Turning Cars into Communications Platforms

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Antennas are crucial components for morphing vehicles into communications platforms.

Today’s antennas (largely of the shark fin variety) are unsightly, limited in terms of where they can be placed on vehicles, expensive for auto makers to install, and ill-equipped for facilitating vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

The next-generation antenna technologies that Merrimack, NH-based Antenum is developing enable automakers to less expensively deliver more aesthetic vehicles to the market. Antenum’s antennas enhance the speed of data delivery, facilitate WiFi access throughout vehicles and facilitate vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. The Company’s 5G-compliant technologies render GPS services more accurate and strengthen AM/FM radio and satellite radio signals.

Antenum’s Bluetooth Vehicle Entry technologies enable drivers to enter their vehicles without fumbling for their fobs; their vehicles will unlock when their smartphones are recognized by Antenum’s patented radio frequency physics and location finding technologies. Automakers will save significant money in terms of being relieved of reconfiguring sheet metal (to accommodate the placement of shark fins). OEMs will also avoid extensive cabling and will eliminate the need for multiple antennas that are currently used for triangulating signals.

Manufacturers have been identified and small orders have been filled. Antenum is currently fulfilling a $350,000 sponsored research project. The Company generated several hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues over the past two years. No special equipment or materials are needed to produce either the company’s antennas or Bluekey Entry solutions in volume. The owner of one of Antenum’s contract manufacturers invested $100,000 in Antenum.

Two spec projects have been completed with Tesla and one remains ongoing. At least another 10 major OEMs and Tier 1 parts suppliers, together with four EV makers, are sampling Antenum’s technologies. To date, Antenum has not been notified as having lost a design win. So as to accelerate its time to revenue, Antenum is focusing on selling its antennas to manufacturers of electric vehicles which typically make decisions faster than traditional OEMs. These efforts have resulted in Antenum receiving design wins with two electric vehicle manufacturers. Gross margins are expected to approximate 50%. One of these EV customers pressured Antenum to move its production to China. When Antenum refused, the customer remained with Antenum.

No change in customer behavior is needed to achieve the rapid uptake of Antenum’s antennas or Bluekey Entry (BKE) technologies. Antenum’s technologies are congruent with auto design trends as well as drivers’ reliance on their mobile phones. The total annual addressable markets for Antenum’s antennas and BKE products is at least $5 billion. Management is motivated to penetrate this addressable market: The CEO personally invested some $1.3 million and other employees and European sales representatives have invested some $500,000 in terms of deferred compensation and cash infusions. Management is capable of growing Antenum: Its CEO took an earlier company he founded public in 1992, which was later sold for $200 million. No one else has developed a conformal design win. Better yet, Antenum’s strong patent portfolio, consisting of some 50 patent filings, should exclude competitors from Antenum’s targeted markets.

David Liepman

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