Moto collage

What we have learned from 90 years of innovation

(Caption above: A collage of Motorola products over the years since the 1920’s till 1970’s)

By Mike deVente, Corporate Vice President and General Manager at Motorola Solutions, Asia Pacific

 The rate of innovation in today’s world is growing so fast that at times, it seems impossible to keep up.

Around 90 per cent of the world’s digital data was created in the last two years alone, a figure that will double every two years with billions more smart devices and sensors to be connected by 2020.

This explosion of data, combined with more accessible and affordable computing power, is fuelling new capabilities in artificial intelligence, ‘big data’ analytics, smart cities and many more.

Innovation is changing us too. Only a decade ago we couldn’t have imagined how the smart phones we carry and the applications that power them, would transform the way we stay connected, organised, informed and entertained.

Amidst all this, I have been reflecting on how technology has changed our lives as Motorola Solutions prepares to celebrate a milestone that few companies reach – our 90th anniversary on September 25th.

When I started working here 20 years ago we were a very different to the company we are today. Those old enough to remember will know Motorola was famous for having some of the most popular smart phones on the market.

Today, our company meets the technology needs of emergency services and enterprise organisations, reaching more than 100,000 customers in 100 countries.

We may not be a consumer brand, but take a closer look behind the scenes of daily life and you will see our essential technology at work.

We were a mobile phone company before. We aren’t anymore. But our technologies are still essential and may be more so now than before.

Motorola Solutions’ technology is used by police officers patrolling the city, on the train, on bus services that take you to work and in department stores that keep customer service by your side.

With nine decades of innovation behind us, we have created some memorable moments in time. Our technology was used to broadcast those famous first words from the moon in 1969 “…One giant leap for mankind” and has created many other world firsts – from the first commercial portable cellular phone in 1983 to the first two-way pager in 1995 and beyond.

Any technology company, regardless of whether they are a well-established firm or a start-up, should be able to trace its origins back to the opportunity to apply innovation to fix a problem or address a clear market need.

Motorola has done this, and resoundingly so.

Our story began in 1928. It was an era where two brothers, Paul and Joseph Galvin, created one of the world’s first commercially successful car radios and began helping public safety and commercial organisations to install and use the new technology.

Some things change, some stay the same

When people ask me how our company has changed, I often start by telling them “We’re not your Mom’s or Dad’s Motorola anymore.”

Maintaining flexibility to adapt and change in response to shifting market and customer needs, global trends and new opportunities for innovation have been vital ingredients to our company’s success.

While all companies need to remain agile in this era of rapid technological change, the pure value and purpose for innovation remains the same.

Our company has always specialised in the development of technologies that increase safety and productivity for emergency services and critical enterprises.

Serving these markets has always required us to maintain constant contact with our customers while truly understanding their daily operational needs.

The technology needs for a police officer facing a volatile situation or a miner entering a hazardous mining environment are fundamentally different to what we know as consumers.

But we understand these needs well.

Understanding how customers use technology has guided both our R&D investments as well as the technologies we develop. For this reason, we continue to create innovations that perform reliably in the worst of conditions, including natural disasters, while also providing the highest levels of security from external threats including cybersecurity.

Any technology used by first responders and enterprise workers also needs to simplify the complex situations they often face. For example, helping frontline workers to make better, faster and more accurate decisions by only providing them with the most valuable and information needed to do their jobs.

• On May 7, 1974, the first batch of 10 production operators started work in a temporary leased facility manufacturing hybrid circuits before moving into our very own building a month later.


Customers in different markets and different industries have different needs and more than three decades ago, Motorola Solutions set up a research and development facility in Penang – our first outside the United States. Our business in Malaysia has grown and the Innoplex, our R&D facility which we have been continually investing, is now the second-largest outside of the United States. With state-of-the-art laboratories and a Network Operations Centre, our engineers continue to research and develop solutions to meet our customers’ challenges, be it in public safety or in critical industries.

• In April 1975, assembly of final products began with the Metro Pageboy II which carried the “Made in Malaysia” mark.

We are proud that Penang, Malaysia is the heart where much of our R&D is done globally and how it supports all our technologies across all our regions. Asia is the birthplace for many technologies and innovations that have expanded across the globe, and Motorola remains a big contributor towards seeding innovation in this region.

We co-create innovative solutions with our customers, spending hundreds of hours with our customers to understand their specific needs and designing and installing systems that provide reliable radio communications for their mission- and business-critical work. Having a strong R&D base in Malaysia has helped us to understand the needs of our customers in Asia. The local skills and capabilities over the past 40 years have driven the R&D and innovative solutions that our customers expect from us.

Another value that has guided our innovations throughout time is the need to help customers work with their “heads up and hands free” – in other words, being able to perform tasks on the move without being burdened by the need to type, ‘swipe’, or be distracted by other gestures.

As consumers, we see this value reflected in the popularity of intelligent voice speakers in our homes. Imagine the difference these technologies can make for people performing life-saving work, such as a firefighter running into a burning building or an ambulance officer providing urgent aid.

No one can predict what the future holds as the rapid pace of innovation continues to transform our world. But, we are approaching the next 90 years with the mindset to balance the need for responsive adaptability alongside an unchanging focus on our customers’ unique needs.