MSUA Member Interview | John Stolte; Executive VP of Technology and Operations, Orbcomm & MSUA B
Catherine: It was great seeing you at MSUA’s awards luncheon during SATELLITE18 and I appreciate you taking time for a Mobility News interview.
Let’s start by first talking about you. As a senior leader at Orbcomm, what part of the business do you focus on and what industry changes are having the greatest impact on what you do?
John: I lead ORBCOMM’s Technology & Operations group, including the development, launch and operation of ORBCOMM’s second generation satellite constellation as well as ground infrastructure development and support, customer access portals and corporate-wide information systems. I think that the proliferation of IoT technology and solutions across a diversity of new vertical markets, geographies and applications along with a greater focus on services offers many opportunities for ORBCOMM to continue to take the lead in developing disruptive industrial IoT technology – from devices to applications to analytics. In addition, customers are looking for seamless access to network connectivity. They simply want to use the best network or combination of networks to meet their requirements for geographic coverage, regulatory authorizations, the fastest service, and the largest message payloads. ORBCOMM offers the most comprehensive offering of network services, including three satellite networks and seven terrestrial networks for global message delivery to meet all of our customers’ needs.
Catherine: Thinking now from the company’s perspective, how does Orbcomm view the changing marketplace and what does it mean to your business overall?
John: ORBCOMM began as a pioneer in M2M communication technology over 25 years ago. Long before the Internet of Things became a common term, we were connecting enterprise assets. Today, we offer the broadest array of industrial IoT solutions from individual components to full end-to-end solutions and have more than two million subscribers on our networks. We believe this not only reflects the overall global growth in IoT adoption but also ORBCOMM’s expanded market penetration and widening geographic reach in this space. As a technology leader and innovator, we continue to be inspired by the changing marketplace and the global adoption of IoT and are committed to developing best-in-class solutions that transform how our customers operate their business and stay connected to their assets.
Catherine: What’s Orbcomm’s market development mission?
John: ORBCOMM has solidified its position as a leading provider of large-scale telematics for many of the world’s largest companies in transportation, heavy equipment, marine, and various other markets. From providing end-to-end solutions that connect industrial assets on the road, over the rails and at sea to providing connectivity for everything from buoys to construction equipment to cathodic protection systems, ORBCOMM is continuing to see significant growth in both traditional as well as emerging markets, such as terrestrial services and supply chain visibility. We will continue enter new markets, including consumer, fleet management and oil & gas, and support our customers through the development of stand-out IoT solutions as they look for new ways to make their business smarter, more efficient and more competitive.
Catherine: Thinking about IoT, what customer markets do you target and what are their typical use cases?
John: ORBCOMM is focused on providing solutions that connect businesses to their assets to deliver increased visibility and operational efficiency. We have a diverse customer base including premier OEMs, solutions customers and channel partners spanning transportation, supply chain, warehousing and inventory, heavy equipment, maritime, natural resources and government. Typical use cases range from freight transportation monitoring, cold chain compliance and refrigerated asset monitoring to fleet management, driver safety, and cargo security systems. We shipped an astounding 336,000 devices in 2017 and have completed some of our largest deployments to date for world-class industry leaders such as JB Hunt, Oshkosh/JLG and AT&T in support of the United States Postal Service.
Catherine: Do you see these use cases evolving and data usage increasing? If yes, how so?
John: Once our customers see the level of data and insights they can access through our IoT solutions, they are always looking for more data. Many of our customers will start off with a need for simple tracking and location capabilities for their assets but will quickly take advantage of a wide range of value-added services and analytics that enable monitoring of fuel consumption, temperature, driver safety, and much more.
Catherine: What innovations are you most excited about at Orbcomm? What about elsewhere in the market?
John: With one of the largest engineering teams in the industrial IoT, in-house innovation continues to be at the forefront of ORBCOMM’s strategy. We are planning to release more than 20 new products and solutions ranging from feature enhancements to sensors and peripherals to product configurations to user interface designs this year. These projects span every aspect of our business as well as several new product categories and vertical markets, and will offer our customers greatly improved price points, features and performance gains. We’ll also be enhancing our IoT solutions offering with a major initiative to expand our data analytics capabilities, which we use to identify patterns to predict valuable operational information from the data collected by our various SaaS platforms. There’s a lot to be excited about.
Catherine: Do you see a convergence between telecom and satellite? How about for Orbcomm solutions?
John: We’ve already experienced a merging of terrestrial and satellite communications. Many of our current solutions are dual-mode, which provides terrestrial and LEO/GEO satellite services when not in terrestrial coverage, enabling the best of both worlds in cost-effective and reliable fleet management and industrial asset tracking. Plus, all of our network services are managed in one place through our versatile ORBCOMMconnect service delivery platform.
Catherine: How important is system interoperability to your users and if important, what forms (e.g. frequency, altitudes, commands) are your customers talking about?
John: Again, customers are less concerned with how their data is being delivered and processed and more concerned with the reliability and security of the overall network. We have developed our ORBCOMMconnect customer portal which gives our customers direct access to managing their devices on any of our three satellite and seven terrestrial networks. With this combination, we can ensure our customers have the optimum delivery methodology, flexibility and versatility.
Catherine: If you were going to choose someone in the industry to be interviewed for Mobility News, who would it be and why?
John: That’s a good question. There are so many interesting and well-respected players in our industry that it’s very tough to single out a specific individual. How about you, Catherine? We can trade places, and I’ll interview you!
Catherine: Okay, not the answer I was expecting ….. but alright, we can switch places. There’s a strong line-up of forthcoming interviews but I will add “you/me” into the schedule. J
Finnally, I always like to ask members about their favorite form of personal mobility (e.g skateboarding, snowboarding, trail walking, etc.)? Anything goes -- remember Rebecca’s [Cowen-Hirsch] was “glamping” and Brian Aziz’s was “boxing” and we’ve had all sorts of answers in between.
John: I enjoy being active and spend a lot of time outdoors. My favorite forms of mobility really span all seasons: golfing, skiing and boating.
Catherine: John, thank you for taking time for this interview and for all you support and contributions to the MSUA Board and organization.