IOT company specializing in Smart Buildings to aggressively accelerate sales, marketing, and execution of product roadmap
Toronto, ON – SensorSuite® Inc., an Internet of Things (IoT) company that develops and sells innovative wireless monitoring and energy saving solutions for commercial and residential buildings, has closed a strategic venture investment from GreenSoil. This investment will provide capital as well as opportunities to leverage Greensoil’s broad real estate network to expand and accelerate the deployment of SensorSuite systems.
The Greensoil Building Innovation Fund (Greensoil) is a growth equity fund investing in companies that provide products, services and technologies which make real estate and infrastructure more productive, efficient and sustainable.
“As asset managers face rising energy prices and challenges associated with older buildings, the need for systems that are smart enough to save money without human intervention and reduce operational risks have become an important part of their strategy,” said SensorSuite CEO, Robert Platek. “SensorSuite empowers property owners with scalable digital building solutions to address their sustainability needs now and in the future.”
The financing builds on an exceptional year for SensorSuite which saw a rapidly growing roster of clients, key executive appointments, and market momentum in the growing areas of energy management and IOT technologies for buildings. SensorSuite was also named one of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies on the 2017 Startup 50 in Canadian Business magazine.
“After following SensorSuite’s progress in the market for some time, our team is pleased to launch this formal partnership that will help our investors and affiliates improve the management of their assets using SensorSuite’s best-in-class wireless technology,” said Jamie James, Managing Partner of the fund. “The smart building technology market is evolving quickly, and we are confident that SensorSuite has the expertise, solutions – and now the capital – to deliver cost effective solutions to asset managers, particularly in the high-rise residential market in the near term.”
SensorSuite is also pleased to announce Jamie James will be joining the board of directors. Jamie brings a wealth of experience in the smart building industry to SensorSuite.
SensorSuite®, an innovator in smart building technology, has created the first affordable enterprise-level smart building solution.
SensorSuite develops real-time building intelligence cloud platforms for reducing operational risks and improving the efficiency of buildings. The company creates solutions using leading-edge sensors, cloud analytics, building controls, and software interfaces to reduce energy costs, increase occupant comfort, and allow owners and occupants to extract more value out of their respective space(s).
Greensoil Building Innovation Fund (GBIF) invests in early and growth stage real estate technology companies that provide products, services and technologies which make real estate and infrastructure more productive, efficient and sustainable. GBIF’s partners are real estate owners, managers, developers and other strategic and impact investors. The fund has made seven investments to date in highly relevant real estate technology verticals, including: lighting and controls, workflow optimization and data management, energy storage, visualization and mapping.
Energy efficiency financing along with rebates, incentives and grants are just some of the finance options.
A building assessment is the first step in the process, gathering building information that results in the creation and development of potential financing options the project could be eligible for.
A proprietary assessment will validate how much financing a project would qualify for based on the property’s valuation and the amount of owner equity, as well as the financial performance of the company.
The second step is to define how energy is being used by the building. Defining the sources of wasted energy, the types of heating /cooling and lighting systems, and how the building is operated. Water usage is another utility to consider during this audit process. Reviewing 2 to 3 years of utility data to look for patterns or changes in building utility usage provides great insights.
The third step is to determine the available technologies to eliminate waste, and finally provide specific recommendations that would make the energy intensive operation less energy dependent and less responsive to rising utility costs.
Creating a cash flow/budget neutral project strategy is key where the utility dollar savings are diverted from the existing utility budget (assume 25% reduction) to pay down a loan for a predetermined period of time considered the payback term. Return on investment may vary from 2 to 5 years depending on the size of project, technologies applied and the utility savings opportunity.
When developing these types of projects, the top of mind question for a CFO to ask is “how can these energy and water efficiency upgrades be funded to meet our company’s available capital and financial performance objectives?”
Taking a cash flow/budget neutral approach as described above is redirecting available capital in an efficient yet effective way to reduce utility waste along with upgrading your building systems with new technologies to continue to rein in rising utility costs.
Today, wireless remote monitoring and control systems are doing far more than simulating the architecture of the wired systems of old.
Transmitting data without a wire is not new the marketplace. With the emergence of smartphones and other wireless data transmitting technologies, the world as we know it is due for a big upgrade.
Offering substantial operating and cost advantages over wired systems, wireless systems are becoming more prevalent in a variety of applications.
SensorSuite® (www.sensorsuite.com) is an Internet of Things (IoT) company involved in the capture, processing, and delivery of real-time building information to stakeholders in the multi-residential, commercial, and industrial markets.
As an organization, SensorSuite solutions support a wireless architectural with sensors that draw wired power from a local source.
In the early days, it wasn’t easy for SensorSuite to be wireless in a wired world- but as people and businesses continue to cut cords, the promises of our new IoT world become more real and
As with any change to the status quo, there is generally a level of uneasiness as it relates to technology.
Should you wait?
Should you defer this decision to your successor?
What if it fails?
Let’s face it. Doing nothing is not a viable option.
Your business cannot close the door on new opportunities to cut costs and improve on productivity. Unless you operate in a high-volume market with few players, watching your competitors adapt and exploit its advantages over you will simply leave your business in the dust.
As the existing market workforce passes the torch to a next generation of Managers that are far more technically literate than their predecessors, the time for change is now.
Wired infrastructure is old technology. Wireless is the new way of doing things- and the market is ready for it now.
1) No Wiring Required
Obviously, a system supported by a wired infrastructure may require thousands of meter of cable to connect to different endpoints. The cost of large quantities of wire can be expensive. The cost to install and maintain these wires can be even greater.
Powered by battery, solar, or local power, wireless systems have no conduit requirements, eliminating the need for hardwiring instrumentation. The decision on how to power wireless sensors should be heavily reliant on how many sensor nodes have been deployed.
If the number of deployed nodes is high and they have access to local power, I would recommend tapping into these power sources.
Who would want to change hundreds of batteries over time- especially if these nodes are not conveniently accessible.
2) Lower Retrofit and Installation Costs
Wireless system can cost a few hundred dollars per measured point, depending on vendor and application specs. If repaired or reconfigured, a wired system can require new cables, involving trenching, hardware and more labour. A wireless system is scalable and may not require the addition new hardware. After its initial set-up, wireless systems can easily add new wireless components to meet changing and expanded requirements of your business.
Last, a wireless system can be configured off-site, reducing on-site labour by as much as 75%.
3) Operate in Different Terrains
In some cases, wires can’t run on property not owned by the company (ie: roads, streams or other structures).
One of the best and most cost-effective ways to spread a digital coverage footprint over an area is with a 900 MHz wireless mesh network.
Wireless mesh networks have a topology whereby all devices can communicate with all other devices in the network- either directly (if in range), or indirectly via one or more intermediate “nodes”.
Mesh networks have no central hub and offer multiple ways of transmitting data from one device to another.
Compared to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, this makes for an inherently more reliable network design.
SensorSuite had tried utilizing wireless mesh networks supported at a higher frequency- but concluded that at 900 MHz, the reliability, reach, and in-building coverage of its network makes for the best fit for its solutions.
Reliable Connectivity and Signal Strength: The primary advantage of 900 MHz range is the reliability of connection and signal penetration- especially for in-building applications.
Further Reach: 900 MHz frequency fixed radio link can be almost 2.67 times farther in distance than a typical 2.4 GHz connection.
Better Penetration: A longer wavelength of 900 MHz transmission allows the connection to easily penetrate amongst dense materials such as tree-lines or buildings between sites. This property helps in linking multiple sites where dense vegetation or structures would otherwise cause hindrance.
4) No Loss of Data
Should a wired system fail due to cut wires, corrosion, dirt or another adverse condition, stakeholders are not notified of the problem, resulting in sub-par operations or failures until the system is back online. Programmed with a event-based, a wireless system provides an alert when data is not in transmission. Most problems can be avoided through preventative maintenance linked to wireless diagnostics.
5) Sensor Integration
Once a wireless mesh network is implemented over a given campus or geography, other equipment and lighting can also be remotely monitored- and in some cases, remotely controlled.
An open wireless system allows users to integrate an array of sensors to monitor and/or control assets.
As a result, a variety of sensors can be added or removed as needed to measure parameters such as pressure, run-time, power, temperature, and flow. Users can choose the best sensor for each application and bring all that data from these different sensors to a single point with a single data interface- and present this content on one graphic user interface.
SensorSuite is excited about what’s possible in our new connected world and accepts the responsibility of educating the masses and leading the case for change in the markets that we serve.
Many will continue to debate over wired vs. wireless architectures- but as this debate continues, more and more wireless installations are happening.
The SensorSuite Team
The success is of SensorSuite is due in no small part to the strength of our team. As an organization, SensorSuite is recognized as an innovator.
Our team has over 40 years of industry experience coupled with a team that has an array of complementary skills and knowledge.
By design, with solutions that are easy to use and understand, our team’s focus is on supporting a product suite that addresses the present and future needs of our clients.
By putting trust in us, we accept the responsibility of assisting organizations with sound advice and feedback- so that more informed decisions on how to move forward can be made.
From the earliest pyramids to the tallest skyscrapers of today, the world’s buildings are symbols of progress for our civilization.
In this spirit, humanity continues to evolve when it is tested.
With growing demand for resources like electricity- coupled with the side-effects of climate change, “listening” to our buildings has never been more important.
Today, our buildings have been challenged with finding economical ways to look after the people inside them while acting as a responsible steward to the world outside its doors.
In the case of multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs), the stats are alarming.
· 24% of Ontario’s multi-unit residential building (MURB) stock is electrically-heated.
· Our initial market study has found evidence that electricity consumption for heating MURBs that are electrically heated is huge. 13% of annual electricity consumption for all multi-unit residential properties in Ontario is just for electric space heating.
· 1921 GWh/year is the total electricity consumed for space heating in the MURB sector.
· Electric resistance baseboards are the most common heating equipment found in electrically heated MURBs.
· On average, 42% of electricity use in electrically heated MURBs is for space heating; and as much as 65%.
Are you still there?
Are you listening?
SensorSuite (www.sensorsuite.com) is in a unique position to unlock the promise of the internet of things by making it possible to communicate with keys building components all at once.
Connecting traditionally unconnected equipment and machines- monitoring, analyzing and controlling processes without much human intervention, will lead to:
· The improved management of buildings.
· Happier occupants.
· Improved profitability.
· Increased building valuation.
Our solutions make it easy to retrofit existing building equipment and assets- giving them a voice.
Imagine the possibilities if your building could tell you:
– That your boiler is leaking water.
– That your air conditioning unit has stopped working.
– That your electric baseboard heaters are all online being monitored and temperature controlled with your smartphone, tablet or PC?
Find out more about how your building could benefit from our unique internet of things initiatives by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Losing power for even a few hours can mean thousands of dollars in lost revenue and productivity.
Power and the increases in its demand, has led to significant growth in the backup generator market.
Think about the mission critical components of your business: security systems go down, refrigerated
goods spoil, customers are turned away, computer systems go down, and production lines stop.
If your company is like many others, you have purchased or rented a backup generator to mitigate this risk.
Despite this investment, do you believe that your emergency generator will run when you need it the most?
By design, backup generators are very much anonymous heavy metal boxes- sitting isolated on a roof or nearby loading dock.
They are meant to be neither seen nor heard.
It is for this very reason that these machines are so easily neglected and/or maintained.
Today, many organizations are unable to generally hold anyone accountable for backup generator mishaps or failures because:
1) There is typically a high turnover of Maintenance Contractors in the market.
2) It can be difficult to pinpoint the source of a backup generator problem until it’s too late.
In recent years, the Internet of Things has driven a game-changing technical revolution that has started to disrupt traditional industries in more ways than previously imagined.
With sensor technology, Cloud and Big Data analytics, empowered backup generators are “smarter”- offering businesses an array of information and more importantly, notifications when this machine is operating outside of its specs.
Therefore, regardless of staff turnover or changes to maintenance contractor relationships, organizations can have a pulse on this critical piece of their business.
MachineLink by SensorSuite is a solution that connects to most backup generators.
When MachineLink is installed to interface with the backup generator, you can view its key sensory data 24/7/365.
In addition, SensorSuite's cloud-based dashboard allows users to see when their generator is operating and how much power output is realized.
Notifications of events, faults and status are all communicated instantly via SMS or email.
With a dedicated LTE Wireless Connection to an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), users can view real-time information from the generator using their smartphone, tablet or PC- even if there isn’t access to primary or secondary power sources.
Once installed, the backbone of this solution can also support the monitoring of other building equipment- capturing this data on the same unified platform.
By empowering legacy products with a dose of today’s technologies, SensorSuite solutions are easy to use and understand.
Our products not only address the present needs of our clients; they are also future friendly- for the road that we have yet to travel.
The cost of electricity is increasing at an alarming rate with no end in sight.
For many multi-residential facilities and social housing complexes, mitigating the risk of this threat is a top priority.
Certainly, building stakeholders have begun to take steps towards making their portfolios more “green”.
As hydro prices increase and Ontario’s socio-political culture shifts towards an urgency to address climate change, SensorSuite will continue to be a valuable resource as a leading retrofitter in this space.
24% of Ontario’s multi-unit residential building (MURB) stock is electrically-heated.
Our initial market study has found evidence that electricity consumption for heating MURBs that are electrically heated is huge. 13% of annual electricity consumption for all multi-unit residential properties in Ontario is just for electric space heating.
1921 GWh/year is the total electricity consumed for space heating in the MURB sector.
Electric resistance baseboards are the most common heating equipment found in electrically heated MURBs.
On average, 42% of hydro use in electrically heated MURBs is for space heating; and as much as 65%.
Nationally, the main reason that it is important to transform our existing building stock to these smart buildings standards is quite simple:
We want to operate buildings in the most cost-effective manner.
We want them to save on energy, be responsible with resources- making sure that its occupants are safe, happy, and comfortable.
Today, buildings have been challenged with finding economical ways to look after the people inside them while acting as a responsible steward to the world outside its doors. SuiteHeat empowers electrically heated buildings to help them better manage heating costs.
Connecting traditionally unconnected equipment and machines- monitoring, analyzing and controlling business processes without much human intervention, will lead to the improved management of assets and translate into happier occupants and improved profitability.
In Ontario’s social housing space, staggering shortages of affordable housing exposes thousands of people and families across the Province. Huge affordable housing waiting lists are direct evidence of the market’s inability to address this issue. Furthermore, increases in utility spending are making it more difficult to maintain the affordability and expansion of its programs.
Through the utilization of SuiteHeat, buildings that support social housing can take matters into their own hands by curbing the high costs of electric heat by re-purposing these saved funds to advance their agenda in the communities that they serve.
Previously, building control systems have not been viable in some locations because of cost or the inability to run wires for communication.
SuiteHeat creates new possibilities through:
Low-impact installations without running wires throughout the building for communication: keeping heritage buildings intact and dramatically saving costs on the initial installation.
A cost-effective electric heat monitoring and control system that has a four-year or less payback.
The Save on Energy conservation incentive programs offered through Ontario’s local hydro company and powered by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).
How Does SuiteHeat Work?
SuiteHeat offers unprecedented control over how buildings manage electric heat use. The solution is wireless- utilizing real-time data from electric baseboard heaters and Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) units.
In the case of PTAC-based systems, SuiteHeat will wirelessly monitor and control electric cooling as well.
The solution interfaces into the suites’ circuit panels that support the existing electrical heating equipment. By utilizing in-suite sensors and controls devices, SuiteHeat communicates data over a wireless network through a local on-site SensorSuite Matrix™ Gateway to a secured cloud-based dashboard.
The SuiteHeat dashboard is easily expandable to support, visualize, and control one to hundreds of buildings and suites with a smartphone, tablet, or PC.
By viewing a building portfolio as a single system of interconnected parts as oppose to separate, independently heated units, big reductions in overall hydro consumption can be achieved. SuiteHeat allows stakeholders to adopt system-wide heating strategies- where individual suites work together in support of a portfolio master plan.
SensorSuite’s Mesh Network
Rather than relying on WiFi, SensorSuite relies on a proprietary 900 megahertz mesh network to achieve its wireless capabilities. Mesh networks offer far greater range, particularly when delving into basements and other concrete-encased spaces that may impact connectivity.
This sophisticated wireless mesh forms a network of nodes where each node can pass information on to the next node. Devices can communicate over long distances and disruptions to the network are self-healing – capable of re-configuring itself when issues arise.
By utilizing a mesh network, SuiteHeat is a stable, reliable, and easily reconfigurable system that meets any smart building’s connectivity needs.
The SuiteHeat Cloud Dashboard
The SuiteHeat Cloud Dashboard is essentially a single-screen view of the solution’s critical sensory data monitored in real-time. This information is presented in an easy-to-read format that makes it possible to understand large amounts of complex information at a glance.
This tool presents an opportunity to track, contextualize, and leverage data in a way that can dramatically enhance the operational efficiency of electric heating systems in buildings.
Both flexible and powerful, the SuiteHeat Cloud Dashboard makes it easy to identify inefficiencies and optimize processes- allowing decision-makers to drill down into the data to gain a more detailed understanding of their heating landscape.
More than just a simple digital readout—this dashboard is designed to provide a visually appealing interface with an extraordinary level of accessibility and transparency. This real-time window into complex operations engages viewers to more closely examine data and act upon the insights revealed.
As a result, information is transformed into meaning.
SuiteHeat’s sensory data is gathered in high volumes over time and is represented on the dashboard in a meaningful way.
Here are brief highlights of key functions offered by the dashboard:
Capture real-time and historical comparisons of hydro consumption for heating purposes.
Limit maximum temperature in winter and reduce cooling during summer (PTACs only) from your connected smartphone, tablet, or PC.
Present data in a meaningful to all stakeholders.
Have summary views of all facilities under monitoring and control, providing real-time consumption comparisons; in an effort to promote more efficient behaviour between facilities.
Access to historical portfolio charts, tables, and metrics.
SuiteHeat offer substantial value to its target markets (especially when tenants/guests do not pay extra for electric heat over-and-above the cost of rent).
Markets that can benefit:
Non-Profit Multi-Unit Residential Buildings (MURBs) that have electric baseboard heaters or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) units. In many instances, rent is geared to a tenant’s income or subsidized fully- offering no incentive for tenants to act more responsibly with their utility consumption.
For-Profit Multi-Unit Residential Buildings (MURBs) that have electric baseboard heaters or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) units. In many instances, heating is included in a given tenant’s rent- offering no incentive for tenants to act more responsibly with their utility consumption.
Retirement Homes that have electric baseboard heaters or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) units.
Hotels/Motels that have electric baseboard heaters or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) units. Heating and cooling are included amenities- offering no incentive for guests to act more responsibly with their utility consumption. Furthermore, rooms that are unoccupied can be setback to curb unnecessary heating and cooling.
Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan (Source: Ministry of Municipal Affairs Newsroom Release- May 25, 2016)
Ontario is leading the fight against climate change by investing up to $900 million over four years from cap and trade proceeds to support people who rent by retrofitting social housing apartments and providing grants and rebates for residential multi-tenant buildings.
As part of the Climate Change Action Plan, the province will invest up to $500 million to retrofit social housing apartments with energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. In addition to reducing emissions, this would improve comfort for residents and save money for social housing providers to make other capital improvements. Indigenous social housing would also be eligible for retrofits under this program.
Ontario will also help improve energy efficiency in private residential apartment buildings by investing up to $400 million in an incentive program that will offer rebates or grants toward the purchase and installation of energy efficient technologies.
The SensorSuite Team
The success is of SensorSuite is due in no small part to the strength of our team. As an organization, SensorSuite is recognized as an innovator in our industry. Our organization has over 40 years of industry experience coupled with a team that has an array of complementary skills and knowledge.
By design, with solutions that are easy to use and understand, our team’s focus is on supporting a product suite that addresses the present and future needs of our clients. By putting your trust in us, we accept the responsibility of assisting your organization with sound advice and feedback so that you can make more informed decisions on how to move forward.
At SensorSuite, we’re excited about what’s possible in our new connected world and we accept the responsibility of educating the masses and leading the case for change in the markets that we serve.
SensorSuite® Launches Cutting-Edge Energy Pilot Project Supported Through Grant Received From IESO’s Conservation Fund
TORONTO, ON–(PRWEB – May 19, 2016) – SensorSuite®, a leading innovator in cloud-based wireless control systems for electrically heated and cooled buildings, is pleased to announce it is launching a $1.2 Million project to develop next generation demand response algorithms, wireless hardware control, and Smart Grid technology.
SensorSuite powered Multi-Unit Residential Buildings (MURBs) and Commercial facilities save money by being able to wirelessly control, monitor, and track suite temperatures in real-time through the utilization of its cloud-based dashboard.
“The IESO is pleased to welcome SensorSuite to the list of more than 200+ projects that have received innovation funding from the IESO to advance conservation and demand management in Ontario,” says Terry Young, the IESO’s Vice-President of Conservation and Corporate Relations. “SensorSuite’s project will help enable property managers to better manage their electricity costs while maintaining tenant comfort and reducing demand placed on the grid.”
This $1.2 Million dollar Internet of Things (IoT) project will be deployed in partnership with a consortium of large asset managers across Ontario.
The reality is that electricity is much more expensive in the hours when grid consumption is at its highest. The key to the efficiency-enhancing power of IoT lies in peak usage optimization.
SensorSuite technology manages energy distribution in real-time based on immediate data rather than historic patterns of power usage. Together with smart building metrics, stakeholders could significantly reduce a building’s energy costs and improve their sustainability credentials.
“As asset managers face rising energy prices and challenges associated with older buildings, the need for systems that are smart enough to save money without human intervention and reduce operational risks have become an important part of their strategy,” said SensorSuite CEO, Robert Platek. “SensorSuite empowers property owners with a scalable digital building assistant to address their sustainability needs now and in the future.”
SensorSuite’s SuiteHeat™ solution takes control of electrically heated and cooled buildings and shifts the power back into the hands of Property or Asset Managers. SuiteHeat reduces energy waste and overheating/cooling by controlling temperature; capturing consumption and costs within every suite in a respective building or portfolio.
In addition, market adoption of SuiteHeat can significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on a local, national, and global scale. Buildings are responsible for more than 40% of global energy use and one third of GHG emissions, both in developed and developing countries.
– 20-30% measurable energy savings in buildings.
– Better control of building GHG emissions.
– Increases in property valuation.
– Supports “in-suite” maintenance reporting.
– Promotes a mindset of preserving and improving quality of life with less energy consumption.
SensorSuite (www.sensorsuite.com) develops real-time building intelligence cloud platforms for reducing operational risks and improving the efficiency of buildings. The company creates solutions using leading-edge sensors, cloud analytics, building controls, and software interfaces to reduce energy costs, increase occupant comfort, and allow owners and occupants to extract more value out of their respective space(s).
Low Cost, Intelligent Grocery Store Fridge and Freezer Monitoring using Wireless Sensors
SensorSuite™ Inc., an Internet of Things company that monitors commercial and industrial buildings has opened a new door in their business. Namely, a refrigerator door.
The newest addition to SensorSuite’s™ line of wireless monitoring devices is called FridgeLink™ and it monitors grocery store fridges and freezers wirelessly and remotely, saving energy costs and reducing risk of inventory loss for owners. In grocery store monitoring, where shrinkage from refrigeration mishaps account for a large part of losses, FridgeLink™ helps alleviates this pain.
The monitoring platform can be viewed on desktop and mobile devices and allows owners to visualize the whole store in one place. The system tracks real-time updates like temperature, status of doors, run-time of fridges, open times and even predicts problems before they become apparent.
Earlier this month, the company worked on a pilot project with a NoFrills location in Whitby, Ontario which proved to be a crucial step in preventative maintenance. By monitoring the defrost cycle and it’s effectiveness over time, the platform was able to predict a critical potential problem in the refrigeration system for the grocery store, saving the owner over $7,000 in costs. The owner said the ROI was “very quick”.
But beyond tracking changes in temperature, the FridgeLink™ sensors can also provide insight on power consumption, helping stores strive for better energy efficiency. Quality of food is kept optimal with temperature automated conformance and the system can be upgraded to detect operational issues like water leaks, notifying owners via smartphone of any problems that require immediate attention.
This update to include refrigeration monitoring in SensorSuite’s line of products hasn’t come without a lot of preparation. Having worked with companies like No Frills, Hyatt, TELUS, Westin Prince, Maverik in monitoring of buildings, Robert Platek, CEO of SensorSuite™ explains that connected accessible devices are a part of the future.
“The Internet of Things is a term we often use, but essentially what it means is connecting things or devices to the Internet to ultimately make our lives easier. With FridgeLink™, this also means reducing waste and energy consumption. I see this being the trend of the future. More and more devices will be connected to the Internet and we’ll be monitoring them all from our smartphones – something FridgeLink™ is already providing grocery store managers.”
Maintaining an optimal temperature in your food storage fridges and freezers allows you to keep your food fresh and compliant. If the temperature falls above or below the optimal range costly spoilage or potential for food poisoning can occur. SensorSuite can help you maintain the proper temperature in your grocery store fridges and freezers.
When a category five tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., on May 20, 2013, John O’Rourke’s small crew of six workers found themselves in trouble.
Mr. O’Rourke runs Calgary-based Sigit Automation, a small company that does IT work on oil and gas wells. Communicating through regular channels was nearly impossible after local cell and phone networks were knocked out by the devastating twister that killed 24 people and injured another 350. Luckily, his two half-ton trucks were equipped with fleet tracking equipment from GEOTrac Systems Inc. GEOTrac’s gear enables remote workers to send and receive text messages on a dashboard-mounted navigation device, through a satellite-powered GPS network, meaning no cell signal is required. After a few frantic hours, Mr. O’Rourke’s workers managed to get to safety.
It’s a dramatic example of what the array of signals technology sometimes called the Internet of Things can do for businesses. Simply defined, IoT is about connecting objects, from trucks to refrigerators and hydro meters, to the Internet. Data gleaned from the sensors and systems applied to these objects can then be used to monitor, control or redesign business processes.
The projections are huge: Networking equipment titan Cisco Systems Inc. believes IoT represents a $19-trillion (U.S.) global market and predicts that 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020.
Most often Canadians hear about IoT in the context of wearable devices: things like the FitBit that promise to improve health and wellness, or more fully featured devices like Apple Watch and Google Glass that also extend such smartphone functions as messaging or Web searching. But while consumer technology is a hot area, IoT will likely have a greater impact in the less sexy parts of the economy: manufacturing, resources and energy, utilities and civic services.
Research from IDC Canada projects spending on IoT in Canada will reach as high as $6.5-billion (Canadian) by 2018, up from $2.8-billion in 2013. Tellingly, this year marked the research firm’s first attempt to forecast a Canadian market for IoT, and it acknowledges a lack of historic comparison could skew the predictions.
“Canada is actually lagging in IoT growth, behind both the U.S. and Asia-Pacific,” says Nigel Wallis, an IDC Canada Internet of Things analyst. “Everyone wants to be a fast follower, not a leader.”
Mr. Wallis says Canada is among the world leaders in tele-health, which connects remote communities with medical experts at big-city hospitals like Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children or Mount Sinai. GEOTrac and other fleet services have captured about a third of the oil and gas market in Canada. But there are more examples where we lag behind: When it comes to factory automation, Germany, Japan and some parts of the United States are in the lead, and Western Europe is further advanced with intelligent monitoring of emergency response workers.
A recent IDC survey highlighted one of the key issues with IoT: acceptance. Mr. Wallis says about 15 per cent of Canadian executives surveyed understand the case for IoT, and another 20 per cent think it has the potential to transform their entire enterprise. However, 42 per cent remain on the fence, largely because they have no way to calculate return on investment; the solutions are too new or at least new to their industry.
While those executives stay on the sidelines, the world’s technology firms are sprinting to own the market. Global giants Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel are in competition with Canadian players like BlackBerry Inc., which unveiled its IoT solution market in January. The Waterloo, Ont.-based company pitches its security reputation as part of its platform for connected vehicles, as well as shipping and asset tracking. At the same time, a constellation of smaller startups are racing to develop niche solutions for manufacturers, restaurateurs, building managers, utilities, oil drillers and smart homes.
Mr. Wallis describes four feverishly expanding segments: makers and installers of physical sensors; connection providers (land line, wireless, telecoms, etc.); storage and security hardware and software (server farms, the cloud) to hold on to and encrypt all the collected data; and finally the data analysis software. Some companies do all that in one solution; others focus on one piece of the spectrum.
“There are Canadian companies in a whole bunch of those different plays,” he says. Knowing how many of them there are at any given moment is tracking a moving target: “Globally, every three weeks there’s either an acquisition or a new company started up.”
‘A massive shift’
Depending on your preference, you could call these systems IoT or Machine to Machine (M2M) or even The Internet of Everything (Cisco Systems’s twist on the slogan). The concept has been around for decades: In one of the first examples, students at Carnegie Mellon connected a Coca-Cola machine to the Internet back in 1982 (so they could check if their soda would be properly chilled). But even as the concept turned into reality in the past decade, the predicted IoT boom has yet to reshape the economy.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of naysayers, but this is still a massive shift,” says Stephen Gardiner, managing director of Accenture Digital in Canada, which consults on and helps implement IoT systems. “The integration of sensors, devices, connectivity and analytics into a business process … that’s very difficult for many of our clients to accomplish on their own.”
So far, the scale of the transformation required seems to be the most daunting feature of IoT for many Canadian companies.
One of Canada’s only IoT-focussed venture funds thinks the country has one unfair advantage over some of the global players: An advanced resource economy and vast geography offer a unique testing ground for Internet of Things companies.
Toronto’s McRock Capital only recently finished raising its first $65-million but has been tracking about 350 Canadian companies working on IoT solutions. The firm focuses on industrial companies, where co-founder and managing partner Scott MacDonald believes Canadians are primed to excel.
“The next thing to do is to go into the field,” he says. “We understand manufacturing in this country, we have natural resources…. If we’re going to compete on a global stage, go after what we’re good at.”
According to Accenture’s research, companies like mining giant Rio Tinto that invest in IoT are seeing productivity increase by 20 times at major field sites. In some parts of Canada’s oil patch, the investments have already been made.
“We did IoT stuff before it was labelled that way, in oil and gas it was called SCADA [supervisory control and data acquisition],” says Yogi Shulz, a partner with Calgary-based Corvelle Consulting. “The Internet has contributed hugely to squeezing more value out of the SCADA data: 20 years ago it was hard to move that data around, the tools for analyzing were not that good. It was a nightmare. ”
He says Canada’s oil sands are rich soil for IoT applications, estimating that 80 or 90 per cent of Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage drilling (SAGD) wells are connected so engineers can get real-time temperature and pressure readings.
“When you have better data,” Mr. Shulz says, “you can produce more oil.”
IDC predicts that in Canada the number of devices connected to IoT solutions will grow from 28 million “units” in 2013 to 114 million by 2018 (that estimate excludes such consumer wearable devices as smartwatches).
“Digital is the single biggest growth leader that Accenture has,” says Mr. Gardiner. “Roughly three-quarters of large companies are investing 20 per cent [of their research and development spending] on big data and analytics, which IoT is driving.”
But at this early stage of Canadian IoT entrepreneurship, McRock Capital’s Mr. MacDonald says that while a wide variety of companies are in the game, few big players have emerged. “I haven’t seen any that are $20-million [in revenue] yet, but there’s a bunch of them that are sort of $1-million to $8-million in revenue,” he says.
Several revenue-positive Canadian IoT startups are targeting industrial customers, however. Among them is Bit Stew Systems Inc., which just raised $17.2-million in financing from GE Ventures on May 12.
According to Bit Stew CEO Kevin Collins, IoT is “a little easier to explain to industrial customers, because they are suffering the pain right now.” Global oil prices hit a six-year low in March, and difficult times have made companies working in the sector hungry to find efficiencies and eager to experiment with technology that can help their bottom lines, Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Shulz agreed, adding production engineers dealing with the oil shock are willing to try just about anything to improve margins. “Everybody is thinking about this all day, it’s a myopic focus.”
Bit Stew software can analyze a volume of data that would take an army of humans to monitor. Right now the company monitors 50 million connected devices around the world, but its systems were built to process data from one billion IoT sensors.
That allows a big utility customer – such as BC Hydro – to monitor voltage both at the substation and also at the 3,000 smart meters down the line. Noticing a pattern of fluctuations that would indicate the meter is about to fail saves time and money, Mr. Collins says. He estimates his software added $15-million to $20-million a year in savings to BC Hydro’s smart metering program that began in 2011, which is estimated to have saved the utility a total of $80-million a year.
BC Hydro declined to comment on its use of the technology.
One of McRock’s first investments was a $3-million deal in February with Moncton, N.B.-based RtTech Software, which analyzes sensors on manufacturing equipment to pinpoint excess energy use or help predict equipment failure. The company has clients in more than a dozen countries.
“There’s no better validation than the customer wants the product,” Mr. MacDonald says.
One of the ways executives might discover an IoT solution for their business is through a sales rep from one of Canada’s telecom providers.
All of Canada’s telecoms have to look at investing in IoT services as a defensive move, according to Mr. Wallis. “Take something like smart homes – thermostats, front door locks, smart TVs – if [the telcos] are not the one providing the connection layer to those homeowners they might get pushed out over time from something that’s been a source of revenues for them.”
Bell Mobility offers such IoT services as electronic signage, fleet and asset tracking and vehicle telematics (like an airline’s black box data recorder, but for cars), while Rogers Communications Inc. has experimented with mobile couponing for retailers and grew its wireless IoT/M2M connections by 24 per cent in 2014.
In December, 2014, Telus Corp. became the first major Canadian telecom company to open up an IoT marketplace, an app store-like collection that has grown to 62 services from at least 22 providers (some services are subcontracted out). Shawn Sanderson, vice-president of IoT solutions at Telus, is pitching IoT as a better, smarter way to do business and has deployed the company’s army of sales reps to offer IoT solutions to their existing land-line and wireless business clients.
Innovation can be found in even more unlikely places. In most restaurants, health and safety regulations require a manual check of all the temperatures of the ovens, deep fryers, coolers and refrigerators. That means an employee, three times a day, has to walk around the restaurant making paper records.
As a pilot project, Kitchener, Ont.-based BlueRover Inc. installed a system of about 50 IoT sensors to monitor all those devices in a Boston Pizza restaurant in Woodstock, Ont. The sensors record data all day, and can let you know in real time if a freezer is getting too warm. And they offer safety benefits. “You don’t have to stick your arm inside the pizza oven to get a temperature recording,” says CEO Loreto Saccucci. Potentially, the system can save a couple of worker hours a day and reduce human error on logs, benefits that would add up rapidly if Boston Pizza implements the technology across its 350 stores, as BlueRover hopes it will.
Founded in 2007, BlueRover got started because it saw an opportunity in the stringent tracking requirements of then-new Safe Food for Canadians Act, which forced shippers of food to improve inspection and monitoring capacity. One of BlueRover’s clients includes Sysco Corp., the food logistics giant.
But what happened with another client, Brinks, is an example of the technological alchemy that can come with upgrading a traditional business with IoT sensors. Everyone knows Brinks Inc. picks up cash, coins and gold in its armoured vehicles. But after adding BlueRover tech to track its fleet of trucks, it realized the new systems could also detect humidity and temperature inside the rolling safes, allowing the company to move into a new business: shipping highly sensitive goods like museum pieces and art as well as pharmaceuticals. “They had the perfect story,” says Mr. Saccucci. “Their vehicles are safe.”
One big driver in the growth of IoT systems has been falling costs, not just of connectivity, but in sensors and the costs of operating data collecting and analyzing servers.
“Three years ago we looked at the cost of compute power, and [a startup] couldn’t afford to buy that IT infrastructure,” says McRock’s Mr. Macdonald. “Now that you can rent the cloud from AWS [Amazon Web Services] it becomes very cheap to build your company. The cost of sensors are dropping dramatically, and aggregation of data is becoming cheap, with [Microsoft software] Hadoop and other things.”
Accenture research supports that observation. Mr. Gardiner estimates that in the last decade sensor costs have fallen by half while bandwidth costs are 40 times cheaper and cloud computing is 60 times cheaper.
Where IDC sees costs going back up is in the management of the massive pool of data the growing number of sensors will generate. Mr. Wallis’s survey suggests in the next three years it will start causing issues for corporate networks: “Sensor-based solutions typically have very small ‘chunks’ of data, but the issue for network administrators is that IoT, by its nature, tends toward ‘chattiness.’”
Of course, those issues will be just another market opportunity for an innovator with a solution to all the chatter.
When the right solution arrives, IoT can reshape an industry practically overnight. In 2013, Desjardins introduced a car insurance plan called Ajusto that installed an IoT telematic device that tracked a driver’s habits.
It was designed as a way to offer discounts to good drivers, but there were fears in the industry that consumers would balk at the privacy implications of having everything from speed, braking intensity and travel times and distances reported to the insurance company. According to Accenture’s Mr. Gardiner, something like 40 per cent of Desjardins new customers signed up for Ajusto in the first year, and starting in 2014 many of Canada’s auto insurers – including the Co-operators, Allstate and Aviva – rushed to offer similar tracking programs.
The data a company collects can also be used to build a new business. For instance, some 2,000 companies have put GeoTRAC gear in 275,000 trucks, and the company has mapped more than 600,000 kilometres of private lease roads for the oil and gas industry, a crucial data set not found on Google or other public maps. This accumulation has allowed the company to develop “journey management” software to help route planning that accounts for truck height restrictions and areas with chemical transport rules.
And a simple thing, like tracking trucks, can help a company save money. Mr. O’Rourke’s business, Sigit Automation, had to become even more cost-conscious as the price of oil fell rapidly in recent months; while he managed 85 people during the oil boom, now he’s down to just 12 drivers. In the past, workers often treated company vehicles as if they were rentals, making personal stops, going too fast or failing to report accidents. With sensors, monitoring has saved the company money on damages, gas, maintenance, idle times and mileage – all for about $40 a month per vehicle, Mr. O’Rourke says.
“We’d hit a lot of deer,” he explains. “You can take a deer off a fender and it’s $4,000 damage, but your truck’s out of commission for two months while it’s at the body shop.” The solution, he says, was in telling drivers to slow down and give themselves time to avoid a collision. Once drivers might have ignored that advice, but now he can ensure they follow it thanks to GEOTrac’s reporting software.
“Touch wood we haven’t hit a deer probably in three or four years,” he says. “We used to hit about three a year.”
Canada’s sweet spot
One final point that technology companies across Canada often speak to is the availability and quality of local technical and engineering talent, especially compared with the superheated labour market of Silicon Valley.
Bit Stew’s Mr. Collins spent 10 years in Silicon Valley, and 30 years in the industry, working on everything from encryption to network engineering. He started his company in California, but returned to his hometown Vancouver in part because this is where he could find employees that understand manufacturing, utilities and mining and resource industries.
“You’re accessing a talent pool that understand the problem space quite well,” Mr. Collins says. “They are not all mathematicians, but they know power engineering and they can apply the technology.”
Mr. MacDonald’s investment philosophy tells him that given the smaller pool of available private venture capital, Canadian investments will go much further in areas where we have some unique insight.
Not that the returns on investment are necessarily worse: The golden example of McRock’s investment thesis is RuggedCom Inc., which built outdoor network equipment designed to withstand both brutal Canadian winters and blazing hot summers. The venture funding arm of Ontario Power Generation chipped in about $3-million in a funding round while Mr. MacDonald was working there in the mid-2000s. By 2012, it was recording $110-million in annual sales before it was bought by global giant Siemens for $440-million.
If Silicon Valley investors spend billions on IoT tech primarily as a way to sell consumer goods like wearable tech and remote-operated coffee machines, Mr. Collins’ vision for Canada’s IoT sector is more in line with the engineers at Cisco or GE who collect streams of advanced manufacturing data that can save billions in preventative maintenance and equipment replacement costs.
“It’s unsexy,” he says, even though his private company did double-digit millions in revenue last year.
The Industrial Internet of Things doesn’t have quite the same ringing promise of utopian smart cities and better living through biometric data analysis. But turning data into operational advantages in the country’s key industries will give Canada a leg up in the burgeoning connected economy.
OTTAWA, May 5, 2015 – SensorSuite Inc.®, a breakthrough Internet of Things (IoT) company that provides innovative wireless monitoring and energy saving solutions for multi-residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, won the Innovation award at Wavefront IOT Summit.
SensorSuite pitched among 8 Canadian startups and came out on top, winning a $5,000 cash prize from Wavefront and in-kind market research services from Invest Ottawa valued at $5,000.