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The biggest application has not been invented yet

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the speciality of Tampere-based Wirepas Oy, and the company is already delivering on IoT’s promises at an increasing pace. The pace is secured by the company’s long history of research in Tampere and its focus on the right things.

When residents of the Greater Oslo Region in Norway turn on the lights in their homes, they probably have no idea that part of the development of the systems metering their electricity consumption began 15 years ago in Tampere, Finland. In the next few years, the Greater Oslo Region will see the installation of 700,000 remote-reading electricity meters that are connected to each other by means of the wireless Pino technology developed by Tampere-based Wirepas.

‘Radio technologies are typically the result of long-term product development and research. In the early 2000s, everyone at Tampere University of Technology from students to professors was thinking about how to implement very large-scale sensor networks,’ says Teppo Hemiä, CEO of Wirepas.

According to Hemiä, the first inventions that later led to the creation of the Pino technology and Wirepas were made at that time. The company was established in 2010, and the Greater Oslo Region is to become its best reference so far. The smart electricity metering solution and the meters will be supplied by Aidon, Wirepas’s largest domestic client.

‘The solution to be implemented in the Greater Oslo Region is the world’s biggest single network solution utilising this technology. The larger the application, the better our technology will work,’ Hemiä says.

Flying flocks of birds are part of the visual appearance of Wirepas, since the intelligence of the Pino technology can be compared with the swarm intelligence of a flock of birds. The flock is capable of quick turns because each individual bird knows how to act in changing situations.

Thanks to the Pino technology, devices can connect to each other easily, automatically and reliably. In the Oslo case, the devices to be connected are electricity meters, but the same could be done with any data collection devices.

‘When equipped with our technology, the device is a complete part of the network, and each device is a possible way forward for its neighbour. The device also connects to the network by itself, controls its own operations and adapts to a changing radio environment,’ Hemiä says.

Expanding the network is simple: you just take a new device to the location where you want to perform metering – and go back to replace the battery when the time comes, maybe not until ten years have passed, Wirepas promises.

Teppo Hemiä started as CEO and partner of Wirepas at the beginning of 2014. At that time, the company also made a decision of great significance for its business: it does not manufacture its own devices but rather licenses technology. Remote-reading electricity meters are a good first step, but there is lots of ground to gain still in smart metering and other verticals.

‘The company’s financing has now been arranged, the first successes have been achieved and many good negotiations are underway. One of the high points of the autumn will surely be the European Utility Week in Vienna. We will launch some of our own products there and introduce the achievements of our first clients – and things will start rolling from there,’ Hemiä plans.

There is also bound to be competition. The operations of Wirepas are safely based on the fact that the company’s own technology is strongly patented and based on a head start thanks to lengthy development efforts. In late summer 2015, Wirepas had a team of 15 people that was increasing by one or two persons each month. Hemiä is not worried about helming a small company in the IoT market, which is now also attracting large operators.

‘We are in a very good position, since this job cannot be done with mass power but rather with talent and skills, and those are something we have. Our innovation is unique, the product is aimed at a changing market and is thus further developed every day,’ Hemiä says.

Wirepas is expanding its operations globally, but the head office and product development know-how will remain in Tampere. The region is a good place for IoT to grow, with industrial ICT, wireless and radio know-how, say Wirepas R&D Manager Hannu Hirvi and CEO Teppo Hemiä.

The most mature IoT applications today besides electricity metering are other forms of intelligent metering: water and gas networks and their management. Clear business models can also already be seen in logistics and the automation of large commercial buildings. In addition, there are many areas still under development, and Hemiä encourages people to jump on the opportunities. You will learn by metering, and the people with the most courage will gain the first benefits.

‘Let’s take water meters as an example. Their task has been to meter the consumption, but what we have coming to the market now are things like acoustic sensors that help locate leaks in the network. Network control is improved with more efficient metering.’

Wirepas has a good observation point where IoT is concerned, since its technology is not tied to any individual application. When interesting applications come up, nothing prevents the company from trying them out.

‘As a matter of fact, we believe that the biggest application has not been invented yet. There will be something that has not been understood yet, and being a part of all this is hugely interesting,’ Hemiä says.

www.wirepas.com

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Translation: Lingoneer

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