Lessons learned from 18 years of deploying IoT solutions in the field

An interview with Sixth Energy Technologies' CEO, K. Rangarajan

K. Rangarajan, CEO, Sixth Energy

Read this article to learn:

  • The important interplay of technology and engineering in remote monitoring
  • Specific examples of how fully integrated systems have delivered value
  • The most common requests from clients
  • Details of Sixth Energy's machine learning capabilities and how they have been optimised
  • What differentiates Sixth Energy from other companies in the market

With over 18+ years of experience working in 14+ countries, and boasting a 100% retention rate on customers, Sixth Energy’s combination of technological and engineering expertise has positioned them as a key name in the remote monitoring space. Having developed an all digital approach and an in-house analytics platform designed to aid companies make the most out of their data, the company is working with MNOs and towercos to drive operational improvements across the board.

TowerXchange: Please can you introduce Sixth Energy Technologies to TowerXchange readers

K. Rangarajan, MD & CEO, Sixth Energy Technologies: Sixth Energy technologies is a full-stack IoT company. Our products range from sensors, all the way to software. Over the past two decades, we have developed products and solutions for remote management of energy, equipment, cooling, fire safety, intrusion and security in telecom towers, banks, multisite retail locations, large buildings, data centres and other unmanned locations.

With our own R&D and manufacturing set up, we design, develop and deliver solutions that are field-tested, reliable, and economical. With over 20,000+ sites and 100,000+ sensors and cameras deployed in the field over cellular data networks in 14+ countries, Sixth Energy is the epitome of efficient and innovative product engineering.

 

TowerXchange: Which companies do you work with in the telecoms space?

K. Rangarajan, MD & CEO, Sixth Energy Technologies: While we now have a diverse clientele and serve multiple verticals, we actually began our journey in the Telecom space. Over the years, we have had the pleasure and privilege of working with several multi-national companies. We monitor outdoor sites, hub sites, solar powered sites, MSC’s, Data centers and enable energy control at various off grid, poor grid as well as on grid sites.
 

TowerXchange: When it comes to remote monitoring systems, one of the key elements that towercos are looking for is the ease of deployment and integration – can you explain how Sixth Energy enables this?

K. Rangarajan, MD & CEO, Sixth Energy Technologies: 18 years of deploying IoT solutions in some of the harshest climate and geopolitical environments have enabled our products to be robust and dependable. While ease of deployment and integration is essential, reliability plays an extremely important role in remote monitoring systems. Sixth Energy’s focus on building dependable and smart solutions have aided our customers to deploy our solutions and get value.

All products have two parts — technology and engineering. Most companies tend to focus on building technology, which is why similar products with minor variations constantly flood the market. Sixth Energy, however, gives equal importance to engineering.

Let’s take the example of a simple generator control solution. Generator control consists of the controller, a generator and a relay to connect the two. Now, how would you connect these onsite? What is normally done is to have the controller at a central location and a relay is mounted in a box or on a wall near the generator. A pair of wire is connected to operate the relay from the digital output of the controller. Even though it seems simple, it comes with a whole lot of problems.

Firstly, generator alarms need to be checked before starting the generator. Otherwise, it could lead to catastrophic situations at site. If you connect all the generator alarms to the central controller, you will have a bundle of wires running from the generator to the central controller. Secondly, if the digital output wire from the controller to the relay is disconnected, there will be no way of knowing it remotely. Thirdly, there will be multiple cables running across the site.

On the other hand, Sixth Energy follows an all-digital, distributed approach. An independent generator control module with a microcontroller, alarm sensing system, control relay as well as a digital communication interface is used to connect to the generator. The central controller issues commands over a protocol interface to the generator control module. The generator control module ensures that there are no alarms in the generator before starting the generator. If any alarm is sensed, the generator is shutdown to avoid catastrophic results. If the communication cable is disconnected between the central controller and the generator controller module, it is immediately known at the central location. A bundle of wires is replaced with a single cable between the central controller and the generator control module. A distributed and all-digital approach reduces cabling at site and increases reliability. Our design prioritises safety and efficiency, ensuring that our solution is easy to integrate and maintain.

The other major integration nightmare is usually between the sites and the central management software. We have been part of projects where the site equipment vendors say that data has been sent from the site while the central software provider says that the data was not received. With an end-to-end integrated system, this issue is also taken care of. With open interfaces, our central data, image and video ingestion, alarm management and data analytics software can be integrated with customer’s existing operation support systems and other computing applications that are already part of customer’s operations set up.

With our set of digitisation software modules (site access key management system, field engineer management system, TT systems etc.), a unified platform can be provided for digitisation of operations.

 

TowerXchange: Often there is a trade off between top of the range, highly spec’d systems and price, with some companies looking for highly reliable, flexible solutions whilst others are looking for a more cost effective alternative. Where do you see Sixth Energy Technologies as sitting on this spectrum? What are your typical clients looking for?

K. Rangarajan, MD & CEO, Sixth Energy Technologies: To be honest, I think we sit bang in the middle of the spectrum. Our solutions are both innovative and cost effective. One of the secrets to our strength is that we have an in-house R&D. This, combined with our platform approach enables us to design the same ‘high spec’, reliable, flexible solutions at a reasonable cost. Our in-house manufacturing setup ensures that we have control over the quality of our products.

Our clients look for versatility. We create solutions that can withstand adverse conditions and can be deployed worldwide. Our platforms integrate data, images and video and do performance, fault and predictive management. We help our customers enforce SLAs and achieve energy savings. Our products can be integrated with various other existing systems. However, what our clients value the most is loyalty. As a pioneer in the field, and an established member, we build everlasting relationships with each of our clients, ensuring that all their requirements are fulfilled. Our customers have saved millions of dollars by using our products.

 

TowerXchange: Tell us more about some of the AI/ML capabilities built into your system and some of the tangible results that they have been delivering to the sector

K. Rangarajan, MD & CEO, Sixth Energy Technologies: AI/ML and big data go hand in hand. We have deployed solutions in over 14 countries for over 18 years, and currently have stacks and stacks of training data for our engines. Based on our experience, we have built our analytics software platform called ScaleData to implement AI/ML and statistical algorithms to analyse data. ScaleData is a no-code, drag and drop software designed specifically for IoT data. It integrates seamlessly with our IoT data ingestion engines leading to cost effective, reliable, robust and scalable deployments. Our entire solution package is designed and developed in-house and can be deployed on standard cloud services like Azure, AWS or Google Cloud or on-premises inside a walled garden. We are confident that ScaleData will usher in a new era of value creation and extraction through ML/AI data analysis.

 

TowerXchange: In a European telecoms market context, what do you think the top priorities are for towercos in managing their portfolios of assets, and where do you think companies often go wrong?

K. Rangarajan, MD & CEO, Sixth Energy Technologies: I think the problem first arises when we try to put the entire European market into one basket. Pain points in Europe vary from country to country, operator to operator and towerco to towerco. So the top priority for any towerco in Europe must be adaptability. The solution platform needs to be adaptable, nimble and agile so that actual benefits are achieved by the towerco not only today, but for years to come. In addition, it needs to be long lasting (decades) so that they don’t have to keep changing the platform every few years. Large solution providers are not nimble and small suppliers do not have the entire platform to handle all the requirements. We, on the other hand, are a medium sized solution provider with complete end-to-end control over our products and solutions. Our continuous investment into our in-house R&D allows us to provide tailor-made solutions for each client and our deep telecom expertise and established brand enables a strong long-term partnership with the towercos.

 

TowerXchange: What differentiates Sixth Energy from other companies in the market?

K. Rangarajan, MD & CEO, Sixth Energy Technologies: Think of the last 18 years. How many companies have you seen enter this market space, and actually stay long term? We are a stable company with an established clientele.

Our products follow an ‘all digital approach’. They all use digital protocols increasing ease of deployment and reliability, reducing noise and enhance data quality. Our sensors and meters also collect metadata and ScaleData allows us to analyse performance metrics for our products and get to the root cause of any issues that may arise.

However, our key strength is our in house R&D and manufacturing. By not outsourcing our manufacturing process, we guarantee enhanced product quality, quality control and MoQ.

As founder and CEO, I have watched Sixth Energy grow from a two-person company in my apartment living room to a multi-million dollar global business. I have no doubt that we will continue to innovate and revolutionise the field of IoT, ML/AI and Telecom.

 

To discuss further please visit Sixth Energy Technologies at TowerXchange Meetup Europe or contact K. Rangarajan directly at rajan@6thenergy.com and +91 98453 74637

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