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How X2M Connect is spreading the IoT word

Australian IoT technology provider X2M Connect has been making headway in key Asian markets, where sustainability and air and water quality are gaining more attention

Australia-based X2M Connect has developed a platform that connects internet-of-things (IoT) devices in a way that can be applied to a variety of vertical markets.

It has chosen to focus on particular markets where it has an opportunity to dominate, targeting water suppliers in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

X2M CEO Mohan Jesudason said these markets are “solid adopters of tech”, including those in the Chinese capital of Beijing, where X2M is “getting really good traction”.

X2M recently secured two contracts to supply LianQing in China with approximately A$1m worth of water quality sensors and related accessories. This follows four previous contracts with LianQing.

One reason for X2M’s initial focus on water supply is that it can offer a simple and convincing business case. Retrofitting meters with sensors and connecting them so they can be read remotely pays for itself very quickly, and then other functions such as leak detection can be added relatively easily. Water suppliers can lose around 20% of their revenue due to leaks.

Beyond that, possibilities include remote “health checks” on at-risk residents. For example, if an elderly person does not use water in their habitual manner, social services or police can be alerted to contact them to make sure all is well. More than 200 people have already been helped in this way in South Korea, said Jesudason.

X2M recently won two remote water monitoring tenders worth approximately A$1.5m from South Korean government agency K-water. The tenders cover more than 9,000 households, and they put the company in a strong position to secure contracts for the remaining 100,000 households in the three municipalities concerned.

Read more about IoT in Australia and New Zealand

In Japan, around half of the households use bottled gas. By using sensors to collect consumption data, a supplier is able to predict when cylinders will empty and then determine the most efficient route for delivering refills. This has allowed a supplier to cut total travel by 27%, yielding 19% savings for customers. A large meter manufacturer in Japan has licensed X2M’s system, bringing around 180,000 households onto X2M’s platform.

And in Taiwan, X2M has a contract with the Electronics Testing Center to participate in a smart building project that aims to increase the proportion of electricity used from renewable sources by controlling inverters and other equipment. This is an area with global applications, said Jesudason.

These wins are a credit to Australian technology, he said, pointing out that X2M beat Hitachi to the Japanese tender, and noting the clear preference for home-grown technology in South Korea.

Another important aspect of the company’s strategy is that where many IoT players stick to specific verticals, X2M’s approach means it can accommodate any type of device on its single platform. Jesudason said hundreds of types of devices are being put on the X2M platform every week.

Through the platform, a solar panel, for example, can communicate with its associated battery and inverter to help optimise the use of rooftop solar, or it can shut off gas supplies when smoke or an earthquake is detected to reduce the risk of explosions. Furthermore, these controls can be applied centrally or at the edge, as appropriate.

Gaining expertise

As the company learns about one particular market, it gains subject matter expertise that can be applied to do more for other customers.

And once X2M has a foot in the door with an individual customer, it can expand the relationship in terms of breadth and depth.

Jesudason said breadth is about doing the same thing in additional places, just as it is expanding from running sensors at 200 premises served by K-water to more than 9,000 under the new contract – a fraction of the 25 million household addressable market.

Depth is about doing more for the same customers. While billing is the usual starting point due to the scale of the cost savings, other functions can be added, such as the health checks.

But some markets have other priorities, and air and water quality are issues in various parts of Asia. Hence the recent Chinese deal, which involves water quality sensors that measure particle numbers. That data can be analysed to provide an indication of water quality – an example of X2M’s strategy of selling hardware first, and then adding software capabilities. A system that can reduce waste and improve quality has a good chance of success, said Jesudason.

Economic growth in Asia has led to the emergence of a middle class that wants services but is environmentally focused and wants to know, for example, that the water they are supplied with is safe to use for drinking and showering.

Furthermore, there is a “massive focus” in Asia-Pacific on reducing carbon emissions, he added. An example of this is the development of new housing estates comprising smart homes with solar panels and batteries, backed up by community batteries to maximise the amount of electricity that is generated and consumed in the estate, with power being exported to the grid only when necessary. This helps balance the peak production of solar power during the day and the peak consumption of electricity when people return home in the evening.

Open platform

Importantly, X2M has created what it calls an open platform that can be licensed by other companies, such as battery and solar panel manufacturers.

Other features include the intelligent control of power-hungry appliances such as fridges and air conditioners when the household battery is low. Turning off the air conditioning for, say, 10 minutes every hour makes little difference to comfort but saves electricity.

Such capabilities make the houses more attractive to buyers, save householders’ money, reduce the consumption of non-renewable energy, and reduce the load on the electricity grid.

And the efficient use of renewable energy “is on everyone’s lips” in industry and government circles, said Jesudason. “We’re an enabler for property developers, shipping centres, resorts, retirement villages and others, who can use X2M’s platform to implement such measures at low cost.”

Looking ahead, IoT deployments are “growing exponentially”, he said, giving the company a large market opportunity in APAC and South Africa, with strong growth in the water, gas and electricity sectors in these geographies.

Within five to eight years, he expects leading enterprises to have embedded IoT into their operations to improve service and safety, with citizens benefiting from improved energy efficiency, reduced carbon footprints, and reduced wastage of water. Some communities will be self-sufficient as far as electricity is concerned, thanks to solar panels combined with household and neighbourhood batteries.

And that’s without taking into account the new industries and ecosystems that may be spawned by developments in this area. “It’s an exciting space, and it drives quality of life and contributes to the environment,” said Jesudason.

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