Overcoming Communications Challenges

Redline Communications

Redline Communications is bringing the power of communication to some of the most remote and challenging locations worldwide. The company’s rugged broadband wireless products provide high speed, real-time connectivity for critical machine to machine applications – virtually anywhere on the planet.

Since 1999, Redline’s market leading Virtual Fiber™ technology has been utilized by some of the most demanding industries on earth. Oil and gas companies look to Redline to connect their digital oil fields; the military uses Redline to rapidly deploy secure networks; governments utilize the company’s products to increase public safety. Across stormy seas, uncharted jungle, or arctic cold – no job is too far off the grid or too complex.

The Ontario based company has set itself apart by specializing in demanding industrial applications. “It’s really an unserved segment of the market,” says Duval Yeager, AVP of Product Marketing. Traditionally, most manufacturers have simply slapped some weatherproofing on a standard solution and called it industrialized, he explains. “You would use a regular switch or a router from your office in a weather proof box somewhere. And the same with radios. Companies were putting [their solution] in a ruggedized box and targeting oil companies or mines or other industrial applications.”

Redline, on the other hand, has developed solutions especially for the industrial market, rather than adapting already existing ones. “What Redline has done is very different,” Mr. Yeager insists. “We are focused on what the actual application is, what they are doing from a data standpoint, what the demands are in the field, and what the actual environmental conditions are and how that affects the radio.”

Providing a solution specially designed for challenging applications is crucial in an industry where a communications failure can cost thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of dollars a day. “The cost of a failed communications link in the oil field can be tens of thousands of dollars a day,” Mr. Yeager points out. “If it fails at a drilling rig and a drilling rig has to shut down, that can cost as much as $200,000 a day. So for them, the loss of communications has a severe price.” Compare this to consumer networking, where the cost of a link being down for the day is minimal. “In fact, in consumer networking, the cost of a consumer being without their cellphone for a day is almost nominal for a service provider.”

Industrial applications, therefore, require a special solution that has been carefully developed to stand up to tough conditions and out of the box demands. “They need to be higher quality, they need to work differently,” Mr. Yeager explains. “We need to understand that if they fail the costs are higher.” In fact, Redline strives to provide a solution for remote or challenging applications that has as much reliability and quality as would be found in a more traditional workplace setting. “When we take a network out to the oilfield or out to a mine somewhere, we need to understand that that user experience for each of their applications needs to be the same as though they are in the office,” Mr. Yeager points out. Essentially, “we are bringing the oilfield into their office so office workers are able to collaborate with what is going on in the field.”

A top notch R&D department helps Redline deliver outstanding solutions to unique challenges. “We are constantly, constantly researching. We probably do more research and development than any other telecommunication company of our size. The [amount] of R&D investment and the number of people that we have in R&D is just incredible.” This effort is necessary, Mr. Yeager insists, to continually provide the best, most innovative product. The company puts “a lot of faith in the value that our research brings to the market,” he adds. “It obviously leads to better products and better solutions for the companies that have [networking] challenges.”

The team also goes out into the field in order to better understand industry needs. Developing the right product for the specific needs of a particular industry requires “a very profound understanding of all of the challenges [involved],” Mr. Yeager explains, and the team believes that this can only be achieved through firsthand experience and a close relationship with customers. “We send engineers around the world,” Mr. Yeager reports. “Our goal [is] to spend some time with our customers and find out what they are doing in industrial applications.” The team has studied “just about anything,” from oil and gas facilities, airports, and mines to municipal public safety networks and smart grids. As a result, “when we go into an industry we really know that industry.”

Developing strong customer relationships is a key part of this process. “We get to know customers,” Mr. Yeager says – even though the majority of Redline’s products are sold through distributors, rather than directly to the end user. “But we still want to get to know these customers, we still want to work with them and understand what their challenges are. Each time that we come out with a new [product] we are taking on new challenges, we are solving different problems and that relationship with customers is what makes our solution such a good fit for what they do. We really understand what they are trying to do and we put that understanding into our solution.”

Indeed, Redline’s strategy has earned the company an impressive roster of big name customers. And, at the end of 2013, the team announced yet another oil and gas giant that has switched to Redline. “If you look at the size of the company,” Mr. Yeager points out, “being able to do something like [that is an] incredible thing. These are companies that normally deal with very large suppliers. And the fact that they are dealing with a smaller Canadian company speaks volumes about the quality of our solution and the focus of our attention on what they are doing and the challenges that they have.”

Redline continues to attract industry giants by staying abreast of the latest industry trends. “There are a lot of new technologies going into the oilfields and other industrial applications that allow for better collaboration, that increase safety, that increase productivity,” Mr. Yeager points out. “We have new software that is allowing us to better service the newer machine to machine technologies that are being implemented.”

The team’s unique skillset also helps them provide socially responsible solutions. For instance, a customer in Colombia is currently in the process of rolling out a communications network – but refuses to damage the rainforest in the process. Redline is eager to support the company’s environmental efforts and is designing a special system that can be implemented without destroying the surrounding forest. “We don’t want to bulldoze down a bunch of the rainforest,” Mr. Yeager says. “We don’t want to build a lot of towers that are going to be eyesores in the rainforest forever.” As a result, the team is developing “a radio that doesn’t require line of sight, that can shoot through trees.”

A collaboration like this is encouraging, Mr. Yeager points out, and is a sign of the changing times. “These are things that you might not have heard a company saying forty or fifty years ago. We are proud to be a company that can step up and say ‘that’s a great challenge, let’s do that – let’s design a system so that we don’t have to do what [people] would normally do in these conditions.’” Having a commitment to the greater good and the ability to step up to a challenge “means that even the largest of oil companies are coming to us for their important projects.”

The team is eager to continue pushing the envelope to deliver the best, most advanced solutions – especially when the project is tough and the stakes are high. “Our future plans are really to continue to focus on this market,” says Mr. Yeager. “By keeping people in the field, keeping people working with customers, we know what their challenges are and we will always keep a step ahead of the trends.”

June 19, 2018, 8:17 AM EDT

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