Startup Spotlight – From Automated Sprinklers to Connected Cars
Startups tend to enamor the imagination of the public as companies with billion-dollar potential. But most startups fizzle out after a few years in business. Either you grow or you die. That’s the nature of the game. To play it thick skin is a mandatory requirement.
The startups listed in this section are new and still in the infant stage. Some of them have won accolades in glitzy startup competitions, some are opening up un-ventured markets and some think they have just the right idea.
This is their story.
From Automated Sprinklers to Connected Cars
Senzmate is an IoT startup that wants to make all cars Teslas
Sporadic electricity supply interruptions were a frequent annoyance for Jeyjenthan Tharmakulasingam because it interrupted the irrigation system at his family’s vineyard. During the first few years following the conflict’s end, the Jaffna peninsula’s electricity supply was erratic. This uncertainty was a hassle for farmers who used water motors to irrigate their fields. Taking matters into his own hands, Tharmakulasingam partnered with A.C John Nirojh, both engineering undergraduates at the University of Moratuwa at the time, to develop a remote SMS-activated system for farmers to control their sprinklers. The project didn’t do well commercially, as expected. The system was expensive and the sprinklers weren’t robust enough to withstand Jaffna’s high calcium-induced water.
Today, his company Senzmate is one of the most talked-about startups in Sri Lanka’s IoT space. The company designs its own hardware and circuitry for its platforms, making it one of the few end-to-end IoT providers. Its sensor-based Environment Management System (EMS) tracks, predicts and automates the control of temperature humidity, moisture levels, and pressure in storage facilities and warehouses. The company has logistic heavyweights like John Keells and Expolanka Holdings as clients.
The next big thing for Senzmate isIoT-enabled vehicles. The venture is backed by SAKS Global, a subsidiary of St. Anthony’s Group. IBM predicts that, by 2025, IoT will be so sophisticated that cars will self-diagnose repairs and communicate with other vehicles. Not all vehicles need to be Teslas to get the benefit of IoT. “Most cars manufactured after 1996 can be upgraded to an IoT vehicle,” COO Miller Alexander points out.
To do this, a device called a ‘connector’ is plugged into the 16 pin port called OBD-II (On-board diagnostics II). The port is usually located behind the dashboard, above the brake pedal. The Senzmate connector collects data across 100 key parameters including fuel system, air pressure status, oil temperature and engine RPM. Most connectors in the market use Bluetooth-enabled phones as an intermediary device for data processing and GPRS. But the Senzmate connector has an in-built GPRS that processes all data directly on its cloud-based analytics platform. The company plans to market it based on a subscription model.
“This technology isn’t new,” he says. “But the IoT platform we’ve made is where the magic happens.” The company is planning to put 500 vehicles on the road to feed data to its machine-learning algorithm. Tharmakulasingam believes, once the algorithm is fully effective, even ordinary Sri Lankan cars can be interconnected to communicate about hazards and road conditions. “Just like Teslas,” he says.