I had a friend who has since retired who speculated on what one could do with the data from sensors installed all over a large petroleum or petro-chemical production facility. Just think of what you could know in order to be able to manage the entire facility, he’d exclaim. Recently I interviewed a team at a large automation supplier who discussed concentrating data from sensors and inputs from large machine lines into a PLC.

Sometimes the project you’re contemplating or the business model you have requires thousands of sensors, many gateways, large compute power. What if you built a business model that is profitable servicing different customer needs? What if instead of a few customers buying thousands of sensors you had thousands of customers who needed only a few sensors in each area? Sounds like Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail.

Ray Almgren, President and CEO of Swift Sensors, recently took time out to talk with me about what’s happening there. When I first met Swift Sensors about five years ago, it reminded me of the companies built up around the ZigBee wireless mesh networking standard of about 20 years before. Much progress in terms of products and business models has come the past couple of years.

Swift has designed more robust sensors and developed gateways and cloud-based software making life better for customers. It has found a place in that long tail of many companies who require fewer sensors per location but have many locations. Working with managed services suppliers mostly from the IT market has proved to be a good channel for recurring revenue from satisfying customers’ ongoing needs.

I’ve promoted to a subset of suppliers for years to look outside traditional manufacturing for expanded markets. Swift Sensors markets to schools, pharma companies, agriculture, hospitality, small manufacturing. There continues to be a robust market for taking 4-20 mA signals to the cloud. That’s sort of a cave man meets StarTrek scenario, but still fills a need.

I suggest keeping an eye on the Managed Services, or “as-a-Service”, area for growth if you are a supplier and better service if you are a user.

Following is more description of the latest of Swift Sensors from its Website.

Swift Sensors is a simple and cost-effective solution for the automated monitoring of all your important assets. There are three components of the Swift Sensors system: 

Sensors. The Sensors record measurement readings and transmit this vital information wirelessly using encrypted BLE5 technology to the Gateway.

Gateway. The Gateway transmits the measurement readings up to the cloud over a SSL-secured WiFi, ethernet or cellular connection.

Cloud Software. You can access your secure cloud account right from your phone, desktop, laptop, or tablet. Check readings, create thresholds, monitor alerts, leave notes, review historical data and export reports.

Sensors are powered with 2 AAA lithium polymer batteries with an average lifespan of 6 – 8 years. Sensors can be powered on or put into sleep mode by pressing the center of the sensor. A green LED in the sensor blinks when the sensor powers on, turns solid when transitioning to sleep mode, and will blink when the “Find my Sensor” command is sent from the Console. All sensors send encrypted data to the gateway.

The Cloud makes it simple and easy to store sensor data without the hassle of setting up wires, servers and storage devices. Our state-of-the-art console combined with our seamless integration of cloud sensing technology allows you to work without the stress of monitoring your data 24/7. The Swift Sensors Console gives you the peace of mind knowing your equipment, products, and facility are monitored 24/7. Notifications can be set based on specific thresholds that you apply to specific measurements. These thresholds, whether set low or high, can trigger email, SMS, or phone call notifications that are sent immediately when a problem occurs. This security not only helps optimize your facility but also prevent the most catastrophic events. Third-party developers can create their own custom front-end web or mobile app to display and manage Swift Sensors data and hardware. Web API documentation is available for free, and provides full access to the Swift Sensors cloud system. APIs can be found here.

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