Brand Focus: Pulse Eight's Martin Ellis

Based in Poole, Dorset, in the south of England, Pulse Eight is a relatively new brand on the custom home integration scene.

Headed by Martin Ellis, the company initially launched to sell a remote control and has evolved over the past five years to manufacturing video matrix solutions. Ellis talked with HiddenWires about Pulse Eight’s evolution from a small operation into a growing manufacturing company with a focus on addressing system integrators’ needs.

Martin-Ellis-500x500-400x400HW: What drew you to manufacturing controls for this industry? When did you get your start and where?
Martin Ellis:
I’ve always had a passion for home automation, watching video around the home, I am a Kodi (formerly XBMC) developer and that’s where I cut my teeth, my background is in programming in the betting industry, so world’s apart from this industry, but a lot of the practices such as agile development and Kanban have transitioned well into this business.

When was your company founded? How did you establish it within the industry?
I founded the company back in 2010, originally to sell a remote control called the Motorola NYXboard Hybrid, it was targeted specifically at the XBMC crowd who wanted a remote and a keyboard. It had a normal keyboard on one side and a remote on the other. Once we launched this we found that it was incredibly popular and people wanted even better ways to integrate between the TV and the HTPC, which lead to us developing the USB CEC Adapter, this handy little box allows the TV to control the PC and vice versa using just the normal remote shipped with the TV. With this product we started down the path of developing our own hardware and software from start to finish.

As we got heavily involved in the HDMI Forum we started to engage with Valens and their HDBaseT technology. We had a vision for how to produce a really impressive video matrix solution using CEC and we soon got enlisted to produce a solution under their brand. This began to be our focus on acting as an ODM, all of our products have gone on to win major trade awards, all are designed by us in the UK and built by us in Poole. We have our own manufacturing line and R&D team based on site, so our ability to rapidly develop new solutions is unrivalled.

Also being based in the UK allows us to actually build something that people want to use and something we can properly support, rather than a bunch of Chinese engineers building for their market and brands in the UK buying these solutions and rewriting the manuals. It’s been a busy five years, starting with just a small team of three to now having over 20 R&D and production staff focused on producing for the UK and European markets. We’ve decided that now is the right time to bring out a line of products under our own brand and with our own support systems. We can engage directly with installers to find out what issues they have, what they need to make their life easier and allow us to respond much faster to changing market conditions, especially with our direct involvement with the HDBaseT alliance as a contributor member and HDMI Forum in their technical working groups.

How has the transition from ODM provider to a manufacturer been for you? Have you had any challenges moving in this direction?
I’ve always seen us as manufacturer, we’ve had our own brand for some of our lines, so the transitions haven’t been as harsh as would otherwise be. I think the education side to the installer market that most of what they buy is made by nameless east Asian firms and rebranded for the UK market by a local company and that buying from us gives them access to local support, local engineering knowledge and practical products that are designed for the market they are in is the hardest thing to get over.

How have you gone about distinguishing your products from those of your competitors?
Obviously the biggest is that it’s all made in Poole, we have our own mechanical design team who are great at providing practical but also stylish products, it’s important for us that it looks good in the rack as well as being functional, we know many customers want to show off what they have invested in. One big thing for us, is avoiding lots of front panel buttons, I’ve never managed to work out how these are practical, the displays are in rooms 10’s of meters away from you, so you are pressing things blindly!

What products do you have in your lineup? How are you pitching them to integrators?
We have our neo series, this is essentially our “fixed format” lines, we try and limit on our website just a couple of options, the Basic, which is 4 HDMI inputs, 4 HDBaseT outputs; and Professional, which is 4 HDMI Inputs, 4 HDBaseT outputs with two simultaneous HDMI outputs, these are as standard 70m range solutions, but because we build everything almost to order, we can cater for custom solutions, such as 100m outputs, or a mixture of 70m and 100m outputs. This mix and match is only available to installers. We carry a standard range of extender solutions and also a 1:4 HDBaseT splitters. Modular-based systems are on their way, we are just finalising the product line-up and will be launching them very soon.

With the growth your company has experienced in the last five years, what do you anticipate will be the next step for Pulse Eight? Are you looking to expand or develop more products for AV integrators? How so?
From starting with just one person in 2010, we now have a team of about 20, handling R&D, production and customer services. Due to the rapid growth we’ve had to move four times in four years, hopefully our latest site of 12,000 square feet will contain us for the next few years, but if not we have space around this site to expand! Our next steps in the market are to offer more products, bring out a HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 range when the content providers have settled on the format they are going to use and continue to add control features to our systems.

Llanor Alleyne is the Editor of HiddenWires.

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