Egypt startup eyes global industrial IoT

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Spimesense Labs was born from corporate sluggishness: two friends were working at Ericsson when it was trying to work out just how big this Internet of Things (IoT) business was going to be.

When pleas to their managers to get aboard what they saw as the next big hit went nowhere, they jumped ship.

Bassem Boshra and Magdy Raouf. 
(Image via Spimesense Labs)

Spimesense Labs cofounders Bassem Boshra and Magdy Raouf saw a place for both an industrial IoT management system, which became their Master of Things platform, and for helping telcos manage the change in data use - from the big demands of Youtube videos to small bytes from many different devices.

IoT is the network of devices that are connected to the internet. These can be anything from a fridge to an industrial robot.

App-making for dummies

They built the software platform so businesses could manage many devices.

For example, if a company needed an app that sounded an alarm when water levels in a tank fell too low, it could build one using some simple ‘drag and drop’ features.

The ride started in September 2013  and today their main Master of Things platform has, as of August, four paying customers: water desalinator Ridgewood, the Information Technology Institute (ITI), Om EL Kora University in Saudi Arabia and a Kuwait postgraduate program.

The latter three use the platform as an IoT app tool for students, while the former uses it to monitor 48 facilities on Egypt’s Red Sea, Matrouh and Sinai coastlines.

Egypt’s not into IoT yet

IoT isn’t widely used in Egypt nor is it a field that has attracted many new companies - many are big manufacturers which make devices for export such as Alex Sensors.

Wamda identified one industrial IoT startup called Nilebot which is developing technology to monitor water in fish farms.

'Spime' is a newly coined word that refers to a futuristic
thing, such as IoT, that can be tracked through time and
space throughout its lifetime. (Image via BV Medical)

Others are consumer oriented such as Qabess which makes smart plugs or Solace, a smart lock product currently being sidelined by parent company App Lab.

The problem for both consumers and industrial customers is the same: both want to connect multiple devices to the same management platform. Where Smart Things will speak to all different kinds of connected devices in the home, Spimesense Labs’ Master of Things seeks to do the same with industrial devices.

Foreign customers, foreign competitors

Boshra, who is also the CEO and on Egypt’s IoT Forum’s steering committee, said low-fi Egypt was not their market.

Instead they’re going global. In 2015 they partnered with Sigfox, a global, specialized IoT network which makes money from device traffic. It needs products like Master of Things, as these are the platforms on which companies create the channels - applications - through which data traffic flows.

Boshra said thanks to the partnership they were talking to potential customers from the Czech Republic, Australia and Mexico.

"Their first reaction to us being an Egyptian company is that it's strange to find an IoT platform provider in Egypt,” he said. “The thing we're hearing from all the ones who are trialing our platform... is it's easy to use compared to others."

This is useful intel, since Spimesense Labs is going up against global giants such as GE’s Predix software. Boshra said he’d identified five direct rivals such as VOT Platform, while the Sigfox site names 21 similar products.

Still a startup

Despite the global goals, Spimesense Labs is still an Egyptian startup at heart.

They got their first taste of startup competition at Cairo Innovates in 2014, and Master of Things made it through to the semifinals of the startup track at this year’s MIT Enterprise Forum Startup Competition. A mobility app based on the Master of Things platform went through to the top 10 in the social entrepreneurship track.

They’re currently working with a $56,000 grant from the government tech hub ITIDA to develop the software for a smart agriculture irrigation management system.

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