Petasense emerges from stealth to help companies monitor machine health

Industrial IoT startup Petasense emerged from stealth today, officially announcing $1.8 million in seed funding and a hardware/software solution designed to help industrial customers understand when equipment needs maintenance by “listening” to its vibrations.

As it turns out, machines vibrate at a certain frequency when they are operating smoothly, but as parts begin to wear down, the vibration sound changes in a way that can be measured. Petasense offers a vibration sensor for each machine, which feeds data about the vibrations wirelessly to the cloud, analyzes it, and presents it to users in a way that even employees who don’t have expertise in vibration science can understand.

The funding, which dates back to 2015 according to Crunchbase, is officially being announced today. The round was led by True Ventures with Felicis Ventures and several angel investors also participating. Om Malik, who was founder of the tech blog GigaOm, is lead investor at True, and he liked what he saw in Petasense.

“Just as we have core senses that allow us to function as humans, the industrial landscape has a key set of senses that can be utilized to give a holistic view of the industrial environment. By focusing on those senses and focusing on how to access them without minimal disruption, has been a key reason why I love Petasense,” Malik told TechCrunch.

Petasense vibration sensor. Photo: Petasense

But sensing the vibrations is just part of the story. The solution also uses machine learning to “understand” what falls in the realm of normal behavior for that machine. As it gathers data over time, it can reduce false positives and false negatives, company co-founder and CEO Abhinav Khushraj explained.

In a traditional maintenance situation, the machine simply breaks and there is unscheduled downtime to fix it. What Petasense provides is the ability to predict when the machine is going to break down before it does, allowing  the customer to schedule maintenance in a more logical way. If they are in the middle of a big order, they might decide to wait. If they have a big order a couple of weeks out, they may fix it now. Regardless of how they decide to proceed, having data gives the customer more control over the maintenance process.

It also introduces them to the Industrial Internet of Things in an incremental way. It’s all well and good that the latest greatest machines are equipped with these types of sensors, but in reality most manufacturing companies aren’t replacing their machines anytime soon.

This solution is designed today mostly for rotating machines such as motors, pumps and compressors, but down the road Petasense hopes to add sensors to monitor other types of industrial equipment.

The company will be charging $399 or $599 for each sensor, depending on how sophisticated the unit is. It will also charge an additional subscription fee for access to the data and analytics on the cloud platform with varying prices, depending on data usage.

Petasense was founded in 2014 and currently has 15 full-time employees divided between San Jose, CA and Bangalore, India. The latter houses the programming and R&D parts of the company.