Mister Beacon Episode #30

IoT - Beacons with Low Power - WAN - Sensoro

February 21, 2017

Sensoro have broken new ground by combining IoT Low Power - Wide Area Network radios with Bluetooth beacon sensors. A single Sensoro Alpha base station can monitor and manage beacons over a radius of 2 miles in a city environment. With deployments to monitor city infrastructure, air quality, agricultural soil and utility meters, this is an important milestone in the evolution of the Beacosystem. We caught up with their VP of Sales and Product Development at the Industry of Things Conference in San Diego - Recorded Feb 21 2017


  • Stephen Beinertson 00:04

    So this is our alpha base station. Okay. And this is what enables a long range low power communication. Sensoro is a IoT solution provider, and what that means is that we have everything from sensors to Gateway. So we started three years ago as a beacon, an enterprise level solution provider for beacons. Yeah. And so we're in the retail space, we deployed over 350,000 beacons. 350,000 beacons? 75 countries. Some of our customers are huge, Microsoft, Google. Although a spectrum, unlike Bluetooth, which bounces off everything, because it's very high frequency, this stuff actually goes through solid objects, buildings, you actually have a decent amount of penetration, to put it in reason. That's right. So it's using longer wavelengths, longer radio wavelengths, and that that allows the signal to get rebuilt around the city of aging, in conjunction with that whole application Neven environments.

    Narration 01:12

    You're listening to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem with Steve Statler.

    Steve Statler 01:21

    Hey, welcome to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem. We are in San Diego, at the Industry of Things Conference, and we're gonna be talking about what they're doing here. And I am going to be flipping this over so we can talk to Steven, why not? Steven, thanks very much for talking with us. Absolutely. It's a pleasure. So what's your role?

    Stephen Beinertson 01:50

    So I'm Head of Sales and Product Development in our global office in Seattle, Washington. All right. Okay. But you guys have a lot of people in China I generally think I mean, you've raised money for Microsoft. Actually, we started three years ago as part of the Microsoft accelerator in Beijing. Now we've, we've grown from there. So we have actually two other offices in in China. Last engine, check. Hi. And we've transitioned over to the Microsoft accelerator in Seattle, Washington. So we're operating out of their building. Very cool. Well, how many people in the company? 85 and growing.

    Steve Statler 02:25

    All right, that is pretty substantial, and ecosystem terms. So we got a lot to talk about, in a very short period of time, you're doing some very cool, unusual stuff. I spoke to your CEO a year ago, and we were writing The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem, he told me that you're gonna have this wide, long range radio that you're going to use for peaking management, I didn't believe them. But as I got it, here, you're actually doing it. So what are we looking at here? Tell us what this thing is.

    Stephen Beinertson 02:52

    So this is our alpha base station. Okay. And this is what enables a long range low power communication. So since our is a IoT solution provider, and what that means is that we have everything from sensors to Gateway.

    Steve Statler 03:08

    All right, so this is this is a gateway, essentially. And you've got sensors here, which can talk to the Gateway over quite long distance. wait. What sort of distance are we talking?

    Stephen Beinertson 03:18

    So line of sight? Six miles, so about 100 110 square mile coverage? So these babies have got Bluetooth, Bluetooth speaker? And what is the name of this radio technology that you're using? So all these technologies are part of what we call the the Office Suite. So is that our alpha, the base station is the alpha base station. We have the Alpha node for A, which is one of the production devices, okay. And it's measured temperature, humidity and light, right. And as you mentioned before, it also incorporates a Bluetooth beacon. Okay, so it's not only getting data from your physical environment, you can use it as a remotely managed with beacons.

    Steve Statler 03:56

    And can this manage other Bluetooth beacons because you've got Bluetooth beacons that are not Alpha enabled, like these guys, presumably, these are a bunch of these and these are in jewelry shops all around China and Facebook as smart stadiums and that sort of thing.

    Stephen Beinertson 04:16

    So, these, these are standalone beings. Okay, so All right. So we started three years ago as if that became an enterprise level solution provider for beacons. Yep. And so we're in the retail space, we played over 350,000 beacons, 350,000 beacons of customers in 75 countries. Some of our customers are huge, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, or some of our current beacon customers. So I'm guessing the most of that number is in China. Is that correct? The 350,000. What sort of proportion would you say roughly? Yeah. There's a significant portion in China. Yeah. Because of our deployment in the jewelry store chapter. Yeah. But it's spread all over. All right. Welcome. back to some of these examples and what you're doing. So we were talking about the components of the offering. And then this is, this is these other components. This is, so this, this is part of the IoT platform. And this is where you can view all your sensor data, you can see the entire health of the network and manage all your devices from here. Okay, and what this also allows you to do so since Oro writes the IoT solution, getting the data from your physical environment, to your cloud, and we stay out of the data management and storage analytics side, we make it very easy to plug into whatever analytics platform you want to. Okay, so you're not trying to provide a kind of an orchestration layer or analytics, you're basically enabling people to deploy beacons manage beacons. And previously, they'd have to run around with a phone to configure the beacons. And some people have opted to use Wi Fi is the gateway that you're using this technology, and it's what's the technical name for the technology that you're using? It's called LPWAN. So it's low power wide area network. Okay. And that, that gives you significantly more range. Okay, and a Wi Fi base station. So this is, so we've got like 2.4 gigahertz, which is like Bluetooth. And then you've got this what what kind of what frequency is this running at roughly. It operates in what's known as the IFM. Band. It's an unlicensed band. So in Europe. We don't need to buy, we don't need to go to AT and T or singular to buy a plan. It's free. That's right, like light Wi Fi, light Bluetooth, but it's just a different frequency band. Absolutely. And that in the frequency band that is used. In our application, it's very good for signal penetration, especially through concrete if you're in parking garages. It's a it's a low power system. Yeah. So you have the ability to deploy these, these devices that are battery powered, right and have them last for very long time. So what is this? So this is actually a prototype of some of our air quality sensors. Is relevant in a lot of places, especially China. Absolutely. Absolutely. So air quality, indoor air quality, outdoor air quality isn't what we're getting into. And that extends to smart cities, and smart building applications as well. Let's go somewhere a little bit quieter, make make the most of the fact that we're at the Hard Rock Cafe, and we'll see a few of the other people. We've got Accenture and Hewlett Packard, a lot of people gathered around to talk about industrial IoT. Really great events, as everyone here is very focused on the same types of solutions. It's been very serious. So is anyone using this technology yet? Or is it too early? People? Are we actually have use cases deployed already. For IoT. Can you describe the specifically with names or generally in terms of who's using it? Yeah, absolutely. One of one of our first use cases was in the city of Beijing. Okay. Maybe Smart City application, the government we're measuring are actually monitoring manhole covers. So this is kind of maybe surprise to some of the American audience. Yeah. But when it rains very heavily in Beijing during the rainy season, streets can flood. And one of the solutions some regular citizens come up with is to pull up the manholes and to try to drain the street. So very unusual, right? So do you have these attached to manhole covers? Or is it a is it a different device? It's a different implementation, okay. But it's it is based on this device, okay. And what it does is when a manual covers open, and that can cause a lot of problems, people falling in traffic accidents, not good. What he does is send a letter to the city management, send us this, this whole Pepper's open, go out and fix it or replace it. So it's purely the manhole covers. That's it? That's right. That is one particular application. Okay. Did they want to start as a proof of concept? Yeah, will continue to evolve into things like smart street lamp neutral, people, pet tracking, and a variety of things, including air quality monitoring. So this is truly smart city infrastructure, and it's the local government that are paying for it. That's cool. And was that the project that drove this development? Because it's pretty, I mean, I don't know of any other beacon company that is doing what you're doing with with this technology. So we've we actually, we are still providing the beacon solutions, but we consider ourselves an IoT solution factor, right. So yeah, we're moving down in compass that, right? We brought that beacon, a beacon legacy with us. It did provide more functionality with our IoT devices.

    Steve Statler 09:39

    Okay. So here's the question, how much does it cost because that is an impressive piece of kit that you've got over there. It comes in its own briefcase. It's this is it's got like a 3g radio in it. It's got a Bluetooth radio, it's got this lower frequency radio with a free I mean, so I'm going to come back to you on the price but basically, it's just finish off the spectrum thing by running at a lower spectrum. Unlike Bluetooth, which bounces off everything, because it's very high frequency, this stuff actually goes through solid objects buildings, you actually have a decent amount of penetration to within reason.

    Stephen Beinertson 10:15

    That's right. So it's using longer wavelengths, longer radio wavelengths. Yeah. And that that allows the signal to get refills around beds much easier.

    Steve Statler 10:25

    All right, very cool. How much does it cost?

    Stephen Beinertson 10:27

    That's always a loaded question. Just bringing that up. So you remember the base station that you saw that you showed us an industrial, industrial application.

    Steve Statler 10:37

    I mean, physio regular beacons, either they're less than $50, a lot less than $50. And so let's just talk about these. Because that was really one of my questions was looking at taking a very simple single radio solution and you know, loading some extra hardware, it's kind of his, obviously going to be more expensive. And it's worth it because you can manage it. But we talking about twice the price for the beacon or twice, because you got two radios. Yeah. And you've got in terms of battery, or they're kind of trade offs in terms of the the battery life.

    Stephen Beinertson 11:12

    So you, the user has the ability to adjust how often the sensor is transmitting. So how often it reports data. And that doesn't take battery life as much, but you could get anywhere from six months to two years before that.

    Steve Statler 11:25

    Okay, go for double A's unless we.

    Stephen Beinertson 11:27

    Make them replaceable for that reason. Okay, and we have them battery powered, because it eliminates the need to set up a wired infrastructure, which can be extremely expensive.

    Steve Statler 11:35

    Right. And so you don't so whilst these, that impressive bit of kit in there is going to be a little more expensive than conventional banking infrastructure. With a six mile radius. You don't need many.

    Stephen Beinertson 11:49

    That's absolutely right. Yeah. So yeah, so the base station is right around 3500. Okay, but they're at 67. Or lightning proof. Yeah. Mounting, indoors and outdoors.

    Steve Statler 11:58

    I mean, the temperature range is pretty amazing. I was looking at the spec, and you can boil that thing in the in a hot Chinese summer, and it's still going to work, and it's gonna work in. So it's really industrial. Yeah, that's very cool.

    Stephen Beinertson 12:11

    And wonderful. In fact, one of our applications in Smart Agriculture. Yeah. So we're gonna use cases in soil monitoring. Which modified version of the sensor you're holding here? Yeah. And record soil metrics back to the base station that can be sitting outside and on a hot summer day.

    Steve Statler 12:27

    So what's the soil metric? Like moisture.

    Stephen Beinertson 12:31

    And pH nutrient levels. All right. Very cool. And we have partners that tell us to have sensors.

    Steve Statler 12:38

    And there's a cloud component, do we pay for the cloud component?

    Stephen Beinertson 12:43

    Yes, there's a subscription page for that. And that varies depending. Very ballpark for that it. Needs about 1000 a year for that. 1000 $1,000 that back? Does that cover? 1000 sensors, 100 sensors, or? They're covered covers? Quite a few, quite a few. Okay.

    Steve Statler 13:05

    Well, it seems to me, this seems reasonably priced. This is not outrageous.

    Stephen Beinertson 13:10

    We've done a lot of research showing competitors. And we're very, very well positioned. So we're very competitive.

    Steve Statler 13:17

    Yeah. So Who who are you competing with? This is not something that you are you competing with contact? I owe an estimate or or do you see the competitors being different?

    Stephen Beinertson 13:30

    You know, there is some, yes, there is some competition. In there. Are there fewer companies in the IoT space that we compete with, but there are a few. But they're not too many. It's a great time to be 90. And we have an established product is being deployed now. And we're continuing to learn, go to conferences like this, learn more about what companies need, yeah. And what they need to monitor and become more efficient. Yeah. And that's, that's really guiding our development as well. Let's talk a bit more. I want to talk about use cases. And then just a little bit on standards, because let's start off with use cases for the Alpha product. So we had manhole covers, we have agriculture, any other examples of where this is being used today, or where you think it may be used. Absolutely. We actually have a another Smart City application in Manchester. So like, some I'm steering group. That's right. All right. That's right. Okay, so there's a organization called Seaver. What they're doing is monitoring the air quality in the mass transit stations. And their goal is to improve conditions for the users of this transit stations.

    Steve Statler 14:43

    Those air quality sensors what kind of ballpark are they because I know that you know, we've got San Diego is beautiful city, that barrier logo, which is kind of the low lower income area a lot of motorways and there's real issues with being able to measure air quality and those kids getting asthma I'm getting sick, and it's too expensive for them to do a great job of monitoring that sounds like this might be a solution for that kind of thing.

    Stephen Beinertson 15:07

    Absolutely. So as you mentioned before, our infrastructure is pretty good. So the base station has a wide area coverage. You don't need too many of them. Yeah.

    Steve Statler 15:16

    I mean, it seems like one base station cover most of downtown San Diego.

    Stephen Beinertson 15:21

    Yeah, that's right. It does. You do have issues with buildings. So in the very dense area, if you're putting the space station down low, you may be more, right. But even we've done testing in the city of Beijing, in conjunction with the manual application. And even in an environment like that, you have to mountain range.

    Steve Statler 15:37


    Stephen Beinertson 15:40

    You're still quite effective at that level. And so this network, it's low frequency, low power, so conserves battery. And, but it's low speed, you're not, this is your Wi Fi, we're talking about how fast are we transmitting this data? It's it's slower than 56 slower than 56k. modem.

    Steve Statler 16:00

    But it's not as if it's a dial up connection, basically.

    Stephen Beinertson 16:04

    Yes. And it's not. It's a different application. So you're not streaming video. What you want to do metrics on the environment, right, and your sensors, the data that they're pushing out, isn't very much current. So it's perfect application. And although you do have that trade off, you can stream video, you also have the advantage that you're not using a whole lot of power. So these sensors can see out in the field unattended for a much longer time. Okay, so we have to be wired.

    Steve Statler 16:31

    So air quality, what about like utilities, gas meters and seems to the water meters? That seems to be the perennial industrial IoT thing?

    Stephen Beinertson 16:39

    Absolutely. That is actually a use case that we are working on. We haven't we have a chipset, which incorporates that help you and technology, the long range low power technology and or BLE, and that is for everybody, sensor manufacturers, living through a gas meter or any type of meter utility meter manufacturer, so you can use that on the floor or the night Obi Wan, like. So how long as this infrastructure been out there? I heard about it about a year ago, you'll see described that I'm like, nah, this can't be true. And it's clearly shipping now. But how long? Has it been out there? And roughly, can you give me some sense of order of magnitude what the adoption has been like so far? So, chipset was released, the chipset that we use for LTE when it's released over a year and a half ago. So it's been six months, and prototypes. And we now we're in production with a face station, a year and a half after producing the products, right, and so you're asking about adoption. So adoption is, is ramping up. We're gonna see more use cases in Europe and Asia. And we're really, we're here to kind of educate the public about the advantages of using systems, specifically public. I mean, it's in other businesses.

    Steve Statler 18:03

    And you're certified. I know it's your FCC certified. So it's not an issue with using this in the States in. In Europe, you're okay.

    Stephen Beinertson 18:12

    In Europe, we are in where our FCC certification actually is pending. Right now.

    Steve Statler 18:17

    Okay. When what sort of timescales? So can you do pilots now? Or do you have to wait for that?

    Stephen Beinertson 18:23

    Now we can do that. And we are, we're executing use cases.

    Steve Statler 18:27

    That's pretty exciting. So let's just wrap up. Before we wrap up, I've got two things. And actually, one thing, I don't think you've seen the podcast before, but one of the hardest questions is we asked people, what are the three tracks of music they would take to Mars with them? If they're going to have to go there? You don't? Don't answer that. Now. We're going to leave it in the artist question. So, but let's just talk about the beacon business and then we'll wrap up. So over 300,000 beacons deprives phenomenal what are the use cases that are driving that you've got that tell us the story of the jewelry use case, which is kind of one of the most famous ones that you guys take.

    Stephen Beinertson 19:07

    It's a hugely retailer. And what we did was developed a sensor for vegans specifically for them that I should have had one to show you now.

    Steve Statler 19:19

    Hold this, I put mine along. Excellent. You guys.

    Stephen Beinertson 19:22

    We wanted to execute very high end design so that we didn't you don't have to hide the meat. It's beautiful. You can have it out there with jewelry. It's called the NZ.

    Steve Statler 19:32

    It is just amazing. It's one of the most beautiful beacons and it's kind of got a light sensor and light accelerometer temperature. Okay, so we've got how many jewelry stores we're talking about.

    Stephen Beinertson 19:46

    We're done a sec. I want to say 600 to 710,000 stores.

    Steve Statler 19:55

    Well jewelry stores that got these beacons in how to be If we use them.

    Stephen Beinertson 20:00

    So it's for proximity marketing, so you can place it into a variety of different jewelry manufacturers and 70s. You can place them in there in the showcase, all right. And when a user walks up for a client walks up, we can interact with it by a mobile app. So in that mobile app, that beacon could push, targeted, targeted, advertising to them, coupons, promotions, things like that.

    Steve Statler 20:26

    And what is that app that people use in Africa?

    Stephen Beinertson 20:29

    In this case, he was integrated with WeChat, which is a huge social networking app, mostly deployed in China believes it here. And there's over 600 million users.

    Steve Statler 20:41

    That is amazing. So people talk about beacons have an issue with oh, I need an app. But if you can work with WeChat, presumably, you need to be a big retailer for WeChat to be interested in talking to you, or is anyone else using beacons with WeChat? That, you know.

    Stephen Beinertson 20:55

    Nott that I know of? But I know WeChat has many partnerships. It's kind of a Swiss Army knife of apps. Yeah. And so what's your what's your take on the health of the beacon ecosystem? Those one of the analytics companies that focus on retail sale beacons are dead. And clearly, you've kind of made this big investment in in sort of use cases that aren't your typical retail use cases with with the Alpha product, is the ecosystem that? No, I don't think it is. But I think that it will, it's evolving, yeah, to an IoT infrastructure. So I don't think I think it's far from dead. All over do that all of our devices are beacons. And that allows you to interact with them in proximity, you don't have to be in the theater. Right. And I think that's very valuable.

    Steve Statler 21:49

    I agree. Very good. Well, I really appreciate it. And I'm going to hit you with the toughest question of the session. What are the three tracks that you would take, if you could only take because this is a very low bandwidth connection, and you forgot to load your mp3 player? You just got three tracks.

    Stephen Beinertson 22:06

    Saying incidentally, come to my Hotel California. All right. That's off. Take any reserves off. Definitely give me one man. sweater. I don't even know that right. The third one I say. Street Sultans of Swing.

    Steve Statler 22:33

    Very good for topic. Steven. Thanks very much impromptu unplanned. I've been wanting to talk to you guys for ages. And if you have been thanks very much for watching The Hitchhiker's Guide from Statler Consulting.