50 Fastest Growing Private Companies to Watch 2016
Converging the physical and digital world: Sensoro
A comprehensive solution for implementing an easily managed and monitored IoT sensor network.’
SENSORO Inc., founded in 2013, manufactures beacon devices that collect and send information based on proximity and wireless sensor networks that aggregate digital data from the physical world for IoT applications.
SENSORO’s Alpha Product Suite provides long-range, low-power capabilities for IoT sensor networks. Unlike other solutions that are difficult to manage, configure, and that are limited in range, the Alpha platform is simple to implement with an easily managed network that can span over 120 square miles while supporting thousands of sensor devices.
The company is headquartered at Seattle, with offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
In Conversation with the Key Executive
Why was the company set up? How did you select the vertical and decide to be a part of the global platform?
In 2012, sales at Chinese online stores severely undercut their brick and mortar counterparts (similar to what happened in the US in the early 2000s.) During that time, SENSORO had been considering whether to dive into the online or offline markets. They decided to take a different path and reunite the physical and digital spaces using a new technology – proximity beacons. There were no beacon protocols, like Apple’s iBeacon or Google’s Eddystone, to guide development. Despite this, SENSORO was successful in bringing offline and online worlds together with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) products such as Yunzi. Fast-forwarding to 2015, SENSORO continued its growth by adding long-range low-power (or LPWAN) sensor technologies that included BLE functionality and could be centrally monitored and managed.
Tell us about your first product that was launched.
Our first product was the Yunzi – a BLE beacon with industrial performance and high-end finishing. An elegant packaging was necessary so that we could deploy the beacon in Chow Tai Fook, a famous luxury jewelry retailer based in Hong Kong and operating over 2,300 locations in mainland China and abroad.
How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.
The Yunzi launch at Chow Tai Fook locations across China went incredibly well. Rolling out the new beacon technology just before Chinese New Year at 237 of the jeweler’s locations – Chow Tai Fook experienced an increased year-on-year revenue of 16% at stores that deployed Yunzi. The beacons allowed jewelry vendors to offer their customers deals on the products they were viewing by interacting with them through their smart phones via the WeChat app, a ubiquitous China-based social media and messaging platform with more than 600 million users.
What kind of mixed responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
We received positive feedback on our product design and performance with the Yunzi beacon. We attribute that to our understanding of the customer’s needs and pain points and our ability to apply the latest technologies in addressing them. We also have strong supply chain management which enables us to raise the standard of hardware quality while maintaining the most affordable pricing.
In deployment, beacons need to be provisioned by SENSORO’s mobile app. This requires being in proximity to the beacons being provisioned and selecting the corresponding device appearing in the management app’s window. This turned out to be a challenge, since there may be more than one beacon in range of your mobile device, each identified by hexadecimal serial numbers which are not very descriptive to human beings! To remedy this, we printed QR codes on the beacon enclosure with the corresponding serial number below it. This allows you to add the beacon by scanning the QR code and eliminates guess work by allowing visual verification of the serial number. SENSORO was the first beacon provider to do this.
Another challenge we encountered was the power source. Until now, beacons had typically been powered by sealed lithium ion batteries. Once the battery died, the beacon died with it. We remedied this issue by becoming the first provider to offer a replaceable battery option.
What were the grounds on which you have expanded your company and its offerings over the years?
In 2013, SENSORO was discovered by and joined the Microsoft Accelerator program. This led to rapid growth stemming from recognition by Chow Tai Fook, Hong Kong New World Investments, Nokia, Microsoft, and Google. We also grew fast because we respond quickly to technology innovations, have an efficient smarter-working team, and a global strategy that includes rapid product integration (or upgrading).
Are there any trigger factors/events/individuals that have played key roles in shaping your organization’s roadmap?
Yes, the Microsoft Accelerator program has helped us a lot. Microsoft provides the support and resources necessary to build a sustainable company and scale up every aspect the business. They provide CEO coaching, team culture development, and talent recruitment. They also help create distribution channels with global Fortune 500s, and teach startups how to work with big corporations and develop new markets. In addition to this, they provide support for marketing, finance and tech management, and serve as a strategic partner – providing routes to market by offering a global network of customers, partners, VCs, business mentors, and technical experts.
Do you have any new products ready to be/getting ready to be rolled out into the market?
Yes, we just announced our new Alpha technology suite for IoT applications in smart cities, smart buildings, agriculture, and more.
Where do you see you and your company a couple of years from now?
We will be the top global LPWAN technology provider. Our plan is to continue developing and providing the best products and services to our customers and to exceed market expectations.
Meet the Key Executive
Vivian Li, Co-Founder: Between 2012 and 2014, Vivian was responsible for the Microsoft Venture Capital project recruitment in China. In those 2 years, she on-boarded more than 2,000 venture capital projects. Currently in the United States, as the co-founder of SENSORO, Vivian is responsible for the global sales of the entire product line – developing sales in over 70countries and strengthening cooperation with large technology firms such as Microsoft and Google.
“Our technology, design, and services are highest in their class and we raise the bar even higher with rapid product integration capabilities.”