Matt Wright took time out along with Simon Davies of Spectrum Corporate Finance, sponsor of the Thames Valley SME 100 listing, to chat with John O’Brien, co-founder of Sematron UK (ranked 67 on the current list), and find out more about this fast-growing company
Sematron is a Basingstoke-based company which has grown rapidly over the past 26 years from humble beginnings to become the UK’s leading distributor of communication technology. Sematron delivers products, services, and solutions to world-wide organisations in four industry sectors; government and defence, broadcasting, oil and gas, and telecommunications.
The company began trading on the April 2, 1990, the co-founders John O’Brien and Kevin Hall having decided that that April 1 would not have been the best day to launch a new business.
Sematron originally traded as a pure distributor, primarily importing from US companies into the UK, until it began to hit a glass ceiling in terms of turnover in the early 2000’s. The company had always prided itself as a value-added distributor, so the natural progression was to diversify into a complete solutions provider.
Further specialisations followed – systems integration (2007) and managed services (2013). As a result, the international customer base is now growing strongly (over 20% of turnover), with Sematron having sold products and services to 98 countries over the past eight years.
The rise of IP – Internet Protocol
Sematron now finds itself on the cusp of another specialisation. Against the backdrop of IP ‘Internet Protocol’ overtaking traditional technologies such as RF ‘Radio Frequency’ and microwave, Sematron is beginning to manufacture its own products.
O’Brien picks up the story: “We are very excited about two new impending launches – Truncatis, which we are just beginning to publicise, and an (as yet) unnamed product due to be unveiled in September 2016.”
Truncatis launched in May 2016
“‘Truncatis’ is the Latin word for jungle. We thought that was rather apt, since the Internet is an IT jungle, inhabited by many diverse technologies, some of which are unstable and others which are ultimately harmful. All this diversity results in a ‘best efforts delivery method’ (as it is referred to in the IT world), meaning that the quality of delivery cannot be guaranteed consistently. Having said that, the Internet holds many advantages over satellite broadcasting; namely cheapness, flexibility and global reach.
Truncatis is therefore an IP-managed service which takes all of the Internet’s advantages and, through some clever software, introduces a guaranteed level of quality. As a result, broadcasters who previously had to rely on expensive satellite links are now able to use the Internet for all their transmission needs, including high definition ‘HD’ pictures.”
New product to be launched at IBC in September 2016
“We will be launching a new hardware product at the renowned International Broadcast Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam this September.
This product will allow videos to be transmitted ‘over the top’ and will be particularly useful for outside broadcasts, especially those which take multi-media feeds from a wide range of sources.
Contribution is a growing problem for broadcasters, or rather, the packaging up of contribution from various sources (both freelance professionals and the general public) and its subsequent transmission. A generation ago, freelancers would have been directly employed by the broadcasting networks and social media was not an issue, so technical hardware was standardised with no need for integration with third-party applications such as YouTube. The world has moved on though, and nowadays with catch-up TV being streamed via Internet routers rather than via satellite feeds, it is becoming essential to marry up these technologies efficiently and effectively – and that is where our new products will come in.”
Not so much as a transition as much as an addition
“Satellite will always have a part to play in broadcasting, for example in remote locations where the Internet is not readily available, but we firmly believe that broadcasting’s future lies in IP-managed services.
So, whilst we are very proud of being a distributor and continue to undertake a significant amount of systems integration for our customers, we see this move of bringing out our own products as a natural progression for Sematron.”
Having weathered the huge changes in the IT landscape over the past quarter of a century, Sematron appears well positioned to ride this current technological wave.
As O’Brien summarises: “A lot of customers are now de-skilling – their queries have changed from ‘Can I buy this?’ to ‘Can you do this for me?’. Here at Sematron, we recognise this shift and are responding by delivering solutions and adding value – as we always have done and will always strive to do.”
For more information about Truncatis visit their website.