Microsoft founder Bill Gates – among others – predicts a coming age in which all kinds of machines will be connected to the Internet.
But while Gates has focused on headline-grabbing ideas like web-enabled refrigerators, it has been left to people such as Interpeak co-founder and CEO Johan Fornaeus to work out the practicalities of managing such a heavily Internet-worked environment.
Stockholm, Sweden-based Interpeak, founded in January 2000, specialises in embedded security – software intended to ensure that Internet-connected devices are
safe from hackers and can only be accessed by the right people. Its products comply with a number of security standards and provide user authentication, encryption and a firewall.
The company’s primary market has been in telecommunications equipment, where its software can enable operators to perform remote maintenance of switches and routers free from the fear of hackers breaking in. But what sets Interpeak apart from mainstream security software vendors is its focus on the peculiar demands of the embedded market.
This sector presents two main challenges that cannot be solved by simply porting software from server and PC platforms to embedded environments. First, there are about 50 different operating systems on which the software has to work, running on a wide range of microprocessors. Second, the hardware on which the embedded security software runs is very much less powerful than standard PCs and servers.
As a result, the software has to be written from the ground up by specialists. Fornaeus says this means that Interpeak has the market largely to itself – albeit a market that has not yet fully taken off.
In the meantime, the telecoms recession is severely denting sales. In its first year, the company recorded sales of only SEK1 million (EU110,000).
Despite this, investors have stuck by the company through three rounds of funding in the belief that it will be well-placed when the telecoms recession ends. They are also investing, to a degree, in Gates’ vision, which may come to fruition if and when the new IPv6 Internet Protocol standard reaches critical mass.