ffly4u: Reusable asset tracking firm raises 700,000 Euros to Accelerate Growth
Toulouse, France. Toulouse-based ffly4u (firefly4u) has announced receipt of € 700,000 of first round funding to support its innovative tracking system that unlike RFID technologies, does not require asset users to invest in readers and related infrastructure.
“As an executive of companies involved in reusable assets – LPR, PICK-AND-GO, I was and remain very interested in ways of tracking assets,” explained Olivier Pages, President of ffly4u. “I was convinced by 2006 that the future of reusable packaging is to embed data.”
In 2010, PICK-AND-GO placed RFID tags on 150,000 plastic pallets serving the food distribution system in France, betting that customers and retailers would see the value in investing in RFID portals and infrastructure at their premises. That gamble fell short, however, and customers did not take advantage of the RFID-tagged pallets for tracking.
According to Pages, he discovered in conversation with retailers, there were three key reasons why retailers had not jumped aboard to leverage the RFID-tagged assets:
- Passive RFID technology provides information about how and when the load or handling equipment crossed a portal but is incapable of more accurately identifying the asset’s location.
- High level of technology investment which is complex to set up and increases maintenance costs.
- High price per traced asset, making cost justification more difficult.
“My question to retailers was whether they had need around asset tracking,” Pages continued. In response, retailers assured him that they had a huge need, but that RFID passive tags were not the fit they required. Pages was told that a tracking system must:
- Show where the asset (load or equipment) is located.
- Be simple to install
- Be inexpensive. The tracing services, inclusive of devices, network contract, data platform, and follow-up had to be cheap – less than € 1 per month and per asset, and around half of that amount for large volumes.
With that frame of reference, Pages met with Ludovic Le Moan, CEO of SIGFOX. “In 2010 I met with SIGFOX to explore the possibility of using ultra narrow band (UNB) technology,” he stated. “At that time, however, the SIGFOX business model was too expensive to be relevant, while additionally, the SIGFOX network was not yet completed. By mid-2013, however, the landscape had changed. SIGFOX had become relevant for asset tracking (92 percent of the French population is currently covered by the SIGFOX network).
Over the course of 2014, Pages himself funded successful testing of tagged assets in a supply chain application and launched the ffly4u business in June 2015.
In December 2015, Pages’ firm, ffly4u, received first round funding of € 700,000 from IRDInov, a French seed capital fund, to allow it to rapidly deploy its IoT B2B (Internet of Things, Business to Business) solution. ffly4u says that it offers an affordable turnkey service for the tracking of mobile assets and property, including goods, cargo, spare parts, vehicles, site assets, and reusable transport items such as containers and pallets. It provides not only asset location but also other features as required, including temperature or motion.
ffly4u utilizes ultra narrow band (UNB) SIGFOX-type technology to connect mobile objects, making this data available to clients in real-time through a web interface.
According to Pages, the operation of the ffly4u service, priced at only a few euros per asset per year, is simple:
- A transmitter, equipped with batteries of 4 to 10 years life expectancy (depending upon the service), is placed on the asset. Once operational, it transmits at a constant rate of 3 to 100 times daily.
- A national network of antennas receives these messages and they are made available, according to specific customer needs, through the ffly4u cloud.
“This initial funding will allow us to accelerate our growth, particularly in Europe,” said Pages. “Many European companies have already tested our services and showed a strong interest in implementing during 2016. It is now important to move to a new stage of our development. By 2017, we plan to deploy more than 50,000 devices. The entrance of IRDInov in ffly4u funding is a strong signal to European industry of the readiness of ffly4u to become a significant player in the world of industrial IoT.”
“ffly4u has developed a comprehensive platform including hardware and software for monitoring mobile assets at a cost of use allowing B to B clients of this service to differentiate and capture more value,” explained Jean-Michel Petit, CEO of IRDInov. “In our eyes, the solution provided by ffly4u offers a considerable development potential in Europe which explains our decision to invest, and our partnership.”
For more information, visit www.ffly4u.com.