What's New in Business: Structure helps other companies use Internet of Things

OTR tech company makes gathering data easier

CINCINNATI -- More and more manufacturers are expanding the “Internet of Things” by adding connectivity capabilities to their products. Structure, an Over-the-Rhine-based company, hopes to make it simpler and easier for companies to use the Internet of Things, dubbed IoT in tech-speak, to gather data about their businesses.

What’s the Internet of Things?

The IoT involves using the Internet to gather data from connected devices. There already are an estimated five billion such devices on the planet, and the number is growing fast. Smartphones and “smart home” appliances are the most well-known examples, but they include anything that can communicate over the Internet or a computer server.

Also included are Wi-Fi enabled sensors placed on machines specifically to monitor those machines. That can enable manufacturers to do things such as monitor multiple manufacturing flows in a particular plant when they are away from the shop floor, said Structure co-founder Charlie Key, who grew up in Harrison.

Using its cloud-based platform, Structure aims to make it easy for those interactions to happen, as well as make it easier for customers to gather data about their business from those connected devices. The company also makes custom sensors that could, for example, stop a motor if a particular piece of equipment uses too much electricity, which might indicate it needs maintenance.

Who are Structure's principals?

Co-founders Key, 28, Brandon Cannaday, 32, and Michael Kuehl, 31, met as students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, a top engineering school. Kuehl and Cannaday graduated in 2006, Key in 2007. Cannaday is from Lima, Ohio, and Kuehl is from New York City.

In 2007, the three started Switch on the Code (SOTC), a programming tutorial site that they sold in 2012 to TechPro, a Houston-based tech website. In 2012, Cannady and Key founded Modulus, which hosts a software language called Node.js. As WCPO.com previously reported, that company was purchased in 2014 by Progress Software, a Bedford, Massachusetts-based company.

Key and Cannaday stayed with Modulus for about 18 months after the sale, and then they joined with Kuehl in October 2015 to start Structure. They thought it might be able to solve some of the problems they saw when they were working on Modulus.

How many employees does it have?

Including the founders, there are five full-time employees and one part-time employee.

How much money has been raised?

Key declined to say. He and Cannaday invested some of the money they received from selling Modulus, but he didn’t say how much. They have enough funding to get through at least this year, he said.

Who are the customers?

The company has been doing a pilot project with Erlanger-based Wild Flavors Inc., which makes natural flavors and ingredients for the beverage and food industries. Such pilots will help Structure to understand its markets better and find out where its real opportunities lie, Key said.

It’s clear that manufacturers will be interested, Key said, but there has also been a surprising amount of interest from the entertainment industry: for example, from event planners who want to give their fans a better experience and who also want to know how to manage their concessions better.

What’s the next step?

Finding out which industries will get into the Internet of Things most quickly and targeting the company’s marketing appropriately.

“We need to find out what industries are going to be the early adopters,” Key said. “Wireless (technology) is all heading us down a road where we can take advantage of smaller and lower-price devices collecting data in a manufacturing plant or in an arena.”

About Structure

  • Name: Structure IOT LLC
  • Address: 1417 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. Shares offices with Astronomer.
  • Online: www.getstructure.io
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