A company that almost didn’t happen now has R&D engineers on three continents. Paul Skelton reports.
As recently as two years ago, the word ‘Blustream’ would have been known to few, if any, members of the custom installation industry.
Today, anyone who installs HDBaseT extenders, scalers, splitters or matrix switchers is familiar with the brand and has at least considered using it in a project.
Blustream products are designed for seamless integration in the automated home or workspace.
Using RS-232 and internet protocol, commands can be integrated in all leading control systems, and third-party drivers are easily downloaded from the website.
Founded in Australia by Martyn Shirley, who most recently was CI business manager at QualiFi, the brand is reportedly experiencing rapid uptake by integrators in Australia and New Zealand.
That’s why it is intriguing to think that Blustream almost didn’t happen.
“Call it an accident, or fate, or whatever other word you’d like to use,” Martyn says.
“Three or four years ago, QualiFi merged with Audio Products Group – specifically the residential division of APG. As part of the merger, one of the brands that was supposed to come over was WyreStorm.
“At that time I was the CI business manager and was really excited to get my hands on the WyreStorm range. It’s a great brand, the products are well engineered, and I know the general manager from my days working in the UK.”
At the last minute it was decided that WyreStorm would stay with APG’s commercial brands.
“I was upset and started to look for equivalent brands such as Key Digital, Atlona and Just Add Power, but they all had local distributors that they were happy with.
“So I started talking to the HDBaseT Alliance about who they identified as being the better manufacturers in the market and who they would recommend as good potential partner.
“It turns out there are really only five manufacturers of HDBaseT products, and I met with them all. We found a good, young, dynamic partner based in Shenzhen, and we’ve been working closely together ever since.”
Blustream started shipping in 2014, with about 20 products. The catalogue now has more than 50 devices.
“In the early days, we hadn’t really grasped the scale of what we had created,” Martyn says.
“It took us a little while to realise what we had built. Now, not only have we added new products but also whole categories that we never imagined we would carry.”
In addition to Australian and New Zealand distribution, Blustream exports to 25 countries.
“Success in this industry isn’t really rocket science; it’s all about three things,” Martyn says.
“The first is to offer features the market needs, the second is the price point and the third is reliability. If you can achieve that triangle you can’t go wrong.
“A lot of companies are run by engineers who are so focused on features that they forget about price. Most features are desirable, but you need to look at real-world applications. It’s all about finding a balance.
“We thoroughly researched the competition and were able to market the feature sets that installers need. Unlike our competitors, we are not burdened with legacy products.
“Other companies are still trying to sell component and VGA, but that market is almost dead.
“Instead, we focus on technologies such as Power over Ethernet (PoE). Some of our competitors are still selling non-PoE product, but who wants to be messing around with power behind a TV?
“We have also spent a lot of time talking to technology chipset manufacturers. Whether it’s HDBaseT, HDMI or JPEG 2000, every product on the market has the same chipset, but a close relationship with suppliers means you can get an understanding of where the technology is heading.”
Blustream offers various product categories, including HDMI extenders, scalers and splitters, switchers and distribution amplifiers, presentation switchers and video wall products, audio accessories, and cables.
“The commercial category is also growing for us,” Martyn says.
“We’ve launched three new products in this market in the past six months.
“It’s practically a given that a TV or Blu-ray player manufacturer will bring out a product that confuses everyone. Blustream will be successful because of our ability to fix these problems.
“For example, changes to the HDMI Standard left a lot of people complaining about lip-sync problems. “We released a simple product that brought audio back over a Cat cable, using our Cat extender, and the market really responded to it.
“We are able to see an issue in the market. Then we call our engineer and three days later we receive a bill of materials and a design to evaluate. Four weeks later it’s in the warehouse.”
Martyn says Blustream wouldn’t be so successful without the help of QualiFi and the other distributors Radio Parts, National Antenna Services in Queensland, Security Distributors Australia and Sound Group in New Zealand (which is achieving higher sales per capita than Australia).
“I’m now at the point where my biggest concern is that we will sell more product than we can make.”