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1Mby1M Deal Radar 2012: Libelium, Zaragosa, Spain

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 24th 2012

Libelium is a privately held wireless sensor network platform provider. The company delivers, open-source, low-power consumption devices that are easy to program and implement for Smart Cities solutions and a wide range of M2M and sensor projects. All of Libelium’s products are modular, horizontal and easy to integrate into third-party systems.  The company is based in Zaragoza, Spain, but its products are deployed in 45 countries and supported by an active community of developers around the world.

According to Libelium, its innovative hardware integration design and horizontal approach, Libelium’s Waspmote product has the potential to be the standard, universal platform for the upcoming technological age of the Internet of Things.

Currently, Libelium works with large system integrators such as IBM or Telefonica I+D, partnering in one of the biggest Smart Cities projects in Europe to power the Smart Parking solution. Systems based on Libelium’s Smart Parking sensor platform help drivers find free parking spaces quickly and efficiently.

Alicia Asin Perez is the co-founder and CEO of Libelium. A computer engineer, she holds a master’s degree from the Polytechnic Center, University of Zaragoza, and is a graduate of the Judge Business School of Cambridge and ESADE. Perez has conducted specialized research in computer security and power consumption in high performance processors.

Perez started Libelium in 2006, during her final year of university, with a fellow masters student, CTO David Gascón. Although the Internet of Things was not well known, the two founders saw an opportunity for sensor networks, recognizing that when the market took off it would need a hardware platform, one that should be horizontal. From prototyping to commercial applications, Libelium’s focus has evolved as the company has grown. It began with manufacturing hardware, then to implementing sensor networks, and now on designing a modular, universal platform that enables the Internet of Things.

Gascón is a computer engineer with a master’s degree from the Polytechnic Center, University of Zaragoza. His main research areas are Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN), Mesh Networks and Self Emergent and Auto-Organizational Complex Systems. He developed two protocols for the Internet based on ant colonies and other swarm insects’ behaviors (Marabunta, Enjambre). David has won many awards for innovation and research and has published numerous scientific and technology articles. He is also the co-founder of the WSN Spanish Consortium (RedSens) and main member of the Sensor Networks and Mesh Networks international research groups. He has also worked as a professor at the Engineers University of Zaragoza.

Early to market, Libelium’s first successes followed the classic bell curve of the “early adoption” cycle. The company’s initial customers were researchers in university settings, and then it gained traction with some early adopters for pilot programs with a Smart Cities project in Salamanca, and a Smart Water project in Valencia. Libelium made sure to communicate about its customers’ progress and sold products in 45 countries simultaneously—some of these pilots ordered 20 units, then 50, then 1,000. With the Smart Santander project, Libelium reached the early majority—the technology was proven and working well. Lots of innovators had tested it.

For Libelium, the sensor applications that have the biggest impact include transportation, energy, security and environment control. Smart parking is one of the most important because it combines quality of life, cost efficiency, and environmental benefit. Through a distributed network of intelligent sensor nodes, a wide range of parameters can be measured and monitored to improve the functionality and management of cities.

The market landscape in 2006, when Libelium started, was very different from today. People were implementing pilot studies; there were university experiments—all exciting developments, but there was no real business model. The pioneering companies at the time were on the West Coast of the U.S. and included Crossbow, a sensor maker; Dust Networks, spun out from UC Berkeley; Sentilla and SunSpot Lab, from Sun Microsystems. On the East Coast, Millennial was started up by two MIT researchers.

Libelium knew that the market would evolve sooner or later and change everything, in the way the advent of the personal computer has done. Libelium decided it was important to be an enabler of this market, and built a development platform. Everyone counseled the company to “pick a vertical,” but Libelium resolved to remain a horizontal play.

Now that Libelium can collect data everywhere from its environment, infrastructures and businesses, a new ecosystem of business opportunities has evolved around its storage, analysis and accessibility.  Libelium believes that the new Internet of Things requires an open platform capable of dealing with different technologies, communication protocols and sensor databases. That’s why the company released Waspmote as the first Wireless Sensor Network platform to be open source, horizontal, modular and accessible. Now developers can easily design and deploy sensor applications on top, with minimum time to market.

Since Waspmote’s release, more than 2,000 developers have joined Libelium’s sensor platform, constituting a very active worldwide R & D community. And Waspmote has proven its versatility, and adapted to a host of different applications. Since its release in 2010, Waspmote has been attached to koalas to measure their stress levels; it’s been used to detect radiation levels, to monitor the H2O cycle in vineyards, to power smart parking solutions – all of those applications have deployed with the same platform, just changing the sensors.

For system integrators delivering Smart Cities solutions, Libelium is the wireless sensor platform provider that delivers easy-to-program, modular, open source and low power consuming devices.  The Waspmote platform allows system integrators to be in any vertical with minimum time to market, and to integrate easily into third-party systems.

In 2008, the number of “things” connected to the Internet surpassed the number of people on the planet. Forward-looking predictions are exponential, and it is expected that by 2020 there will be over 50 billion connected objects.

According to ABI Research, the global market for technologies that feed into and support Smart City programs and projects are expected to grow on a global basis from $8 billion in 2010 to $39 billion in 2016, accounting for $116 billion in cumulative spending during that period.

Pike Research forecasts that technology investment in Smart Cities will reach $10 billion by 2015 and exceed $108 billion by 2020.

In the context of the Internet of Things, Smart Cities are an important target segment for Libelium, both in Europe and North America. Parking and Transport are high value applications as are the sectors of environment (with air pollution, forest fire detection, landslide and avalanche prevention, pre-earthquake detection) and agriculture.

The company’s horizontal approach allows Libelium to partner with customers such as large system integrators, like IBM, and carriers like Telefonica, for many different kinds of projects.

Libelium generates between $2 million to $5 million Euros (~$2,613,000 to $5, 533,000) in revenue, and is cash flow positive. Unlike typical R & D companies, the company is obsessed with sustainability and about making money from selling rather than raising money from investors.

While Libelium is based in Spain, 80% of its revenue comes from outside Spain. The lion’s share of comes from a dozen of countries, in this order: Australia, U.S., Italy, New Zealand, U.K., Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Greece, France and Malaysia. At present, 65% of Libleium’s customers are companies, and 35% are university research centers.

Pricing ranges from $100 to $300 per device – a solution that includes up to 1,000 nodes can range from $250,000 to $600,000. Different projects include various devices, programming and services.

Libelium was bootstrapped right from the start. To finance the company at the beginning, the founders had to bring together 3,000 Euros (~$3,900)—the minimum legal amount to establish the company.

The founders are committed to building the business and plan to seek investment from the U.S. The ideal investor would bring “smart money”—an investor who brings new ideas and the experience the company needs to reach new sectors of the market.

Libelium’s plans for 2013 include opening offices in the U.S. and reinforcing its position in Europe.

The co-founders we are responsible for Libelium, and love it. Still, they don’t want to be the ones who limit it, so if the company needs help or the founders find they need new investors to grow, they’ll do that.


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This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Deal Radar 2012

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