Thomas Seiler is chief executive of u-blox, a provider of wireless and positioning semiconductors and modules for the automotive, industrial and consumer markets. The company’s products enable people, vehicles and machines to locate their exact position and wirelessly communicate via voice, text or video.
Seiler has served as a member of the board of directors since the incorporation of u-blox Holding AG in 2007 and has been chief executive and head of marketing and sales since 2002. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) and an MBA diploma from INSEAD, France. In 1987 he was appointed a member of the executive committee of Melcher Holding and was chief executive from 1991 to 1998. He then served as chief executive of Kistler
Holding from 1999 to 2001.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) starts to take off, Seiler tells M2M Now that u-blox, with its broad portfolio of chips, modules and software is well-positioned to allow OEMs to develop innovative solutions that enable mobility quickly and cost-effectively.
M2M Now: The IoT market looks to be turning a corner and starting to gain momentum as a large scale, mass market proposition. Do you agree that is happening? What is u-blox’s strategy for IoT?
Thomas Seiler: Yes, clearly the IoT is the next big development in the internet. In the near future there will be more machines and sensors communicating over the internet than there are people. We have been preparing for this development for many years now, expanding our business as the global leader in satellite positioning components based on our own semiconductor intellectual property to become a major vendor of both cellular and short range wireless communication modules.
It is clearly recognised that location is one of the most important pieces of information in the IoT, making all other data much more valuable. Exchanging this data between devices, and between devices and powerful cloud applications is the fundamental purpose of the IoT. The foundation of our business is providing these three key hardware functionalities to IoT system developers: cellular connectivity, short-range connectivity, and global positioning.
A key differentiator between u-blox and our competitors is that we focus on the best semiconductor solutions to solve IoT problems. Our business strategy is not to develop our own IoT services or applications: this is our customers’ market space, whether they are developing their own applications or working with third party application providers.
As a hardware vendor, we have a strict nocompete policy with our customers and partners. Our products are protocol-neutral and will seamlessly work with our customers’ IoT application of choice.
M2M Now: Some consolidation is happening in the IoT market and most recently we’ve seen Qualcomm acquire CSR. How does that impact on u-blox? Do you see consolidation as a threat or an opportunity? Is it necessary to add scale and would u-blox look to become a consolidator?
TS: Our rapid growth in recent years has been a result of consolidation: We have acquired six companies over the past five years, allowing us to quickly expand our market position in the automotive, telematics, industrial M2M and consumer connectivity markets. Our acquisitions have brought us significant new intellectual property, products and some of the most knowledgeable experts in the industry. This has enabled us to serve our customers with a wider range of chips and modules that support every link in the IoT, and the knowhow to help them implement our technology quickly.
Such acquisitions are essential for the continued development of our product and service offerings to our customers. They expand our technology core and enhance our competitiveness. This has made us a stable provider of technology unaffected by unpredictable decisions of partners, and allowing us to maintain full control over the future of our product roadmaps.
In contrast to large mergers, the steps we took provide additional value to our customer base. They avoid the common pitfall in a large merger when a customer is suddenly faced with a drastic change in the product strategy and offering, and a significantly altered supplier landscape.
M2M Now: You’ve recently announced a product-grade strategy. Please can you tell us about it and explain how it addresses the needs of the industry?
TS: As a Swiss company, u-blox is extremely quality-focused, and in this aspect we have no equal in the industry. Our very large range of customers, however, wants to buy the product that precisely meets their needs and their budget with the appropriate features and environmental tolerance required by their application.
It is for this reason that we have recently developed a product grading associated with each of our chips and modules: Standard, Professional and Automotive. With this new colour-coded classification, we make it instantly transparent to our customers which products are most suited for their design and cost requirements.
M2M Now: How do you see the IoT market developing over the next 24 months?
TS: The IoT as a megatrend encompasses a wide range of applications including factory and home automation, medical, security, metering, personal health, logistics and systems for connected vehicles and people. Literally any application that can benefit from intelligent connection to the internet will eventually be connected. The overall result is what we are already experiencing today: considered as a whole, the IoT is the fastest growing market sector in the history of electronics.