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LoJack CTO talks RF, Internet of Things

Posted by Chad O'Connor  March 20, 2014 06:00 AM

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Curious about how the many devices we use - everything from cell phones to planes to GPS - continue talk to each other without constantly messing up? I recently posed some related questions to Emad Isaac, CTO at LoJack, about the technology and how he sees LoJack's role. Here's what he explained to me:

CO: Can you tell our readers a bit about your background and how it was that you came to do what you're now doing at LoJack?

EI: I joined the company just over a year ago, after previous stops at Motorola and Rand McNally I saw the opportunity with LoJack as a unique and exciting opportunity in my career. I was a systems architect at Motorola and worked on a number of innovative telematics and automotive projects including General Motors' OnStar, BMW Assist and the Mercedez Benz Systems. At Rand McNally I worked with a team to construct product roadmaps for the company’s telematics, navigation and digital media businesses. LoJack is well positioned to command the markets they serve.

Over the last year or so we have made significant strides in the telematics and connected car space–an area where the company has been connecting consumers, fleet owners and law enforcement to vehicles for almost three decades. Through our own proprietary network and use of radio frequency (RF) technology, we've been able to connect and alert vehicle owners and law enforcement agencies about stolen or transported vehicles. A good example of some recent work we've done is with our partnership with TomTom that we launched early last year. This collaboration has enabled us to provide our customers with a comprehensive offering that enables them access to critical information like trip reports, fuel consumption reports, order reports, maintenance reports and of course, stolen vehicle protection for their family of fleets.

CO: There was a lot of buzz coming out of CES about "The Internet of Things" - how is RF technology positioned to play a role in that?

EI: I define the phrase "Internet of Things" (IoT) as a simple awareness of a situation made possible by technology. Google recently spent $3.2 billion on Nest because they believe that the power is not only in the "things" but also in the knowledge and information that these "things" can bring.

I strongly believe that LoJack is one of the original IoT companies. Similar to Verizon and AT&T, LoJack owns and operates its own network. We are also a manufacturer of hardware and have some key intellectual property surrounding our offerings. Most importantly, we have close relationships with both law enforcement agencies and automotive dealership communities throughout the country. We've networked all of these "things" together to provide the means and system to deliver solutions that solve a tangible need. It is my opinion that many companies are rushing onto the IoT stage, but very few are able to provide differentiating products.

CO: RF seems like a really old technology but is apparently quite relevant still. What developments in how RF is used have helped it to stay relevant for this long, and what kinds of technological improvements have made RF so reliable?

EI: RF is everywhere and represents a whole range of frequencies, so I am unsure what is old about it? For example, RF is used in airports and aircraft landing systems, is that old? Your cell phone, GPS navigation system and radio in your car depend on RF technology, is that old? In fact most homes and businesses today rely on cutting edge RF technology such as Wi-Fi and other such products, is all that old? Clearly not. RF is somewhat like looking at a measured ruler - you go to what is relevant and needed along its edge. Similarly with RF we go to that frequency or range of frequencies that best serve the need and purpose. If you were to connect to your home Wi-Fi and start walking down the block you would find that the range where you are still reliably connected is relatively short. LoJack operates in the Very High Frequency (VHF) band where range and the ability to communicate with our devices in buildings and garages are essential. It is the same frequency band that some modern communication and weather satellites use to transmit their signals to/from earth.

Basically, there is no old versus new technology when it comes to RF frequency. Many of our competitors are spreading the word that our technology is old, claiming that GPS and cellular are the new. Well, those technologies are using RF too. RF has its role within a specific need and is still being used because it is a fundamental tool in sending and receiving signals for the latest and greatest technologies that we use today. RF, and specifically the VHF band, serves an exact purpose for our market needs; and LoJack has mastered how to use it.

CO: I think when many people hear LoJack they will just think of stolen car recovery. What other areas is LoJack involved in now, and looking to get into?

EI: LoJack really created the stolen vehicle recovery category and market. However, we are not just looking at that segment. We are focused on building and adding onto our technology to make it better.We can take what we do best and add it to other "things" and expand product capabilities. For example, it is not hard for companies to get into the telematics space but what is hard is for them to match the nearly three decades of experience that LoJack has in connecting consumers, fleet owners and law enforcement personnel to their vehicles to let them know if it has been stolen or moved unexpectedly or to conduct research like pulling fuel and maintenance reports. There are many companies out there who offer telematics products but not one of them (that I am aware of) can offer the differentiating solution LoJack includes in its offerings.

LoJack is a known and trusted brand, we have strong relationships with dealers and know the vehicles that our products are going into. We work closely with law enforcement agencies – from local, state and federal to international. Our mission is safety, security and protection; and our products and services align strongly with that brand promise. We've been in the connected car space for a long time and it is a space that we'll continue to innovate in for years to come.

Chad O'Connor is a communication consultant, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Organizational Communication and Culture at Northeastern University, and is editor of this blog. Connect with him on Twitter @chadoconnor.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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