CEO Spotlight: Mike Mulica, Actility

Mike Mulica picture

The Actility Newsroom

CEO Spotlight: Mike Mulica, Actility

French firm Actility, founded by technology entrepreneur Olivier Hersent in 2010, is one of the biggest advocates of LoRA technology to enable Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks, and is also a founding member of the LoRA Alliance, which is rapidly growing in both size and reputation.

The company last year secured $25 million funding from large scale operators KPN, Orange, Swisscom and Foxconn, intended to accelerate its launch of ThingPark, its open standard IoT network solution.

This serves as the company’s primary product, which is designed for IoT deployments of various sizes, from single enterprises through to smart cities. ThingPark aims to work with low power devices, and provide the connectivity at low cost.

Now, as interest in the LPWA market begins to ramp up, with rival proprietary LPWA solutions emerging on the market from Sigfox and Ingenu, and the pending release of 3GPP-backed NB-IoT standards, Actility has opted to appoint telecoms and technology industry veteran Mike Mulica to lead it towards its next stage of growth.

Mulica, who has held leadership roles with Phone.com, Syncronoss and Real Networks, told Mobile World Live it was clear to him, upon meeting Hersent, that LPWA was really going to take off in the second half of the year, and joining Actility was an opportunity he could not turn down.

In this interview, he opens up on some of the challenges vendors may face in accommodating IoT networks, which could prove to be a “very low cost market” to run, his open approach to competition, and his thoughts on why LoRa technology could be likened to an Android ecosystem.

 

MWL: What is your view of LPWA and Actility’s journey so far? 
Mulica: LPWA has become the rage over the course of the past year in terms of its ability to economically connect many things, and capture and deliver data to those things that wasn’t possible before.

These extremely low levels of economics are produced into the system, so the folks here built an end to end platform that includes the radio layer and the mash up layer, allowing for the connection of all kinds of things and the capture of data from many different applications. This marketplace allows vendors to deliver their sensors and applications into the markets where the networks exist.

Actility itself is now on an open systems march towards LPWA and making that pervasive. The first couple of years have been about building out networks to make sure there is coverage and the first network technology available in this category was LoRa.

To that end, we have six nationwide deployments globally, with many more planned. This also consists of deployments planned in Asia, that will be announced in a couple of weeks and many planned in Europe, with a whole lot going on in North America that should also get announced in the next month or so.

In any event, the idea here is to be a LPWA technology company to embrace many, or even all, radio frequency technologies when they come to market.

 

MWL: The LoRa Alliance has had some high profile backing from some large scale operators in recent weeks. Where does a small player like Actility fit into that ecosystem?  
Mulica: We were one of the co-founders of the LoRa alliance with IBM and SemTech, so, from a strategy stand point, we have invested a lot of time in terms of technical leadership and co-chaired many of the committees around its development. I think we are at 330 members of the alliance now and it is growing fast. The nice thing about it is the fact it operates a structure that’s very open so there can be a lot of different participants at every layer of technology, making it a very accessible market to join. Now, we have big companies like Orange also on board, and Cisco is a large partner of ours from a distribution standpoint, which makes them involved too. It’s got a lot of momentum behind it.

 

MWL: How will Actility respond to NB-IoT standards from 3GPP, and what is your view on some of the other proprietary LPWA technologies on the market? 
Mulica: We will embrace NarrowBand IoT from 3GPP. It is part of our roadmap and we will deliver a NB-IoT capable product as soon as the standards are ratified. It’s been in development and we are excited about that aspect of our product.

We also think there are lots of things that are complimentary about the different radio technologies, and when they come together in the portfolio they are better. At the end of the day, it’s not about the radio technology, as most of these connections are low cost connections, and there’s got to be many, many millions of them happening.

We think the key is creating an environment where it is really easy to connect something and make it happen in a low cost, automated way. There is now a seamless marketplace of having things that are built in an aging territory that might have a particular need for connecting to a certain object.

Radio settings can be seamless and easy to do, similar to the way the internet works. We actually see this as like the internet, and you can plug into the internet in many different ways, through your Ethernet cable or your Wi-Fi modem, it’s sort of irrelevant the way you do it. The real value is in making the ecosystem work in the best possible way.

 

MWL: So you don’t see rival technologies clashing? 
Mulica: I think there are clearly going to be different vendors, but this will be a very low cost market. Many of the vendors that have built up the mobile networks in the past and built that marketplace need to understand this is a different paradigm in terms of the value of the network and the cost of the network – and it may be difficult for them to adjust to this different cost basis.

It’s sort of classic evolution, it’s hard to do the next thing when you became used to the last market.

 

MWL: Are you not at all concerned by competition from rival players like Sigfox for example?
I see it as a positive, it’s good to have funding into this marketplace in a big way and they’ve had great backing, so they are able to be aggressive and raise awareness from an ecosystem perspective of what low power wide area can do and the impact it can have.

In any case, it’s always good to have someone you can compare yourself against, as we are also well funded and it’s a big world. There are even certain aspects of some of the closed technologies that we like, so our strategy from a technology perspective is to be all inclusive.

We are the type of company that is very ecosystem friendly so it’s easy to be a participant at every layer of the market with us – whether you want to be a component supplier or a base station supplier, an operator or an application supplier, there is a lot of entry into those layers and this creates an exponential effect on the amount of R&D we can do.

It’s very difficult to be a vertically integrated company, which makes them a bit more like Apple in their vertically integrated form, while we operate an open ecosystem form, which makes us a bit more like Android, but it’s good to have alternatives.

 

MWL: What is your vision for growth at Actility?
Mulica: We are growing fast and part of that will be to secure more capital to ensure we are in the position in the market that we want to be in. We are in pole position and we want to maintain it. It is crazy from a growth standpoint and we need capital consistent with that growth to be able to capitalise on the market opportunity.

 

MWL: What encouraged you to take the role?
Mulica: My background is mobile, internet, cloud and I probably age myself a little when I say I was in Chicago when Motorola introduced the first mobile phone, and I helped them roll out the first mobile networks of the world. But I’ve always really been focused on reaching markets that will grow globally, and Actility has already done such a great job in getting into this market, deploying its network and getting up and running.

This clearly isn’t just a science project and it looks like the market will really take off in the second half 2016.

Actility Appoints Global Technology Executive Mike Mulica as Chief Executive Officer

Mike Mulica picture

The Actility Newsroom

Actility Appoints Global Technology Executive Mike Mulica as Chief Executive Officer

Mulica to drive global expansion and rapid growth in the Low Power Wide Area Internet of Things (IoT)

Paris, France, 1st June 2016 –  Actility, the industry leader in Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) radio networking and the innovator behind the ThingPark IoT solution platform, has today announced the appointment of high-tech business veteran Mike Mulica as  Chief Executive Officer. Mulica brings decades of experience in leadership roles with globally-focused companies including Phone.com, Openwave, Syncronoss and Real Networks. He has been a business pioneer in transformational technologies including commercial internet, voice over IP and mobile, mobile internet, and cloud.

Backed by prestigious investors including tier-one telcos KPN, Orange and Swisscom and electronics giant Foxconn, Actility is at the forefront of the global IoT revolution. It is supporting national network roll-outs in partnership with operators and broadcasters in six European countries, and a citywide network in Dubai, with deployment projects in two Asian countries in progress and trials under way in the Americas.

“The next transformational global technology wave is IoT,” says Mulica, “and it will trigger an explosion of productivity by connecting and enabling smarter things in domains as varied as as cities, agriculture and factories”. Explaining his decision to join Actility, Mulica adds that: “All of the most successful technology waves were driven by product innovation combined with a global industry architecture. Actility gets that, and Olivier Hersent, Actility CTO and Founder, and his ThingPark team clearly recognise the importance of combining great product architecture with great industry architecture, which together enable a complete and dynamic ecosystem.”

“We’re extremely pleased to have Mike on board, with his experience of driving technology innovation into some of the largest global markets,” says Actility CTO and Founder, Olivier Hersent. “Mike understands service provider, enterprise and direct to consumer markets on a global scale, and his experience and worldwide network of connections will help us meet the demands of rapid growth while maintaining ThingPark as the leading solution platform for IoT.”

“To succeed, IoT needs to become, like the internet itself, an open global ecosystem in which the best people can innovate around products, business models and services,” adds Mulica. “I believe that Actility, with our ThingPark platform and continuing commitment to the rapidly-growing LoRa ecosystem, and to emerging standards such as NB-IoT, is pioneering that open and collaborative approach to IoT. ThingPark allows us to connect things, people and solutions into a meaningful global marketplace”

ThingPark has three main elements: ThingPark Wireless, the core LoRaWAN network infrastructure and tools; ThingPark Cloud, offering Open Data management and protocol translation; and ThingPark Marketplace, the hub of the ecosystem and marketplace. Together, ThingPark is a “one-stop shop” enabling the deployment of end to end services, offering device purchasing and delivery, device activation and registration with IoT networks, application distribution and pairing with devices, worldwide distribution over public networks, and the deployment of private customer networks.

About Actility

Actility is an innovator and industry leader in LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) large scale infrastructure. Actility’s ThingPark™ is a next generation standards-based IoT platform. The ThingPark Wireless LPWA network provides long-range coverage for low-power consumption sensors. ThingPark Cloud offers big data storage for sensor data and exposes sensor capabilities through an open API, enabling developers to create vertical applications using the installed base of sensors. The ThingPark platform offers embedded software solutions and cloud solutions to connect devices with innovative applications. With its dedicated online marketplace for IoT sensors, applications and network solutions, ThingPark simplifies and accelerates the roll-out of innovative IoT services. Actility is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance: the largest, most powerful open standards-based enabler of the Internet of Things. To find out more, visit www.thingpark.com.

Press contact
Anne van Gemert
anne.vangemert@actility.com

Olivier Hersent, Actility’s CEO, presents Actility’s vision for Internet of Things services Smart City innovation BFM Business

The Actility Newsroom

Olivier Hersent, Actility’s CEO, presents Actility’s vision for Internet of Things services Smart City innovation BFM Business.

Actility will be presenting its SmartGrid and SmartCity innovations during the IBS SmartGrid SmartCity event in Paris

Olivier Hersent, Actility’s CEO, presents Actility’s vision for Internet of Things services Smart City innovation BFM Business.

The IBS SmartGrid SmartCity event will be held this week on the 24th of September 2014. Actility and other participants were invited to share their vision on Smart City innovations. Actility’s President Olivier Hersent, spoke on BFM Business about the vision of Actility on new innovating services enabled by the Internet of Things network ThingPark Wireless

One example of such innovative services is the use of long range low power Internet of Things network to connect energy sensors for energy efficiency measurements. Data collected by such M2M networks allow new applications to identify a number of ways to optimize consumption or define building retrofit programs which would significantly improve insulation. 

Actility also plays a key role as a SmartGrid player. Actility Energy operates a Fast Demand Response Platform which allows customers to change their normal consumption patterns in response to changes in the price of energy over time or to incentive payments designed to induce lower electricity use when prices are high or system reliability is in jeopardy. Actility allows utilities and consumers to coordinate energy efficiency and demand response providing them with better tools to understand, manage, and reduce their electricity use.

Contact us for more information on Actility Energy and the ThingPark Wireless long range Internet of Things Network.