As marketing director at Swift Navigation, it’s often tough for Amanda Brodbaek to explain what her company does in a quick “elevator pitch.” That’s part of what makes her job both challenging and interesting. “I personally have a passion for always wanting to learn something new,” she says. “I’m always trying to become a subject matter expert and trying to stay ahead of where the technology is going.”
She’s talking about Swift’s GPS technology, which is 100 times more accurate than the GPS in a cell phone and designed for integration into self-driving cars, drones, and precision agriculture and consumer robotics. “On your cell phone, sometimes an Uber pulls up on the wrong side of the road or puts you across the street from the restaurant you’re trying to get to,” Brodbaek explains. “The accuracy of a cell phone is about a couple of meters. Swift technology gets it down to a couple of centimeters.” And because the company uses off-the-shelf components, she says, the high-precision technology is more economical and hence more accessible to a broader market.
Brodbaek says that the autonomous vehicle industry is a major market opportunity for Swift. In addition to GPS technology, the company offers positioning software that can be used with a vehicle manufacturer’s existing platform to improve location accuracy. “Our customers are primarily automotive now,” she says. But there’s also interest from rail companies that want to improve train safety and agriculture companies that want to plant and water crops without manual labor.
“I personally have a passion for always wanting to learn something new. I’m always trying to become a subject matter expert and trying to stay ahead of where the technology is going.”
So when will technology like Swift’s make it possible for cars to take us where we want to go without lifting a finger or being constantly diligent? “Not for a while,” says Brodbaek. There are five levels of automation, she says, and we’re currently at level two, approaching level three, in which driving can be fully automated, but only within limited environments. “Level five is pretty far out there,” she says. Part of her job is to communicate that progress and to allay fears about self-driving cars. Testing and safety ratings ensure that “everything is working as it’s supposed to before it ever gets to a customer,” she says. It’s human error (i.e., people thinking it’s okay to fall asleep in a partially automated vehicle) that’s the problem.
Swift Navigation was founded in 2012 by Tim Harris, Fergus Noble, and Colin Beighley, the latter two of whom were included on Forbes 30 Under 30 Consumer Technology list in 2017. Originally, says Brodbaek, the founders worked together developing airborne wind turbines and needed a highly accurate GPS system to guide them. When they couldn’t find a product to meet their needs and their budget, they decided to develop one on their own, and the seed for Swift Navigation was planted.
Brodbaek says that “Forbes Communications Council helps me develop my brand through its own brand equity and by offering access to a community of support and a wide variety of tools.” As a marketing professional in an industry that’s often misunderstood, she says she plans to use the publishing benefit to educate consumers while helping build awareness for Swift.
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