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19 December 2019

Augury wins Qualcomm industrial audio diagnostics backing

 

Qualcomm has invested $8mn into machine maintenance platform Augury. The move sees a leading IoT silicon vendor flexing its muscles in the predictive maintenance sector, with Qualcomm’s eyes seemingly set on advancing 5G connectivity in manufacturing.

Augury develops AI-based machine diagnostic equipment and software, which can analyze machine performance from the sounds it detects. Most mechanical systems – e.g. pumps, fans, chillers – can be characterized through sound, giving Augury the unofficial tagline ‘Shazam for machines’.

These sounds are detected via vibration and ultrasonic sensors which are then interpreted by Augury’s machine learning algorithms. Machine operators can then receive detailed insights based on the analytics of the internal workings of their machines.

Riot has previously observed how predictive maintenance has often been an underrated application for AI. Despite impressive offerings by companies such as Mnubo, its abilities to deliver real cost savings and business benefits has often gone unrecognized by many in the IoT sphere.

Augury’s diagnostics are attractive to OEMs, as they can directly offer replacement parts when needed. Operational data can also gauge how customers use their devices, as well as providing intricate detail on device life cycles and performance.

This information is also of great use to insurers that want to boost their preventative services. Machine faults and general wear and tear can be detected quickly and dealt with before significant damage occurs. It is hardly surprising that renewables reinsurance group Munich Re and Hartford Steam Boilers’ (HSB) joint venture operation has been one of Augury’s most consistent investors.

We recently wrote in Riot that we felt the ‘InsureTech’ industry has seemed to have gone quiet recently – at least compared to the hype of the past few years.

The two segments – industrial IoT and insurance – are in a bit of a circular predicament. There is a widespread feeling that insurers should insist on the use of technologies that can provide preventative services. Yet this is only usually possible with more hardware at the edge of networks, something that is expensive to implement.

Yet when companies such as Augury provide innovative maintenance hardware, insurers seem willing to get on board. Qualcomm’s investment shows confidence that maintenance will become an increasingly important use of the IoT as 5G rolls out to manufacturing.

Carlos Kokorn, Managing Director, Americas for Qualcomm Ventures, said the company is “looking forward to working with Augury to advance 5G and edge computing in industrial settings.” Kokorn also sits on Augury’s board of directors as an observer.

Augury’s initial focus was diagnosing Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. The company now serves a wide array of industries, from all forms of manufacturing – pharmaceuticals, food, consumer goods – to water and waste treatment, energy plants, and facilities management.

The Series A funding round in 2015 raised $7mn, led by Formation 8 Hardware Fund. This was to accelerate product development, expand sales and marketing, and generally support growth.

June 2017 saw $17mn secured in Series B funding which was co-led by Eclipse Ventures and Munich Re / HSB Ventures, the venture arm of Munich Re and Hartford Steam Boilers.

Late 2018 saw Augury reaffirm partnerships with two leading pump manufacturers, Grundfos and PSG Dover. The latter partnership hoped to bring Augury’s maintenance capabilities to PSG’s chemical processing machines. PSG Dover hosts a wide array of pump brands such as Abaque, Almatec, Mouvex, and Quattroflow. It is part of the wider Dover Corporation which has an annual revenue of around $7bn.

 

A Series C funding round raised $25mn in January of this year. It was led by Insight Venture Partners, with yet another significant investment from Munich Re / HSB Ventures. Augury hoped to use the money to expand global operations and further the analytical capabilities of the platform.

Around this time the company completed its acquisition of Alluvium, a computing platform providing real-time machine insights. Alluvium’s capabilities have now been incorporated into the Augury platform.

Another partnership came in February. Augury partnered with Flanders, an Indiana-based motor manufacturer which holds locations across North America, South America, Africa, and Australia. The company produces motors for multiple types of power generation, as well as custom control systems to oversee machine operations.

Saar Yoskovitz, co-founder and CEO of Augury, said that “by working with Qualcomm to use and deploy 5G-enabled technologies, we will exponentially scale our machine health solutions to make the manufacturing industry more reliable, while helping our partners transform their operations.”

Qualcomm has recently been introducing 5G to manufacturing in Germany, and both Bosch and Siemens have both applied for licenses in the 3.7-3.8 GHz band to roll-out private LTE networks for their factories. To date Augury has raised $59mn in investor funding. The company has two offices, in New York and Haifa, Israel.