Ten Canadian wireless firms worth watching: IDC

A Vancouver developer of solutions for public safety organizations, a Calgary creator of applications for truckers in the Arctic and an Ottawa maker of a mobile IT management solution for data centre managers may seem to be a strange brew.

However, they all have one thing in common: In the opinion of IDC Canada, they are among 10 Canadian-based young wireless companies worth watching.

Part of a regular series on innovative IT companies in various sectors written by analyst Krista Collins, the list of wireless companies have just been posted by the research firm.

“All of the companies found some interesting ways to do things differently,” Collins said of her choices. “They’ve taken the road less traveled, they’ve zigged when their competitors zagged.”

Perhaps because this widespread country has always been concerned about communications, or perhaps because wireless is one of the fastest growing sectors in technology, there seems to be no shortage of Canadian entrepreneurs pushing into this market.

In selecting companies, Collins said she looked for firms with “clarity of vision” in their products and business plans and “companies that had delighted customers.”

“They didn’t have to be the biggest customers,” she added, “but they had to be delivering value.”

Usually the developers did this by finding a niche industry to focus on with good potential for growth. Most are aiming their products at service providers.

The 10 are

-Ottawa’s BelAir Networks, which makes mobile wireless broadband mesh network solutions;

-Toronto’s CellWand Communications Inc., whose first application for people wanting a taxi is a system that detects a wireless caller’s location and finds the nearest cab;

-Vancouver’s ComVu Media Inc., whose PocketCaster software lets people stream video from their handsets directly to Web sites;

GEOTrac International of Calgary, which makes a GPS tracking and communications solution for the oil and gas industry;

-New Westminster, B.C.’s In Motion Technology, which makes the onBoard Mobile Gateway, a device that lets public safety vehicles stay connected to multiple wireless local area networks;

-Montreal’s LIPSO Systems, which makes a delivery platform for delivering a variety messages to handsets from news events to bar codes;

-Ottawa’s Rove Mobile, whose Mobile Admin application lets IT and network managers run their infrastructures from a variety of handsets; –Spira Data Corp. of Calgary, whose application lets remote workers enter field tickets on portable devices even if they’re offline;

Verrus Mobile Inc. of Vancouver, which makes pay-by-phone systems used by municipal parking systems;

-and Toronto’s Wallace Wireless, which makes wireless emergency response systems for enterprise workers.

It’s the way some of these companies separated themselves from competitors that drew Collins’ attention.

For example, she pointed out that there’s no shortage of wireless companies approaching marketing companies with ways to push messages out to mass audiences, but LIPSO is targeting its solution to the airline industry.

Air Canada has tested its application for sending its passengers a 2-D bar code to handhelds which can be used to speed check-in.

At least one U.S. television station has bought ComVu’s PocketCaster for its news reporters so they can send immediate video from an incident while the heavy portable satellite transmitter is being set up. BelAir’s system was already in place and proved its value in Minneapolis last year when a highway bridge collapsed. The Richmond, B.C. Ambulance Authority told Collins that In Motion’s gateway has helped cut dispatch time to 10 seconds from 45 seconds.

“A lot of these companies have responded to the need for more flexible deployment options that make it easier for customers to add functionality,” noted Collins.

For example, several offer the option for channel partners to host the applications, appealing to wireless operators looking for ways to increase revenue per user.

Often success comes down to finding niches in the market where a company can excel, Collins said.

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