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Start Your Business Entrepreneurs

Communication Failures on 9/11 Pushed Me to Launch a Wireless Networking Startup

Communication Failures on 9/11 Pushed Me to Launch a Wireless Networking Startup Credit: Northfoto/Shutterstock

The following piece was contributed as part of Business News Daily's byline series:

If you ask any American adult what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001, there is no doubt they can recall exactly where they were the moment they found out the World Trade Center towers had been attacked.

I was in a meeting in Princeton, N.J., with a colleague desperate to contact his son, who worked in the South Tower. With communication networks down, he was unable to verify his son's safety.

In the weeks following 9/11, the area continued to experience communication failures and network issues. That's when I knew that I wanted to do something to help.

I contacted other industry experts, and we wracked our brains on how we could prevent issues like clogged cell towers and dead networks from happening again. We wondered if it would be possible for first responders to bring a network with them when everything localized has been destroyed or damaged.

This sparked an idea: Give people who aren't familiar with networking the ability to bring a portable device to a site, flip a switch and create a network. From that idea came Rajant.

Within a year, we had a pretty sophisticated wireless networking technology called Kinetic Mesh built into different devices that could be up and running at the touch of a button.

In late 2002 and early 2003, we began taking our technology to the first-responder community. The memories of that day were still very fresh at the time; wounds were still healing and there was a lot of hesitancy in the air. We had a lot of great meetings, but ultimately didn't get that many customers.

It wasn't until we caught the attention of the military that things started to turn around. The military was interested in the network's portability, but it had two more qualifications for its ideal networking technology. The first was scalability, so that a network didn’t just consist of five or 10 devices or nodes, but could be hundreds or thousands. The second was mobility, so that devices could be placed in moving vehicles without losing the connection to the network.

We revamped our technology and hit both of these marks. We also used feedback from our initial conversations with first responders to invigorate the network.

There was so much skepticism and so many unknowns at the time about this level of technology – security being the biggest issue. Knowing that, we made security a priority for new iterations of our wireless network and continue to integrate different types of security, as threats are constantly evolving.

Since our initial meetings, we've attracted interest not just from the military, but also from rugged industries such as oil and gas, mining and more. Oftentimes, there is little to no network infrastructure in the areas where oil and gas and mining operations are located, and the attributes of our network solve that problem.

It's amazing to see how far we've come, but at the end of the day, I'm proudest of the work we've done in helping our military to protect American soldiers. That's what keeps me motivated and gives me the passion to do what I do.

About the author: Robert Schena is the CEO and founder of Rajant, a private wireless network provider and mobile networking pioneer. He can be reached at bschena@rajant.com.

Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Shannon at sgausepohl@purch.com to learn more about our contributed content program.