Interview with Kevin Stiles, CTO, Oceus Networks

In December 2014, Oceus Networks named Kevin Stiles as the new Chief Technology Officer (CTO). He was formerly Vice President of Engineering at Oceus Networks. As CTO, his primary focus is the company’s product development, solutions customization, and systems integration services. He is a 25-year telecommunications industry veteran specializing in research and development, service delivery, and systems integration. After almost a year in this role, here is Kevin’s take as the CTO on the company and the technology.

What sets Oceus Networks apart from the competition?

As the little guy, we are flexible and agile and can quickly address customer requests. We have an exceptional technological staff that are experts in 4G LTE, security, devices, and tactical operation and maintenance.

Oceus Networks has successfully adapted commercial technologies to serve public safety and military users. How do you manage to keep the best of commercial technology while tailoring solutions that are unique to these markets?

My technical experts have a strong foundation in the technologies we bring to our customers. That makes us different. We stay focused and only integrate those technologies that best fit with our core offerings, always keeping in mind the total solution and the value it brings to our customers. We have long-running relationships with our key commercial technology suppliers and that gives us an advantage in meeting our customers’ unique needs and requirements.

In adapting commercial technologies to these markets, what have you found to be your biggest challenges?

First, unlike traditional wireless networks, our networks themselves move. In fact, everything moves in the network including the base stations, the core network, and the applications, in addition to handsets and other wearable devices. We build some interesting technologies to address this complex challenge which requires deep knowledge of how cellular networks work. Operating 4G LTE networks, which were designed for commercial uses, in contested and congested environments has proven to be our second major challenge. Third, while we have moved past the initial heavy lifting in adapting commercial technology for military and public safety, there’s still ongoing challenges that we will continue to address as the commercial technology evolves from 4G to 5G and beyond. Our deep knowledge and expertise positions us well to be able to do that.

What are some of the unique requirements for developing technologies for military and public safety?

Traditional wireless technologies and equipment are meant to be turned on and run for years and typically these are installed in fixed locations. For our military and public safety customers, the systems they need require a great deal more hardening and flexibility. For example, we expect that our customers turn on and off our systems thousands of times. They throw it in trucks, they throw it out of trucks, they throw it out of airplanes, they fly it in UAVs and helicopters, and that’s a very different environment. Ongoing, as the technology continues to evolve, we will be challenged to take in the next latest and greatest feature or function and determine how to adapt that for our customers in the best way.

Where do you see Oceus spending most of its research and development budget in the next two years and what are some of the areas Oceus is focusing?
Currently we’re delivering the fourth generation of our flagship Xiphos Macro product. Over the last twelve to eighteen months, our customers have been asking for different form factors. These include backpack and mid-size systems. We’ve also been working to make advancements to our ONmission product line that helps our customers operate these solutions in their environments. Most of our time is spent understanding our customer’s environments, how they want to operate the systems and the unique challenges they pose. We find that our customers all have unique challenges, from ships to unmanned aerial platforms.

Can you describe the overlap of your technologies between the two domains, public safety and military and how they may be different?

A large portion of the core technology is interchangeable between the two domains. It really comes down to the environment, i.e. the form and fit. What do they want to put it in? How many users do they want and how big a coverage area do they need? Other than that, the basic technology remains the same. The DoD customers do have more stringent security requirements and information assurance requirements than public safety. For example, our DoD customers operate in highly contested environments where adversaries are actively attempting to exploit their systems.

With your long career in telecom prior to joining Oceus, what attracted you to the company?

I would say three things: the technology, the people, and the unique customer segment. Bringing a game-changing technology to our customer segment presents interesting challenges and opportunities. In the commercial world, it’s about connecting people, the internet of things (IoT) and subscription-based revenue. Bringing this technology to our customers saves lives, and that’s more than a game-changer, that’s a career-changer. As for the people, the opportunity to work with talented and dedicated folks at Oceus including CEO Randy Fuerst and COO Jeff Harman is rewarding. Being part of a team that utilizes world class technology to deliver solutions to these market segments is what has attracted me to the company. I believe all of these have contributed to Oceus’ strong market presence in a relatively short time.

What experiences in your career or outside of work have best prepared you for this new role?

I spent twenty years at Ericsson. Fifteen of those years were in various roles in software research and development. The last five years was in systems integration working on tier one operator’s projects. At Ericsson we built world-class products, and that experience has provided me a solid foundation for developing the best-of-breed products and solutions for the markets Oceus serves.