Efficiency in real time

14.07.2014

If you want to be market leader, you have to offer more than the competition, even in a niche market like ex-certified mobile devices. Christian Rokseth, CEO of Norwegian company PIXAVI, which was recently acquired by BARTEC, explains the secret of his success.

Mr Rokseth, BARTEC PIXAVI is the world’s leading provider of mobile communication devices for explosive areas. How have you achieved this?

We produce the mobile devices from scratch ourselves, using our own technology. Other competitors rely on outsourcing, for example in the development of circuit boards and software. By contrast, we do everything ourselves with a carefully selected team.
 

You had to rely on yourself at the start. In 1999, you developed a wireless audio, video and data communication system based on your master’s thesis. What was your motivation?

I realised that although there was already high-speed internet in the refineries, there were no wireless solutions for communication on oil drilling platforms. I wanted to change that. In 1998, I had to apply for special permission to import the first WiFi access point into Norway. The next job was to slim down the hardware*.
 

How did you consider things from an economic standpoint?

After I had analysed the situation where repairs are required on a drilling platform, I asked myself: why does the operation always need to be stopped until the experts arrive? I wanted to reduce the need for travel whilst ensuring that the necessary expert knowledge was always available, so that problems could be solved efficiently in real time.
 

What exactly can “go wrong” on a drilling platform and how does your technology help?

A typical example is when a compressor fails. Previously, the drilling platform would have to shut down for a good two days before the experts were on site. Now the customer can solve this kind of problem via video with the help of BARTEC PIXAVI. The downtime is virtually eliminated, so the customer effectively gains two days.
 

Impressive. How much training does it require to operate?

Can you use a smartphone? If so, then you can operate our products.
 

In what kind of extreme conditions can your products be used? What about explosion protection?

Our products are more robust than any comparable competitor. A device must pass strict test runs before it is even launched on the market. We drop it from a metre high onto a concrete floor, for example. Next we smash a 1 kg steel ball onto the display from 20 centimetres. We then vary the ambient temperature between -20 and +45 °C. 
 

Have you ever been in a dangerous situation yourself? Maybe you experimented with explosive substances as a boy?

(Laughs) Don’t forget, in our business we aim to prevent explosions, not cause them. But I must admit, when I was younger I was often in my father’s workshop and had plenty of dangerous projects on the go, but the less said about those the better. Let’s just say I’m happy that I survived.
 

Putting these dangerous antics aside, what helps you personally to win over a customer?

Well, I’m Norwegian for a start! Seriously, that actually helps. In contrast to the USA, where drilling mostly happens on shore, oil and gas in Norway are extracted way out at sea. This forces us to think innovatively. Aside from that, I also bring my specialist knowledge as an electrical and mechanical engineer.
 

That is how you presented yourself to the oil companies. How did they react?

Right from the start, my ideas were accepted with great enthusiasm by the oil and gas industry. There was, however, a dispute with the unions. But they soon came to the conclusion that no jobs would be put at risk. So the project got off the ground and the oil and gas industry is still a key part of our activities.
 

What is your detailed approach today for solving customer problems?

As a basis, we require either colleagues with a mobile phone or a local Wi-Fi network. Nowadays that’s no problem – 90% of drilling platforms have Wi-Fi. Once that is established, we can connect the BARTEC PIXAVI devices, such as our ex-certified wireless video conferencing system Xcaster EX5000 The service personnel on the drilling platform receive support from on-shore experts via real-time video and audio link. This helps to quickly find and implement the best and safest solution strategy for the case at hand.
 

You always put particular emphasis on HD. Is HD really required for every application?

To be honest, HD has become the standard now. So offering it is not a luxury, but a necessity.
 

Let’s finish by looking forward. What exciting “necessities” have you got planned for the future?

Our focus is currently on launching our new smartphone and video communication technology, which will be released this year. These products will revolutionise communication in certain sectors.