Reticulate Micro CTO John Dames on Solving the Big Problems

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Reticulate Micro CTO John Dames on Solving the Big Problems

“People who need data, communications and technology the most are usually the last to get it – typically because of the constraints on transport and networking in unforgiving environments. Reticulate is focused on bringing everything as close to the edge as possible.” John Dames, CTO

February 14, 2024

John Dames is not your typical CTO. The creative tech innovator has enjoyed a 27-year career that has spanned filmmaking and commercials, security for A-list entertainers, and software for Apple, Gucci, Special Operations and Level 1 trauma centers.   

As CTO of Reticulate Micro, the six-time patent holder sets the company’s technology roadmap to deliver trusted and resilient communications over any transport and in any environment.

Pointing to John’s deep character and brilliance, CEO Josh Cryer notes, “I never have to question John’s motivation or intent – he always puts his best into everything he does.”

Below, John opens up about what drew him to Reticulate Micro and his innovation strategy that includes delivering reliable and affordable video to the network edge.

Q. Tell us a bit about what attracted you to lead technology strategy for Reticulate Micro and what you are most excited about our technical capabilities?

John: I was easily most attracted not so much by a technology or product, but the challenge we chose to tackle – develop technologies that solve some of the big problems. I’ve spent most of my career developing products that provide situational awareness to users and help create a common operational picture for teams. With Reticulate, I had an opportunity to create new technologies with a gifted team that wasn’t afraid to do the hard stuff.

The first big problem was video and imagery, which is literally the lifeblood of most modern operations from military to manufacturing. Video isn’t ubiquitous and not everyone can access it because of the bitrates and bandwidth. So, our technology roadmap started with VAST™, which makes it possible to send or receive video and high-resolution imagery (practically) anywhere in the world, over any network, to anyone. And that is so impactful when you think about it—What could our military do with this capability? What new technologies or capabilities does this unlock, specifically for our men and women out on the edge of the network?

Since this first step with VAST™, we have been aggressively expanding our roadmap. We added quantum- resistant encryption capabilities across our product portfolio, more integrations with the technologies our customers rely on every day, and new hardware solutions to support compute AI at the edge — because this is how we solve the big problems.

Q. Given your experience driving comms solutions for warfighters, where are the biggest capability gaps you see that the commercial industry needs to address?

John: It’s the same problem set as military. The people that need data, communications and technology the most are usually the last to get it – typically because of the constraints on transport and networking in unforgiving environments. Reticulate is focused on bringing everything as close to the edge as possible, which means we must focus on bandwidth efficiency, power, security, and ease of use so that every user at the edge can be empowered whether it’s in a military or commercial context.

By erasing the line between core and edge users, we can meaningfully improve productivity, safety, efficiency – you name it. While our focus today is on getting high resolution imagery and video to these users, our overarching mission is to accelerate this transformation. We will do this by bringing multiple products to our users that improve network transport, communication assurance, and data visualization.

Q. Reticulate is unveiling some exciting products this year – including the VAST™ video-compression product and VESPER™, the company’s new SATCOM terminal management solution. How do these solutions address these capability gaps for not only defense but also commercial markets?

John: It’s simple – we make products for users at the edge, be it the battlefield, an oil rig at sea or anywhere where good data and communications are critical. As I was saying before we have expanded our product portfolio to focus on more than the data side with VAST™, but the transport side of the equation as well. VAST™ brings high resolution video and imagery to less expensive networks which traditionally struggle with the bandwidth requirements. But VESPER™ is bringing the Multi-Orbit Enterprise-level Management & Control (M&C) to multiple SATCOM networks, across all orbits from microsats like Starlink to classified military systems.

As different as those two products sound there is an important strategy at work there. VAST™ video encoder products are bringing a new level of efficiency to real-time video and high-resolution imagery. Satcom operators and users will be among the biggest beneficiaries of this as more efficient video means lower data usage and lower cost. VESPER™ is our satcom monitoring and control product with a special focus on micro-sats like Starlink, which is the next generation of satcom capability.

Q. Reticulate’s first product, VAST™, enables video to move over constrained networks. That would be a powerful capability, especially for today’s defense landscape. A recent government demonstration of VAST™ has shown promise in this area. What were some key highlights?

John: Working with our Aerospace partner, we were able to stream usable video at bit rates as low as 30kbps, and HD video at 50kbps. This was ISR video from an aerial platform being restreamed over low-bandwidth SATCOM. Although the scenario being demonstrated was nothing new, the addition of VAST™ allowed tactical users on the ground to consume real-time ISR over networks that can barely handle voice, much less video. For our team, the most exciting result was seeing the ideas this capability sparked for the first time it is possible to send very large images over these networks, collect better imagery for real-time mapping, and get video content to AI systems for analysis. We’re seeing very positive results for our customers and partners as VAST™ not only solves some old problems, but also presents new opportunities for all.

Innovation doesn’t necessarily rely on the creation of new technologies. Some of the technologies we’re bringing together are not new; we’re just bringing them together in new ways. We’re able to quickly respond to changes in the political and communications markets and to the needs of our customers – because they must respond to those changes. That’s our competitive advantage.

Q. You are the visionary leading the development of Reticulate products on a common open system development platform called VisionOS™. Can you elaborate on the significance of VisionOS™ and the value it will deliver to end users?

John: VisionOS™ is the foundation of all Reticulate software products. Think of it as a rapid development framework that streamlines the creation of applications for IoT (Internet of Things), device and event management, or simple team collaboration. It features open standards and modular capabilities such as end-to-end-encryption, a robust messaging fabric, decentralized servers, mapping, location and a host of video services. As a platform it enables us to rapidly build products and solutions across a standardized framework by reusing common modules, common integrations, and a common operational concept. VisionOS™ will also greatly extend the interoperability of all our products with one another, and commonly used system or protocols used by our customers.

The real benefits for our users will become more obvious over time as we release new capabilities, such as quantum resistant encryption or AI bandwidth monitoring. We will also put much effort into expanding interoperability through integrations and supporting open standards. All these new capabilities will extend across our entire product portfolio thanks to VisionOS™.

Q. Any final thoughts about our technology roadmap and what you’re most looking forward to this year?

John: I can easily say I am most looking forward to seeing VAST™’s impact on our customers, and eager to learn from them. Are we solving the right problems? Is there a capability gap we’re not addressing? We have an ambitious roadmap ahead of us, but to me we’re at the exciting part – seeing our first product make a real difference for end users. The validation we’ve seen so far is evidence we’re on the right track.

The greatest challenge will be staying agile while we listen to our customers as they discover and unlock opportunities. We need to adapt our technology roadmap to where our customers take us, and we can’t be afraid to tackle the big problems we find along the way.

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