Juha Alakarhu, VP of Imaging at Axon shares his views on the Tampere imaging ecosystem and explains how and why Axon chose Tampere.
What does Axon do?
– Axon is the global leader in connected law enforcement technologies. We push the boundaries of technology to help give the men and women in public safety the confidence, focus and time they need to keep their communities safe. The first and best known product line is the TASER smart weapon. Nowadays, Axon also develops body-worn, in-car and in-room cameras and digital evidence management solutions, and integrates all its products to work together on a single network.
What is the focus of the Tampere site?
– Our imaging team, around ten people, develops cameras for law enforcement, both wearable and in-car devices. We cover the whole camera system from hardware to software, and I do not hesitate to say that in Tampere we have the best expertise in the world to do just that.
– Our work is technically very challenging, creative and thus really, really interesting. I’ve been an imaging professional since 2004, and here I am, solving imaging problems I haven’t encountered in any other context. Law enforcement camera solutions are a world of their own.
Why Tampere, reasons for the site being here?
– In short, because I made a phone call and Tampere had just the right things to offer.
– The phone call: I was the Head of Imaging in the Ozo team of Nokia Technologies at the time and it was clear that that was coming to an end. I had a friend working at Axon and I first contacted him and asked if a camera site in Tampere would be an interesting idea for Axon.The company was eager to listen to what I had to say, and it wasn’t even hard to make them see the benefits of Tampere.
– And which were the right things in Tampere? Imaging talent with engineering expertise, networks and ecosystem. Axon wanted the best possible team, but it was equally important that Tampere Region has a wide variety of imaging related companies offering their services.
– I would also like to mention the support by the regional economic development agency Business Tampere. They were swift to provide any information Axon needed when establishing a new research and development office here. There are a lot of practicalities that vary from country to country, and as a local public sector organization Business Tampere is there to help handle them.
What’s particularly strong in the Tampere imaging ecosystem?
– Our ability to create comprehensive solutions, our curiosity towards new things and a great engineering culture.
– I think our unique feature is the way people still work for the common goal. We’ve all learned a lot while working at Nokia and making the best cameras in the world. Today that expertise is being used in many different imaging related companies, people continue to learn new things and the ecosystem enriches. Then there is the Tampere University of Technology (TUT) providing cutting-edge research and people with fresh insights.
How is Axon going to benefit from the Tampere imaging ecosystem?
– At the time of this interview the Axon Tampere team has been working for less than six months, but we are already cooperating with one of the local companies and definitely looking for more local partners. We are expecting interesting research projects with TUT and we are keeping an eye out for the local talent.
How did you become an expert in the field of imaging?
– I studied electronics and software engineering at TUT starting from 1995. After my doctoral thesis I wanted to do something else and there was a camera engineer job open at Nokia in Tampere. All my life I’ve been interested in photography, so I thought why not! I joined Nokia in 2004 and started very quickly to take in imaging.
What is the best moment of your career so far?
– We did such excellent things at Nokia, but certainly unveiling Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 with the 41 megapixel cameras have been the most memorable moments in my professional career. We spent a long time developing the technology and when it was finally ready and in everyones hands…
– Also, I think getting Axon here to Tampere and building this team last autumn has been one of my best moments. Eventually, we just had all the pieces for the puzzle, and now we have this amazing team working in this amazing company.
Can work really be that exhilarating?
– Sure, every day! To combine experimentation and problem solving with the aim of developing actual products that need to be available for end users next year – my heart beats for that. Also, innovativeness and playfullness are in-built in the Axon atmosphere. Never a boring solution, be it about technology or office interior design!
How do you see the future?
– Well, we’ve left the mothership Nokia and now we’ll work hard and use our expertise in all kinds of new things. The Axon Tampere team can do anything.
Author: Päivi Stenroos
Vice President of Imaging, Axon