Houston’s ChaiOne Sees a Role for the Internet of Things in Industry

Much of the discussion around the “Internet of Things” has focused on how such connectedness will impact our everyday lives as consumers. ChaiOne’s Gaurav Khandelwal has been focusing on how IoT, as it’s known, can make businesses processes more efficient.

Houston-based ChaiOne designs and develops mobile app platforms for large companies, and Khandelwal sees a big opportunity in bringing the Internet of Things to the companies he works with. It’s already happening to some extent, he says. Big companies like General Electric have been promoting the idea of the “Industrial Internet” for a few years now. And among Khandelwal’s big energy clients, for example, he’s noticed employees in warehouses and on oil rigs wearing Google Glass.

“Google Glass … It’s still a bit socially awkward but the commercial applicability is really big—especially for jobs where they need their hands,” he says.

Bringing the Internet of Things to industry was a big part of a recent conversation I had with Khandelwal. In addition to the business opportunities he sees for ChaiOne, he, along with his partner Apurva Sanghavi, is working to boost entrepreneurs in Houston. Monthly pitch nights at the co-working space Start Houston, which they opened last year, regularly attracts a standing-room-only crowd. ChaiOne’s new headquarters—the old and long-vacated North American headquarters of energy giant Schlumberger that Chai One bought last fall—is on the way to becoming an entrepreneurial hub in Houston, Khandelwal says.

As the building renovation comes together—Khandelwal is seeking to preserve its historical status while also making it a 21st-century workplace—he says he has IoT first and foremost on his mind. “We’re excited about the industrial side,” he says, bringing such technology to processes like large HVAC systems so they can be controlled by an iPad.

Retailers are already using IoT in their operations, from tracking inventory to pushing out promotions to shoppers in real-time using systems like Apple’s iBeacon, which tracks customers in Apple Stores. Qualcomm’s Gimbal proximity beacons are designed to tell your smartphone where are inside a building and provide information that might influence what you choose to buy.

There are ways for businesses to apply these sensors to internal processes, too. The consulting firm McKinsey points out the example of a pulp and paper manufacturing company that was able to raise production by 5 percent, just by embedding temperature sensors that could adjust a kiln’s flame and intensity. Typically, these adjustments are made manually by staff operators.

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