Executive Interview: Oren Hagai, Founder and CEO of Interlligent RF & Microwave Solutions
March 5, 2020 Update — Responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, Interlligent’s Israel RF design seminar, scheduled for March 31 in Tel Aviv, has been delayed. The Israeli Ministry of Health is recommending all international conferences be postponed, and most of the international attendees advised Interlligent they were unable to travel to Israel.
Interlligent will determine a new date for the seminar once the contagion subsides.
For those not familiar with Interlligent RF & Microwave Solutions, please give us an overview of the firm.
Interlligent (the “r” stands for RF) was established in year 2000, has offices in Tel Aviv and London, and provides technical services and solutions to the RF, microwave and wireless communications industries.
Based on our in-depth technical knowledge in those fields, we offer four kinds of complementary services:
- RF and microwave training — We offer frontal, hands-on courses, as well as web-based recorded courses. The web-based training was launched just recently and includes recorded courses such as OFDM MIMO technologies, RF ADCs and DACs, moving up to mmWaves, with more to come.
- RF engineering consultancy and design services — Interlligent offers its clients to use its microwave experts as contract RF engineers, as well for providing complete design turn-key solutions.
- Test and measurement (T&M) equipment rentals and sales — The company is the leading T&M solutions provider in Israel and second in Europe, offering a wide variety of Keysight test equipment, with in-depth technical support capabilities.
- Incubator services (labs for hire) for RF related startup companies — The company has allocated space in its building for new start-up companies in the fields of RF and microwave, and the service includes space, meeting rooms, office services, test equipment and optional expert advice.
What motivated you to start the company?
To be honest, I never planned to start the company. It happened purely by accident.
It was year 2000, and the market was deep in the “dot-com” recession. I had just graduated with my engineering degree and was struggling to find a job. I already had some technical experience in the fields of RF and microwave engineering from my army service and my university studies, as well as being a radio amateur from the age of 13. I encountered a tender for providing a practical RF training course for an aerospace and defense company and made an offer, which to my surprise was accepted.
For this purpose, I started the company and spent the next year or so writing RF training materials. The course was a great success, and I started offering training to other companies, as well, and hired a few engineers for this purpose.
Then, one of the companies requested some microwave design consultancy, which forced us to buy some test equipment. Between projects, we started renting out our test equipment to pay the salaries and bills — and the rest, as they say, is history.
My intention was never to start a company, rather to keep busy until I could find a “real” job in microwave development. And this year we’re celebrating 20 years of Interlligent.
Interlligent offers an interesting mix of services. What's the thread that ties these together?
Our services are, in fact, all complementary and approach the same clients from different angles.
Customers who need advanced RF training for their engineers are likely also to need rented test equipment for their labs. They may have R&D projects that require expert advice or wish to outsource the design, which we can provide, and so on. You might say a type of “one stop RF shop supported by experts.” In particular, we can offer all these services in our labs for hire venue in our building.
One of the unique and distinguishing factors about Interlligent is that the company is managed by microwave engineers. This expertise allows us to immediately understand what the customer needs and put forth the best solution. I think this is the main reason for our success in Israel and in the U.K.
The last time we spoke, in late 2015, you had recently expanded to the U.K. and were planning to be an incubator for start-up firms there. How has that developed, and has the U.K. market met your goals?
We grew far beyond our expectations in the U.K., mainly in terms of test equipment rental services and training.
However, we found that unlike Israel, where everything is very compact and distances are not so great, in the U.K., offering central incubation services for start-ups was less appealing.
Having said that, we have significantly grown in the U.K. in terms of test equipment rentals and RF training, as the U.K. market had for a long time been looking for new players who could provide competitive alternatives to existing long-time players. We provide a fresh, highly competitive solution for the market.
Do you have plans for further expansion, in addition to your facilities in Israel and the U.K.?
Yes, we would like to expand into the USA. We’ve already started providing services to various customers in the U.S. and plan on opening an office there in the future.
Interlligent is holding a design seminar in Tel Aviv at the end of March. What are your objectives for the event?
About five years ago, in order to increase market awareness in the U.K. to Interlligent, we started a series of annual RF design seminars in Cambridge. These in-depth, free-to-attend technical events, presented by well-known world leaders in the industry, evolved over the years into “must attend” events for microwave experts working in the field. We also uploaded the videos of the technical presentations from our past five events into our Interlligent UK YouTube channel.
Based upon the success of our Cambridge events, we now aim to copy the concept into Israel, as well. The Israeli event is expected to be even larger in size and is planned to take place on March 31 in Tel Aviv. We hope to host between 700 to 1000 attendees and to establish a new prime event to the well-developed Israeli RF and microwave industry.
The seminar is also accompanied by a display exhibition which will give exhibitors and attendees the opportunity to network and be introduced to new potential customers.
Information about the event can be found at www.RFseminar.com.
The agenda has quite a list of distinguished speakers. Tell us about several of them.
The lineup of presenters is wide, and the presentations will cover an interesting array of topics relevant to the microwave, wireless and radar industries. To mention only a few of the speakers:
Mr. Assaf Touboul, Qualcomm's vice president of technology who leads the 5G system, algorithms and architecture, will speak about the exciting technical challenges of mobility in the new frontier of 5G NR mmWaves.
Dr. Yonatan Cohen from QM (Quantum Machines) is going to speak about the key role of RF and microwave signals in quantum computing. QM develops a unique and groundbreaking control and operation system to quantum computers, which is based on unique microwave hardware.
Dr. Doron Ezri, the CTO Wi-Fi of Huawei’s Tel Aviv R&D Center, is going to speak about a new approach in Wi-Fi: coherent, multi-user MIMO transmission from multiple access points.
Mr. Raviv Melamed, the CEO of Vayyar Imaging, is going to speak about mmWave RFIC-based radar technologies.
Dr. Brian Ginsburg, who is the systems manager of Texas Instruments’ radar business unit, will speak about mmWave sensing for automotive applications and beyond.
From your perspective of the markets, what are some interesting growth opportunities for RF/microwave technologies?
I really do not know where to begin here. When I was a student, some of my friends advised me not to enter the RF field, as they did not believe in its future development. Obviously, this assumption was wrong, as today EVERYTHING goes wireless. RF, microwave and mmWave technologies are impacting next-generation technologies in a variety of fields and industries.
Some of the exciting fields of growth include hardware for quantum computing, automotive RF-based systems such as V2X communications and car radars, imaging mmWave sensors and cutting-edge, high data rate communication systems such as 5G and new generation WLAN systems.
Another field which is growing and requires expertise in microwaves is high speed board design and signal integrity, as the analog bandwidth of serial buses increases and transmission line theory becomes critical.
Turning to a personal question, with such ready access to test equipment and labs, do you find any time to sit down at the bench and play with the hardware? Or are you too busy managing the firm?
RF and microwave technologies are not only my day job, they are my hobby, as well. I do have a modest RF lab in my home's basement, in which I build with my elder son some filters and amplifiers. My wife claims that this is my therapy.
Other than that, I am the CTO of one of our daughter companies, named TLV Millimetric Waves, where I design mmWave components.