The two global startup hubs of San Jose, California and Stockholm, Sweden are the homes to a very interesting and successful startup. Qulsar is a flourishing Internet of Things company. I had the chance to speak with the CEO and President, Rajen Datta, at IoT World 2015 in San Francisco.
BS: In one sentence, what does Qulsar do?
RD: Qulsar provides precise timing for efficient networks.
BS: Perfectly phrased! Could you elaborate more on that?
RD: As the world becomes more mobile, and we rely more and more on mobile devices to deliver data and information, we are loading up the mobile network. The bandwidth of the mobile network is limited by physics, right? It’s spectrum is limited. So one of the ways to get efficiency out of the mobile network is to divide it in a time domain. And the more precisely you can do that, the more efficiency you can get out of the network. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than this, I’m trying to simplify.
BS (laughing): And I am definitely appreciative.
RD: Essentially what we do is to enable our technologies with a greater position in time. This way they can, in a certain sense, more efficiently use the radio spectrum. That’s one way that precise timing works. The other areas where precise timing becomes more useful and effective is when you have a huge amount of data streaming in or streaming out and you need to make sense of the time awareness of the data.
So if it’s real time data, suppose a machine is doing a sequence of things. The difference in time between two events may be very very important. One of the simple examples I give is that you might have a distributed sensor network. An event occurs five miles away and then, after a few seconds, happens right at that same location. That difference in time, if you precisely measure it, can give you a lot richer information. So a lot of this new, rich – and that’s relevant to the IoT world – the new, rich, real-time IoT data becomes even more analysable if you’re able to precisely time the events. That’s the second thing we do.
BS: Would that kind of ability ever help in something like a natural disaster, that’s happened, say in Nepal [in April, 2015]? Maybe if seismologists could sense the tremor deep underground, even though it’s only a couple seconds ahead of time, if it hit everyones cell phones, they could at least take for shelter?
RD: As it is now, I’m not so sure that will help: even if you have a microsecond – and that’s the level of precision we go to – microsecond precision. I will say, however, that maybe in the future we’ll develop predictive technology from understanding how different sensors detect tremors. Earthquake science, or predictive science, has evolved to that extent. It’s enabled by being able to look more richly a the data from these sensors.
Today we don’t know if it’s possible or not; maybe such predictive analysis is possible. But today we don’t have the instrumentation. So this is some of the enabling things we can do. I don’t know. To answer your question… See the, one of the things I want to be very careful about, is I don’t want to pretend that we make the network latency less. So latency means something traveling from point A to point B. What we do is we are able to precisely tell when those events occur.
BS: Ah, that complete makes sense. So can I ask how you personally got involved in this concept of precision timing?
RD: I have a background in precise timing; I have a background in networking. We started a company in the Bay Area. Basically what we were doing [before] was developing algorithms to extract timing out of network packets more efficiently. It was processing algorithms that combine different things and very similar [to what Qulsar does now]. That’s how I got involved. I’m more on the marketing and business side. I have a co-founder [CTO, Kishan Shenoi] who is more on the technology side.
BS: Being a Californian expat in Sweden myself, I have to ask about your other base in Stockholm.
RD (laughing): The linkage to Sweden is that we were looking at different platforms to run our algorithms on. Conemtech had a perfect platform but they were a startup too; they were a five person startup and we were a four person startup. After a couple months of talking, and looking at the risks of working at another startup for us, it made more sense to combine the entities together. Our skills were very complementary – our markets were very complementary. It just made sense It’s been a great combination.
BS: Awesome. So what other Internet of Things technology do you find interesting here at IoT World 2015?
RD: This is very funny because there was a startup pitching nearby and they had this robot – they had this bot where you could put in a camera. It had very simple programming but it could basically act as a movie crew for you as you do outdoor activities. So suppose you are climbing and you just put your camera on it, it will photograph you and take a video of you from different angles that you could never do on your own. Before, you’d need a whole camera crew. It’s almost like it’s taken a movie in a production set of you climbing this mounting. It’s really amazing. A very simple combination of technologies if you think about it. These bots are out there, these cameras are out there, your cellphones are out there. You simply program it using your cellphones. I found that very cool.
BS: So I have to finish by asking: What do you do for fun?
RD (laughing again): That’s a very difficult question – because in a startup what you do for fun is the startup. But I’ve got kids. So my main recreation is going hiking with my kids.
BS: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!
RD: And thank you, Björn!
Rajen Datta is based in the Bay Area, California. Conemtech’s CEO, Ola Andersson, is now the COO of Qulsar and is based in Kista, Sweden. You can read more about the cool things Qulsar does on their website, qulsar.com.