Home Industry Strategy Freestyle opens IoT development centre in Melbourne

Freestyle opens IoT development centre in Melbourne

M2M specialist Freestyle Technology officially opened its IoT innovation centre today.

Freestyle Technology is "one of Australia's best kept secrets", according to chief executive Mohan Jesudason.

The company has been in business for 10 years, and currently specialises in applying M2M technology to water, gas and electricity utilities.

Freestyle has contracts with 15 gas companies in Taiwan, which together serve 3.2 million of the country's four million households. The first 21,000 households have been allocated to Freestyle, and that number should reach 500,000 within three or four years, Jesudason told iTWire.

And the company has a 10-year technology deal with China's largest meter manufacturer "that could be very significant", and is involved in proofs of concept with multiple gas retailers.

The Freestyle Microengine can be installed in a wide variety of devices to provide data and take action. Examples include detecting water leaks from a sudden increase in consumption, or shutting down electricity supply to the premises if a gas leak is detected in order to reduce the risk of explosion. It also helps deliver the promise of smart metering by providing a mechanism for suppliers to temporarily and remotely shut down or turn down non-critical uses such as pool pumps and air conditioning during periods of peak demand.

Also in China, Freestyle is about to launch a prepaid gas platform. Prepaid accounts are common in China, he said, but the cards currently used have a tendency to break inside the meter, requiring a service call. There's no warning when a top-up is needed, which entails visiting a local store.

Freestyle's platform combines a chip in the meter with a backend system that allows customers to top up from their mobile phones, receive alerts when their credit drops to a selected threshold, and integrates with the gas company's bank, billing system and CRM system.

The company predicts overseas revenue of between $250 million and $300 million by 2018.

While manufacturing is carried out in-country as that increases the chance of winning contracts and reduces exposure to exchange rates, the hardware and software engineering team are based in Melbourne, which brings us back to the new R&D centre.

Located in Mount Waverley in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, it employs 56 people who speak a total of 20 languages.

"Victoria is the hub of our global ambitions," said Jesudason. "We project adding more than 150 high-tech jobs and generating exports in excess of $200 million in the next few years."

While MYOB recently moved its development teams from nearby Glen Waverley to the inner suburb of Richmond largely for talent attraction and retention reasons, Jesudason told iTWire he was happy in the eastern suburbs.

"If you've got IoT in your label you'll attract attention" from people who want to work in the field, he said. The company actively seeks cultural diversity as well as technical skills, and people offering both are readily available in the Monash University-Dandenong corridor.

"Our platform can be taken to any industry," he added. The company has its eye on the automotive sector, he told iTWire, and is talking to two large insurance companies in Malaysia that are interested in systems that can provide real-time alerts to drivers about their bad habits, and in the longer term add this information to their risk assessment.

While the company's initial success has been in Asia, Freestyle is planning to diversify geographically as well as industrially, and expects "material inroads into the European market," Jesudason said.

Victorian Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis attended the opening of the R&D centre. Observing that "success is never a given... a lot of people will fall along the way", he praised the vision and persistence of Freestyle's founder Andrew Donaghey.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.