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Virtual celebration for screen-sharing technology company RealVNC as it marks 18th birthday

RealVNC has celebrated its coming of age - with a remote 18th birthday party that rather befitted its screen-sharing technology.

The Cambridge company has been a leader and influencer in the field since it was founded at the height of the 2002 dotcom recession.

RealVNC marks its 18th birthday with a virtual celebration. Picture: RealVNC
RealVNC marks its 18th birthday with a virtual celebration. Picture: RealVNC

The five founders, led by University of Cambridge graduate Dr Andy Harter, were the original inventors of VNC - virtual network computing.

They saw the commercial appetite for enterprise-class remote access software and were intent on growing the business organically without external investment.

The strategy has clearly suited the company and its culture, allowing it to follow long-term plans that have led to a highly successful and innovative business that can boast a truly global reach.

“Our mission from the outset was to develop technology and applications that allowed any kind of screen to be shared with any other,” Dr Harter tells the Cambridge Independent.

“We knew in 2002 that the world would only ever have more and more screens, and that there would always be a need to connect them together, wherever and whatever they were. We did that in a universal and open manner which anticipated ubiquitous networks and mobile devices and, in many ways, set the scene for the future of work. ”

Dr Andy Harter. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Andy Harter. Picture: Keith Heppell

The company’s story - from its founders working at home, via the first few employees joining them in a small office in Sturton Street, and then to its current offices on Hills Road - has come full circle amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to everyone in the company again working from home.

This time, however, video conferencing and screen sharing are so well established that it is easier than ever, and RealVNC is playing a key role in the technical toolset that so much day-to-day activity now relies upon.

RealVNC offers VNC Connect - screen sharing software that lets you connect to a computer anywhere in the world, watch its screen in real-time and take control as if you were sitting in front of it. Its VNC Developer toolkit provides solutions for integrating secure, real-time remote access, while VNC ViewerPlus is a collaboration with Intel, providing secure remote connections to Intel AMT devices.

Billions of copies of its software have been installed, and with more than 90,000 customers, the number of users runs into many millions.

The technology is licensed to Google, embedded in Intel’s chipset and a version of VNC software is in Apple Remote Desktop. It is the world’s most widely ported application, on more different kinds of computer and electronic device than any other.

Its technology is also used within NHS trusts and GP practices to provide remote access to vital equipment and data. And it is embedded in medical imaging devices such as MRI scanners, allowing technicians to perform critical remote maintenance.

The company has also pioneered new commercial strategies. It was the first technology company to use donation and rewards-based crowdfunding, years before the word even existed.

RealVNC technology is used by millions around the world (35777030)
RealVNC technology is used by millions around the world (35777030)

And it was at the forefront of the freemium model, where widely distributed free versions can be simply upgraded to premium, commercially licensed versions.

This has helped the company earn multiple accolades, including three Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. In 2013 Dr Harter was given the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award, the UK’s most prestigious engineering prize, and in 2016 he earned the Faraday Medal, the foremost award of the IET, before being made a CBE in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to engineering.

And the company is promising further innovation this year.

Adam Greenwood-Byrne, who has worked his way up to CEO after 11 years at the company in various roles, tells the Cambridge Independent: “We have some really exciting developments in the pipeline, and a strong, execution-focussed team to deliver on them within 2020.

“There are as many opportunities for innovation and commercialisation as there ever have been, and a real buzz in the air from our fantastic staff.”

RealVNC can scarcely have imagined the world in which it marked its 18th birthday, but made the most of it nonetheless.

“We chose to mark the occasion by arranging for a hamper of goodies to be delivered to everyone, and then celebrating together online,” says Adam. “Here’s to the next 18 years!”

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