Thales, digital by nature

Friday 24 February 2017
Instigated by global digital giants, a major upheaval has been under way for the past quarter of a century. Thales is a pioneer and a pillar of this connected world.

Instigated by global digital giants, a major upheaval has been under way for the past quarter of a century, affecting how we live and the ways in which we communicate, interact, produce and think, whether in a private, professional, or community context. There is no mistaking the crucial role of GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft), NATU (Netflix, AirB&B, Tesla and UBER) and other key players in this ever-changing electronic and computerised world. In this critical context of digital transformation, there are two types of companies: those at the origin of this industrial revolution and those surfing the wave. Thales belongs to the former. Alongside other groups, Thales is a pioneer and a pillar of this connected world in which it has been operating for over half a century. It maintains its lead by constantly adapting to new business models and new technologies, to continuously offer its customers value-creation solutions whatever their business.

In 2017, Thales has over 10,000 software developers (or equivalent) and a total workforce of 63,000 people. From ocean depths and sonars, to geostationary orbits and their super high-speed telecommunication satellites, the company has a far-reaching presence, carrying out missions and providing services whose vital importance is not always known to the general public.

The challenge of connectivity

In a context of heightened security needs, Thales handles the connectivity of many armies, police forces and fire fighting teams, connecting hundreds of thousands of people around the world, sometimes as part of military operations. A challenge in itself, which is compounded by the fact that such teams frequently work in hostile conditions that require robust equipment and inviolable communications. In addition to the satellite links provided by Thales, this also applies to CONTACT, a software-defined radio with waveforms that provide maximum communication security, enabling all forces operating in a digital theatre of operations to share the same knowledge of a situation in real time, despite being several hundred kilometres apart.

This need for constant, secure connectivity goes far beyond the military sphere. For example, airlines today are now obliged to offer passengers a permanent Wi-Fi connection and a smartphone network during flights. Once again, Thales has here also designed a range of solutions.

As the Group’s technological foundation has two components, it can find potential uses in the defence industry as well as the civilian world.

Sensors for observing and analysing all environments

The sensors developed by Thales are fully in line with this approach. They enable a fighter pilot to see over hundreds of kilometres using the RBE2 radar with active antenna e.g. a key feature of the Rafale. They also allow a satellite to deliver an accurate picture of damage caused by natural disasters while sonars can give ships advance warning of any potential dangers they may encounter on their route.

An integral part of our everyday lives, but without us even realising it, they offer us the chance to interact with our environment via digital sensors on our smartphones, which are kept completely secure in terms of our confidential information.

One priority: security

Security has always been at the heart of Thales's business, regardless of the field of application - civilian or military. The Group also protects 'on-the-move' communications by encryption, as well as 'data at rest' stored in the cloud e.g. using technology developed by its subsidiary Vormetric. It secures communications, banking transactions*, and companies' critical infrastructures as well metropolitan areas through the Smart Cities concept. It is through communication systems connected to a variety of sensors that Mexico City - long considered one of the world's most dangerous megacities - has become a safer place thanks to the "Ciudad Segura" initiative.

Staying at the cutting edge

Thales encourages the in-house development of particularly innovative start-ups and provides them with optimal conditions so they can focus exclusively on their research and technology (R&T) work. As well as creating its own start-ups, the company also acquires market newcomers with the potential to contribute to a technological breakthrough. The result: Thales continues to remain at the forefront of innovation. The InnovDays, which present some of the technological breakthroughs achieved by the Group, are proof of this success.

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Philippe Migault
Centre Européen d’Analyses Stratégiques

*Thales secures 80% of all electronic financial transactions in the world from computers in banking institutions to electronic payment terminals for credit cards.

Thales's worlds, according to Marko Erman