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The Sensolus Story: Serendepity

Sensolus was established in 2013 with the mission to transform the complex and technical world of wireless sensors (IoT) into user-friendly solutions. The four founders – Laurence, Kristoff, Johan, and Koen – shared a collective vision of enabling businesses to deploy IoT effortlessly and create value without the need for expensive and time-consuming engineering projects. Their core goal was to relieve teams of the complexity of the Internet of Things and allow them to concentrate on creating daily business value through process changes.

Ten years later, this vision is still the driving force behind the company. Sensolus offers a complete solution (from sensor to end-application) for asset management and supply chain digitization, specifically for non-powered assets such as boxes, stillages, trailers, or containers. The Sensolus technology “just works,” eliminating all technical obstacles for customers so that they can focus on process change and value creation right away.

This is the story behind Sensolus and our journey toward becoming one of Europe’s leaders in connected asset management.

Heatmap of our 200 000+ active Sensolus trackers across Europe

It all started with an idea

In the summer of 2013, Kristoff took a break from his corporate career as a consultant in renewable energy and embarked on an adventure through Europe, with his family for a few months in a camper, with plans to surf and explore.

Before hitting the road, Kristoff shared a farewell drink with his friend, Johan. During their conversation, Johan shared his ambitious dream to transform IoT from a geek technology into something that is used in everyday business. This implies that sensors should be installed as easily as a sticker and that they directly communicate with the internet for years without charging.

Kristoff on an adventure

This concept intrigued Kristoff and set the stage for the founding of Sensolus – a company that would later simplify IoT and make it accessible to businesses of all sizes.

While travelling from one beach to the next, Kristoff couldn’t shake the dream of IoT from his mind. He reached out to Johan to explore the concept further, and they struck a deal that remains a cornerstone of Sensolus to this day: “If you (Johan – CTO) make sure it works technically, I (Kristoff- CEO) will make sure there is business to be made.”

Johan immediately suggested that they bring on board Koen and Laurence as founders. Koen, a former intern of Johan’s, was a prodigy in electronics, hardware, and embedded firmware. Laurence, a former research colleague of Johan’s and an active assistant professor in communication at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) was the non-technical expert who could bridge the gap between technology and the real world, ensuring that the tech team created solutions that genuinely mattered and had an impact. 

AI for the people you love

In 2014, we embarked on a government-funded project in healthcare, in collaboration with various partners, including Waylay and StudioDott. Our aim was to create a solution that would assist caregivers in their daily care of elderly who still lived at home. We developed the Diotto project which consisted of discreet wireless motion sensors placed throughout the home of the person receiving care to monitor the person’s habits and patterns. We would then send notifications to the caregiver’s phone to let them know if the person they were caring for was still okay

Chicken backpacks, a funny story

At this point, our team had built our first IoT platform, enabling us to remotely collect and manage data from sensors. With the support of ILVO (Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) we came across an interesting project in agriculture: tracking free-range chickens in the field to better understand how their social behavior is influenced by the surrounding vegetation.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Allow us to explain: The behavior of these free-range chickens can vary depending on the type of vegetation in their surroundings. Our task was to develop a track and trace system that could capture high-precision data on the chickens’ movements, so the researchers could analyze how the chickens interacted with different types of vegetation. One striking observation was that chickens seem to suffer from a kind of agoraphobia… as they appear to be more uneasy in very open fields.

Laurence with the Chickens

To address this challenge, Sensolus designed custom backpacks for each chicken, each containing low-power sensors that could collect and transmit location data. We then aggregated this data on a cloud platform, allowing us to analyze the chickens’ movements and behavior patterns in different geo-zones. This marked a significant milestone for our team, as it demonstrated our ability to deliver high-precision tracking solutions that can be adapted to a wide range of use cases.

Image taken from https://isense.farm/content/chicken-localisation-system

Google Analytics for the event industry

Our expertise in low-power track & trace IoT technology and experience in building applications for monitoring patterns and behavior led us to develop a revolutionary solution for the event industry – Proxitag, which can be described as “Google Analytics for the physical world.” As the trend towards online events increased, we realized that the physical event industry was in dire need of a wireless solution to track visitors and gain insights into their behavior.

To achieve this, we provided visitors with smart Bluetooth badges, which acted as “cookies on the internet”, and placed sniffers at each individual stand to measure who passes by, how long they stayed, and whether they returned, etc. The result was a complete wireless solution that provided stand holders and event organizers with invaluable insights into visitor patterns and behavior, just the same as what Google Analytics would do for websites.

Introducing IoT to the Logistics industry

During our journey, we’ve maintained an open vision and actively sought opportunities to network and scale our programs, collaborating closely with other entrepreneurs along the way. This led us to the concept of tracking “valuable” non-powered assets, which could be monitored effectively using IoT. As a result, we initiated projects in logistics in Belgium, partnering with Xwift and Ninatrans to track trailers and specific lifting equipment. This provided Sensolus with an opportunity to combine all our project learnings and develop a tangible product offering for the industry, with support from ESA, the Flemish Government, seed investors, and more. 

This pivotal moment in 2015 marked the beginning of Sensolus’ mission to digitize daily processes that rely on non-powered assets

Kristoff Van Rattinghe

Bringing Airbus on board

One year later, a major turning point for Sensolus was when Airbus got wind of our solution. After an intensive selection and validation process by Airbus, Sensolus was chosen among numerous other companies for the roll-out of their asset tracking solution.

What was even more striking was the summary of why we were selected: “it just works”.

There was unquestionable evidence that by tracking non-powered assets, for example, stillages with aircraft parts, our solution enables companies to solve daily challenges that previously held them back. 

Before Sensolus, Airbus lacked full visibility of their critical parts, but with our solution, they can track their parts wherever they are without installing any local infrastructure or requiring any human intervention such as scanning. They can easily locate parts in their yards, warehouses, at subcontractors, or during transport. 

By tracking their inventory at all locations, Airbus can manage their supply chain by exception. They can detect deviations in logistic flows, receive preventive warnings when supply chain constraints are approaching, and gain statistical insights into fleet capacity usage. Ultimately, our solution empowered Airbus to reduce their WIP (Work in Progress) and optimize their supply chain.

Here is what Maxime Saraiva, the IoT Technical Specialist at Airbus, has to say: Sensolus is accurate, quick to deploy and saves us a lot of energy. It works great. The logistics data flow has significantly increased, providing more visibility on daily operations. “

Site visit at Airbus

Serendipity

For some, the Sensolus story may seem like indecisive behavior, for others it may seem like luck. But one of our trusted advisors called it once “serendipity”. Serendipity is the unexpected discovery of something valuable or beneficial that occurs as a result of persistent and focused efforts toward a particular goal or objective. The persistent pursuit of a goal may reveal unexpected opportunities and connections that can lead to new insights, breakthroughs, or success that was not previously anticipated…

Starting from an ambitious IoT dream to jumping into healthcare, tracking free-range chickens, and creating Google Analytics insights for physical events, each project and partnership has provided valuable learnings and insights that have been applied to the next, ultimately leading to the development of a powerful non-powered asset tracking solution that has garnered attention and success on an international level.

The Sensolus story is not just a story of luck or chance, but one of perseverance, hard work, and dedication to a vision.

Parking entrance at Atlanta Tech Village – location of Sensolus USA office since March 2023
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