Think about the iconic US yellow school bus; now picture entire fleets of such buses in New York, Oklahoma and Texas connected to the internet of things (IoT) to monitor safety and security, all thanks to a feisty young Irish start-up called Davra Networks.
While many IoT projects are more hype than reality, Davra Networks has woked with Cisco to create an end-to-end IoT platform that was first rolled out in Huntsville, Texas.
The platform includes IoT gateways placed on buses to add a layer of video and passenger-counting technology to ensure the safety and security of students. The gateways also gather data to help school districts reduce carbon emissions by measuring the fuel efficiency of buses.
‘The business grew quickly from Texas to Oklahoma and New York and we are talking with school districts in Florida and elsewhere to deploy the technology’
– PAUL GLYNN, DAVRA
It has since been deployed in Oklahoma and is going into school bus fleets in New York in Q4 of 2016. Talks are ongoing with schools in Tennessee and Florida.
Keeping the IoT revolution rolling
It is just one facet of the kind of work that Davra does. The a 24-strong company is based in Dublin’s IFSC, where most of its R&D and product development takes place.
Davra is also working on other public-facing IoT projects, including tram networks in San Diego and rail networks in Canada.
“Our focus is on transport and smart cities,” explained Paul Glynn, CEO of Davra.
According to Glynn, Davra is a spin-out from Crannog Software, itself a spin-out from Lan Communications, which was bought by Eir in 1999. Crannog was bought by Fluke Networks in 2007.
“Our initial plan with Davra, which we set up in 2011, was to focus on networking. We were doing internet of things before anyone called it internet of things,” said Glynn.
“I sometimes compare internet of things to e-commerce, it isn’t an industry in itself, it is just a new way of using technology by old industries. People get caught up in this concept of the internet of things being this whole new industry that is going to take over the world. It is just existing industries using technology in different ways.”
In recent weeks, Davra won the Best Overall Platform award at the IoT Evolution Battle of the Platforms competition, where it competed in categories including transport, smart cities and manufacturing.
The platform was recognised for its superiority in real-time monitoring, tracking and data management.
Real-time, reliable data is key to machine age
The secret sauce of Davra is its RuBan platform, which helps system integrators gather relevant information from vehicles and present the data in a real-time dashboard. This data helps companies increase employee productivity, passenger safety, reduce fuel costs, optimise driving routes and perform vehicle tracking.
When we spoke to Glynn last week he was in San Francisco meeting potential venture capital investors who will bring Davra to its next stage, which, as well as product development, includes expanding its presence in the US, Europe and the Middle East.
“We see a huge opportunity to manage the data that comes from the edge of the network. People think IoT is just gleaning data from sensors, but the reality is that is extremely difficult and expensive to do. However, our software managed the quality and the quantity of the data that is coming back and this is critical for real-time local decision-making.”
The key to Davra’s strategy to winning the vital IoT landscape in the US is partnerships and the company works closely with Cisco and Intel on key projects.
“We don’t believe there will be a single Google of IoT, that one single platform will manage sensors across multiple industries. We tend to focus on specific niches like transport, smart cities and manufacturing. For example, our partner in the manufacturing space is industrial technology giant Rockwell. And we have partners who are dedicated to healthcare.”
Glynn said that because of the siloed nature of IoT deployments, companies are struggling to get real value out of their IoT investments. “What we bring to the table is a platform that lets you get any data from within a vehicle. If a driver hits the brakes we automatically tag the video to see what was happening in the cab or among the students in the bus. If a driver leaves a geofenced area for any reason our system knows it and raises the alarm. This is vital for, obviously, safety but also insurance purposes.”
Davra’s entry into the US school transportation market – there are more than 500,000 yellow buses in North America by Glynn’s reckoning – was unplanned.
“It began as a project to deliver Wi-Fi to the buses because many kids in Texas and Oklahoma live in rural areas and spend hours on the buses. But because Cisco routers and gateways also come with GPS chips, there was the opportunity to add in layers of functionality that would boost safety.
“The business grew quickly from Texas to Oklahoma and New York and we are talking with school districts in Florida and elsewhere to deploy the technology.”
Glynn said that all of Davra’s technology is designed and built in Dublin.
“The purpose of our investment round will be to build out the team and expand in the US and other markets. We are taking a different approach to most Irish tech companies by going directly to Silicon Valley venture capital firms because they have a different mindset to European investors.
“Investors in Silicon Valley are quite jaded with most IoT plays because some of them are novel rather than realistic. But they like what we are doing because we have real customers with real problems to solve.”
American school bus image via Shutterstock