 10 or so years is building multiple industry partnerships.
As a small company, we have recognised the fact that we cannot do everything, and the focus must be on core areas where we can add real value. We have several RF specific partners, as well as other partners within the communications ecosystem and what we’re increasingly finding is that people are considering us to be the backbone of this ecosystem.
Having worked with several U.S. based companies over the years, we’ve had stakeholders highlight our unique ability to work ‘soup to nuts’. That is, with our very wide skills base, we can take a much more holistic view on what the customer solution needs to be able to deliver rather than concentrating solely on one particular ‘brick in the wall’. This high-level awareness means we can ensure that the brick is indeed the right shape.
What have you learnt?
From a management perspective, one of the key learnings for me is being brave and having the courage of your convictions. Often, people will question your ideas but if the fundamentals are there and you’ve carried out the appropriate analysis, you need to have the confidence and conviction to drive it through. Clearly, there is always a risk that you get lost in the excitement and forget about everything around you – at which point, you fall off the cliff, but a bold approach is important.
It’s also about trusting your own analysis of the market trends etc. Quite often within the technology field, we talk about ‘the emperor’s new clothes’ or ‘the emperor has no clothes’ where there is a significant technology push that makes you think: but why? Again, it is about staying true to what you believe in rather than following the herd.
A personal lesson for me is the importance of building strong foundations with investors. Although you may be brave and have courage to push an idea through, unless you can prove it, investors will naturally be cautious in their investment which can create challenging times for businesses.
What are the plans for growth?
The market for mmWave technology is growing. Much of our focus is on our key vertical markets including public safety and perimeter security.
We were somewhat astute 3-4 years ago in identifying a challenge many train operators were facing and how this type of technology could help in the ‘track to train’ sector. WiFi on trains has traditionally been of poor quality and when you’re trying to communicate multi-gigabit to trains, clearly you can’t use fibre because it’s moving and moving fast. A lot of other technologies were too expensive and train operators wanted to be responsible for their own destiny and so, mmWave technology is now being recognised as a very real and viable solution in addressing this problem.
To what extent the current global health crisis will impact on this market, only time will tell, but this has most certainly created a beachhead for us to build upon. Much of our future growth will be focused on further penetrating these vertical markets and ensuring we stay ahead of the market by continuing to invest, whilst expanding our customer support team.