Today’s Featured BizSpark Startup is SenseAnywhere from The Netherlands
Have you ever wondered whether or not the food you eat or goods you receive have been properly stored during transportation from farm to store? Tom Heijnen has. From his inquisitive mind arose the notion that wireless networking, RFID sensors and the cloud could work together to create a new generation of active RFID devices, sensors and data loggers that could operate autonomously in the field for 10 years.
When Tom Heijnen speaks about his startup, SenseAnywhere, the pride in his voice is tangible.
“We’re a new player in the Internet of Things,” he says. “But we’re receiving really good feedback from customers who tell us our product solves a big problem and that no one else has such a well-considered solution.”
The problem? Maintaining the proper environment for products and supplies that require temperature and humidity controlled environments. The solution: cloud-connected ultra-low-power sensor-enabled radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. When attached to products in a distribution chain, the sensor can move through the distribution chain and deliver messages to the cloud to report its status. Microsoft Azure powers the cloud connections.
To collect data for hundreds of different locations from thousands of sensors, Heijnen says, he needed a cloud services platform that could scale as much as necessary and would be extremely reliable. A long-time user of Microsoft products – his company, Tulip Computers, was among the first PC manufacturers worldwide to preload Windows with their PC’s in the mid 80’s – he accessed free usage of Microsoft Azure through the Microsoft BizSpark program, which supplies startup tech companies with free development tools for three years.
“That was a marvelous move!” he exclaims. “BizSpark has the best tools out there to help a startup prove itself and its concept. We were already using Visual Studio and, through BizSpark, gained access to Microsoft Azure, SQL Server, Visual Studio and many other development tools.”
Plenty of businesses, of course, use RFID tags to track product locations and confirm final delivery. What makes SenseAnywhere stand out in the RFID world is its AiroSensor’s ability to deliver information in real-time about temperature, location, motion status, humidity in the environment and other specialized environmental details. Every sensor, explains Heijnen, logs data and sends information instantly as events happen or every five minutes to pre-ordained cloud access points. When the sensor is out of range of the network it doubles as data logger storing all relevant information and automatically dropping it off to the cloud when it comes in reach of an access point.
The sensors can also be used in static scenarios where correct temperature and humidity levels are crucial, such as inside refrigerators or freezers in restaurants or supermarkets or in medical supply rooms with critical medicines or equipment.
“The owner of the sensor receives the information confidentially, using our web-based application or forwarded to the application of the customer itself,” Heijnen says. “So they are able to monitor the storage quality and movement of their goods to ensure high-quality levels at all times.”
Using Microsoft Azure, says Heijnen, impresses even the biggest accounts he works on.
“When they ask about reliability and service level agreements, we have a terrific story,” he says. “An infrastructure like Azure makes it possible for us to offer quality service and dependability. Large companies recognize that and are more willing to take a chance on a young company.”
Microsoft is helping these startups succeed through its BizSpark program. To join or see other startup stories, visit us at our website here. To listen to our startups, check out these podcasts on devradio here.
About BizSpark: Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that helps startups succeed by giving free access to Microsoft Azure cloud services, software and support. BizSpark members receive up to $750 per month of free Microsoft Azure cloud services for 3 years: that’s $150 per month each for up to 5 developers. Azure works with Linux and open-source technologies such as Linux, Ruby, Python, Java and PHP. BizSpark is available to startups that are privately held, less than 5-years-old and earn less than $1M in annual revenue.