I get a lot of questions about wireless sensors that work as a system. When people ask for a system, they generally want some kind of sensor that talks back to a gateway, which in turns talks to the internet so the user can get the data. These systems might be used for tracking livestock or for something as simple as getting a notification when the mail arrives.
Basically people just want a pre-built way to get information from one place to their phone or computer without having to get a networking degree. There are several companies meeting this need using a variety of wireless technologies. Among them is Ruuvi, which is building tags and a gateway for Bluetooth networks.
Ruuvi is worth a look because it is both growing quickly and because it has a range of customers who buy the Ruuvi hardware and make it part of their own solutions. For example, Bosch uses a Ruuvi sensor for its asset tracking services. Henri Hakunti, COO and co-founder at Ruuvi Innovations, says the company made half a million dollars in 2018, but is on track for $2.5 million in revenue in 2019 as demand for its sensors grow and it branches out with a new gateway product called the Ruuvi Node.
The company recently launched the Ruuvi Node and will make it available to the public in the third quarter. It comes with GPS, cellular connectivity, several sensors, and a solar panel, and it can work for years without a battery change, depending on the reporting settings. If you want the gateway to send data every minute, for example, that will eat up battery life faster than if you have it send data once a day.
I was surprised to learn when talking to Hakunti that the company wasn’t using Bluetooth Mesh for either its sensors or the new gateway, since it is popular for both home and industrial use cases. But Hakunti says that mesh still requires too much power for it to work well on battery-powered sensors and other devices.
The focus on battery life has helped Ruuvi differentiate itself from among other competitors making Bluetooth beacons and sensors. When the company launched its first product in 2016, the battery life was between two and three years long, and could be stretched to 10 years depending on how often the beacon sent data.
Hakunti says the company’s customers range from home DIYers who have gotten the tags to work with systems such as HomeBridge or OpenHAB, to corporate customers who resell the tags as part of their own suite of products. He’s seen as many as 25,000 Ruuvi tags operating in a small warehouse environment, leading me to think that these can scale well.
The introduction of the Ruuvi Node gateway device will likely appeal to those corporate and enterprise customers that want to get Bluetooth-based sensor data over relatively close locations. And who want GPS data included. The node will also have more sensors in addition to gathering the information from nearby tags.
These devices may not be the sexiest venture opportunity, but such sensors and gateways will be the physical bedrock of the internet of things. It’s good to know who makes them.