Spotlight on u-blox

u-blox – Investing in R&D to provide products and solutions for the Internet of Things – and everybody in the world.

u-blox supplies wireless chips and modules for a wide range of applications in Automotive, Industrial and Consumer. In particular, we are focused on the what we call the Internet of Things (IoT) which really matter. What we mean by this is those applications which demand high levels of reliability and robustness, such as Smart Cities, Home automation and Health monitoring.

We see IoT as the most significant trend since the launch of the mobile phone. In essence, we are on the brink of a new world where every object (and human) we interact with will be networked globally (ie able to communicate with any other entity) in order to share information (sensor data, GPS location, status, internet / media content) in order to provide seamless experiences, in-built intelligence and automated operation. Visit www.u-blox.com/en/internet-of-things for more information.

Due mainly to the emergence of LTE, we have seen broadband data use expand massively in the last 10 years, becoming today a mostly mobile experience. We are now seeing LTE revolutionise low bandwidth, low cost, low power communications, with the advent of LTE CAM-M and Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT). These technologies have been derived on the back of LTE and will be central to the upcoming 5G cellular networks, allowing multiple tiers of low latency, data communications to co-exist in the same cellular spectrum covering applications from 4k video streaming into the home and autonomous vehicles comm’s and control right down to remote electricity meter reading and wrist wearable people tracking (eg for children or senior citizens).

u-blox has grown significantly over the last ten years and our endeavours in the cellular market have been instrumental in this trend. Our 2015 revenue was up 25% YoY to CHF 338 m and our gross profit was CHF 155 m. With an EBIT of 15%, and strong net cash, u-blox is well positioned for future growth, both organically and through acquisition.

We see strong growth opportunities in IoT as companies are increasingly confronted with new business models and the need to connect more and more devices to the Internet – both high and low data rates – in order to streamline the management of a virtually infinite range of applications. We are growing our product range and engineering teams to meet this need and contributing toward the definition of new standards for next generation short range and cellular applications. Especially in 3GPP LTE CAT-M and the recent NB-IoT initiatives.

An example of our recent success was the launch of a new cellular module for residential and industrial gas metering applications. SARA G350 ATEX is certified according to the EU ATEX directive, which defines requirements for use in potentially explosive environments. We collaborated with one of the market leaders in smart gas metering; Pietro Fiorentini to develop a product that would guarantee secure and high quality wireless communication in smart gas metering applications where power efficiency, as well as product robustness and reliability are crucial. Although the current device uses 2G, we are already planning a follow-on exploiting LTE CAT-M or Narrowband IoT (NB IoT).

u-blox has three parallel product centres and I am responsible for market development in our cellular business. This is a challenging role, which begins with building an understanding of the market, key trends and players, whilst also being cognisant of what u-blox can and can’t do; what drives us and how we can add value; in essence, our value proposition. Combining these two allows me to create a business / market strategy and then drive that into product management and development. A large part of the role is also business development; a combination of promotion and selling what we can do to customers, whilst listening to their needs. This completes the circle of market -> product -> customer -> business.

u-blox offers an interesting working environment, due to a diverse and dynamic mix of cultures and locations. We currently have 750 staff in 18 countries, working in all aspects of engineering, marketing and sales. We have ongoing recruitment opportunities in the UK and Ireland; Cambridge, Reigate and Cork and run a number of events annually. We are in the process of booking this year’s events right now. Last year, we held events in Cambridge, Cork and at Nottingham and Surrey Universities and at Trinity college, Dublin. More info here: www.u-blox.com/en/welcome-u-blox

I try to make as many CW events as I can, for two reasons; the useful insights into various emerging technologies, companies and industries gained by attending SIG events and the excellent networking opportunities throughout. Attendees are a great mix of senior decision makers, influential industry figures and key technical staff . I sometimes hear comments about the “usual suspects” appearing, however, mixing with a core group of regular attendees as strong as these is always a rewarding experience.

Due to the benefits we gain from this involvement in CW events, we are also a strong supporter of the Future of Wireless International Conference and I am in fact involved in organising this year’s event at the IET in London. We are pleased to be sponsors again this year and I can promise an exciting showcase of IoT technology at the event – watch this space!

Written by Charles Sturman, Director of Market Development – Consumer IoT, u-blox
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