Raisonance - an interview with Francis LamotteNote to the reader: IoTize's Raisonance brand was originally established by IoTize SAS owner and director, Francis Lamotte. In this interview, conducted in 2008 - the 20th Anniversary of the Raisonance brand creation, Francis talks about the history of the brand and the founding activities of the company.
Why did you create Raisonance?
Raisonance started with a small opportunity that grew into a much bigger one. After the Ecole des Mines engineering school, I began freelance development of my own microcontroller tools. One of my customers was so interested in the tools they asked if they could resell them to a much wider customer base. However, just as that activity was starting to take off, the venture was discontinued. At that point, I was given the chance to create a company to serve the growing customer base – the result was the start of Raisonance.
What prompted your interest in electronics?
My real interest in electronic engineering took off while at engineering school. Most notably, my final year project was to develop a 4x4 robot that could follow a pre-defined path. The robot contained a lot of electronics, including several of the first 8051 microcontrollers. The project was quite a success, and with the backing of ANVAR, the French institute for the promotion of research, the robot was even showcased at the Villette science museum in Paris.
Can you describe Raisonance when you first started the company?
When Raisonance first started there were three of us and the first few years were not always easy. The microcontroller market had still not really taken off and business was quite slow. Also, our initial tools were in French, so we had to work hard to create new tools in English that could be used by a much wider group of developers. But with perseverance we started to grow.
What was your first major success at Raisonance?
Our first major success was the launch of the PCE51 Field Programmable Gate Array (FGPA) emulator in 1989 – the first emulator based on FGPA on the market. The extreme flexibility afforded by FGPA technology, allowed us to create a much lower cost emulator than the existing emulators on the market, as well offering greater performance for more complex software debugging and much more scalability.
What other successes do you consider the most significant of the last 20 years?
The launch of RIDE (for Raisonance Integrated Development Environment), the industry’s first Windows-based complete integrated development environment, in 1993 was a huge stepping stone. When we demonstrated RIDE for the first time at the Electronica tradeshow we received a phenomenal amount of interest from developers looking for easy-to-use, but powerful development tools for use with Windows.
Of course, our partnership with ST Microelectronics in 1998 was a an event that springboarded our microcontroller business to new levels. Given our strong technical reputation, ST approached us to develop tools for the ST6 and uPSD microcontroller families. This initial project was just the beginning of an ongoing relationship with ST, who subsequently asked Raisonance to support the majority of the company’s microcontroller families, including: ST5, ST7, STM7, STM8, STR7, STR9, STM32, and SPC56.
Our entry into the smart card market in 2003 was a significant first step for Raisonance outside of the microcontroller industry. We were already working with Philips (now NXP) on microcontroller tools for smart cards, but we did not truly enter the smart card market until the opportunity arose for a joint smart card development project with Gemalto. Gemalto asked us to join them on a project for a new smart card testing tool. This project was the first of many joint collaborations with the company. Today, we are the only smart card company that offers expertise in both hardware and software tools for smart cart validation and testing.
Most recently, in November 2008, we launched ContactLAB, a powerful contact smart card reader and analyzer, bringing contact tools to our line-up of contactless smart card test and validation tools. We developed ContactLAB in conjunction with Gemalto to meet the growing need for testing smart card implementations in the next generation of mobile phones with payment functionality.
And, we have kicked of the New Year with the launch of the STM32 Primer 2, our cool, games console-style tool for trying out the latest STM32 microcontrollers from STMicroelectronics. Raisonance created the original Primer as a complete new development concept to let developers try new microcontrollers in a fun and affordable way, as well promoting open sharing of ideas and applications via a user group community. Building of the success of the first Primer, the new Primer 2 has a new games-console design and loads of new features, including a touch screen interface, audio record and playback, and a Micro SD card connector. It even has an add-on module connector for adding new types of components, such as Bluetooth and NFC. Already our dedicated forum members are very active, sharing application and ideas on the new Primer. So much so that we’ll soon be launching a design competition – watch this space…
Which partnerships have been key to Raisonance's success?
Raisonance has forged links with many of the major players in microcontrollers and smart cards. These partnerships include STMicroelectronics, Gemalto, NXP, Texas Instruments, INSIDE, LETI, EM-Microelectronic... Most of these partnerships have been formed thanks to the technical expertise of Raisonance and a shared desire with our partners to innovate and develop new ideas and technologies.
What is the secret to Raisonance's ongoing success?
What drives Raisonance is a combination of outstanding engineers, technologically advanced products and solid partnerships. Our key differentiator is our expertise in both software and hardware development. Although there are many players that specialize in one or the other, Raisonance is one of the only company that has expertise in both, allowing us to provide complete solutions that are properly integrated and interoperable.
How will you be celebrating the 20th anniversary?
For Raisonance, this anniversary will be ongoing event throughout the year. The celebrations have already started with a champagne cocktail at the Cartes 2008 smart card show. The next step will be to celebrate our anniversary and the launch of our STM32 Primer 2 at Embedded World 2009 in Nurnberg in March next year.
What is your vision for the next 20 years?
In the short term, I want to be more vocal about our successes and expertise. As a company of engineers, we have spent most of our time developing new solutions – the result is that we have some of the best products on the market. The downside is that we have not always done the best job of telling people about them. With the launch of our new website in 2009 and more focused communication efforts we plan to ensure the people who should know about our products do so.
In the longer term, we have plans to build on both our microcontroller and smart card businesses, investigating new opportunities and technologies, and forging new partnerships. 20 years is a long time in the technology industry, so by then we aim to have a lot of new innovations and surprises for our customers.