City Launches IoT Lab for Technology Innovation

By Claire Swedberg

IoT Lab-Fishers has signed on 50 members so far, with an opening date slated for this summer to begin Internet of Things-based research and development to serve manufacturing, farming and logistics.

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The city of Fishers, Indiana, together with ClearObject as anchor tenant and consulting partner Indiana University, is opening a laboratory facility dedicated to research and development of Internet of Things-based technology. The IoT solutions may include any system with sensor-based data, including Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Wi-Fi, RFID, ZigBee and cellular transmissions. The new laboratory, known as IoT Lab-Fishers, is part of what the city calls Launch Fishers, aimed at bringing opportunities and business solutions to the city.

Fishers, a city of about 90,000 people, is located near Indianapolis. It is home to several technology companies, says Mayor Scott Fadness, and happens to reside in a state that is focused on industries specifically benefitting from IoT technology.

Mayor Scott Fadness

Approximately four years ago, Fadness says, the city began developing Launch Fishers, a comprehensive economic plan to foster an entrepreneurship culture. It dedicated a 52,000-square-foot space for co-working, that was designed with a coffee bar, meeting rooms and Internet access to allow software-as-a-service (Saas) and mobile app development companies to get their work done in a collaborative environment. “It’s a space for entrepreneurial pursuits,” Fadness says, adding that with the growing demand for IoT solutions, the city began considering another space specifically for IoT development.

ClearObject, an IoT-based company headquartered in Fishers, plans to open a second location within the lab, according to John McDonald, ClearObject’s CEO. The firm is expected to have about 10 employees onsite. ClearObject is rooted in building and running private cloud service for data analytics and, more recently, opened a division focused on IoT solutions. It’s not a coincidence, he adds, that ClearObject and the new IoT Lab will be based in the center of Indiana—a state, he says, that is at the heart of industries that make, move and grow things. That includes the manufacturing, logistics and farming industries. To remain competitive, McDonald says, companies in these sectors are looking to IoT technology to solve efficiency, safety and other challenges, using sensors and cloud-based data.

“With the Internet of Things, there’s always a thing,” McDonald states, “and companies need a place where those things—such as sensors—can be tested and developed, along with the systems that receive and manage the device data.

The IoT Lab, which is slated to open this summer, will be a 24,562-square-foot space that companies will pay a membership fee to use. Memberships will begin at $1,000 a year and will enable users to take up some residence onsite, either temporarily or permanently.

Companies can then bring their own equipment and devices onsite for testing and development. The lab aims to address four components of IoT solutions: ideation (for solution development), cloud data, edge hardware and product development. Different businesses may focus on different components, and the city expects some to team up to develop solutions.

ClearObject’s John McDonald

“By aggregating all that talent in one space,” Fadness says, the city expects the lab to be in a leadership position for IoT development not only in Indiana, but beyond the state as well.

Several IoT end-using companies are already planning to work with businesses at the lab, including Eli Lilly and Cummins Engine for connected diagnostics. The companies plan to implement IoT-based solutions to manage their products. “For them to take IoT projects and drop them on small companies like ours” may be unrealistic, McDonald says, while working with a team of companies at the lab will enable the development of solutions that can be quickly piloted and implemented.

Other lab users will include Duke Energy, Purdue University Manufacturing Extension Partnership and software company Flexware Innovation. To date, approximately 50 companies have signed on as founding members, Fadness says, though not all will be onsite on a regular basis. “We have everything from startups to large corporations,” he states.