March 26, 2019
The mobile services company UROS from Oulu is building the IoT ecosystem of the future and connecting people, machines and devices with its smart technology. The company has become a respected partner to the world’s largest telecom operators, such as AT&T and China Telecom, and technology giants, such as Qualcomm and Motorola – as well as being one of the biggest growth stories of the Finnish economy. The foundation for the growth is the strong patent portfolio built with Kolster.
When the company was founded in 2011, the entire global mobile phone industry was in an uproar. The turmoil gave rise to UROS, “Universal Roaming Solutions”, established by the mobile industry visionary Jyrki Hallikainen. In accordance with its name, the company started developing a new kind of mobile service which would allow those who travel a lot for work to use the web at a reasonable price all over the world. However, the vision already far exceeded a single mobile service.
The current UROS CEO Jerry Raatikainen and Vice President of Products Ilkka Rahikainen, whose careers were in the mobile technology sector, also became convinced of Jyrki Hallikainen’s business idea and vision for the future, and took their own leap towards the unknown. That leap has been a flying one.
The company’s turnover was already over EUR 483 million in 2017, and last year Kauppalehti rewarded UROS with the title of the Finnish Growth Company of the Year. The company has also been named as one of the most promising providers of telecommunications services in the world. Approximately 98 % of the sales come from abroad.
“We wanted to be a very international company right from the start, and that has come true. We are already operating in more than 120 countries. Our partners include the world’s largest telecom operators on all continents. We also collaborate with major technology companies and other strategic partners in the still growing field of IoT in many industries”, Jerry Raatikainen describes the big achievements of the small company.
UROS CEO Jerry Raatikainen
“IP is the foundation on which our global business rests. With Kolster, we have created a strong and watertight patent portfolio for core business that brings credibility to our cooperation with large international companies. Even before the first discussions, our partners have generally been very aware of our IP”, Ilkka Rahikainen describes the importance of protection in building a reputation in technology and opening new doors.
Partnership is key not only in global business, but also in patenting. Kolster’s patent attorney Timo Pykälä, who knows the telecommunications sector well, has been involved in creating and growing the company’s patent portfolio “from zero to sixty” since the first application.
“For many UROS employees, Kolster was already a familiar partner from previous jobs. IP partnership was a natural continuation for our cooperation, and we were able to get started quickly. We found just the technology and international patenting expertise that we needed close by”, Ilkka Rahikainen describes the easy choice of partner.
Vice President of Products Ilkka Rahikainen
According to Rahikainen, what has been important for a good result, i.e. obtaining patents that protect the core business, is that an experienced patent attorney who has in-depth knowledge of the technology field has been preparing very high-quality applications right from the start. This has been reflected in the rapid acceptance of patents as well as trouble-free operations after they were granted as well.
”In practice, we have managed to get through all the applications that we have wanted to be accepted. We now have 15 granted patent families, all of which include multiple patents – and there are more to come. We have also been able to develop our own business, safe from competitors.”
UROS has expanded the patenting partnership model by also acquiring in-house patent engineering expertise from outside the company. This has freed up time for planning and growing the business. Seppo Nissilä, who works through his company, SilverBlip, and knows the patenting challenges of technology companies well, has made sure that the company’s IP operations have been managed professionally within the company even before the inventions to be protected have been transferred to the patent attorney’s desk for further processing.
“Whenever we develop something new, we first consider internally which ideas could be patentable, which belong under the same thematic entity and how they relate to our previous inventions or already known technology. Once the preliminary investigations and decisions on protection have been made, Kolster has processed the inventions into patent applications that serve the whole, found the paths between the patent mines and handled the official processing steps quickly”, Ilkka Rahikainen describes the fine-tuned partnership model.
At the time the company was founded, roaming charges were still in place on the EU internal market. Keeping roaming costs in check practically prevented the efficient use of mobile devices and the web abroad. A solution that would provide affordable prices had – and still has – a lot of commercial potential.
The experienced UROS team developed the GOODSPEED® service and its first 3G mobile hotspot on a superfast schedule. Developing an idea into a commercial product in ten months has even been thought to be the mobile industry’s world record. The devices, which resemble a mobile phone, were available in the shops of a domestic distribution partner already in the summer of 2012.
The 3G mobile hotspot had slots for several SIM cards, which enabled the user to have affordable wireless access to the local networks of the network operators of different countries with which UROS had a partnership agreement. Today, the agreements exists almost everywhere in the world.
Right after, the company started developing a 4G device while also searching for an international partner for large-scale manufacture. From among the big players, UROS found and chose the Chinese technology giant ZTE as its licensing partner. Product development for smartphones was launched at the same time, bringing an upgraded version of the service from a separate hotspot to the company’s own or partner manufacturers’ smartphones as a pre-installed application.
The company already has two of its own smartphone models on the market, the sales of which have got off to a good start alongside the hotspots. UROS recently announced its partnership with Motorola: GOODSPEED® service introduced to selected Motorola smartphone models. With the service, it is possible to use the Internet at an affordable price in more than 120 countries and over 12 million wireless network hotspots worldwide.
The business truly exploded in growth when UROS brought its smart eSIM application onto the market in 2017, eliminating the need for physical SIM cards. The application enables the profiles and services of different network operators on a single eSIM card, and the software takes care of network choices and data packages on behalf of the travelling user.
UROS has also developed an eSIM cloud platform for the Industrial Internet that is revolutionising the entire mobile industry. The programmable eSIM enables various smart sensors, detectors and devices to be connected to the network with various radio technologies.
IoT has opened doors to ever more new industries and new partnerships. The cloud platform has already been successfully used, for example, to measure water quality and improve water management in a pilot project with the technology giant Qualcomm. As part of the Smart City concept, Clary Icon collaboration for bringing school classes to the digital age has also been launched in the United States. Turnkey-type eSIM IoT solutions that utilise sensor technology, artificial intelligence and data analytics are in demand in many industries, such as the paper, pulp, oil, gas and food industries as well as sports and media.
UROS recently successfully tested the functionality of its eSIM application in future 5G micro networks in cooperation with the University of Oulu. The technology developed by the company is also proven to work in the 5G world, so the pace of product development is at least not slowing down.
“Our basic solution is highly scalable for various business activities. Our vision is to bring industries together, create an entire IoT ecosystem and be the largest provider of IoT services in the world”, Jerry Raatikainen says.
The patenting of new innovations is to continue and expand to future IoT services.
The UROS® brand and the GOODSPEED® service have been protected by trademarks on important growth markets. Uros has relied on Kolster’s international protection expertise in protecting the brand as well.
“We have been very pleased with Kolster’s expertise, which has contributed to the realisation of our vision. With a professional team working on this from the start, the results have been good. We have not needed to even think about alternative IP partners”, Jerry Raatikainen says.
The growth expectations for the current year are staggering. The company already has subsidiaries in Hong Kong, China, Brazil, South Africa, the United States, Switzerland and Luxembourg, as well as a joint venture in Kazakhstan. A launch is planned in North America. Quite an achievement for an Oulu-based start-up with about 60 employees in less than ten years!
“We are a global company that has kept the core team small and sought growth through partners. We make use of new technologies and do things sensibly. That allows even a small group to achieve a lot”, Jerry Raatikainen sums up the recipe for success.
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