Workplace mobility, Internet of Things at heart of Zebra acquisition

Company official talks about how Zebra’s purchase of Motorola Mobility will shape industrial operations and cloud computing


Zebra Technologies’ $3.45 billion acquisition of Motorola Solutions’ enterprise PLE1404_WEB_IMG_Phil Gerskovichbusiness brings together two long-time collaborators into one company that will be a significant player in the manufacturing mobility business as it continues to evolve. CFE Media spoke with Phil Gerskovich, senior VP of new growth platforms for Lincolnshire, IL-based Zebra Technologies about why this acquisition make sense, and how it will change the landscape of mobility:

CFE: Why does a Zebra-Motorola Solutions collaboration make sense, especially now? What are the key things that Zebra sees as assets to their business model going forward?

Gerskovich : For years people have talked about bringing these two industry leaders together. Both companies got started building bar code products: Zebra printed the barcodes and Motorola scanned them. Over the years, we have worked side-by-side serving customers and partners, particularly those in the retail, manufacturing and transportation and logistics industries. When Motorola decided to focus exclusively on their Government business, we were glad we were able to reach an agreement. Together, we want to be the first call a CIO makes for help in creating a smarter, more connected enterprise.

Zebra views Motorola’s new lines of Android based rugged devices as a major asset to the company. These devices can run all standard Android applications, but gives them day long battery life, waterproof droppable cases and integrated bar code scanners. In the past these types of rugged devices would have thousands of applications available, now with the advent of Android based designs we have millions of applications that can run on our devices. These devices will enable mobile workers to make use of Internet of Things data in their daily workflow. 

CFE: What are the things your customers will see coming from this acquisition? What should they expect in the coming months?

Gerskovich :After the deal closes, which we expect to happen toward the end of 2014, customers will likely hear from Zebra in a broader way about the role and benefits of a myriad of mobile devices in the workplace. We expect customers will want to engage in a strategic dialogue about the role of cloud-based applications running on mobile devices, and how those applications feed real-time information about assets in their environment. 

Motorola Solutions has been the leader for many years in supplying rugged smart mobile computers used by workers on the move, and Zebra has been a leader in bar codes and RFID. Together we will be the leader in smart mobile computing and the Internet of Things.

CFE: The issue of mobility and data management are important to all manufacturers. How are you now better positioned to help your customers meet those challenges to improve their manufacturing operations?

Gerskovich : Mobility and the Internet of Things will empower the growing mobile workforce to access key real-time information and improve productivity. We are now better positioned to help customers be smarter about their assets, such as tracking and capturing information and providing end-to-end solutions to analyze the data in real-time for the mobile workforce. Zebra's Zatar, cloud-based software that can build IoT applications can collect real-time data from workers in the field.. For instance, tracking & capturing information about assets plays a central role in smarter workflows. 

CFE: Fairly or not, Zebra had been seen as a 2D barcode company. In a very real sense, Zebra had to change its stripes. How does a company work to reinvent itself to its employees and to the market to achieve this kind of change?

Gerskovich: Zebra has been attuned to the importance of Internet of Things for several years and we put a focused effort behind identifying the building blocks we see as requirements to construct a truly smart enterprise. This acquisition gives us more building blocks in mobile devices, wireless LANs and more. 

We have also been building our business to better serve customers with products such as Zatar, cloud-based software that sees all of a company's assets and devices and connects them to the internet. With both our own Zebra-developed innovations like Zatar, coupled with the acquisition of Motorola Solutions, Zebra will be better able to make smarter enterprises a reality for our customers.

CFE: In that process, what are some of the lessons the company has learned?

Gerskovich : Although Zebra just increased its product portfolio, we still will maintain strong relationships with our channel partners, as strong industry specific vertical experience is a key component to properly serving customers. 

Over the years, Zebra has learned the importance of not only listening to the customers' needs, but learning to adapt to solve unique problems. It is not enough to follow broad technology trends; the enterprise is unique and ever-changing. Zebra has learned to be flexible and innovative to meet the specific needs of its customers.

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