Nov 062013

A Spanish startup shows how the internet of machines is changing the business world having installed their sensors into everything from space ships to koala bears.

“Libelium comes from Libelula which means dragonfly,” says Alicia Asin, of the sensor company she co-founded with David Gascón. “The company was named after a swarming insect.”

“We try to solve the problem of dealing with a lot of different sensors and a lot of different protocols and different information systems so we created a hardware platform that sends any information using any communication protocol to any computer system.”

Bootstrapping a global business

Particularly impressive about Libelium is the business has grown to a global brand employing 40 people since 2007 when Alicia and David founded their business on their meagre savings.

“We started with literally wïth nothing, just 3,000 euros which is all you have when you are twenty-four” says Alicia.

After raising funds through some grants and investors, the company got on with selling their products.

“We never wanted to be a company where it’s comfortable for three years without making money so we shipped a product in seven months.”

“We realise now how smart that was.”

Agriculture and smart cities

Connected cites and agriculture are the sectors Alicia sees as being the greatest opportunities for the company.

“I think that cities are very interesting, not because of the technology but what it really means,” says Alicia. “If you are able to have a dashboard of the city’s performance and governments are willing to apply open data then you are really promoting transparency.

“That’s the best legacy of the Internet of Things.”

In Agriculture Alicia sees opportunities in high value crops like vineyards, “we can reduce the amount of fertilisers, we can prevent illnesses in vines and you can even design the type of wine as you can control the amount of sugar in the grapes.”

For Spain, companies like Libelium represent the future of the nation’s industry. “We really need to re-invent the country,” says Alicia.

“I’m always saying that Spain is becoming the Silicon Valley of Europe when it comes to smart cities. Not only in Barcelona but you also have Santander, you have Malaga, Madrid and Zarazoga.”

So it may be that along with a swarm of Libelium sensors, Spain also has a swarm of smart cities. It may be enough to re-invent the country along with the agriculture industry and local governments.

With more bootstrapped startups like Libelium, Spain may even build its own version of Silicon Valley.

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