Precyse Tech Can't Lose
Imagine trying to keep track of hundreds of workers on a dangerous oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea. One explosion on the rig could sink operations and all on board within minutes. How would you find them all or know they were alive to be rescued?
Atlanta-based Precyse Technologies (www.precysetech.com) has been finding what’s lost with speed and accuracy—people, as well as costly capital assets—since its founding in 2004. An industry leader in entity awareness solutions, the company combines software, a wireless network, and data gathering and analysis tools that keep track of things and people in near-real time.
“There were all these competitors, including us, who were trying to figure out how to create a small device that can transmit, locate a satellite—like a GPS—and that could tag hundreds or thousands of assets,” says Rom Eizenberg, Precyse Technologies co-founder and chief marketing officer. “And then we had to figure out who the market was. So the initial challenges were pretty big.”
Precyse started in Israel, and first worked with the Israeli army, keeping track of tanks, says Eizenberg. “Radio-frequency identification (RFID) was a new industry in the ’90s with everyone working with the idea of how to use radio wireless technology to identify and locate physical objects.”
RFID uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to send data that identifies and tracks objects that have tracking tags attached to them. Tags can be powered in various ways, including through use of magnetic fields, batteries or UHF radio waves.
The nascent industry’s challenge was figuring out how to tag assets (people and machines) from a distance and for long periods of time without losing its energy source. Precyse’s answer was its patented Entity Awareness Product Suite (E-cubed or EQs), which is a wireless real-time location, sensing and control solution. EQs can tag and track objects as far away as a mile, with an energy source that lasts at least two years, work inside or outside and do it reliably, cheaply, seamlessly.
In addition to creating the technology, Precyse wasn’t even sure whom to market to—and if they would find a receptive audience. The company’s technology, which can be customized, is aimed at helping manage strategic physical and human assets in four basic areas: safety and security, intelligent vehicle and fleet management, smart supply chain and equipment management and control.
“Everyone, including us, was chasing everything under the sun looking for markets,” he says. Right now, Precyse is concentrating on two industries: airports and the gas and oil sector.
According to Eizenberg, large airports have about 10,000 moveable assets. Supply chain management is intense and complicated. “If an airplane is on the runway needing a part, they need to be able to locate the part and the transporting cart as soon as possible,” he says.
“We reduce that waiting time, which makes the passengers happier, and it reduces the time the plane is idling, which means it uses less gas. Using less gas means saving money and fewer emissions go into the atmosphere, and it helps the environment. It’s a big deal.”
The oil and gas industry is another prime sector where employees, wearing Precyse’s customized EQ badges, can quickly detect dangerous agents such as toxic hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and call for help. If something happens to a worker, such as an accident or exposure to deadly agents, the system automatically alerts the control room that not only alerts them about the safety issue but also reveals the exact location of every worker in near-real time.
The first responders’ time to find and evacuate employees is cut dramatically, and in trauma situations, those first moments make the difference between rescue and the raw reality of recovery. “In safety drills, we’ve seen significant response in the time it takes to find the man down: 45 minutes without the system, to under 9 minutes,” Eizenberg says.
Saving lives is of the utmost importance, but Eizenberg also points out from a public accountability standpoint, the company is able to say that all the employees have been accounted for and evacuated.
“Safety drives adoption and then once everything is in place, companies see they can keep track of trucks, tools. The ability to do that is not insignificant. We help provide a safe work environment as well as operational efficiencies. Frankly, it’s an easy sell.”
Precyse caught the eye of Spencer Trask, a private venture capital fund. “Spencer Trask did our initial funding as a startup and has proven to be very important in many ways in addition to the funding,” says Eizenberg. “They have been a mentor and given us very smart advice.”
In 2010, the company closed on $11 million second-round funding from a Georgia-based private investor group. The company also relocated to Georgia, although Eizenberg said that other issues, such as quality of life and proximity to Georgia Tech, also factored into the move.
Leland Strange is one of the investors and sits on the company’s board of directors. Strange founded Quadram Corp., which in 1983 merged with Intelligent Systems Corp., where he serves as its chairman, president and CEO.
“I found the company (Precyse) an interesting one and I believe in the technology,” Strange says. “One of the main reasons for my involvement was (Precyse CEO) Andy Mullins and I believe they have a very sellable product.”
What satisfies Strange about the potential of the company is its repositioning, putting more value on the human element of the tracking technology. “The new management is taking it in a new direction—more toward the personal aspect as opposed to physical aspects.”
As for the future, Eizenberg says Precyse’s technologies can be used on behalf of any company requiring a better grip on its assets—both human and physical. “There are other industries where there are significant opportunities. We are working with three Caterpillar plants and their major assembly line components, as well as a car rental company where we are keeping track of 80,000 vehicles. And, of course, there is the military.
“If we can cut 10 percent out of their supply chain costs, that’s saving them millions,” he says.
With its recent funding and about 20 customers, the company broke even the last quarter of 2012 and is now profitable. Although two of its top competitors, Sweden-based Niscayah and Illinois-based WhereNet Corp., were acquired for $230 million and $126 million respectively, Eizenberg says Precyse is not looking to be acquired—at least not yet.
“Our goal is to make money for our shareholders,” he says. “We can do that by being acquired or by growing organically. Frankly, it’s too early to make decisions like that.
“A few years ago, we got customers because the CEO was a visionary who wanted the new technology. Now we are seeing our buyers are other managers who are looking to solve a problem; they care about the economic (benefits) and the functionality of our products. That’s a good sign.”