Trish Messiter is the owner of Clarinox Technologies, a Victorian wireless embedded systems solutions provider.
Why did you choose this industry?
I love innovation, and this is an industry where the speed of innovation outperforms any other industry.
My original degree was chemical engineering, but I moved quite quickly to software. I worked in my early days with IBM on lower level code, software technical support, and then moved to software sales, then electronics.
My father was an electronics engineer, and his area was radio technologies. He really loved that area, so I knew the history from his days, and helps me appreciate how things have moved in the industry.
What excites you the most about the local electronics industry?
Local is perhaps less relevant these days because everything is moving to be more global. We get work from overseas, from New Zealand, India, Canada, US, Turkey.
We are also seeing some work from Asia, but we find it works best if the client is English-speaking.
We get the job when the technical requirements are such that the clients’ local suppliers are unable to supply what the customer wants.
The fact is we are good at doing new things, we are good at inventing and innovating, and that gives us some advantages, even if our windows of opportunity are short.
What is the future of the electronics industry here in Australia?
That ties in to the future of electronics in the world. Everybody is talking about the Internet of Things. Already, a 90 odd percent of the chips in the world are used for M2M or embedded devices rather than laptops, PCs and that side of things.
Already there are 48 embedded devices for every 1 traditional computer (PC/laptop device). That area is growing enormously. There’s a range of predictions about how many billion devices will be out there by 2020, but even though the numbers differ a lot, everybody is aligned and they see that as a huge area of growth. There will be huge numbers of M2M type devices that connect themselves to the Internet, or connect to a hub which connects to the internet.
What can the government do to ensure a healthy electronics industry?
The government can do a lot to create a favourable environment. It’s a bit of a fine line: not too much, not too little.
They should look at what has worked in other places in the world, but also look at our reality and adapt for our culture and market.
The Australian market size is very small, so that creates, by necessity, different types of behaviours. We can’t specialise so much here, we have to be general, because in any one particular niche area, there may not be sufficient work. The lack of market share makes us a bit more competitive as well, so it creates different behaviour than say the US or Germany, which has access to the rest of EU.
A major area of concern is that Australian companies in general don’t get access to the kind of funding and investment that other places do. That’s a big barrier.
The government doesn’t have to be the investors themselves, but create an environment where private investment is more likely to happen.
You drive down the streets of Silicon Valley, and you see world-class names on different buildings, a stone’s throw from each other. And people there are very open, more willing to assist other people that are part of the ecosystem. I think it’s a long time before we can get to that, but we need firstly the funding side.
We don’t have a Kickstarter here, or the tax breaks for money made in one deal being reinvested in the next, like the US does.
Here, the government focuses on the consumer products. If they think automotive, they think the car itself, but not the whole ecosystem of the people that are making the components which go into that car. There’s a lot of business in B2B, but it’s a little bit hidden.
I think government getting people on board that understand that B2B market, and setting up policies and programs that recognise B2B, and also assist the market would be a good thing as well.
What opportunities are the Australian electronics industry missing out on?
They are missing out on investment money which will enable them to expand their business. They are also missing out on access to a large domestic market.
Electronics companies should identify opportunities by talking to their customers: what are the customers not getting now, and what are some of the gaps in the market.
One area is in debug tools. Sometimes the tools don’t give the engineers the level of visibility that they really need to do their job quickly. That’s an area that we’ve tended to address by building in debug tools into our products.