The Silicon Review
With organizations facing the impact of aging infrastructure and an unpredictable economic environment, technologies to monitor performance and correct problems instantly have become vital to meet output expectations. This is where the Industrial Internet of Things comes in to give an organization the power it needs to be more productive, extend the life of assets and optimize efficiencies across the operations. This has led businesses to rapidly leverage the Internet-of-Things to create new customer experiences and unparalleled economic value, while improving quality of life for countless people around the globe. By providing products and services to connect “things” to the Internet, MultiTech delivers deeper understanding to businesses, governments, organizations and individuals, which will in turn transform the way of living and work.
The company designs, develops and manufactures communications equipment for the industrial Internet of Things – connecting physical assets to business processes to deliver enhanced value. The company was set up in a landmark regulatory decision regarding Carterfone.
The FCC ruled that non-AT&T equipment could access that company’s telephone lines. Dr. Sharma withdrew $300 from his savings account to purchase a box of amplifier chips and headed for the student workshop. There he made a mold for the rubber cups needed to cradle the handset of a telephone on an acoustic coupler.
The development of FM300
MultiTech’s first data communications product was the FM300, an acoustically coupled 300-baud modem. MultiTech sold a bunch to the University of Minnesota. The FM300 was, in fact, used in the German class at the U. That class was called “Programmed German.” They had to call in using the FM300 and do their class-work on a terminal.
Early on, they manually built them in batches of fifteen and carried them one at a time to the university. Soon after MultiTech started making them, they’d deliver them to various places, but mostly to the university. Later on, they got some volume working with the Minnesota Education Consortium. They used all their 300 baud and later 1200 baud rack modems. In the early years, 300 baud was barely fast enough to move a small square across the screen. Overtime, the need for speed drove them from 300 to 1200 baud, which resulted in a noticeable difference. Later, in the early 80s, there was the need for microprocessor control. They added it, which allowed for various flexibility in set up and usage. “In the 80s, we were pretty much purely modems. We did try other product types; in the 70s we built a CMB-based computer, also a laptop. Multiplexers paved the way to our FaxFinder – which we still sell a lot of today. Ultimately, the communications products are what really stuck”, mentioned the company.
Overcoming the challenges
The most difficult challenge lied in the tools that had to be run every day. For example, the Bill of Materials (BoM) that largely existed in individual team members’ heads made it very difficult to know what, when and how much to buy. Once they had a purchaser fill a whole room with a single semiconductor component because they were cheap, and those components stayed there for years.
Over time they learned to manage and plan, but they didn’t have any computer systems to do the heavy lifting. It was all done by hand. Back in 1978, one of the first things the team had to do was get their arms around what the BoM looked like and how to manage the supply chain.
Fine tuning the organization
MultiTech has 200 people today with a global footprint. They have their operations group which include manufacturing and supply chain, program management, finance and legal, and IT. Their engineering and innovation organization is absolutely critical to their success, as they have always been an engineering driven organization. “Today, our sales and marketing teams are gaining prominence. We’re lucky to have an award-winning, well respected leadership team with great people on the front lines making things happen”, the company said. MultiTech understands the balance between people, tools and processes remains critical. They believe that no one part of that triangle could have helped in the accomplishment of their goals on its own.
Adopting rapid innovation
The company has successfully commercialized a suite of LoRa® technology-based products, leveraging unlicensed spectrum to enable previously unimaginable Internet of Things applications thanks to its long range, low power capabilities as well as its deep in-building penetration. They are currently working on their licensed cellular low-power, wide area products including LTE Category M and NB-IoT offerings.
MultiTech now expects continued growth. It envisions of adding value to the businesses of even more top corporations in the world and enabling business transformations that haven’t been seen before.
Knowing the key executives
Raghu Sharma, Founder (deceased): A native of New Delhi, India, Dr. Sharma received a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Delhi in 1957. He also earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. While working as a Senior Science Fellow at the National Physics Laboratory on microwave technology, he decided to seek a PhD. Although accepted by both Harvard and MIT, he chose to attend the University of Minnesota where he earned a master’s of science in Electrical Engineering and a PhD.
CEO, Stefan Lindvall: Stefan Lindvall brings more than 20 years of high level experience in the wireless industry to MultiTech. In the last five years at Connected Development, a MultiTech subsidiary, Lindvall has created one of the leading wireless design services companies in the U.S. Lindvall received his MSc in Industrial Engineering and Management from the University of Linkoping, Sweden.