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Cantronic Systems is in
the right place at the right time as infrared cameras are no longer just a military
marketplace, but growing commercial applications include homeland defense, boarder
protection, transit, industrial monitoring, housing, automobiles and medical
Infrared Night Vision
Cantronic Systems Inc.
63A Clipper Street
Coquitlam, BC V3K 6X2 Canada
Phone: 604-516-6667 x 228
President and CEO
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published March 1, 2007
James Zahn, President and Chief Executive Officer and
Mr. Zahn, the founder of Cantronic Systems Inc., has a proven track record as an engineer
and manager. Mr. Zahn has guided all Cantronics activities since inception and will
continue to lead its efforts in the future. Mr. Zahn received his Master of Science Degree
from University of British Columbia in 1989.
Mr. Zahn is the year 2003 recipient of the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal. This medal
commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Her Majestys reign as Queen of Canada and
is awarded to Canadians who have made a significant contribution to their fellow citizens,
their community, or to Canada.
Cantronic is a leader in infrared night vision technology, specializing in passive and
active Infrared cameras, infrared illuminators, low light infrared sensitive CCD cameras
and long-range night vision surveillance systems for demanding homeland security
applications. Cantronic has also been approved by Health Canada as a Medical Device
manufacturer and is working on using imaging as a diagnostic tool for breast cancer
screening. Cantronics technology has been widely featured by national and local
Cantronic, through its US subsidiary QWIP
Technologies, Inc. (QWIPTECH), holds a worldwide exclusive license from the
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to produce and sell infrared
detectors and sensors based on Caltechs Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector
technology. This technology, developed by the renowned NASA Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has many applications in defense as well as in the
field of security and surveillance. To date, in excess of US $15 million has been spent on
developing the technology, which, in April 2001, was inducted into the NASA Space
Technology Hall of Fame. QWIPTECH is currently developing an aerial land mine detection
system for the US Army Research Laboratory. It has also been contracted by SELEX (formerly
BAE Systems), a world-renowned leader in infrared systems, to supply infrared detectors
for their Sigma Hunter large format infrared camera.
Cantronic is a Tier 1 issuer on the TSXV trading
under the symbol CTS.
CEOCFO: Mr. Zahn, what was your vision
when you founded Cantronic and where are you today?
Mr. Zahn: I was involved in the
technology business and wanted to make some products and see where we could go with the
technology, so I founded Cantronic. After several years in business, we want to really
build our business. We went public in 2005 and in 2006, we did an acquisition through
merger with a United States company that has a very unique nice technology that will
provide vertical consolidation among our products and their products; there is synergy.
The company is called QWIP Systems Inc., they were traded on the TSXV, ticker symbol QWP;
they and their subsidiary QWIPTECH have a worldwide license from Caltech (California
Institute of Technology) to produce and sell infrared detectors and sensors based on
Caltechs Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector technology.
Will you tell us about your principle products and how they are going to change with the
Mr. Zahn: Cantronic Systems
manufactures infrared imaging cameras that can be used for homeland security, medical
applications and for some industrial applications to detect hotspots. Cantronic designs
electronics and make systems so we were classified as a system builder, but we did not
have the sensors, which in this sector people call detectors. In the past, we would have
to buy detectors from third parties, but with the acquisition of QWIPTECH, which has been
in business for several years, we acquired their third generation infrared detector called
the QWIP Based Detector. Therefore, this gives us an internal source for the core portion
of the camera, which is the detector. That allows Cantronic and QWIPTECH together to
produce cameras with a better performance and with special features that fit our
Will you tell us about the infrared industry in general?
Mr. Zahn: The infrared industry is
growing; it used to be military use only and 10 to 20 years ago, the cost to produce was
very expensive, so people could not find commercial applications for it. Recently with
technology advancement, the costs for these products are coming down significantly, so
people are starting to look for commercial applications. Today the commercial side of the
business is more booming than military applications, which is primarily dependent on
military budget. Therefore, the growth is really coming from the commercial applications
including homeland security, border protection, seaports, as well as industrial monitoring
for substations, and also including applications hunting for marijuana grow-up operations,
which has been growing fast too. People can use infrared cameras to do roof surveys to
find leaks in a building. Another application we are finding interest in is the driver
vision system, which Cadillac started with an infrared camera mounted in that car to let
you see nighttime images and that application is growing as well.
How do you market your products?
Mr. Zahn: We market our products
through a network of business partners, distributors, and OEM customers as well. In some
applications with the government, we do direct biddings our self. We are also in the GSA
supplier, which is the US government service supplier. Most of our products can be found
on the GSA network as well.
Do you need to maintain an inventory of your products or do you produce based on orders?
Mr. Zahn: For our standard cameras we
maintain inventory and for some of the high-end, expensive items, we build to order. For
our QWIPTECH products, it is primarily still military based projects, so it is more of a
You had a very recent order for cameras for the subway in the United States, will you tell
me about that?
Mr. Zahn: Our personal participation
is for infrared illuminators. That device generates and illuminates infrared light in a
dark area, so cameras equipped with a night vision capability can see into the darkness.
That project is done through our business partner, Videolarm Inc., a closed circuit
television (CCTV) camera and accessory manufacturer based in Atlanta, Georgia. The
integrator who got the project is Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT); it is for the Northeastern
US subway system and the quantity they ordered is the single largest one that the company
has received. It is over several hundred units. The infrared illuminator itself is not a
high value item, so the value is reasonable. We have channeled the business through our
business partner, so our portion is smaller compared to the complete project, but it is
still a sizeable order. That also reflects our philosophy that we want to work with our
business partners. In this particular case, Lockheed Martin approached us, they want us to
supply directly and since it is our business partner, Videolarm who started the project,
we had to tell Lockheed Martin that this project had already been bid through Videolarm
and they are ok with that.
What is it about a Cantronic product that makes a company like Lockheed Martin want
Cantronic for the project?
Mr. Zahn: It is the unique design and
capability. In this particular case, the infrared illuminator is a patented technology and
we have a US patent on it. The particular unit that is chosen by Lockheed Martin in this
case is one of the top end and a covert application product. It is an infrared
illuminator, which is like an infrared lamp, but when it is on, you can not see it.
Therefore, the covert application means that you do not know if it is on or not by your
naked eye; you have to see it through a camera, so for security applications in fighting
terrorism it is perfect, as well as the subway systems that are very dark. You want to be
able to see yourself, but you do not want terrorists or potential suspects to know that
they are being watched.
Do you do much in research and development?
Mr. Zahn: We spend a lot of time and
effort in R&D and product development. It is an ongoing process with Cantronic as well
was QWIP Systems. Our QWIPTECH subsidiary so far has spent a lot of time and money
developing the technology, so they are continuously improving on the technology. With
Cantronic Systems as camera builder, we have been spending a lot of time and effort in
developing new products. Every year we probably have a few new products released for the
You are a public company; what is the financial picture like for the company?
Mr. Zahn: Right now we are still
small; a few million-dollar company, but we do through our new acquisition plan to grow
the company quite fast. Of course, organically we will have a moderate growth rate, but it
is through mergers and acquisitions that we really want to grow the company.
Why is this a good time for potential investors to be interested and what might people
miss when they first look at Cantronic?
Mr. Zahn: Cantronic is still a small
and early-stage company, so stock prices are lower. Therefore, the cost of ownership is
much lower now and it is the time where we are on a plan for faster growth in the future,
so this is a good time to get in and own some Cantronic stock.
Final thoughts for our readers?
Mr. Zahn: We are aggressive and have a
good team of management in-place right now. We have been public for more than a year and
in the last year management has been learning the public side of the business and we now
have enough experience that we know what to do to grow the company and meet shareholder
expectations in the future.
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