The Future of Driving is Here

Jeoff Shiekh and Intelligent Mechatronic Systems’ connected-car technology is revolutionizing driving

The car of the future—one that makes its drivers smarter and keeps them safer—is here. Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS), a leader in connected-car technology that was founded in 1999 by Dr. Otman Basir, is paving that road. Today, the privately held, Waterloo, Ontario-based company operates in Canada, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region. Recently, its chief corporate officer, Jeoff Shiekh, sat down with Advantage to discuss the company’s vision, his role there, and the legal potholes for the journey ahead.

So what was your path to IMS like?
My parents came to Canada from Tanzania in 1975. They arrived in winter with five kids, no jobs, and no winter clothes. They thought Canada would offer their children a better education and better opportunities. In Tanzania, they were quite well off, but my father’s first job here was at a car wash. My parents showed me the importance of hard work, sacrifice, and education. I adopted their mentality, and it’s paid huge dividends in my career.

I graduated from York University with a double major and double minor. Then I got my law degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. In 2000, I joined Rand Worldwide as in-house counsel. After a few years, I was promoted to vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary. In 2008, I was being recruited to join another company when I was invited to lunch with the CEO of IMS. By the end of lunch, I was completely sold on IMS.

DEVELOPMENT TIMELINE

2001
Shiekh starts at Rand Worldwide
as in-house counsel

2003
Is promoted to general counsel

2005
Is promoted to VP, general counsel, and corporate secretary

2006
The Rand Worldwide board and shareholders approve a Plan of Arrangement to take Rand Worldwide private and delist off the Toronto Stock Exchange

2007
Shiekh leads the initiative started in 2006, taking the company private

2008
Starts at IMS as vice president and general counsel

2010
Is appointed to VP, general counsel, and corporate secretary of the board of directors; the role was expanded to include investor relations and human resources

2012
Is promoted to chief corporate officer of IMS

What can you tell us about IMS’s innovative connected-car technology?What are your responsibilities as chief corporate officer?
I manage the legal and human-resources departments. My legal responsibilities include commercial transactions, investor relations, corporate finance, litigation, and privacy issues. I also work closely with our vice president of innovation, managing our patent portfolio. My HR duties include corporate culture, recruitment, training and development, employee benefits, and immigration issues when we hire someone from overseas. I work with senior leadership and the executive team as well as the board of directors, and I am the liaison with shareholders.

A leader in connected-car technology through the platform DriveSync, IMS has taken a unique approach focused on enabling drivers to be safer, smarter, and greener. Our approach to converging telematics, infotainment, and data intelligence enables a comprehensive suite of relevant connected-car services today. Advanced human-machine interface technologies (HMI) allow drivers to access music, e-mail, and other content through voice commands. For example, I can ask for the temperature in London if I’ll be travelling. Or I can request music from Lenny Kravitz and it will compile a list of his songs for me. I don’t have to touch anything.

Our M2M [machine-to-machine] technology measures driving characteristics of vehicles and drivers using a comprehensive range of options including mobile, embedded, and a very frequently selected device option plugged into the vehicle’s OBD-II port, which is available in any vehicle manufactured after 1995. This technology is revolutionizing the way the insurance industry determines auto insurance rates through a new concept called usage-based insurance (UBI). Drivers can opt into these voluntary UBI programs offered by many popular insurance companies for a substantial auto-insurance discount. These UBI programs are focused on measuring driver behaviour information, such as distance travelled, braking, and acceleration, and then correlating that data into an insurance score, resulting in driver discounts based on personal driving performance.

What about other applications for IMS technology?
We’re working with the Oregon Department of Transportation on a road-tolling program, which was formally introduced on July 1, 2015, called “OReGO.” This program is the first of its kind in North America, and it’s seen as a fair and sustainable way to fund road maintenance, preservation, and improvements for all Oregonians. OReGO volunteers will pay a road-usage charge for the amount of miles they drive, instead of the fuel tax. The OReGO road-usage charge is set at 1.5 cents per mile, and volunteers will get a credit on their bill to offset the fuel tax they pay at the pump.

Is it difficult to protect the intellectual property of a company on the cutting edge of technology?
Everyone here is extremely protective of our intellectual property; trade secrets are held very closely. That’s the culture here—intellectual property is always top of mind. We have an intellectual-property committee, and we’re constantly looking for unique ideas that will give us a strategic advantage.

What’s the difference between legal counsel for IMS versus a more traditional company?
In the traditional legal role, you’re faced with more predictable issues. Here, we’re dealing with a disruptive technology that regulators haven’t contemplated before; the laws haven’t caught up yet.

Where do you see IMS in five years?
I think we will be an enormous global player and a significantly larger company. IMS is going to be introducing technology in the marketplace that will become commonplace in the market.

Working with visionaries like our CEO, Dr. Otman Basir, who often see things ahead of everyone else, makes the job challenging yet very exciting. We are paving the road for a new future in the way we use automobiles. The technology that we will introduce to the market will revolutionize many industries. The best is yet to come.