20th Anniversary Special – INTERVIEW

People often say that 20 is the most wonderful age in life. And this December, Sensile Technologies will be celebrating our 20th anniversary! Over these two decades, the company has successfully written an incredible story. Managing Director Cédric Morel and Operational Director Jean-Marc Uehlinger look back at the journey and share their vision for the future.

Twenty years ago, Sensile Technologies started doing business on the sensor market. In those 20 years, the market has changed considerably. What technological changes have made the biggest impact?

Jean-Marc Uehlinger: First of all, I would mention optimisation in the number and weight of the elements in our electronic systems. Our first generation of products had around 200 components for 1.3 kg of material. Today, we have halved the number of components and reduced the weight 10 fold in our fifth generation. This kind of change isn’t solely due to technology; it was also made possible by constantly rethinking our products for each generation.

Next, we’ve seen a huge change in technology due to the boom in mobile phones from 1999 to 2009, which pushed players in the cellular industry to miniaturise and improve GSM components. The last 10 years have shown that the “Internet of Things (IoT) is now a separate branch of communication networks. We’re no longer talking about mega or gigabyte bandwidths designed for streaming video on your latest iPhone, but about new low power, long distance communication networks (LoRa, SIGFOX) for transporting content equivalent in size to a third of an SMS over dozens of kilometres with the capability of managing billions of connected objects.

Finally, in terms of data reception and processing, obviously we’re no longer talking about simple software installed on a PC in a corner of the office. Instead, it’s all about cloud platforms hosted by Amazon, Google or Microsoft that are capable of instantly processing data received from hundreds of thousands of tanks or objects. And it’s also about enriching that data through information from the internet, allowing us to better optimise processes (big data).

What innovations are you most proud of at Sensile Technologies?

JMU: That’s an easy answer: the next one! But I can’t say anything more about it (smiles). In all seriousness, one of the innovations we’re most proud of at Sensile Technologies is the fact that we were able to get a jump on the automotive and telephone industries in 2007 by being one of the first companies to embed an eSIM into our product (as an electronic component instead of the annoying little piece of plastic everyone is familiar with), in collaboration with Gemalto and Bouygues Telecom.

When these industry giants couldn’t come to a contractual agreement to successfully complete these kinds of innovative projects, a Swiss SME from the Lausanne area jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to innovate. These days, our innovation is found in many connected objects, including the third generation smart Apple iWatch that came out 10 years after our box!

How would you explain the company’s DNA in a few words?

Cédric Morel: The DNA of Sensile Technologies is first and foremost our ability to break the limits. That’s why our connected objects have been wireless since 1999, eliminating the good old telephone cable or other wired alternatives. But this also comes through in the fact that our equipment runs on batteries (without needing to be recharged of plugged in) with ever increasing performance levels. In the beginning, the equipment’s life span was three years. Now, we’re pushing the limits with spans of more than 10 years!

Another thing that makes Sensile Technologies special is that we have a presence on every single continent and provide quality service to all of our clients. This DNA certainly earned us recognition in 2014 with the Swiss Export Award, a prize awarded by Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) that rewards the best export projects.

And finally, what do you think the future holds for Sensile Technologies?

CM: Everything points to good days ahead! First, we’re seeing a favourable environment with mature, ultra-efficient technology linked to the IoT. On this market, which is very dynamic these days, petrol and gas companies are finally realising the necessity of digitising their activities and processes. We can put our 20 years of invaluable experience and expertise to good use to effectively meet their needs.

Next, Sensile Technologies must build our future, and is building it, by diversifying our business into other related areas, such as the water and environmental markets.

Finally, while Sensile Technologies is currently a solid Swiss SME with international reach, we’ve also seen keen interest for several years from large companies who recognise the excellence of our products and knowledge, as well as our solid financial footing.

In short, there are many very positive signs predicting a bright future!

Happy anniversary to Sensile Technologies and the entire team!