Dropped Call? San Antonio’s Carnegie Technologies May Have An Answer

Xconomy Texas — 

San Antonio — Like many in this tech-addicted world, I often fill the time I spend walking from my home to point B by reading e-mails or making a call.

But that is inevitably interrupted, albeit briefly, by a confusion that consumes my phone when it disconnects from my home’s broadband WiFi network. The phone can’t decide whether it’s best to connect to other nearby WiFi signals or my carrier’s network, and the switching back and forth leaves it entirely disconnected, which leaves me momentarily in cellular purgatory.

One San Antonio company, Carnegie Technologies, says it is developing a technology to resolve that problem. For executives and entrepreneurs on the go, especially those who hold conference calls while walking or being driven (never driving, of course) to their next meeting, a dropped business call caused by a switch between WiFi and cellular networks can mean big trouble, Carnegie says.

Carnegie Technologies’ software aims to prevent interruptions from happening, overlapping wireless and WiFi networks so that a call can continue before a break in the signal occurs, says Paul Struhsaker, a Carnegie executive. “What we’re doing is making before you’re breaking,” he says.

The company’s algorithms monitor the connection quality across multiple networks, while also replicating data packets when a connection starts to deteriorate, according to Carnegie. Carnegie’s work is still in early stages, with some potential customers doing proof-of-concept testing and market trials.

The product, which Carnegie is hopes to sell to various mobile and fixed-line network operators, is a cloud-based system that’s attached to a operator’s network, Struhsaker says. That system would connect to users through an app that they have to download (or that can be automatically pushed out to users by the network), which acts like any standalone communication app—think of something like WhatsApp or Skype.

In addition to being able to operate as a standalone app on iPhones and Androids, it can replace the stock dialer or messaging applications on Android, Struhsaker says. Carnegie is still early in developing and deploying its technology, which the company acquired in November when it bought Ontario, Canada-based Pravala Networks, which developed the software.

The deal also included technology for improving connected car devices, as well as software that Carnegie says can improve the speed and reliability of Internet connections by combining WiFi and mobile network connections, which could be helpful for video streaming and virtual reality.

Carnegie was founded in 2010 by Paul Posner, shortly after Pocket Communications, which Posner founded in 2006, sold to Leap Wireless. In addition to acquisitions, Carnegie also makes venture capital investments. Carnegie drew some headlines last week after sparking a proxy fight with one investment, Israel-based MagicJack.

Carnegie is also developing new products through an R&D team called Carnegie Labs. Struhsaker was hired in December to be the chief technology officer of that operation, which is developing a product for tracking herd animals, as well as an access-point device that can allow smart phones to connect to satellite networks.

“It is designed to be a low-cost capability so your voice and text capabilities are always available to you in times of emergency,” Struhsaker says. “You can also use it for hiking or marine applications.”

Struhsaker was previously a CTO of Dell’s Client Solutions Group—he focused on the company’s technology strategy, and developing and incubating products, according to his online bio.

Since acquiring the technology in the Pravala deal, Carnegie has focused on further developing it, Struhsaker says. The company is deploying across approximately 10 networks, he says. That includes work with cellular, satellite, and fixed-line networks, as well as some enterprise customers, among others, Struhsaker wrote in a follow up e-mail. The company says it has some paying customers in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Verizon declined to comment on whether it is working with Carnegie, while the three other largest carriers haven’t responded.

“We’re able to add value, add service on top of what a carrier has,” Struhsaker says about Carnegie’s business proposition.