Executive Achievement: Irwin Rodrigues, President & CEO, Boatracs Inc.
FOR 20 YEARS BOATRACS HAS PROVIDED RELIABLE INFORMATION SOLUTIONS TO THE MARITIME INDUSTRY. UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF PRESIDENT & CEO IRWIN RODRIGUES, THE COMPANY HAS AN ENVIABLE RECORD OF GROWING ITS BUSINESS AND GENERATING SAVINGS FOR CUSTOMERS. HERE’S IRWIN WITH MORE ON WHERE HE’S BEEN AND WHERE HE’S GOING.
When did your interest in technology and software development begin?
I have been drawn towards technology from the very early days of my childhood. My first computer was the Commodore VIC-20, on which I learned how to program in both machine language and BASIC. I enjoyed understanding how software is built, but the real attraction for me has always been the application of technology, of software in particular, to enhancing people’s lives.
You are an MIT grad and former Microsoft executive. Is software development different in the maritime industry?
The industry has traditionally been slow to adopt technology. That is starting to change as costs have come down and the need to be connected is becoming a competitive necessity. When it comes to software development, however, you can’t assume you have a cost-effective pipe and unlimited bandwidth like many other industries. This means limiting the data transmission to only the most essential elements.
When Boatracs was founded more than 20 years ago, it was the sole reseller of Qualcomm’s tracking satellite solution to the maritime industry. Does Boatracs use any of these original solutions today?
The original Qualcomm solutions package included a satellite antenna and mobile communications terminal on the vessel with vessel tracking and messaging software on shore. That solution, called OmniTRACS, has proven to be one of the most reliable and rugged pieces of satellite equipment in the industry. OmniTRACS was the only means of vessel communication for many of our customers during Hurricane Katrina and, due to its reliability, we still have units in service today that were installed 15 years ago. It’s also one of the lowest cost solutions on the market, delivering GPS vessel tracking and satellite data communications for less than $100 per month.
In 2009 you led the spin-off of the Marine Division from AirIQ, establishing Boatracs as an independent organization. What opportunity did you see in the marine industry that AirIQ did not see?
I saw that customers loved the OmniTRACS solution because of its reliability, simple interface and cost-effectiveness, and they loved our dedication to customer service. However, their needs went far beyond simply a data pipe for ship-to-shore communications. I saw an opportunity to evolve Boatracs into a more solution-oriented organization by developing applications that met these additional needs. Customers are now benefiting from our ability to develop and offer a much broader spectrum of communications products and services.
Can your solutions be applied to other industries?
Our solutions are most applicable to industries that operate in remote and harsh locations without access to traditional cellular communications networks. We intend to build on our success with applications for the oil & gas, offshore wind farm, and AIS segments.
How do your solutions save clients money?
Our vessel-side product called Boatracs BTForms automates the entire workflow, saving companies money in numerous ways: fewer administrative personnel for data entry and validation, better management reporting, less time on the dock waiting for requisition requests, faster customer invoicing, and automated compliance recordkeeping, to name just a few.
Boatracs’ solutions are currently onboard more than 2,000 vessels, primarily in North America. What types of vessels do you serve?
Boatracs serves two primary markets: Commercial workboat and commercial fishing. In the workboat industry we provide solutions for companies in many different submarkets such as offshore supply vessels, liftboats, pushboats, and coastal marine vessels. Our customers range in size from single-vessel operators to some of the largest fleets in the world. On the commercial fishing side, we provide vessel monitoring systems and communications solutions to fishing fleets such as Atlantic Capes Fisheries, one of the largest scallop fleets in the world, and Omega Protein, the largest producer of omega-3 fish oil in the U.S.
In July 2012 Orolia, a technology group based in France, acquired Boatracs. What opportunities do you see from this new partnership?
Partnering with Orolia makes us part of a larger organization with greater resources and market reach. With Orolia we can start integrating other leading product brands into our solutions. For instance, McMurdo and Kannad Marine are two major brands owned by Orolia. Orolia’s strategy to grow organically as well as through acquisitions is an exciting one for me personally. The market for maritime technology service providers is highly fragmented and lacks the scale to drive standards and deliver more mass-market offerings. Consolidating this market is a priority for us and, when achieved, will drive costs down and eliminate complexity for customers.
What’s on the horizon for Boatracs?
We’re seeing major changes in the way technology is permeating our personal lives with social media, streaming video, location-based services, and mobile devices. We have already taken steps to deliver our solutions on mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones, and that has been a great source of customer satisfaction. We have also partnered with KVH to integrate satellite broadband with our software solutions. The longer term vision for Boatracs is the democratization of information to the end-users who need it most – allowing them to make better decisions. – MarEx
Nichole Williamson is Assistant Editor of The Maritime Executive.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.