Houston’s ChaiOne Sees a Role for the Internet of Things in Industry

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a car tells you the tire pressure is low, why can’t the assembly line tell you there could be problems?” Khandelwal says. “A fridge should be able to tell you: ‘This is what’s wrong with me.’ ”

To help its customers find these possibilities, ChaiOne has started a private beta of a new service called ContextHub, software for businesses to create connected apps for business operations. Among the companies participating in the beta are large multinationals like Samsung and GE, as well as startups such as cleantech firm SeeForge, which makes an app that digitizes reporting paperwork for safety inspections and other reviews.

Last week, Khandelwal traveled out to an oil rig with a client to gather intelligence on how ContextHub could help better manage processes there. In such a rugged environment, Khandelwal says he realized he would have to illustrate much more than the efficiencies of being connected. “They asked me if the device would pass the ‘float’ test,” he says. “When I asked him what he meant, he motioned as if to throw the device into the water.”

In other words, industrial sites like rigs are chaotic places where delicate and expensive equipment could easily be damaged, he says. That’s meant a very low rate of adoption on the part of such companies. So, Khandelwal says he’s also been paying attention to the physical space, placing devices at fixed points and making sure they could be operated by voice command.

In the beta, Khandelwal says ChaiOne is also working with clients to suss out behavioral patterns in order to provide more predictive services. “The idea is to put ContextHub out for public beta in August,” he added.

In the meantime, the company has expanded to Austin, where it has opened an office to recruit software and product development talent. And it has set up shop in Dubai, where Khandelwal’s brother leads a marketing team to seek out opportunities in the Middle East and Europe. ChaiOne is already working for clients in the Gulf emirate, creating contextual apps for Global Village, a cultural amusement park, where its sensors are helping people remember where they have parked their cars and track down family members in various parts of the park.

And if that wasn’t enough to keep busy, Khandelwal is a new father to a 7-week old daughter. As I left his office after our chat, she and his wife were coming in to help the ChaiOne staff celebrate the firm’s 6th birthday.

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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