‘Rugged devices market is expanding’

‘Rugged devices market is expanding’

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Carsten Billeschou , Managing Director, Handheld Europe
Carsten Billeschou , Managing Director, Handheld Europe

Survey and mapping was the core sector for Handheld but now it only constitutes 30% of its rugged devices business. Carsten Billeschou, Managing Director of Handheld Europe, tells Geospatial World more.

Tell us about Handheld Group, its main business areas and geographical coverage.

Handheld Group is a Swedish-based group, headquartered in Lidköping, Sweden. We manufacture rugged devices from the initial design to the product development to quality assurance and we sell them out of our central stock in Sweden. We have yearly revenue of about EUR 20 million and growing. In total we have about 50 people in the company spreading across Sweden, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Netherland, United Kingdom, USA and Australia. Via our subsidiary offices, we work through an extensive partner network with more than 1,000 reselling partners covering all territories. Most of our resellers are system integrators and special solution providers, but also hardware vendors. The survey and mapping area is just 30% of the many areas that we serve. Other areas include forestry, military, security, public transportation, warehouse, logistics and mining.

Since you operate globally, which are the emerging markets for Handheld?

We are expanding tremendously in the USA. Now we have very big expectations in Russia, and Central and South America (especially Brazil, Argentina, Chile). We’re also seeing business starting to pop up in different places in Africa. Obviously Asia is a challenge because there’re a lot of competitions there.

In Europe, which sectors are the biggest users of Handheld’s rugged devices?

Historically, survey and mapping and forestry sectors are the core business for Handheld from the beginning. But I can say we have grown a lot in other sectors now such as public transportation, for example. They use our devices for validating tickets on buses and trains. We have also sold a lot of devices for postal and courier services. So the sectors have spread a lot.

Do you have partnerships with any software company to integrate with your hardware?

We don’t have any specific software integrated in our units when we sell them (besides the operating system). But we have a lot of software providers as reselling partners. They sell our rugged units together with their software solutions. For instance, one of the tablets that we have was integrated with Leica equipment. So they’re using our device as an OEM solution with Leica on top of it.

What are your diversifications plans? Will you venture into software in the long run?

We will not be a software company. We will focus on rugged devices that can operate outdoor in high and low temperatures, in rain, in snow, in dust. That is our profession. Of course we will continually fine-tune our product features like GPS receiving accuracy, WiFi, and all these things. We will always be a hardware manufacturer.

What are the major trends that you think could drive this market?

In general, we can see trends of more and more Android devices. We will also follow this trend to certain extend. Customization could be a trend too. We’re moving a little bit towards being able to customize our products. We have a department in the group for special products customization – mostly for special projects, which we find attractive. We have done it in the distribution and warehouse sector for package handling and so on, where we manufactured some very special products for that.

Where do you see Handheld in 3-5 years?

Handheld is expanding every year by 10-20%. In 3-5 years we will certainly have more presence in areas like Asia, Africa, Middle East and South America. These are the areas where we really need to expand. We would probably have brought a lot of new products to the market too. So I think our expansion in the years to come is more geographical and more product development.