IT Life: Walkbase CTO Talks Analytics And Connected Worlds

Bjorn Sjolund, CTO at Walkbase, talks us through his life in IT so far

We challenged CTO of Walkbase, Bjorn Sjolund, to our IT Life questions. Walkbase, based in Finland, sells retail analytics products for measuring and improving in-store marketing and personalising in-store shopping experiences for customers.

Tell us about your current role, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?

As CTO and co-founder of Walkbase Ltd, I head up our product development and strategy, working on some of the core technology offerings. My focus is to ensure that our product roadmaps are pointing us in the right direction and that customers are happy with our services.

I’ve been in IT since the age of 16 when I started my own internet consulting business, helping a local business take the leap online. After that I progressed from various developer roles into being a full time developer and IT entrepreneur.

My main areas of expertise are web, mobile and wireless technologies, especially within the area of indoor positioning and analytics. I’m also an avid embedded systems developer and take every chance I get to build some small proof of concepts.

What motivates you right now?

I’m driven by the fact that I have the ability to impact where our business is heading and that I get to work with some of the smartest people I know. We’re in a space with massive opportunities and big challenges, which means that there’s rarely a boring moment.

What has been your favourite project so far?

It’s hard to name a favourite project, but I guess you could consider working on indoor positioning as a continuous project. Indoor positioning is one my personal favourites, as it’s such a multifaceted problem, with no one right answer and many technical challenges. At Walkbase we’ve had the opportunity to develop various positioning technologies for different purposes, ranging from way finding and context aware location services to analytics.

What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?

I was heavily involved with web development at the time, building PHP, Javascript and MySQL powered websites and services for customers.

What do you expect to be using in 10 years’ time?

rfidI imagine a more connected world where more and more of devices around us are able to communicate on a level that has barely been scratched on with today’s IoT solutions. I expect new development frameworks to pop up that make it easier to work with these technologies. I see machine learning being a part of everyday life for a developer, helping to identify patterns and automating much of the things we still do manually.

Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?

My tech hero would probably be someone like Steve Wozniak. He managed to accomplish amazing feats of engineering that have often been overshadowed by his business partners charisma.

My tech villain is not a person, but rather a type of person/people that tries to prevent technological progress in the name of profit or by abusing their market position.

What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?

My favourite would probably be the Commodore 64, it started me on the course that I’m still on today.

Nexus 6P-Frost-Front and BackThe device that gets the most of my attention these days is probably my Nexus 6P smartphone.

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?

The rate of tech innovation is increasing, and making platform and service decisions is becoming harder as the differences are hard to highlight in the early stages. Making a wrong bet can have a big impact down the road. Choosing the right one can save an enormous amount of work for you in the future.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?

I really admire companies like Google for their dedication to creating new technologies outside of their own core focus and very often sharing them with the world. This allows smaller companies to get access to technologies that would otherwise be completely out of their reach.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

As boring as it may sound I’ve been interested in computers for as far as I can remember. I spent most of my childhood learning how they worked and most of my adult life making them work for me.

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