Aloxy’s Internet of Things technology is enabling the petrochemical industry to innovate.
Industrial valves constitute an essential piece of equipment in every manufacturing industry, and are heavily relied upon for flow and pressure control by chemical and oil and gas companies. At these industrial sites, the position of manual valves is often unknown. When incorrect, this could result in incidents with catastrophic consequences. To monitor valve positions, operators are periodically sent on visual inspections. Not only are these inspections prone to human error and not real-time, but they also expose the personnel to danger. An alternative solution involves installing wires that connect the valves with read-out equipment, though is seldomly implemented because of the steep price tag.
Aloxy’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology is enabling the industry to innovate, in first instance by making manual valves smarter. When applied to a valve, their wireless sensor provides real-time feedback on the valve’s position (open, closed, or anything in between), as well as on location, temperature, vibration and other parameters. The sensor communicates with Aloxy’s IoT platform through a low power wide-area-network (LPWAN). This type of wireless network is an ideal fit for a battery-operated sensor, because it allows to send and receive small amounts of data over long distances while using very little power.
The technological know-how behind Aloxy’s IoT solution came from the lab of Maarten Weyn, co-founder of Aloxy. Within the IDLab of the University of Antwerp and imec, Maarten heads a research group of almost 20 people mainly focusing on low power communication and localization. Driven to convert ideas into something tangible and impactful, he has proven himself a prolific entrepreneur. He launched his first company the moment he turned 18, and has since co-founded multiple spin-off companies. In his position as Vice Chair of the University of Antwerp’s Industrial Research Fund Council, he actively supports and promotes research valorisation.
In a corporate job, you are narrowly focused and restrained in a certain structure, but in a start-up you do everything yourself from scratch.
To further develop Aloxy’s wireless valve monitoring solution, Maarten joined forces with co-founders Jan Coppens, Glenn Ergeerts, and Carl Stevens. Jan, at the helm of Aloxy as CEO, possesses an impressive track record in business and strategy development. Still, starting his own company felt like a plunge into the unknown. He elaborates “For first-time entrepreneurs, it can be really challenging to take the leap, not worrying about what you are leaving behind and only looking ahead.” In hindsight, it turned out to be a very positive experience, “From a learning standpoint, and personally as well, it is very interesting. In a corporate job, you are narrowly focused and restrained in a certain structure, but in a start-up you do everything yourself from scratch.”
Another reason why I liked, and still like, working with Qbic is because the people are no nonsense, they just say it how it is. When I talk to aspiring entrepreneurs at the University of Antwerp, I always recommend them to talk to Qbic.
Once the team had built the prototype, they set up projects with industry. They also started looking for additional funding to further develop their technological solution and obtain the necessary certification. One of the first investors they talked to was Qbic. As Jan recounts “They asked a lot of critical questions that were helpful to better position ourselves and push us forward. Together with Qbic we then built a consortium of investors.” Maarten points out “From the beginning it was constructive, with the goal of getting to a win-win situation, from which both the founders and Qbic can gain in the long run. Another reason why I liked, and still like, working with Qbic is because the people are no nonsense, they just say it how it is. When I talk to aspiring entrepreneurs at the University of Antwerp, I always recommend them to talk to Qbic.”
As for the road ahead, Maarten concludes “Companies working with our sensors are already asking us what else we have in the works for them. The industry acknowledges our expertise in wireless communication and the low power aspect. When it comes to battery-powered low energy sensing, Aloxy should be the company for the petrochemical industry worldwide.” Jan adds “In the short term, the focus is on scaling up. We also want to break ground in the US and Middle East. In the long term, we want to grow our position as an IoT-expert in the chemical and oil and gas industries. And expand beyond these industries.”
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