Ye Ol' Geezer Meat Shop Chills Out With the IoT

A lot is riding on this butcher's equipment, especially when the mercury breaks 100 degrees in the Utah desert, so the shop owners have turned to internet-networked sensors to keep tabs on its coolers and freezers remotely.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

The system has been up and running for roughly a month, Evans says, and the biggest surprise has been in learning how high the temperatures inside the freezers rise during their periodic defrost cycles. The spike—up to 30 degrees—happens twice each day, but lasts for only 15 to 20 minutes. To avoid the many alerts he and his mother were receiving due to defrosting, Evans has set the Monnit software so that it only issues alerts if the freezers maintain that temperature for more than 20 minutes, which would indicate a possible problem.

All of the hardware required for the store's 13 coolers and freezers, as well as the Monnit gateway and a year's subscription to the software and alerting solution, cost Evans $1,400. In subsequent years, he will pay $99 for the software and alert system. (Users who set the sensors to transmit every two hours or less frequently can access the Monnit software and subscribe to SMS alerts for free.)

Monnit's Brad Walters
To date, Evans says, he has been quite pleased with the technology. The investment, he adds, has given him and his mother peace of mind—especially on hot summer days, when Moab temperatures have exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius). Best of all, his mother no longer needs to take daily trips to the store, just to make sure the equipment is running as it should. Someday, he hopes, the family may even be able to take a vacation.

Brad Walters, who started his career 25 years ago with IBM before leaving that company to launch a series of startups, founded Monnit in 2010. "Prior to Monnit," he says, "I had a company called Max Stream, which sold wireless technology for electricity and gas meters, and we sold to Digi International." After a short stint as an angel investor, he decided to revisit the startup world.

In speaking with his old customers, Walters found that there was a still a strong appetite for wireless sensors networks, and he was personally very bullish on the IoT. "We initially started thinking about developing products for the consumer market," he notes, "but quickly pivoted to the commercial market, and today we have more than 400 SKUs [stock-keeping units] and 8,000 customers worldwide." Just over half of those customers are outside the United States, and Monnit also works with more over 300 private label partners who sell the wireless sensors, which are manufactured in the United States, under different brands.

"Our major value proposition is that our technology uses a propriety, energy-efficient radio link," Walters says. The sensors communicate via the 433 MHz, 868 MHz and 900 MHz bands in Asia, Europe and North America, respectively. Sensors are available to track temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide, motion, voltage, resistance, light, pressure, occupancy or other variables. Monnit will soon release the second generation of its radio technology, which will significantly boost the read range and data security that its technology currently supports. (The firm also sells versions of some of the sensors that use a Wi-Fi radio to transmit data directly through a building's Wi-Fi network.)

Used inside a building, Walters says, the current generation of sensors can transmit data to a gateway located as far away as 300 to 400 feet, though the second-generation protocol will beat that distance by a factor of three to five times. And while the current generation of sensors provides a degree of security by scrambling the data before transmitting it, the second generation will use industry-standard AES encryption. What's more, Walters predicts, a boost in efficiency will mean that the three to seven years of life that two AA batteries provide to the current generation of sensors will be doubled or tripled in the new generation.

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