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RF Code's VP of Engineering Tells Cybernews What IT Pros Often Overlook But Shouldn't

Posted by RF Code
Jon Guy, RF Code: “in every aspect of a new business, visibility is key”

Performance is one of the most critical aspects that can impact software quality.

Software engineering is a broad and gradually developing field. It expands and creates new, unseen solutions and spin-offs by taking benefit of many diverse areas of skills. But in order to produce all the perks, engineers must not only develop, but design, test, and constantly maintain the applications.

To understand how properly sustained software can not only save finances but ensure regulatory compliance and bypass downtime, Cybernews reached out to Jon Guy, VP of Engineering, RF Code – a company that provides data center asset management & environmental monitoring solutions.

Let’s go back to the very beginning. What has the journey been like since your launch in 1997?

RF Code’s roots are deeply in RFID hardware technology. Our tags and sensors use a proprietary sub-GHz radio link that is ideally suited to very high-density environments with metal obstacles. Our technology is ideally suited to data centers and demanding industrial environments. The success of our hardware in data centers evolved into a complete solution with the release of CenterScape software in 2015.

CenterScape provides real-time insights on IT infrastructure assets, power, and environmental data. We improve asset location accuracy from a typical 85% to 100% for both active, offline, and stored equipment. Sensors also monitor electrical power and environmental parameters to enable optimization, error prevention, and diagnosis.

Now, with over a million deployed wireless sensors, the RF Code engineering team has expanded development to also design optimized solutions for monitoring lights-out edge compute resources.

With RF Code’s new Sentry solution, we have built the industry’s first and only platform purpose-built for monitoring and management of geographically dispersed, unstaffed, and physically non-secure edge/remote IT locations.

Can you introduce us to what you do? What are the main challenges you help navigate?

I lead the RF Code Engineering organization, which consists of two teams – a software team and a hardware team that also includes firmware development.

Building secure, scalable, data-heavy software with a great UX is difficult. Building ultra-low-power hardware with radios, sensors, cloud connectivity, and regulatory hurdles is also difficult. Bringing those two domains together is even more challenging.

We navigate a range of issues including architectural trade-offs, component lead times, material costs, software licensing, test workflows, and bug resolution. I work closely with the engineering managers, and with other management, such as manufacturing and finance, to address each barrier and bring complex IoT solutions to market.

What other company processes do you hope to see automated in the next few years?

The RF Code engineering team is remote-first. So not only are RF Code IT closets unmanned, but our team uses our office and lab spaces differently than prior to the pandemic. This creates new security challenges for protecting assets when no one is present. So, our new Sentry Edge solution is also something that we use internally to improve visibility and security.

I am excited about our plans to expand Sentry capabilities via software updates – specifically in enhanced awareness of current issues and future risk mitigation. Sentry will deliver actionable reports on situations and proactive insights in a friendly and actionable manner. These go out in emails and push notifications to our IT and Facilities management.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work?

Like many companies, RF Code has adapted to remote working. Expanded use of collaboration tools means we are working more efficiently, even with a distributed team. We were successful in developing and launching Sentry while operating remote-first.

Now in 2022, we continue to move forward with a stronger engineering organization, due in no small part to the efforts of the team to adapt and learn.

Why do you think organizations often fail to see the full scope of their attack surface?

Today there is a lot of focus on remote attacks such as ransomware – which is well deserved. But mundane stories, like a minor office flood, or an asset disappearing, barely make news within an organization, let alone a broader audience.

These situations still compromise data and operational security but are easy to overlook until after an event.

In your opinion, what IT and cybersecurity solutions should new business owners focus on?

In every aspect of a new business, visibility is key. You need visibility on remote resources the same way you need visibility on financial metrics, inventory, and digital security status. However, it is important to select solutions that provide important and ideally easily actionable information.

Good technology companies understand this and work hard to build products that don’t overwhelm the user. This position is a core tenet of RF Code’s Sentry solution for monitoring remote resources.

What management mistakes do you notice companies make most often when it comes to data center assets?

Although data centers are staffed, the mistake is often the same as with remote, lights-out facilities: lack of visibility. For data centers, increasing visibility comes from deploying more sensors to collect not only asset location information but power and environmental metrics. With data comes visibility and the means to stay ahead of future issues.

In your opinion, where can we expect to see RFID technology be used more often in the near future?

One technology that I am watching closely is the expansion of passive RFID to include sensor measurements as well as identification. That opens new possibilities for battery-less sensing – though currently, the read range is less than 1/10th of the range of active RFID.

Would you like to share what’s next for RF Code?

RF Code will continue to invest in solutions that protect remote assets. With Sentry we have a powerful edge device that can autonomously integrate and analyze over 10GB of data every day. Sentry then uses cloud resources for broad analytics and visibility across an organization.

We’ll be releasing new capabilities that give proactive insights on a very wide range of risk factors but are delivered in a simple understandable way so that technical expertise is not required to avert disasters at remote sites.