Meet SkyFoundry, a data analysis startup from Virginia, and co-winner of the IBM SmartCamp North American Regional. They’ll be competing for the title IBM Entrepreneur of the Year next month in NYC, Feb. 5-7! This is part 3 of 8 in our Meet the Global Finalists series. Register for the public session on Feb. 7th here.
1. Briefly, what is your company’s solution, how does it work, and where did the idea come from?
The Internet of Things is here – smart networked devices are now generating vast quantities of data about our homes, buildings, energy usage, and environment. Access to this data allows businesses to reduce energy consumption and enhance operations.
The real challenge, however, is managing and deriving value from the exploding amount of data available from these smart and connected devices. SkyFoundry’s SkySpark analytics platform directly addresses this challenge.
SkySpark automatically analyzes data from sensors, building automation systems, and other smart devices to identify issues, patterns, and opportunities for operational improvements and cost reduction. SkySpark helps owners and operators “find what matters” in the vast amount of data produced by today’s smart systems.
2. Explain how the company was born; who are the key players on your team and how did they come together?
SkyFoundry was started in January 2009 by the current principals: Brian Frank, President, Founder & Chief Architect; John Petze, Co-Founder & COO, and Andy Frank, Co-Founder, Software Development.
The team knew each other from their time working together at Tridium. Brian Frank was a co-founder of Tridium in 1996 and John Petze joined the company in 2000 and was President and CEO through late 2006. Andy Frank joined in 2004.
The team worked together and had great success with Tridium and remained in touch and shared mutual respect for each other’s talents. In 2009 they got together to think about “what was next.” It was clear that making effective use of the data produced by smart devices was the next frontier in delivering value to owners and operators.
3. How will your solution impact people’s lives for the better?
The focus of SkySpark is to encapsulate the knowledge of domain experts into software that can automatically analyze vast quantities of data to identify inefficiencies in the operation of the infrastructure that enables our modern world. In order to improve any process you have to be able to measure and analyze current performance, and SkySpark enables that process to be accomplished automatically and in real time. The result is the ability to enhance the efficiency and operation of virtually any type of system.
With a world increasingly populated and controlled by smart devices, the need for software that can automatically analyze their performance is critical across numerous applications that directly affect peoples lives and the sustainability of our planet.
4. What is the best advice you’ve been given or the most important thing you’ve learned in the SmartCamp competition so far?
The SmartCamp process has been extremely helpful in refining our messaging to enable customers and partners to understand the significance of technology and what it can do for them in their business applications. For us, as with most startups that have an important new technology, this is the barrier to achieving success – conveying value that customers can understand.
5. In what ways do you hope working with IBM will help your company grow and succeed?
The exposure we have received through our involvement with IBM and the SmartCamp competition has greatly increased our profile as a successful technology startup and brought us increased credibility and greater awareness. All of this directly helps address one of the greatest challenges to any startup – making people aware of what you do, and gaining credibility that you are for real.
The main reason that SkyFoundry should be chosen as Entrepreneur of the Year is “impact” – the impact our technology, our company and our people are having in the marketplace.
There is no question we have very cool technology to address the specialized needs of performing analytics across the huge data sets produced by smart devices–which also happens to be a very different software problem than traditional data analytics–BUT our impact is about a lot more than our product technology.
SkyFoundry is making a major impact in advancing the market for smart devices by helping to drive industry-wide efforts to streamline the development of applications for the Internet of Things. This has included donating intellectual property and significant time and effort to open source community efforts. One of these is project-haystack.org, a community-based, open-source initiative which develops naming conventions and taxonomies for equipment systems and their operational data. SkyFoundry launched the Project-Haystack effort and we have donated all of our work related to data modeling and semantics for smart devices and their data.
In addition, Brian and Andy Frank of SkyFoundry are also the inventors of Fantom – an open source programming language. One of the key aspects of Fantom is that it can seamlessly run on both the Java VM and the .NET CLR. A dynamic, worldwide community of Fantom programmers has developed over the last few years based on their initial work. More information is available here.