Everactive Snags $30M Series C to Advance Battery-less IoT Sensors

Everactive, a Bay Area startup, has raised $30 million in a Series C funding round. The investment was led by Future Fund with participation from Blue Bear Capital, ABB Technology Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and Osage University Partners. The company has raised $63 million since its inception in 2012.

Everactive, formerly known as Psi Kick, is developing wireless, battery-less Internet of Things systems. The company’s co-founders, Benton Calhoun and David Wentzloff, have been working on ultra-low-power electronics since shortly after they met a decade ago as PhD students at MIT.

Later, as professors at the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan, respectively, the pair collaborated on a proprietary silicon chip that powers wireless sensors from energy harvested from sources such as indoor light, vibrations, or small temperature differentials. Once sensors can run on harvested energy alone, the need for batteries is eliminated, says Brian Alessi, Everactive’s director of corporate and product marketing.

“People have been harvesting energy for a while—think of solar-powered calculators—but the problem is, it doesn’t generate a ton of power to do meaningful sensing use cases,” Alessi says.

Everactive’s answer was to develop sensors that need such a small amount of power to operate, Alessi says, that they can sense, process, and transmit data continuously using only the harvested energy. This is especially useful in IoT applications, the company contends, where wireless sensors have traditionally been limited by the need for batteries and the regular maintenance battery-powered systems require.

“The conventional approach for low-power applications is to strip out the power-hungry parts and see what’s left,” Alessi says. “Our co-founders’ approach took a new angle: We know what we can generate with harvested energy. How do we design a system that can operate off that?” While you might not be able to power a jumbo jet off harvested energy, he adds, “you can build something functional for the purpose we need.”

Everactive is going after the industrial market first, where its sensors could be used to collect and analyze data on physical equipment and infrastructure. Last year, Everactive commercialized its first product, Steam Trap Monitor, which alerts workers and allows them to act quickly to minimize waste and safety concerns if a steam trap fails. Everactive’s industrial customers include consumer goods manufacturer Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL).

“A lot of critical industrial equipment is being monitored,” Alessi says. “In a given factory, you’ll have maybe hundreds of critical motors being monitored, but multiples of that are not being monitored because the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t make sense. Even with battery-powered sensors, you’re still sending people out to change the batteries. We have competitors, but we think we have a distinctive advantage—I’m not sure anyone else is doing consistent wireless sensing without batteries.”

The 50-person company plans to use its new investment capital to ramp up hiring—software developers and salespeople are the priority—and Alessi predicts the company’s office in Ann Arbor, MI, will see the most growth this year. (The company’s other offices are in Santa Clara, CA, and Charlottesville, VA.) Everactive also has deployed two other products on a smaller scale: a machine health monitor, which analyzes vibrations on rotating equipment, and a flare system monitor for use in refineries.

“We’re heavily focused on the industrial sector and monitoring specific assets, but our goal is not to be the steam trap monitoring company,” Alessi says. “Our goal is to apply the platform across hundreds of use cases. Ultimately, that means moving beyond industrial to logistics or even the supply chain, where we’re monitoring the whole process. We want to provide insights from the physical world around us.”

Trending on Xconomy