25 September 2020

Why Commit to a Balalaika When You Could Have a Stratocaster?

Jimmy Ruokolainen

VP Products & Servies

What’s the difference between a balalaika and an electric guitar – and what do they have to do with indoor positioning technology? This may sound like the setup for a joke, but I’m being totally serious here!

If you think about it, almost every country in the world has its own national version of a string instrument. In Russia it’s the balalaika, in Greece they call it the bouzouki. People in India enjoy the sounds of the sitar and we Finns are plucking away on our kantele. At first glance, they all look pretty similar – a piece of wood with metal wires strung across – but once you get to know them, you realise that they all require totally different playing techniques and musical knowledge.

Then there’s the electric guitar, like the widely-used and extremely well-known Fender Stratocaster. No matter where you are on the planet, in Europe, Africa, South America or Asia, you are sure to see local musicians playing electric guitars, most likely “the Strat”. By no means are electric guitars as unique as the bouzouki or the kantele, but you can play pretty much any genre of music from anywhere in the world on it.

So now, if you wanted to develop a loudspeaker system, which instrument would you start designing for? The local instrument with an addressable market of about 50 units per year, like the kantele? Or maybe you would rather spend the same amount of time, effort and resources solving the same problem for something like the electric guitar, that could open the door to an addressable market closer to 1,000,000 units a year?

That is the fundamental question that connects string instruments to indoor positioning. If most modern companies want to operate on a global scale, they need to solve the challenges faced by the wider market. At its core, the technology might seem global – the loudspeaker or the positioning engine. But is it really if only a handful can realistically use it as they happen to already own or are willing to invest in a niche technology – the specific local instrument, or the vendor-specific tag for the positioning system to track?

The answer is no. Global companies may think that because they have the scale and the purchasing power behind them, the technology ecosystem will work with their interests in mind. But this kind of thinking has led many to commit to balalaika-type technology: sweet-sounding and exciting as such, but just not globally usable.

Future-Proof Indoor Positioning

So what about the indoor positioning market? How does this translate in practice?

Well, there are several technologies that can be used to deliver indoor positioning solutions of varying quality, each of which has hooked their wagon onto their enabling technology of choice. For example, Ultra-wideband (UWB) is pretty great. It’s a fantastic sitar. Great for specific cases, unfortunately it’s just not global.

Bluetooth® on the other hand, is global. It’s pretty much everywhere. In our phones, laptops, headphones and speakers. The list just goes on. Now imagine an indoor positioning system that could locate any device that has Bluetooth? That would be pretty awesome, right? It would unlock quite a lot of use cases across industries around the world, wouldn’t it?

Yes it would! That’s what we’re betting on at Quuppa. We could have hitched our pride and joy, our positioning engine, to any of the available technologies. In fact, we still could. But for now, we want to use Bluetooth. It means we can deliver what we do best, high accuracy positioning, for any of the tens of thousands of devices in the world equipped with Bluetooth.

The fact that Bluetooth is an open standard ensures that our solution is not only global now, but also future-proof. We are proud to stand with Bluetooth, the electric guitar of our market, and ready to rock!

Case in Point: The Corona Situation

So far, 2020 has really showcased the power of indoor positioning solutions that leverage Bluetooth. We have ourselves a global problem in dire need for global solutions, and there are Bluetooth-based innovations springing up like mushrooms everywhere.

During the early days of the pandemic, the focus was on using indoor positioning solutions to help doctors and nurses work safer by locating patients, staff, and assets in healthcare environments. Then when the situation began to abate, indoor positioning was there again with another set of innovations. Now offering possibilities for workplaces to reopen and societies to return to normal with solutions for safe social distancing, contact tracing, and quarantine monitoring. All these uses that we couldn’t even imagine a year ago. It has truly been heartwarming to see how our amazing ecosystem of partners have embraced the challenge and quickly shifted gears to fighting COVID-19 with their location-based solutions powered by Quuppa.

Sweet Sounds of Global Success

Truly global technologies can open up unforeseen possibilities for different companies, partners and stakeholders to come together to solve their shared business challenges, irrespective of their country or continent of origin.

As a final note, before you judge me too harshly, of course as a music fan I love exploring the wide range of local sounds offered by the balalaikas, sitars and kanteles of this world. In fact, when travelling I actively seek them out. But my point is that when doing business, I’m proud to sound the horn for global solutions that really can scale.

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