‘The edge of the Internet of Things is where the action is’

 

fintan mcgivern firmwaveFintan McGovern’s career began as an Army officer, serving fifteen years in the Irish Defence Forces. He then transferred to the corporate sector bringing his extensive military experience and business management training into play. Firstly in the African mining industry with Kenmare Resources and subsequently in the Caribbean, where he worked with Digicel, focusing on the purchase and sale of companies. Then an opportunity arose, to follow his dream and build a business.

 

Any device with an on / off switch can be connected 

In early 2015 Fintan became CEO and co-founder of Firmwave along with his former teammate and also a county footballer, Adrian Burns who was originally part of the Intel Quark design team, developing low-power chips, in Leixlip. 

Ciaran Burns, CFO is also a co-founder and a chartered tax advisor. Firmwave operates at the low-power ‘edge connectivity’ within the Internet of Things (IOT) and went live in June 2015, generating revenue from the start. It has since grown to 15 employees and operates from its headquarters in Dublin with an office in Gdansk, Poland.

Firmwave is an Internet of Things (IOT) design company. (IOT is any device that has an on/off switch and can be connected to the Internet e.g. a smartphone, sensor or a wearable device). 

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Collecting data ‘at the edge’ 

Companies approach us when they are looking for a connected IOT solution. They may be looking for a connected device, which is a device that can gather data and be communicated with.

Our platform is for any organisation that wants to collect all their data ‘at the edge’ and then be able to analyse that data and take commercial and operational decisions. 

We focus on four main verticals or sectors: Medical Technology, Energy, Solar and AgTech. In Med Tech a company we work with a company called Health Beacon and in the Energy Sector, Glen Dimplex and Solar Adtek. 

In the Ag Tech sector we have recently sold 2,000 of our Firmwave Edge boards into the US that are used for soil testing purposes, and later this year we will be doing some work on smart connected poultry houses. In Solar, we work with a company involved in energy management for bus shelters. 

“Our platform is modular or Lego-like in design and because of the huge numbers of sensors involved – someone has to be able to connect all these sensors at the edge.”

The first wireless sensor network powered by the Intel Quark chip 

We developed a platform called Firmwave Edge which is our secure low-power edge connectivity platform and is also the first wireless sensor network powered by the Intel Quark Chip. It’s also being used in our target verticals within connected medical devices, connected bus shelters, connected storage heaters and recently a smart lighting project.

What is ‘firmware’?

At the minute there are billions and billions of sensors, measuring and collecting data and lots more to be deployed in the future. Within the Internet of things firmware is vital for connectivity – it ensures that sensors remain smart, secure and connected. This is accomplished by writing code or firmware on the sensors, and at Firmwave that’s what we do.

In IoT, what does the ‘edge’ refer to?

Some entities or platforms, within the IOT space, operate in the ‘cloud’ but we operate at the ‘edge’ of the IOT. The edge of the IOT is where the action is – it’s the area where the sensors are located, and it’s our main area of focus, and this is where the data is generated. 

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What problem do you solve?

Our platform is modular or Lego-like in design and because of the huge numbers of sensors involved – someone has to be able to connect all these sensors at the edge. So that’s the problem we help solve. We supply and manage – not the sensors but the low-power edge connectivity. 

So we take the sensors and connect them up and provide all of the firmwave upgrades and security updates required over the year. It’s a bit like when your phone updates with the latest software, however, in this case, it’s the actual connectivity that would be upgraded using our firmware updates.    

So as a client, you don’t need to worry “is my device secure”? Or, “if we want to add on extra sensors – how do we do that?” At Firmwave we manage that for you. It becomes a managed service. 

What size is your market?

The most conservative figure I have found for firmware services area within our particular market is estimated to be worth €18 billion worldwide per annum. 

How do you make money?

One of our products is Firmwave Edge which can be utilised across many verticals. The design can be licensed from us and enables the client to manufacture their own. 

We also provide all of the security and firmwave updates to all of the sensors as required, ensuring that they are all working correctly. In essence, this means we are providing ‘sensing as a service’ which can be viewed as a new type of business model.

What’s your vision? 

I would like Firmware Edge to be the platform of choice.

I’d also like us to be the Irish solution, in that edge connectivity space, with a global ambition. We are already doing work in the US, France, UK.

Interview by Brendan Byrne.

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