Robert Brown, vice president of marketing at Trustonic, talks to Steve Rogerson in our series of interviews for CIEonline. His experience spans the semiconductor IP, security and NFC industries, with a specialist focus on mobile and embedded computing segments. Brown joined Trustonic in 2012 from Arm’s secure services division where he evangelised TrustZone technology and increased the Arm market share in smart cards.
Prior to joining Arm, he was actively involved in developing NFC Forum specifications at Innovation Research & Technology, now integrated within Broadcom, and developed business at RFID start-up Sirit Technologies. His first job after leaving university was in sales, marketing and technical support at ID Systems.
He holds a degree in electronic engineering from the University of Manchester. Rob enjoys regular mountain biking (he lives near one of the best trail centres in the UK), running (he completed his first half marathon this year), annual snowboarding trips, and very occasionally slinging lead down the range with a target rifle (having shot for GB in his schooldays) when his young family let him escape.
1. What were the goals when Trustronic was formed in 2012 and has it achieved them?
Our vision has not changed, and that was to become the trusted foundation for smart connected devices. We have grown up in a world of connected devices that are considered untrustworthy and that is not a good place. We need to install trust into these devices. We need devices to be secured by default, so these devices have security built in.
This involves us working with chip vendors that license Arm processors that feature a TrustZone. We license the software to run in that. We then work with people to provide secure access to this zone when they need to have trust in your devices. This could include ID, biometric or anything that needs any level of security because these are the gates to that zone. It could include access to corporate data when you use your device at work.
For example, we recently announced a partnership with Samsung so it will be our security used to secure Samsung devices.
2. Trustronic recently formed a joint venture with Thundersoft to enter the Chinese market. What was the significance of that?
Every device needs security. It is not just high-end devices. We all need it, particularly when there is money on your mobile phone. Everyone values their money. This is one of the most important things and having it protected is important. With Thundersoft, we are addressing the low-cost market. These manufacturers in China target developing world markets to help them protect their money.
3. The boundary between the markets for Arm and Intel-based processors has blurred. Is the world big enough for both of them?
I think so. The boundary is really blurring and AMD, for example, has an x86 sitting next to an Arm core. I used to work for Arm, so coming from that I think Arm has the edge with a massive ecosystem and many chip vendors designing all kinds of applications. Intel is one chip vendor. Intel has great technology and a well installed user base and they have the PC space with all the legacy applications. There is room for both and I think Intel will be around for a long time yet.
4. What did it feel like to complete a half marathon and are you going to go for a full-length one?
It was a great experience. The half marathon I ran was cancelled but I did it anyway using a GPS tracker on my phone. I felt relief when my phone told me I’d completed it. I had sponsors and I had done the training so I was like a coiled spring ready to go. Plus I didn’t want to let the sponsors down, so I ran it anyway.
I am thinking about doing a full one. I’ll decide about October whether to go for the London Marathon, but if any opportunity comes up to do one, I’ll probably do it.
5. What still needs to happen for consumers and retailers to take m-commerce to heart?
It has to offer convenience beyond what we can see today. Just seeing the mobile as replacing credit cards or loyalty cards misses the point. It has to do more. It has to offer real value to the user and be more convenient. And it needs a consistent user experience that users can grasp quickly. There are so many different ways to do it and learning a new one is hard and will not warm the hearts and minds of customers. It has to be completely automatic.
As an example, you walk into a store and they immediately know who you are and can offer you discounts on products similar to what you normally buy. Or give you free samples. They have to be the kinds of offers that will be beneficial to the user. We can also look at getting rid of point-of-sale terminals. They are there because they don’t trust us. If you had a way to check in with a trusted device, you could get rid of point-of-sale terminals.
We have to offer a much improved experience to the user. We want to get rid of the check-out rather than just make it quicker. You need a user experience that is really simple. That is what will drive m-commerce.