Movers & Shakers Interview with Erik Fossum Faerevaag, Founder & President - Disruptive TechnologiesPublished Date: 1/19/2021
Erik Fossum Faerevaag, Founder & President - Disruptive Technologies
Erik has a strong background in the semiconductor industry, architecting the world's lowest power microcontroller EFR32 and the world's fastest growing ISM band radio ICs. This background made him believe that the challenges of IoT could be solved. In 2013 he founded Disruptive Technologies and started the journey to recruit the best people in the industry.
Vishal Sapru (VS), Co-Founder, Cognitio Research Inc. had an opportunity to conduct a Movers & Shakers interview with Erik Fossum Færevaag (EFF), Founder & President, Disruptive Technologies
VS: Can you provide our readers with a brief overview of Disruptive Technologies and the vision of the company?
EFF: Disruptive Technologies is an award-winning Norwegian IoT company. We develop the smallest wireless sensors in the world, which are designed to be placed exactly where you need them, making buildings intelligent and sustainable in minutes. Our sensing solution based on these tiny sensors simplifies data collection and delivers the data securely to our own dashboard (Studio) or our partners’ analytics programs in the cloud. Our technology enables sensor solutions for smart buildings, facilities management, workplace, manufacturing & warehousing, cold storage, and substations. We contribute to safer, more cost-efficient and sustainable operations, which also allow people to unload the ordinary for more rewarding pursuits.
VS: Please, elaborate on the features of your new temperature wireless sensor technology that is stated to completely disrupt the commercial real estate and smart buildings market? How different is it from the products that are already available in the market?
EFF: The Gen 2 temperature sensor is an updated version of our Gen 1 temperature sensor. It has all the popular features of the original version that our customers love, like a 15 year battery life, IP68 robust design, tiny size (19 x 19 x 2.5 mm), and weighs just two grams. It also comes with adhesive backing for easy installation and end-to-end encryption connectivity from A-grade, 3d party security review. Our Gen 1 temperature sensor can sense temperature every 15 minutes, whereas our Gen 2 sensor can be configured up to 30 seconds. That amounts to a total of 15 million data points across its lifespan, which is 30 times more data points, in the same form factor and size, while achieving the same 15-year battery life as the previous generation. We are confident that no other sensor in the market can compare to the size, battery lifetime, ease-of-use, and features of our temperature sensor. It has been obvious over the years that cleaning, occupancy and user feedback were going to be important, but COVID-19 has really excelled the public need and expectation. We are ready to scale and can offer solutions RIGHT NOW.
VS: Introduction of new solutions always comes with challenges either from the market, existing products, customer and the settling period of the product/technology itself. What are some of the likely challenges you are expecting to face in the market and what strategy do you have in place to overcome it?
EFF: Despite all the benefits of our technology, companies are still reluctant to invest in IoT-based building and facilities management systems. That’s because new technologies tend to be associated with a lot of hype about their merit and potential benefits, and can sometimes fail to deliver significant financial returns. We also agree that adopting technology only for the sake of innovation is not something that companies will engage in without knowing the benefits on their bottom line. This is why we are constantly publishing more case studies that clearly show the savings or ROI of our sensor technology in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability savings, reduction of wasted materials, increase in the useful time of an asset, reduced maintenance costs and safety risks, reduced food waste, and any new revenue streams and cash-flows that come from customer satisfaction. For example, at a global restaurant chain alone, we saved 1.25 million GBP in food in just six weeks. That saved the company 4,462.04% on their initial investment. The good thing is that some companies are incredibly forward-thinking and have people and budgets in place for innovation and exploration. This has allowed us to have brand ambassadors. We know that the key stakeholders within this industry all want to collaborate and support each other, therefore there is a strong backbone to these challenges.
VS: How would you describe the unique value proposition of your temperature wireless sensor technology? Are there any key competitive differentiators that you can highlight? Are there any unique features of your product that address unmet customer needs and gives Disruptive Technologies an edge over its competitors?
EFF: We have four most important differentiators: the tiny size of our sensors, their ease-of-use, battery life, and their security. Our sensors are the smallest in the world (19 x 19 x 2.5 mm) and weigh just 2 grams, which means that you peel and stick them exactly where you need them, and they can fit a great number of operational components, which is difficult to do with bulky sensors. This means that they are non-intrusive and you get more accurate information about your assets. They offer easy installation (literally peel and stick) and have touch functionality for easy recognition in our web application. They also last up to 15 years, which offers an incredible ROI and peace of mind to our customers. We have made data security a priority in the initial design of the sensor. Data is completely secured with end-to-end encryption from the sensors to the cloud.
VS: There are vendors in the market with complementing or similar products. How do you compare yourself with such competitors in regards to offering a Best-in-Class solution?
EFF: There are many temperature sensors on the market however due to the size, battery lifetime, ease-of-use, and features, there is no competition to our sensors. For example, today's temperature loggers in cold storage environments are offline and need to be read out via a laptop and USB cable. So sensors either have high granularity and are offline or offer low granularity and are online. Therefore, we offer the best of both worlds. Temperature sensors in the market are often bulky, complex to install, expensive, and inaccurate. The second-generation wireless Temperature Sensor offers superior performance, ease-of-use, features, and battery life at the smallest possible size. No sensor compares to the value-per-insight our sensor brings to our customers and the IoT market.
VS: What strategy do you have in place to offer the best value to customers for the price, compared to similar offerings from competitors?
EFF: We strongly believe in Alan Kay’s famous quote “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” At DT, we have a technology advantage compared to our competitors in that we make our own microchip technology, wireless protocol, gateway, and cloud service. That allows us to be competitive in price, but more importantly, it allows us to build seamlessly integrated products that are easy-to-use and robust. When it comes to traditional remote monitoring using sensors, the hardware cost is only a fraction of the installation and maintenance cost. That’s why we have focused on developing sensors that are easy to install by anyone, last for a very long time, and do not require any maintenance.
VS: Continued innovation is the key to success for any company. How is the process of innovation managed at Disruptive Technologies?
EFF: In order to continue innovating, we believe in investing in our company culture. To turn our innovative vision into a reality, we look for individuals who are the best in their fields and do not shy away from diving into unexplored technological territories. By giving those employees room to be creative, fearlessly explore, allowed to fail, and brutally honest - we try to create a culture that continues to question and push what’s technologically possible. At the same time, we try to keep an anthropologist’s mindset and strive to understand what problems our customers are trying to solve. And with help from our partners, we get to put our assumptions and new inventions to the test by keeping a short distance from the lab bench to the end-user.
VS: What do you want the company to accomplish in the next 2 to 3 years and how will you define success for Disruptive Technologies?
EFF: We want to be an industry leader in IoT infrastructure and the go-to supplier of sensors for anyone who wants to make their buildings smarter and more sustainable. We are going to bring our products to more countries and continents, and we are always working on adding new sensor types to our offering and collaborate and innovate with more partners. In addition, you will see a lot more features in our cloud service.
VS: How do you plan to gather customer feedback so as to ensure that the product meets the customer’s expectations and needs? Also, do you foresee your product to have influence (trendsetter) on the overall direction of the market? Can you share any client testimonials with us?
EFF: All of our products are inspired by our customer’s needs for more accurate sensing. We send out continuous customer surveys to assess their satisfaction and expectations for our technology. We also develop our sensing solutions by working closely with customer-facing partners who are industry experts. Our entire business process is customer-centric, and so far, we have seen great results. We believe that the innovativeness of our sensing solutions, as well as our commitment to sustainability and solving real customer problems makes us trendsetters. Here’s what some of our customers had to say:
“The level of detail being obtained has proved to be a revelation." - Matt Livesey, Director Director of Property Management, Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH).
“"Not only did [the solution] save £1.25m of food stock, but it also helped us to manage our sites remotely during lockdown, and automatically alerted us about multiple faults with our freezers" - Safety and Risk Manager, Global Restaurant Chain
"If we see an increase in temperature with no increase in load we can detect something may be wrong and we can go out and fix problems right away." - Kjetil Nymoen,
Solution Architect for IT strategies for Energy Technology, Elvia
"Disruptive Technologies sensors decrease unnecessary call-outs by 25%." - Barry Jones,
Operations Director, 4D Monitoring
VS: Are there any unique features of your wireless technology that address unmet customer needs and competitors are unable to replicate and replace?
EFF: The form factor on all of our sensors is mind-blowing. The uniqueness of our sensors comes from their tiny size (19x19x2.5mm) and battery life (15 years). The form factor can’t be replicated by any competitor because we have made our own microchip that is protected through a mix of patents and secrecy. They also come with end-to-end, 3rd party reviewed security from the sensor to the cloud. The combination of all of our unique sensor features makes for an unreplicable, non-intrusive, and highly accurate sustainable solution for intelligent use in buildings & facilities management, workplace, cold storage, substations, & more.
VS: What are your marketing and product positioning strategies? Do you plan to form any strategic alliances and/or partnerships? How do you plan to build and strengthen the brand?
EFF: We are dedicated and focused on sustainability and efficiency in buildings. Therefore our scope of smart cities, smart buildings, facilities management and sustainability are clear. We rely on partners to scale and evolve their offering and our hardware remains the best there is. Size, battery life, wireless, and robust form will never change.
Our partners are incredibly important to us. Sharing our principles for high quality products and impeccable service, our partners are constantly innovating and finding solutions for more efficient and sustainable operations. Partners are an important extension of our family and critical to our success.
We will build and strengthen the brand by standing by our core values of skill, simplicity, sustainability and sincerity and keeping our eye on our goal. It is very easy for a company like ours to go very broad however staying focused and being the experts in the best IoT sensors for efficient and sustainable buildings is critical. We have a strong feedback loop, quality suppliers and partners and take our R&D and product rollout very seriously. Our customers are #1 therefore we also plan to maintain our strong customer relationships and learn and grow together!
VS: What kind of customer feedback mechanism do you have in place to ensure that the product development and innovation match market and customer needs?
EFF: We are lucky enough to have great partners who build market specific solutions on top of our sensor platform. Through our partners, we get direct feedback from their customers which allows us to create a short feedback loop between our team and the various stakeholders. As an example, the second generation temperature sensor we have launched at CES 2021, is a direct result of working closely with our partners who are some of the largest Service Providers and enterprise clients in Commercial Real Estate on very specific applications where we have found high market demand. We aim to keep innovating based on this kind of partner and customer feedback.
VS: To conclude - what do you think the future holds for your company and the product? Any other information you may want to share with our readers that may be important and we missed asking?
EFF: New technologies are always risky to implement, thus the market has so far appreciated the simplicity and easiness of being able to start small in their DT sensor implementation. This gives companies time to evaluate their investment and then scale to global sensor installations. In the future, we aim to invest in making our technology even more accessible and simple to use and evaluate. We also aim to broaden our sensor portfolio to include more types of sensors, as well as update and increase the performance parameters of current sensors. One thing will not change: we will always be a step ahead in terms of accuracy, easiness, accessibility, and sustainability.
In order to be truly disruptive, we want to make sensors that are so versatile and accessible that they can be used to generate insights everywhere. In order to achieve this, we strongly believe that we have to work on minimizing the cost-per-insight for our customers. In the short term that means making sure customers can better control settings on the sensor like how often the temperature is measured, while in the long term we believe it means adding more intelligence into our sensors.