Pozyx provides solutions based on ultra-wideband technology to, among others, the automotive industry, some to optimize the logistic processes in the assembly halls, others to add new functionalities to the vehicles themselves. Curiously, Agoria's Transport & Mobility Technology Club set up a video call with Michael Van de Velde, VP Sales and Strategic Business Development of the company. Watch the video here.

Hi Michael, can you briefly introduce your company and what you do?

Of course. Pozyx is a Ghent-based company. We produce hardware and software, with everything clustered around ultra-wide band technology (UWB). This is a radio technology that can be used for indoor positioning, but there are some other applications too, which sort of pushed us into automotive.

That’s what I’m really interested in hearing about: can you explain the automotive applications you see for your technology?

On one hand, we have clients in assembly, for logistical processes at the plants where we implement track and trace or tool tracking systems. By adding a tracker on the tools we use on the assembly line, we can track and control them. Basically, all the automotive assembly plants are looking into this technology. The use case is very clear, and the amount of money they can save is very clear too. Our largest client is VDL Nedcar. We’ve got some other projects, but they’re under NDAs.

On the other hand, we’re also in the car and around the car. The use case that everybody knows is keyless car entry. UWB is very safe. There is a Connected Car Consortium, with larger OEMs, Tier 1 companies and with Apple, who are all working to embed UWB. You’ll also be able to open the car using your cellphone. This is particularly useful for car sharing schemes.

So you’re in the car and at the plant. I assume these are two totally different worlds, am I right?

Absolutely, these are completely separate parts of the company. Completely different lines of command and approaches. Inside the car, it’s all about R&D and hardcore engineering. You can set up a project to learn, in which you can make mistakes. On the assembly line, you’re critical, there is no room for error, it’s all Six Sigma, so it’s completely different.

Is the impact of COVID-19 also different in those two worlds?

Absolutely. COVID-19 has changed nothing in R&D. They still need to develop certain features. The assembly lines are not running at full capacity and costs are being scrutinized. So there’s not a lot of room there. Why would you invest in new technology for a plant that is not even running at full capacity? But we can see that these plants are now picking up again.

Do you receive questions from the automotive industry on the use of your technology for social distancing?

Yes, both Belgian car OEMs have approached us. At the moment, plants are not working at full capacity, so there’s more space on the assembly line. As soon as production gets back to full capacity, they will need technology to ensure social distancing. 

You’re active in many different markets. What makes automotive so different?

Automotive is like the Premier League or Champions’ League, to draw an analogy with football. If you have clients in the automotive industry, the type and quality of work you need to deliver is of the highest standard. The bar is set very high. Once you get your foot in the door in automotive, your name gets passed along and you can build a really sustainable business. But you need to pick and choose your projects wisely, to find a good balance between R&D and Assembly work. If you can’t manage that mix or to broaden your horizons, you can be in big trouble because your business is then completely tied to the economic cycle.

What are your recommendations for other companies that are thinking of becoming active in automotive?

This will sound a bit weird, but my recommendation is: translate your material into Japanese. Why? Everybody thinks that the Germans and the Americans own automotive. But that’s not true, the Japanese are the biggest and most aggressive growers in the sector. Even if you’re working with Toyota in Europe, translate your stuff into Japanese. We’ve done so and the videos were watched at the client’s headquarters in Japan, and then we hear back again. Suddenly, there’s a phone call from somebody, calling on behalf of their Japanese superior.

That’s really surprising advice!

My final question to you, Michael: what are your biggest challenges today?

Finding the people to support our growth. We’re working on firmware and specific PCBs for automotive. We need people to work in these fields. Automotive customers demand weekly meetings and updates. They want to see people sweating on these projects, so we need more people. We have new vacancies for firmware engineers, people who know how to program in C and want to develop custom hardware that will eventually end up in a car.

Thank you for the chat, Michael, it was fascinating. Hope to meet you in person again soon! 

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