Igor's IoT Platform Uses Ethernet For 'Future-Proof' Smart Buildings


Internet of Things startup Igor is using the power of ethernet — quite literally — to build "future-proof" smart buildings that can connect and analyze data from disparate systems. Among the platform's multiple use cases, two school districts in the U.S. plan to use Nexos to build an IoT application for detecting and responding to school shootings.

The Des Moines, Iowa-based company recently launched its Nexos smart building platform that uses Power over Ethernet, or PoE, a type of connectivity that provides both a data connection and electrical power over ethernet to a multitude of devices, including cameras, phone systems, switches and more.

The company's PoE-based platform allows systems integrators and smart building designers to take advantage of a building's structured cable system while also using Bluetooth and other connectivity types to integrate and connect disparate systems, including HVAC, lighting and security.

[Related: Channel Expert: Solution Providers Should Chase $11B IoT Middleware Opportunity]

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Steve L'Heureux, CEO of Igor, said his company is making a big push in the channel for Nexos, with over 40 reseller partners already signed up and about a half-dozen pushing Nexos as a full IoT platform.

"The prime directive behind our reseller program was to make it as easy to do business with us as possible," the chief executive said.

The Nexos platform can provide businesses a return on investment through energy savings and a compelling story about their sustainability efforts, according to L'Heureux. For instance, the company used its PoE-based lighting system, which predates Nexos but is now part of the platform, to help an apartment building reduce energy savings by 69 percent immediately. But what L'Heureux finds more compelling about Nexos are the business and quality-of life outcomes it can provide.

"What's really driving adoption is the ability to provide business outcomes," L'Heureux said.

For instance, a senior living community under construction in Alabama plans to use Nexos to create a system that notifies staff whenever a resident leaves their bed at night and turns on lights.

In another example, a school district in Oklahoma is using Nexos to create a gunshot detection application that uses sensors to triangulate the source of a gunshot and uses cameras to grab an image of the perpetrator for first responders. The application also connects with the school's lighting system to illuminate a path for first responders to the location of the incident while also showing teachers whether it's safe to enter the hall and then lighting a path for students to evacuate.

Igor said it is unable to name the school district because "schools have shown sensitivity in revealing their security precautions and the process of getting approval to release their names is proving very long and bureaucratic." However, the company said it will soon be able to name the city of a school district in Alabama that is installing Nexos and its gunshot detection application.

L'Heureux said Nexos consists of three elements: an I/O device in the ceiling that connects all of the IoT endpoints, a gateway that manages the IoT solution and an artificial intelligence-enabled cloud analytics engine that crunches data coming from disparate systems and provides analytics in a dashboard.

"The biggest challenge for IoT smart buildings is you not only have an enormous amount of data coming at you, but the velocity of data is massive," he said.

The analytics engine, L'Heureux said, pushes information that users need to make intelligent decisions about managing their building. For instance, the platform can read data from individual lights and other sensors to tell if certain conference rooms or other spaces are being underutilized. That can allow the office's facilities manager to make important decisions about how to better utilize those spaces.

"If I can convert unused or underutilized space and transform it into something much more useful and productive using the data, that's a game changer for the facilities people," L'Heureux said.

The Nexos platform can also monitor the health of the smart building network, including CPU usage, as well as the performance and temperature of individual components. "If they have a defective piece of hardware that's beginning to fail, we can pass that information on," Igor's CEO said.

Larry Jalbert, president of Northeast Technology Partners, a New York City-based building systems integrator and Igor partner, said his company started using Igor for PoE-based smart lighting systems after a previous PoE provider closed, leaving some customers in the lurch.

Jalbert said his first Igor sale was to NBC, which is using the company's technology to enable advanced lighting controls for the behind-the-scenes studio engineers at the broadcaster's New York City headquarters.

He called Igor's PoE-based lighting system "lighting controls on steroids."

"They needed lighting control laser-focused on some specific things, because Igor can get very granular and honestly they chose the Igor platform," Jalbert said. "It could already talk to their existing building automation control systems, so it was going to be the easiest to integrate."

Jalbert said Igor's PoE-based approach to lighting and smart buildings is good news for systems integrators, designers and builders that still rely on a robust ethernet cabling infrastructure.

"It's going to extend the life of structured cabling well into the next 20 years," he said.

Igor was founded in 2013 by Dwight Stewart, who previously co-founded and sold energy management software startup QAS to Networth Services earlier that same year. The company has raised $12.5 million in total funding thus far.

L'Heureux said the company realized channel partners could become an important part of its selling strategy after connecting with Cisco, which had previously considered buying QAS and introduced Igor to the vendor's ecosystem of partners. Igor is now part of Cisco's Digital Ceiling Partner Ecosystem.

"Because we're a Cisco digital building partner, a lot of those resellers were curious about what our solution could do," L'Heureux said.

L'Heureux said Igor's channel program aims to reduce the barrier of entry for resellers. That includes not requiring inventory or certain revenue tiers to achieve discounts. What the company does ask, however, is for partners to train a minimum of two technicians to support systems locally and "provide their best effort in promoting our technology." In turn, the company offers "very aggressive pricing," as well as marketing support .