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Mohammed Smadi BEngM '02, MSCAP '04 & PhD '08

Finding his way

Have you seen Mohammed Smadi lately?

If not, you can track him down at PenguinIN, a California-based company that develops indoor positioning technologies.

As managing director, Smadi is immersed in helping people find their way with PenNav (for indoor navigation) and companies find their things with PenTrack (for indoor tracking).

Since 2016, he’s been building the company, the technologies and a team of 15 to work on machine-learning algorithms that tackle the challenges in indoor wayfinding and tracking solutions.

“I cover all aspects of the business ranging from business development to research, to raising funds, to supporting the marketing team,” he says. “The thing that has helped me most is having good research skills to find how new or unfamiliar tasks can be accomplished most effectively.”

Smadi honed those research skills during 11 years studying his way to a PhD at McMaster. He still works as an adjunct assistant professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.

But he says he has always seen the science as a route to entrepreneurship.

He filed more than 30 patents during seven years working as a researcher and developer with BlackBerry, before moving to PenguinIN.

The company’s technology services airports, hotels, theme parks and shopping centres, as well as healthcare and educational settings.

“This is a really interesting field that draws on a wide range of underlying fields including artificial intelligence, user experience and psychology, marketing, and mobile technology,” says Smadi.

A t-shirt from McMaster’s second programming competition – held more than 20 years ago – is one of the souvenirs he keeps from his student days.

“Solid programming skills never hurt, and their utility never dies even at senior positions,” says Smadi. “You can toy with data to your heart’s content and unearth trends and patterns that can help in many areas of life.”

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