IoT Hero Braingrid is Redefining Power for the Future
Michael Kadonoff is the CEO of Braingrid, and we recently had the opportunity to talk to him about how his company is helping customers rethink energy consumption. Based in Canada since 2012, Braingrid designs and manufactures advanced digital communication devices and software systems for clients in the energy and agriculture sectors, including renewable power providers; and energy management, operation, maintenance, and auditing/retrofit personnel. Braingrid was recently honored as an IoT leader at the IoT Evolution Conference & Expo in Ft. Lauderdale.
What’s really at the heart of what Braingrid offers?
I would say the biggest thing to know about us is that Braingrid is not just a hardware vendor. We are a platform that provides a smart grid–connected solution that lets you thoroughly monitor and manage system devices within the IoT while reducing costs, saving time, and increasing reliability, scalability, and overall system performance.
The other detail I think people should know about us is that we’re really passionate about IoT devices being truly free from having to plug back in for recharging or constantly changing batteries. We want devices to be deployed…and that’s it. You’re done; you’re not going back to worry about power—true energy reform. Because ultimately the IoT is really about two things: collecting data and then controlling that data. And I feel when you have to plug back in, you lose 80 percent of the IoT opportunity. It’s about transforming energy usage in the IoT to us.
For instance, our new Sentroller device is self-powered and doesn’t even have a replaceable battery, and it can be deployed anywhere in the world—from harsh environments to your home. It’s a product we designed for any IoT application. We’ve recently focused on precision agriculture (PA) applications because our platform simplifies the collection of crop data and lets growers reduce growing risk, improve yield, and increase profitability. The Sentroller also gives real-time data and lets the growers feed plants only what they need, only when they need it. And across a massive farming complex, there’s no running around recharging devices, replacing batteries or managing Internet connections after it’s installed. The solution just works and the data flows uninterrupted.
So what was the impetus for creating Braingrid? Was it in response to a particular problem in the industry or a personal interest, or something else altogether?
I initially founded Braingrid to help businesses and individuals reduce the energy waste/consumption to bring about energy reform. While this is a lofty goal, the first step along this route was to figure out a way to measure energy consumption, equipment statuses, and operational behaviors in an easy and inexpensive way. We addressed this need by inventing both a device and software platform to accomplish gathering this difficult-to-get data. Braingrid delivers on the fundamental principles of IoT: revealing every thing’s voice, one sensor at a time.
Can you walk us through a typical application and how the end customer uses it to make their lives easier? It looks like energy management was critical; would it be possible to give an example of how plugging a device back in to recharge would hamper efforts?
Precision agriculture means that farmers must adopt even more effective methods for producing yield with their existing and new machinery. Braingrid’s solution offers a way to measure any sensor’s value over long distances (typically 10+ miles), using the patent-pending Sentroller device which requires no power connections. Imagine having a device that is rated for 10 years of life without the need to change batteries. Sentrollers are shipped with industry-specific, kitted sensors that connect without tools and are delivering real-time data about soil, watering levels, light levels, and air quality metrics to farmers/growers within minutes. Best of all, the sensors themselves are often the power source; the sensor’s small output power is harvested by the Sentroller. Power autonomy eliminates the expense and effort to hire electricians, skilled trades, integrators, and so on. Having power autonomy means that Sentrollers can be placed nearly anywhere: outdoor fields, service rooms, grain silos, livestock areas, etc. Sentroller gathers this data on its own and relays it to Braingrid's secure cloud network and shows valuable information to the farmer on a smartphone or other device.
Are there crops that are more conducive to this tool than others?
Braingrid’s solution applies to thousands of verticals. Inside the Precision Agriculture vertical, there are “high value crops” which have indoor and outdoor applications. We are currently focused on high-value crops grown indoors such as fruits, vegetables, and medical cannabis. The main goal is to deliver real-time indicators about soil, air, and nutrient and light conditions because these factors are tied to plant yields. However, Braingrid’s solutions also identify cost drivers that hit the bottom line too by monitoring the entire facility. For example, energy consumption and time of use, motor/equipment predictive failure, and the rigorous regulatory compliance environment established by health authorities in the medical cannabis industry make this information critical to achieve high crop yield while avoiding crop losses.
What Silicon Labs’ product are you using at Braingrid, and why did you go with it?
We’re fond of the Wonder Gecko; our Sentroller exploits everything it’s got. The Wonder Gecko strikes a balance between a powerful processor and a focus on power management. Also, I personally come from an engineering background and had roles where I really had to break and stress my products to their limits. Anything we construct at Braingrid doesn’t just have to deliver value in a variety of environments, it has to last 10+ years as well! The Wonder Gecko meets our durability standards and at a great value.
And finally, Michael, our IoT Heroes Bonus Question: Where do you see the IoT heading in the next 5–8 years in your opinion?
I think we will finally start to see truly agnostic hardware layers to house wireless protocols—a real departure from the gamut of protocols and standards that the IoT initially started with. That of course will lead to true interoperability and design freedom. I’m also specifically thinking of universal radio or software-defined radio. We’ve gotten used to software-defined networks; we need to be ready for the idea of software-defined radio that can revolutionize application possibility. That’s where things are heading.