“There is a clear will to combine skills and expertise with complete global solutions that are relevant and reliable as well as being efficient”
“R+D are at the heart of Libelium. An improved Smart Lightning solution with increased analytical capabilities will be introduced shortly”
During the most recent edition of the Mobile World Congress event, SC Actual Smart City had the chance to speak to Javier Martínez, Libelium’s Sales Director, who shared his impressions of M2M with us and its relationship to Smart Cities.
Libelium is a great example of what innovation and development really mean. The company was created in 2006 from a project conducted by two former students from the University of Zaragoza, Alicia Asin and David Gascón. They were awarded Spin Off status from the university in January 2007 to start a career that has resulted in them winning the CEAJE (Spanish Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs) Award for most Innovative Company on 14th January 2013 and the TR35 Award from the publication MIT Technology Review for David Gascón, Libelium’s CTO, among other awards it has won during its short history. Libelium’s focus is the development of sensors and interconnection technologies, and the development of applications in the contexts of the Internet of Things (IoT), M2M and therefore in the context of Smart Cities. It has 35 employees, although there are more than 2,000 active developers globally, creating solutions for other companies which use its technology. Its technology solutions are deployed in 75 countries and it has a presence in leading international companies such as Telefónica, Acciona, IBM, Boeing, ABB, Vodafone and ATT among others. One of their success stories is their collaboration in managing the Fukushima disaster, where its Waspmote radiation sensor has been used to collect data without endangering human lives, or in applications such as Smart Parking, Smart Agriculture or Smart Water not to mention those applications relative to Smart Cities with a presence on different projects in Salamanca or Serbia.
The name Libelium is related to the flight of dragonflies, and is a metaphor for the use of wireless technologies such as 3G, 2G or Zigbee to connect sensor networks with which to measure all kinds of environmental parameters; from humidity to sound, light or radiation.
At Libelium’s stand, we had the opportunity to interview Javier Martínez, who has been their Sales Director since December 2012. With a background in Business Administration and Management from the University of Zaragoza and later the University of Kingston, he specialised in Strategic Management Marketing, and developed his career in various companies such as BBVA, Service Quality Institute, Industrias Ventura and Videotronic Spain Multimedia where he served as Director General.
Putting Libelium into perspective, can you describe your company’s activities to us?
Libelium is a company specialising in the design and manufacture of hardware and technology for the development and implementation of wireless sensor networks. To put it in a way that is easy to understand, our technology allows us to sense any parameter and send it via any communication protocol to any information system. It’s a completely horizontal approach. In order for the value chain to allow the sensor system and sensor networks to reach the end user, we work with partners that can process and use the information our hardware gathers, sends and stores in our information hubs to integrate it in applications and platforms or in services that are useful for the end user.
In the design of this platform, do you control the incoming data from the sensors?
Yes, we provide the data to the companies we work with, and integrate it into applications and company software platforms, which transform the incoming data from the sensor technology into useful information for its application in services and other uses that bring added value to mere data
It is true that for a while now there has been a special interest in everything to do with Smart Cities, for example, the history of this type of application technology is not too extensive. When did it all start with Libelium?
There is a boom around Intelligent Cities or Smart Cities which everyone seems to be excited about; the line of business and everything surrounding this new market sector. There are an enormous number of Smart City applications, services and opportunities around, but we are still at a very early stage so there are not too many real and tangible projects. There are concepts, ideas, initiatives and an enormous potential, but the indisputable fact is that they must be implemented.
So in a way, the real and tangible technologies are M2M and IoT?
A.- Yes, M2M and the Internet of Things are there working, and a lot of players identify them as real and tangible market sectors. Anyway, steps have already been taken to make Smart Cities a reality. To give an example, Libelium is involved in the Smart Santander project, which gives one of the most relevant pictures of Smart Cities in Spain. M2M is implicit in generating valuable solutions for the end user. At the end of the day, M2M technologies will be used to build valuable and intelligent solutions for the end user from the collected information, whether this is the individual citizen, or from a more general perspective, the city. On a commercial level steps are being taken in the direction of realising the Smart City concept with tangible initiatives. For example, large operators such as Teléfonica are betting on these types of intelligent platforms. They have opened their Smart City Showroom in Madrid’s Innovation Centre and are creating their own intelligent city platform. Other companies such as Indra are also working on a platform, etc. The idea has been conceived and profiled, and is now coming to fruition.
Libelium was created in 2006 at the University of Zaragoza with clear product positioning: to become a horizontal and very open hardware provider in the world of M2M and wireless sensor networks. The libraries are Open Source, and these horizontal systems can be integrated with ease as vertical solutions, precisely because Libelium does not attack the degree of verticality that exists within the specific integration projects companies using our technology need. It is a standard M2M and IoT platform that enables our hardware to connect the information from our sensors with any information system through any communication protocol.
When you speak about communication protocols and hardware, what specific technologies do you employ?
These protocols provide ZigBee u 802.15.4 at a communication level. The Libelium platform was originally based on hardware resources such as Arduino, but today it is derived from our own systems developed within the company.
At a projects level, which ones would you highlight as the most important?
At the Smart Cities level, I would like to highlight Smart Santander as mentioned earlier. There are other projects on which we have collaborated, such as in Zaragoza and Salamanca, and another in Serbia, together with Ericsson, but I would like to highlight Smart Santander due to its scale as a global Smart City. In other initiatives specific aspects have been targeted, but in Santander the approach is holistic which is ground-breaking in Spain. Libelium is present in areas such as intelligent parking for the detection of free outside spaces, with more than 1,100 of our integrated devices in service platforms. This information is available via downloadable end-user applications for mobiles and computers. There are more than 350 parking spaces equipped with sensors and monitors. In the field of environmental conditions we monitor noise and brightness with more than 750 sensors distributed throughout the city.
You refer to companies like Telefónica, Ericsson and other very different types of companies. What is the relationship like when dealing with these multinational companies on projects of such magnitude?
Currently we can only say that it they are very positive experiences. In the sense of joining and identifying synergies, and when a business opportunity is found to provide the necessary steps to adopt an integration dynamic and to translate the initiatives into business models that are positive for both parties. There may be difficulties in the integration of solutions, in a technical dimension, but seeing as Libelium’s solutions have been designed to be horizontal from the start, there are really no unsolvable problems that prevent the process from being completed successfully and providing solutions to the end-user. In the world of Smart Cities and other vertical technologies, there is a clear will to join skills and expertise and combine complete, relevant and reliable as well as efficient global solutions.
At a time when it seems that higher innovation and R&D capacities are demanded from companies in this country, how important is this area within Libelium?
RD is the company. RD is at the heart of Libelium: around 60 to 70 percent of the workforce is involved, to varying degrees, in research and technology development. It is a constantly evolving department with a dynamic spirit. Precisely coinciding with the MWC on the 26th we presented an improved version of our Waspmote product, which is the sensor board or sensing hardware itself. Libelium has two types of technology: Waspmote, the sensor board with communication modules such as Zigbee, 3G, WiFi or 802.15.4 and the Meshlium hub, which receives all the information from the nodes and injects it into the communication networks. In one example of its use, data is sent through Zigbee to the Meshlium hub, from where it is injected into the networks that carry data to data analysis systems. The RD department is constantly working on new solutions or enhancing existing ones. For example, an improved Smart Lightning solution will soon be presented with a greater capacity for analysis. The goal is to be ready to adapt to market demands with the best possible technology.
How do you see the company in five years’ time? How will a market that is destined to explode in the coming years potentially affect the company?
It is indeed a market that could explode, but Libelium aims to grow in an orderly and sustained way through identifying our role in areas such as M2M or IoT, and taking advantage of opportunities but with a well defined strategy, of course. By carefully considering alliances and partnerships which do not take us away not from our natural environment and our specialty, we are willing to adopt such collaborations with companies where our developments and solutions fit and provide value. The company’s prospects are very good.
There is a trend towards consumerism. Can Libelium adopt such a role in offering solutions directly to end users?
In our case it isn’t a priority to leave the philosophy of horizontality in order to move us towards complete solutions that reach the end user.
Can you mention any project that has been a challenge, complicated or revolutionary? Which projects would Libelium wish to be involved in, in the future?
Smart Santander was a turning point for the company, because its size and its requirements represented a major change in the way in which we worked. We are currently present in a large number of countries worldwide, and the overall growth strategy is using the same philosophy as in Spain: building partnerships and adopting integration policies. The goal is to be present in all areas of business where our sensor system technology can add value; in Smart Cities, in Smart Agriculture, Smart Environment for environmental control, Smart Water for water management, marketing solutions, logistics, industrial control and security etc.
Is there any type of application within Libelium’s solutions portfolio that uses smartphones, or integrates them as part of the project?
Indeed, in the context of the Meshlium product, we have a business line we call Smartphone Detection, which can scan Smartphone devices via WiFi or Bluetooth and allows heat maps, people detection, people flows, ‘hot’ routes and length of stay, etc to be defined. For example, AT&T have a demo Smartphone detection solution with several Meshlium hubs scattered, anonymously of course, throughout the MWC which scans a circular area in the proximity of the sensor to detect data such as terminal type, operating system, and motion dynamic etc and which has very clear applications in marketing, for instance.