Toughshield fills a gap in the enterprise mobility market

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Ed Holden, IT Reseller Editor, spoke with Merrick Edwards, Business Development Director at rugged smartphone vendor Toughshield, about the changes in the enterprise mobility market that are driving the company's product development roadmap and its commitment to further developing its network of channel partners in Europe and beyond.

Merrick, to begin please provide our readers with a little background about Toughshield.

Founded in 2010 with headquarters in London, Toughshield is a global provider of smartphone devices, which offer a combination of consumer design and ease of use, combined with enterprise specific functionality and durability. The company was formed as it identified a gap in the market between consumer grade smartphones and rugged industrial mobile computers. Toughshield's products have been designed to fit that gap, both in terms of functionality and price point.

What experience does Toughshield have in the enterprise mobility market?

I think one of the things that gives Toughshield a major market edge is the blend of skills that we have, and are continuing to recruit, within our business. Within the leadership team we have people who have come from the mobile operator and Telco space, which means they have a deep understanding of the mobile phone market and smartphones. Our team also comprises people from the ruggedised device space, like myself. So, within the enterprise-grade mobile device sector, I believe we are highly differentiated in that we benefit from an extremely complementary mix of knowledgeable staff from across the mobility space.  Most vendors only have experience of rugged or consumer devices, but not both.

What are the key vertical sectors Toughshield and its partner network serve within the enterprise space?

Our product is perfectly suited to a range of mobile worker type applications. Currently, our main verticals include: Security Guarding, Healthcare, Contract Cleaning, Retail, Construction, Housing and Transport & Logistics. However I expect this to expand rapidly as we engage with new partners that serve other field-based markets.

What is your role at Toughshield?

I am the Business Development Director for EMEA and am a member of Toughshield's leadership team. My key responsibility is to develop a strong channel to market, that being a two tier model. As part of this I am in the process of building a team to support our channel development plans. I am also responsible for developing awareness and demand in the market for our product and creating opportunities that can be fulfilled through our partners. My sales team has a strong mix of both end user and channel experience enabling them to support this strategy.

Our route to market is based on the traditional two-tier model and as part of that process we are committed to bringing in the right type and blend of channel partners that are able to complement each other; whether they are systems integrators, value-added resellers or software developers. My team and I are also focused on developing awareness around our products within all our target regions throughout Europe and beyond.

Why did you join Toughshield?

During my time in the enterprise mobility sector I have repeatedly seen the failed deployment of consumer smartphones into enterprise applications, driven by cost and the inability to afford rugged devices. This nearly always ends in high damage and failure rates, as the consumer device they've chosen isn't fit for purpose. There is a definite gap in the market for a range of devices that have a consumer look and feel and price point but are robust and reliable enough for enterprise use. The industry is going through a fundamental shift right now and Toughshield has identified this and is perfectly placed to take advantage of it. Being offered the opportunity to be a part of that is really exciting.

Tell me about Toughshield's products.

We have entered the market with the R500, a ruggedised smartphone running Android that offers a compelling blend of consumer and enterprise functionality in one device, and at a very attractive price point.

Whilst the R500 has been specifically designed for enterprise, it looks, feels and operates just like a consumer smartphone, which gives a sense of familiarity to the user and also means they are likely to treat it better as it will be similar to their own personal mobile device.  However the good news for enterprise is that whilst it looks like a consumer smartphone it has been built to withstand far more than a fragile consumer device, as it is IP-67 rated, drop tested to 1.2 metres and has Gorilla Glass.

It also offers a number of key features that aren't typically included in consumer or rugged devices, such as a dedicated Lone Worker panic button, Push-To-Talk and NFC (near field communication) and this makes it ideal for security personnel, field service teams and other lone workers.

The R500 also provides an exciting alternative to BYOD as it supports dual SIM. This enables enterprises to provide their workers with a device that can be used for both business and personal use and gets rid of all the headaches of managing a plethora of different devices and operating systems, not to mention the billing issues.

What's different about your product?

The best people to answer that question are our partners and end user customers who have compared the market and have chosen Toughshield. The feedback we've received from them is that the combination of a dedicated Lone Worker panic button, Push-To-Talk, dual SIM, and NFC, all in a competitively priced rugged smartphone that looks like it has been designed for the consumer, is very compelling.

Are you planning to launch any new products?

The R500 is the first of many products that we plan to bring to market. We have a really exciting and aggressive product roadmap with additional products planned for later this year and further products planned for 2014. Our new product development team really has its finger on the pulse. Combined with our agility, Toughshield can quickly identify a new trend or technological requirement and bring out a product to meet that need.

With this strategy in mind, we will be launching two new products over the coming months. The first will be the R500+ that will be an enhanced version of our R500. In addition to the comprehensive features of the R500, the R500+ will include an even faster processor, increased onboard storage, Android 4.1 Jellybean; and an optional 3600mAh battery for extended use.

Toughshield will also be launching the R750, which we believe will take rugged mobile communication to the next level. More about this product will be announced soon.

What is the market opportunity for your products?

The market opportunity for our product is quite broad as it is perfectly suited for field service, lone worker, and mobile worker applications across a range of vertical markets. Its competitive price point ensures a quicker return on investment resulting in far easier justification and reduced sales cycles. This affordability also opens previously closed doors to companies for whom rugged mobile computing was previously cost prohibitive or for companies that have been delaying a hardware refresh or mobility project due to budget constraints.

What is Toughshield's route to market?

We currently operate a channel model and already have a number of reseller and ISV partners across different regions including EMEA and Asia Pac, with plans to grow this further. We are in process of setting up a two tier model which will include distribution.

Are you looking for new partners?

Absolutely. We are looking for resellers, integrators and software companies in EMEA initially, although we'd also welcome enquiries from partners further afield.

Why would a channel partner want to engage with Toughshield?

Because they are keen to grow their business! We are offering our partners access to a product that fits a real gap in the market in terms of functionality, design and price point that will result in new opportunities for them and will help them to grow their business. Our competitive price point makes the ROI quicker to justify for the end user, making it easier for budgets to be secured and dramatically reducing sales cycle. This will help to smooth the all too common peaks and troughs in the channel partners' business caused by projects slipping due to concerns over expenditure.

What sort of support do you offer your partners?

We are taking a back-to-basics approach with our partners, offering them the sort of close working relationship and support that would have been commonplace a few years ago but that seems to have become a thing of the past. This will include support from our experienced sales team that will work closely with them to help them grow their business, a highly proactive marketing team that is focusing on creating awareness and demand to provide our partners with leads, and pre and post sales and technical support.

One of our key channel strengths is that we are committed to working with partners that have a deep understanding of their target markets. We see these partners as an extension of our own business – both in terms of their sales and technical capacity – to ensure that the end customer is getting the best possible solutions and service package. With this relationship in mind, we ensure that we offer our partners the best possible support.

What is Toughshield's distribution model?

I'm very supportive of distribution and setting up distribution is something we are committed to going forward I hope to be able to make an announcement on this in the not too distant future.

What are the next key steps for the company?

Our next steps are to continue to build our team and our channel. We are making good progress with both, having already appointed a number of talented sales people with a deep knowledge of enterprise mobility, its applications and markets and its channel. We have also just hired a channel manager with solid experience of working with the mobile operators and we will be announcing a number of other key appointments over the next few weeks. We are continuing to actively recruit for other roles across Europe. With regard to channel development, we have already appointed a number of partners across EMEA and Asia Pacific. We will continue to expand our channel until we have a good complementary mix of partners.

Are there any other points you would like to add?

The industry reports speak for themselves, the smartphone market is growing rapidly. Toughshield is perfectly placed to take advantage of this and now is the ideal time for prospective partners to join us!

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