I recently sat down with Jim Ackerly, CEO and founder of SensorHub to get a little more information about the company:
CS: Jim, what exactly is SensorHub?
JA: The IoT is a huge industry that is nonetheless suffering from a connectivity problem. SensorHub was formed to solve that problem by offering a universal gateway that can connect many types of devices to the network and gather the attendant data for analysis and action. SensorHub has developed a prototype device that will act as such a gateway by integrating various technologies and protocols so that data can be aggregated, and therefore allow management to make decisions more efficiently. We are seeking a minimum of $200,000 to make some adjustments to our prototype device, reduce it to a single chip the size of a postage stamp, and conduct the necessary research that will properly identify the most suitable target markets to generate substantial revenue in the short-term.
CS: What specifically is that connectivity problem you are attempting to solve?
JA: There are currently about 50 billion of these sensor devices all over the world, but the problem is that 85 percent of these devices remain improperly connected because a large majority of them incorporate proprietary software operating systems (OS) and different protocols. Furthermore, there is an abundance of wireless communications standards like WiFi, Z-wave, ZigBee and Bluetooth that do not interoperate with each other. The result is a system that is isolated, difficult to manage, and ineffective. Unfortunately, it is literally stunting the IoT’s effectiveness and growth.
The solution is an integrated system that can interface with all of the existing sensors and their respective platforms, and send the appropriate data from them back to a central management system. To accomplish that, these systems need a single universal gateway that can be easily configured and assemble that sensor data for analysis. SensorHub has built a prototype of such a device using commercially available hardware and our own software. The SensorHub Universal Gateway aggregates the analytics for the IoT to provide real-time intelligence to make the important decisions. The SensorHub Universal Gateway prototype incorporates a PC, an analog-to-digital converter, network interface, I/O for analog and digital sensors, video output, Linux OS, onboard 2 analytics, web server, flexible configuration, reporting software, and PoE power. The prototype is indeed a universal gateway with widespread applicability, device connectivity, protocol translation, data filtering and processing, and all the while it is able to operate as a platform for application code that processes data and becomes an intelligent part of any device-enabled system. This is the “smart” solution the IoT is craving for.
CS: Sounds like you’ve done your homework. So, what are your plans going forward?
JA: Our initial steps will be to take the device, which is about the size of a 6” cube, and shrink it to a single chip the size of a postage stamp, and then you will have the SensorHub Universal Gateway Chip. This single chip will be able to accommodate 16 different sensors running on 16 different protocols (OS). It will also result in reducing the manufacturing cost from several hundred dollars per unit to under $10, and make installations real easy.
CS: There must be a lot of competition from some pretty big players out there? How do you expect to compete with them? Why will customers want the SensorHub chip?
JA: That’s an excellent question Cristian, and I’m glad you asked. First of all, there are “smart” IoT gateways that are being developed by IBM, Intel (Wind River), Dell, NEXCOM, and quite a few others; and like ourselves they are also full-fledged computing platforms running modern operating systems such as Linux or Windows. However, these companies’ systems are typically providing proprietary solutions specific to their respective challenges. In other words, since every sensor manufacturer offers a specific system for managing their own sensors, only in rare cases can that data be sent automatically to a central processing and analytical hub, such as IBM’s Watson, for in-depth analysis. But that is exactly what we plan to offer. And, while their gateways are often quite complex to configure and require software development efforts to implement, ours is a more generic one-size-fits-all simple solution. Secondly, what we also plan on doing is some in-depth market analysis so we can get more information on who the players are and who the customers are, along with what exact features the customers want. We understand we will need to posture ourselves so we can fit in among the much larger companies and thrive by supplying the market with what it desires, rather than what the larger players assuming what their customers need. That way we can hit the ground running on all cylinders.
CS: Jim, that sounds very exciting and I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for joining me.
Jim Ackerly is a physicist with an MBA from Harvard. After business school he was responsible for the creation of the “C- suite” system for the AAdvantage frequent flyer program. Soon thereafter he started his first technology company, Micro Conversions, which was the first third party developer of performance products for Apple Computer’s new Macintosh. He is also currently the CEO of Defentect Group, Inc., which offers radiation detection products, management, monitoring and messaging software, and a suite of smartphone applications which provide personal security notification and tracking services. Mr. Ackerly has served on the board of Directors of ATL Communications, SARL, Solid Contact Baseball, Inc., Spectrum DNA, CTI Technologies, Inc., Atari, Inc., and cfactorWorks, Inc. He is supported by an experienced software development team that assisted in developing the prototype, and a small sales staff with a proven track record of success in technology sales.
Contact SensorHub for more information.