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Here, we showcase excerpts from the Global IoT Report, prepared in collaboration with IDA Ireland. The complete report features 35 companies which are disrupting, innovating and changing the IoT landscape world over, while also delving into deeper nuances of the investment landscape, and the opportunities and challenges the sector presents in the years ahead.
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Are you listening to your machines?
Augury Systems envisions taking predictive maintenance from large, niche market players to lower end markets by offering it as a SaaS-based solution. The company has developed two solutions, Auguscope Portable Diagnostics, and Halo Continuous Diagnostics, to diagnose machines based on the sounds they make.
When Gal Shaul, the co-founder of Augury Systems, was working with a medical devices startup, Endymed, he was made to travel from Israel to New Delhi, to troubleshoot the status of a server which wasn’t working. When he walked into the facility, he realized that the problem lay in the fan being dusty. “That’s when he approached me and said, how a software possibly not be aware of its own hardware?” recalls Saar Yoskovitz. And, that led to the founding journey of their current venture, Augury.
Creating A Mass Market Penetration
Founded in 2011, Augury works in the predictive maintenance space, diagnosing machines based on the sounds they make. “The idea was to get the machine to be self-aware,” adds Saar. While predictive maintenance has been around since the 1990s and even before, Saar suggests that the market per se hasn’t evolved much. For one, the hardware solutions, which typically cost US $15,000 to US $20,000, are large, cumbersome and stuck in the higher end of the market, used by Jet engines, Rolls Royce and the like. Furthermore, these hardware can only generate raw data, which require the intervention of a skilled analyst to interpret and diagnose them. However, IoT penetration and technology advancements have paved the way for a turning point in the sector, which have left room for the hardware to be available at lower costs, and for a wider market. “Today, any technician or a 16-year old with an iPhone can do predictive maintenance and diagnose the health of machines,” quips Saar.
This is the change Augury plans to ride on. With a goal to make the hardware available to wider market segments, the company has designed Saas-based solutions (instead of bulky devices) that can be easily deployed across industries. The company currently offers two solutions; Auguscope Portable Diagnostics, and Halo Continuous Diagnostics. The former is a hand-held device which can be connected to the iPhone and mounted on the machine to record vibrations and ultrasonic sensors. Once the data is captured, it is sent in real-time to Augury’s secure cloud, which, in turn, shares the complete report and best practices on maintenance recommendations. The latter is a device (with wireless sensors) that is permanently affixed on the machine. It continuously captures the vibration, temperature and data on the machine. Typically, when it detects an anomaly, its AI algorithms send back the readings (through WiFi or cellular connectivity) to Augury’s secure cloud and the concerned person (the technician), and the company also shares diagnostics reports and best practices based on the readings. “We give away the hardware for free and operate on a pay-as-you-go model. This is critical for making predictive maintenance penetrate to the lower end of the markets,” explains Saar. What also makes Augury unique is it applies machine learning, thus removing the expert (involved in analyzing reports generated by the machine) out of the equation.
The Road Ahead
With its solutions being sector agnostic, today, Augury works with clients across the Facilities, Service and OEM industries, with some of its key clients including Carrier, PSG Dover, Grundfos and the like. “In fact, we’ve also begun directly selling to Fortune 500 companies,” adds Saar.
Talking about the company’s goal in three to five years, Saar mentions that Augury is pushing hard for companies to move from the capex to the opex model, wherein instead of purchasing cumbersome hardware, they can install the software and operate on a pay-as-you-go model. “We want a similar approach to be taken with machines too. For example, on the insurance front, there needs to be a usage-based insurance model wherein a premium is adopted on the fly, based on the state of the machine and how it is used,” he notes.
In an industry which has adopted a traditional approach for well over 100 years now, Augury sees itself in the eye of the storm, as a major change is set to take place in the global predictive maintenance space. “We also believe we are in a unique position to make this change, lead the market transition,” observes Saar.
The Big Buck
Since founding, Augury has raised three rounds of funding (up to Series B), totaling US $26 million. Some of its investors include Eclipse Ventures, Sound Ventures, HSB Ventures, Hartford Steam Boiler, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, First Round Capital, and more.
Category: Predictive Maintenance
Founders: Gal Shaul, Saar Yoskovitz
Investors: Eclipse Ventures, Sound Ventures, HSB Ventures, Hartford Steam Boiler, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, First Round Capital, and more.
Headquarters: New York
Making Cell Phone Towers in Space A Reality
Kepler Communications envisions building a satellite-to-satellite communications network in space in the next 20 years. In the road to this goal, it has adopted a handful of near-term and medium-term strategies such as building infrastructure for IoT applications and broadband backhaul apps.
Each of the four founders of Kepler Communications; Jeffrey Osborne, Mark Micheal, Mina Mitry and Wen Cheng Chong, has more than just passion, in common, for building technology for space communications. The University of Toronto graduates have worked together on several projects before deciding to found their own company. Naturally, that also turned out to be one of the primary reasons behind turning entrepreneurs. “We had a phenomenal founding team and we enjoyed working together. We realized that as a team we could literally solve any problem we wanted to,” admits Osborne, Kepler’s co-founder and VP of Strategy and Business Development.
But, what does Kepler really do? And, what makes them unique? In simple words, Kepler is building cellphone towers in space for satellite-to-satellite communications; meaning, enabling connectivity infrastructure (Internet for space) for in-space communications, say connecting rockets and space stations, and enabling them to relay information back to Earth. “We realized that this satellite platform that we are leveraging is really enabling the democratization of access to space, allowing small companies and even individuals the opportunity to build things that can go to space and solve problems. This low cost nanosatellite platform that we’re using was very much an anchor for starting this company,” explains Osborne.
Since founding in 2015, the company has taken significant strides towards fulfilling this vision. For starters, the company has informed the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) of the United States of its intent to deploy nanosatellites of 140 Ku band in low-Earth orbit, and ordered two demo satellites from Clyde Space, which provides cubesats and small satellite spacecraft. Further, it has also raised a seed round of US $5 million in August 2016 from New York-based IA Ventures, Liquid 2 Ventures, Globalive Capital and BDC, to name a few. “Looking back, the investment was a healthy round. Our investors have been incredibly supportive,” adds Osborne.
Small Steps to a Greater Vision
While the initial thought behind founding the company was to establish in-space communications, the team soon realized that it wouldn’t be so wise to aim straight for that vision without building incremental steps on the way. “We had four objectives; to build business opportunities, build technology, the capabilities and the reputation to allow us to fulfill that vision in a sustainable manner. That’s when we started looking at near-term and medium-term opportunities like building infrastructure for IoT applications and broadband backhaul apps,” he notes.
The foray into IoT in particular happened when the team realized that there is a disparity that existed between telecom operators and that posed a major problem. Meaning, if a company built an IoT product, there are several LTE frequency bands that the product’s communication hardware can operate on, and those frequency bands may not be available in all countries the company intends to be present in. “This disparity led us to turn towards satellite platforms to provide a one-stop shop for global communication,” states Osborne.
The Operational Know-How
Particularly in the IoT applications space, Osborne explains that the backend operations is quite simple; the company is building ground stations globally, with the first station being in Canada. Once users uplink their data into Kepler’s satellites, it downloads the data to one of its ground stations and transmits the data through an IP address to a cloud database or end user. For now, the early adopters (companies) from the marine, fishing and scientific industries will test the technology, before it being adopted at a large scale.
Let’s take an example. With the deployment of devices that gather information from the ground, the data transmitted by Kepler will enable logistics companies and its end users (the consumers) to track the exact position of a parcel, damage of the package en route, or even environmental conditions for temperature-sensitive medical devices. Such information relay could help companies reduce delivery times and improve fuel efficiency for a start.
Of course, developing a relatively nascent technology comes with its own share of challenges. For instance, when the company decided to foray into IoT, the team realized that there are already over a billion connected devices today, and one of the main challenges that comes with building a wireless solution that connects so many devices is the availability of spectrum. “Companies need to ensure that the available bandwidth for their service is such that it can scale to that amount,” adds Osborne. When it comes to satellite communications itself, one can operate across a wide range of frequencies, but the lower the frequency, the lesser the bandwidth available. “When we realized this, we said let’s build a technology that’s future proof, one that can connect many devices,” he notes. This led Kepler to focus its technology on very high frequencies; on a Ku band that is 10 to 14 Ghz. But,
operating in these frequencies also comes with a string of technical challenges; such as expensive components, technology uncertainty, and strict limitations on factoral capabilities for these types of frequencies.
The team is attempting to overcome this challenge by developing technology in iterate cycles. “On the hardware front, we operate in two to three months spreads because hardware takes a little longer. But this strategy enables us to test quicker, debug quicker and helps us verify the relevance of our technology,” says Osborne.
As a company that’s building for the future, the co-founder notes that they have a 20-year vision, rather than a closer, 5 year vision for its growth. He vows that their vision is even today, to build an Internet in space, to allow satellite-to-satellite communications. But, to fulfill that vision, it’s taking smaller, sustainable steps in the IoT space for a start. The company plans to launch the first two nanosatellites in January 2018 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India.
Category: Satellite Communications
Founders: Jeffrey Osborne, Mark Micheal, Mina Mitry and Wen Cheng Chong
Investors: New York-based IA Ventures, Liquid 2 Ventures, Globalive Capital and BDC, to name a few
Headquarters: Toronto, Canada