Alex Edmondson of PunchList Zero caught up with Ian Uriarte, founder and CEO of Timbergrove Solutions. Timbergrove is finding ways to use innovative technology such as IoT and custom software to help clients do business quicker and more efficiently.
PL0: Please give us an introduction to Timbergrove. How did the company originate and what does it aim to accomplish?
Timbergrove solves asset connectivity visibility issues for its customers, like buildings, facilities, oil rigs, airplanes, and anything that requires an eye on it. I started Timbergrove back in 2009 in the middle of an economic recession. The idea of Timbergrove has been around a lot longer, but back then, it was just me doing small consulting work alone. I really took it seriously in 2009 when it became my full-time job. A year later, we began hiring employees, and here we are 13 years later!
PL0: Timbergrove seems to really be involved with new technologies such as IoT and AI. Tell us about the benefits these give to your customers.
At its heart, IoT, the internet of things, is about finding ways of connecting devices more efficiently. Many of our clients hire us so they can monitor certain buildings or facilities even when they are not there in person. Sometimes events happen that people wish they’d known about sooner. No one wants to go home on Friday and come back to a disaster on Monday. We connect sensors to our platform and create rules that allow us to put alarm systems or notifications that can alert people via text message. Overall, IoT helps provide visibility in the process so that our customers can take action when needed.
For example, one of our customers is a large ice cream manufacturer. They hired us because they wanted to monitor the temperature in the distribution centers, as they store about $1 million of ice cream there at any given time. When the big hurricane hit a few years ago, they lost power. The sensors we installed helped tremendously, preventing huge losses. They were able to know what the temperature was in each distribution facility and where generators were needed if temperatures were rising in any given center.
AI on the other hand is a little more complex, as you need more historical data about the process or asset. At the end of the day, AI is about predicting an event before it happens. For example, another customer is one of the largest power producers in North America. They wanted to know the probability of a boiler going down at peak time for a period of 2 weeks. Using historical data, we could predict when a boiler would go down and prepare a backup solution in that case. This type of prediction would have helped our client avoid being penalized, saving them a great amount of time and money.
PL0: Talk to us about Timbergrove’s latest project, Moonshot. How does it work and what kind of businesses will it benefit?
Moonshot IoT is basically a templatized integration system for IoT. There are a bunch of IoT systems/platforms out there today, AWS and IBM are two examples. All of these systems have parts of the solution, but not the whole. We took examples from 6 key industries that we work on such as transportation, logistics, manufacturing, and analyzed the similar problems that arrive in each. Using this data, we were able to create a complex system that can integrate very rapidly for customers in a matter of days rather than months. Many of the big companies like IBM and Microsoft take months to find solutions to these problems. Combining decades of thought, experience, and knowledge on the topic, we were able to create this pre-fabricated, templatized system that can be customized to deliver solutions quickly.
Moonshot IoT helps solves key problems in industrial environments. This solution works best with mid-size enterprises, that have anywhere from 250 to 5000 employees and are looking into deploying a fast solution into market.
PL0: Timbergrove has worked closely with big national brands such as United, AT&T, IBM, and more. How was the experience working with these large companies and what lessons did you learn?
Prior to Timbergrove, I had worked with a lot of big brands so for me it wasn’t much of an adjustment. We’ve been lucky to work with brands like these, as well as small solo-entrepreneurs, and the whole spectrum in between. Working with these national brands has definitely helped us learn a lot. Understanding that they are worldwide and have to deal with different time zones and different cultures is a humbling experience with a lot of challenges. It is rewarding to help solve really complex problems that have huge significance around the globe.
One specific project that comes to mind is working with United Airlines in 2016. They hired us to help solve an integration of their existing airport spare parts system with their new one they were incorporating into airports across the US. One of their big problems was that their database was taking over 20 minutes to synchronize. They thought the problem was the new asset management platform, but we came in and found that it was actually the integration and ingestion of data. In about 2-3 weeks, we were able to shrink this problem from 20 minutes to milliseconds. Those 20 minutes could have led to several flight delays or cancellations around the globe, so helping fix that was a great feeling.
PL0: 10 years from now, where do you picture Timbergrove? What’s the ultimate vision and is there any areas you’d like to expand in? Dream projects?
One thing we’re trying to accomplish is creating more products like Moonshot IoT. Templatized solutions that help us deliver to our customers faster while still being cost-efficient. Our dream is to make these platforms extremely easy to use. With a little bit of configuration and services, these solutions can allow our customers to get going quickly.
On dream projects, a couple of companies that pop in my head are UPS and FedEx since we already work in the logistics space. We’d love to work with big brands like Tesla and Disney and companies like that, of course. But at the same time, we love working with small and mid-size companies alike. It’s all about solving problems for our customers and adding value while having fun doing that.