Pathfindr went from tracking cats to providing IoT tech to Rolls-Royce

6 Jan 2020

Managing director of Pathfindr, Matt Isherwood. Image: Pathfindr

Our Start-up of the Week is Pathfindr, a UK firm that uses IoT and real-time location tracking to identify the whereabouts of assets.

Matt Isherwood is the managing director of Pathfindr, a Norwich-based IoT intelligence start-up founded in 2016. Isherwood has spent his career in digital and software product roles, setting up a UX consultancy called Ethology in 2015 before taking on his current role.

Pathfindr started out as a small team of technology experimenters, working together at a communications and technology agency called Bigdog, which was part of the Mission Marketing Group. This team set up an innovation development scheme to explore technologies that could support clients’ objectives to drive sales.

As part of this, the team developed a new indoor wayfinding method to help shoppers find products more quickly in supermarkets.

“We began by looking at several solutions,” Isherwood told “Coming up with an approach that used a smartphone’s camera to track location within the building, and tested it with a major supermarket brand.”

From Bigdog to observing cats

This project garnered some interest from the BBC, which wanted to use the technology to track and observe the behaviour of domestic cats for a documentary called The Secret Life of the Cat.

The team adapted the solution to include optical cameras in houses, accompanied by different infrared signals coming from the cats’ collars, allowing an animal’s movement and behaviour to be tracked 24/7.

“Our involvement in this programme gave us some incredible exposure and kickstarted the next phase of our development,” Isherwood explained.

“A senior executive from Rolls-Royce happened to watched the show and wanted to explore how the tech could help them monitor their assets and provide operational efficiencies. Through working with Rolls-Royce, we pushed on further with our R&D and ultimately established a separate business dedicated to asset location.”

The evolution of Pathfindr

Combining the technology used in the retail sector, the BBC documentary and with Rolls-Royce, Pathfindr began to make a fundamental change when it grew into its own specialised company. Instead of using an optical, camera-based approach, Pathfindr began to use Bluetooth.

“The Pathfindr product available today was born and has since expanded, improved and evolved for different uses in aerospace, manufacturing and other environments and sectors across the world,” Isherwood said.

The company now focuses on offering its services to the manufacturing sector, where Isherwood and the team noticed that there was a huge amount of time wasted locating assets.

Seeing the significant scope to increase the efficiency of processes through analysing data produced by connectivity-enabled monitoring, they began focusing primarily on this sector, as well working in areas such as construction, energy, aerospace and defence.

‘It’s no longer a case of, “Do we need IoT asset intelligence and tracking?”, but rather a case of companies identifying and prioritising which use cases are most relevant’

Pathfindr now describes itself as an industry 4.0 asset intelligence IoT platform that provides a real-time view of business assets. The company offers indoor and outdoor asset location, temperature logging and utilisation analysis.

“Pathfindr is technology agnostic,” Isherwood said. “Our user-centred design principles for both hardware and software enable our customers to focus on the opportunity of IoT, not the technology.”

He added that the platform is completely plug-and-play, with no requirement for on-site connectivity. Data connectivity is provided by a unique GSM and ad-hoc mesh networking solution.

The future

Looking ahead, Isherwood said that Pathfindr wants to be at the forefront of asset intelligence, using the latest technologies to further develop its hardware and software. To achieve these goals, the business wants to build stronger partnerships with like-minded tech companies that complement what Pathfindr does.

“We are growing the level of influence we have with each particular client,” Isherwood said, nothing that the business has seen the market shift over the last 12 months.

“We may be initially tasked with a specific project within an individual business unit, but we are increasingly being asked to demonstrate our capability across a broader range of applications and processes within a client’s overall operation. This is hugely encouraging and is evidence of the value-add that our technology can deliver.

“It’s no longer a case of ‘do we need IoT asset intelligence and tracking?’, but rather a case of companies identifying and prioritising which use cases are most relevant to focus on in a pilot. And, of course, which supplier they should be using.”

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic