Daily Oil Bulletin | Technology : by Jim Bentein
In an average year Robert Allen and his team at Vancouver- and Calgary-based cleantech venture capital firm Evok Innovations review hundreds of start-ups for potential venture investment funding.
Although not all of the companies they have funded are destined to grow much larger, he’s pretty confident connectivity solutions provider Expeto will be one that does.
“We kiss a lot of frogs,” said the former business and corporate development executive with South Korea-based conglomerate Samsung Group. “We look at hundreds of different technologies every year.”
Evok, which is funded by Cenovus Energy Inc., Suncor Energy Inc. and the BC Cleantech CEO Alliance, was established to focus on technologies that help improve the economic and environmental performance of Canada’s energy industry.
“The litmus test [when assessing the technologies] is how, in the future, will they decrease the carbon intensity, water intensity and energy intensity of the fossil fuel sector,” he said, with an added emphasis on the economic and human resources improvements those technologie can bring with them.
The technologies Evok has funded — each investment usually involves millions of dollars — include a spill response and clean-up approach, bioremediation of oilsands tailings ponds, computer vision and the industrial-scale extraction of hydrogen from natural gas. Overall it has funded 15 different technologies with many on the road to becoming successful businesses.
Vancouver-based Dark Vision Technologies Inc. is the poster child among the successful enterprises Evok has helped foster. That company, established by an engineering team from the University of British Columbia, developed a super high resolution, ultrasound-based imagine technology that gives oil and gas operators a virtual set of eyes inside their wells that allows for monitoring previously not attainable.
The company’s technology was so impressive, with Suncor, Cenovus and others adopting it, that a division of energy giant Koch Industries Inc. recently purchased it.
While all of the technologies Evok has helped finance hold significant promise, Allen sees Expeto as a company that is about to grow exponentially. Expeto is the world’s first solution provider to commercialize an “Enterprise First” cellular connectivity platform that is as easy to manage and deploy as Wi-Fi. This empowers IT departments to manage 5G cellular networks (public, private or hybrid), while they retain control and ownership of their data and network.
By simplifying enterprise cellular networks with full, end-to-end data security, Expeto enables the huge potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
The company, with global head offices in Vancouver and office locations in Portland, Oregon and Luxembourg, is headed by a team of experienced energy and telecommunications executives, with extensive experience in the Canadian, European and U.S. energy, technology and telecommunications and networking areas.
For instance, Terje Strand, chief technology officer and a co-founder of the company, was previously director of software development for San Francisco-based technology giant Oracle Corporation.
CEO Michael Anderson, who was previously president and CEO of Silicon Valley area-based Networked Energy Services Corporation, a worldwide leader in electricity grid security, joined Expeto about two years ago, largely because he saw the enormous potential of its patent-pending technology.
The company, which has raised a total of about US$10 million in financing, has taken cellular technology beyond the person-to-person stage by utilizing its unique cloud and edge computing technologies. Expeto’s NeXtworking Enterprise-First cloud-managed connectivity solution empowers IT professionals to protect, own and manage cellular networks through a management console. That allows for secure and speedy communications via enterprise wireless network.
The approach allows enterprises to create wireless networks with building blocks that work in their corporate local area network, with “point and click” network access, analogous to how they manage their Wi-Fi networks now.
Anderson sees Expeto’s technology as a game-changer, which is why the successful high-tech entrepreneur and executive joined the upstart company. Expeto sets the stage for IoT applications to communicate wirelessly between various machines and devices more reliably and securely than Wi-Fi.
The company has caught the eyes of several companies, with many forming partnerships with Expeto over the last several months. U.K.-based Pod Group, a provider of connectivity services worldwide for the IoT, last year announced the creation of a strategic partnership with Expeto.
At the time Sam Colley, the CEO of Pod, emphasized why a company with 20 years of experience in developing IoT applications chose Expeto as a partner. “For globally connected enterprises, especially those with remote sites in the manufacturing, logistics, mining or oil and gas sectors, existing connectivity options such as Wi-Fi or traditional cellular networks do not provide adequate control [and] security … in missions critical environments,” he said at the time.
Expeto provides that solution, he said.
Recently Expeto joined the fight against COVID-19 when it was selected to join the Digital Technology Supercluster, an initiative aimed at protecting the health and safety of health care workers, who are three times as likely in Canada to catch COVID.
The supercluster is investing $60 million to advance technologies that will allow for robots to perform some physical patient examinations. Expeto’s technology will be used to secure communications that will enable health care employees to work remotely.
Anderson said Expeto, which sells its technology as a service, holds the potential for those who deploy it to reduce downtime by detecting potential operational disruptions and then assuring all involved in that operation to communicate rapidly.
“At the end of the day it’s about getting these (IoT) devices to establish connectivity in order to achieve meaningful business outcomes,” he said. “What’s special about Expeto is, because we’re custom-built, customers can use public or private cellular networks to communicate and to manage their assets.”
The company works with large telcos like Rogers Communications Inc., with software giants like Amazon Web Services and others to provide its platform as a service (PaaS) solution.
The Expeto approach allows customers, using their own subscriber identification module, to configure numerous devices in seconds across public and private cellular and even broadband radio networks.
“We’re affordable, we’re effective and easy to deploy, as easy as Wi-Fi, but with the scalability and security only 5G and other relevant cellular technologies can deliver,” said Anderson.
COVID speeding digital uptake
The appeal for companies like Suncor, with multiple production sites, refineries and other assets geographically scattered, is that Expeto’s technology allows for the management of those sites through private or public cellular networks.
The company now has about 30 employees, some of whom are contractors. However, he predicts that will grow significantly as its market reach grows by multiple times.
Anderson said COVID-19 has accelerated the business prospects for Expeto.
“More customers are looking to deploy enterprise wireless networks to enable applications for automation, security and surveillance, given constrained access and remote working,” he said. “For those companies who were already investing in networks and IoT applications, COVID reinforced these business cases and they invested more. For those companies which had not started these sorts of projects, COVID served as a call to action…”
As retrieved April 20, 2021: https://www.dailyoilbulletin.com/article/2021/4/1/simple-secure-connectivity-solution-empowers-inter/