IEN: In a report by information and analytics provider IHS published at the beginning of this year, congatec ranked no. 1 in terms of revenue for computer modules in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). According to your estimation, how far is it to the worldwide market leadership?
Edi: We are getting closer to becoming no.1 for Computer-on-Modules worldwide because we are focused entirely on embedded computer technologies and because we are continuously improving our global sales and support network.
But we're not limited to computer modules only. To grow faster than the rest of the market we recently extended our product range with industrial Mini-ITX Single Board Computers, based on Intel and AMD processors.
With our four strategic pillars of embedded hardware on Computer-on-Modules and Mini-ITX Single Board Computers, complemented by outstanding Software support and ODM Services, we are on the right way to becoming a worldwide leader in embedded computing.
IEN: How do you explain the global growth over the past five years?
Edi: congatec put a great sustainable effort and focus into product designs and the development of a global sales strategy since the company started in 2005. But it's not just the bits and bytes, the main reason for our outstanding success is the motivation of our staff. Customer orientation and superior support are additional key differentiators.
IEN: What makes your computer-on-modules so well-applicable for industrial automation, and in which industrial branches are they represented?
Edi: When using COMs it's always necessary to create a custom carrier board which includes all application related special interfaces. This concept allows the development of perfect hardware platforms - even for rugged applications. Any sub segment within automation has its own special requirements - and COMs can solve that.
But it's not just the hardware - software and integration services are also included. Examples are our additional BIOS or embedded Board Controller features as well as our extended documentation and global technical support.
Main segments today are industrial automation, medical, gaming and transportation followed by many other segments.
IEN: As you don't manufacture your products yourself, how do you assure that your service providers keep the quality standards you request from them?
Edi: We have a dedicated manufacturing service and quality management team that constantly tours the world to audit and communicate to our manufactures. This has enabled us to build strong processes and relationships.
congatec has also recently appointed Matthias Klein to the position of COO, an expert in the field with very strong experience in manufacturing services from his former job at one of Germany's leading contract manufacturers.
IEN: One big issue in industrial automation nowadays is Industry 4.0, a subject that, among other things, sets high demands for communication devices, especially in terms of network security. What makes your COM devices secure for this purpose?
Edi: congatec has bundled its embedded computer modules with validated software packages to provide new services based on the connection of devices with each other and the cloud. The bundle includes McAfee Embedded Control which, among other things, includes dynamic whitelisting to prevent the execution of unapproved code while at the same time allowing policy-based updates.
The combination of reliable hardware and a consistent software package, starting with the firmware and operating system, forms a "root of trust" for IoT applications. By supporting the embedded board with a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip, congatec helps ensure that applications can be operated with maximum data security. The combination of pre-validated software and congatec hardware makes it possible to equip new connected applications in industrial automation and Internet of Things with a minimum effort with added data security.
IEN: Over the past years, energy efficiency has been another hot topic in industrial automation. Where do your computer-on-modules rank in this respect?
Edi: Yes, energy efficiency is getting more important than processor performance. To fulfil customer and market requirements congatec has launched a new low power ARM Freescale i.MX6 processor on the Qseven COM family.
The module features great multimedia performance at a much lower power consumption. But also on x86 designs, congatec takes care about power efficiency during the product development process.
IEN: At the beginning of this year you established a new regional sales manager for the Russian Federation. And most recently you signed a distribution agreement with a leading Russian electronic components distributer. Given the latest political developments and the problems between Russia and the European Union, how do you evaluate the importance of the Russian market for your products?
Edi: The Russian market is very attractive for congatec. We believe that current problems will be solved at a political level. We also extended our sales activities to China and Japan. Our strong sales partner network is also supported by local sales offices in UK, France, Italy and Sweden.
IEN: One of the most important annual trade shows for you is embedded world that will again take place in late February 2015 in Nuremberg, Germany. Could you please give us a short preview already as to what will be the main topics at the congatec stand?
Edi: congatec will have a large booth at embedded world 2015 where we will demonstrate the strength of our four pillar strategy consisting of COMs, SBCs, strong software support and ODM services. Another focus will be embedded ODM design for the Internet of Everything; by providing a pre-integrated and open platform we are enabling ODMs to bring secure IoT solutions to market quickly. We will also be showing even smaller and more energy efficiency designs. You are all welcome to visit us in Hall 6 at Stand 306 to enjoy some fresh orange juice or coffee with some great Bavarian snacks.