A moment of inspiration

Ubicquia is making cities across the globe smarter with Kairo, a customizable, light pole-based router that takes advantage of existing city infrastructure. The inspiration for Kairo came from a street light outside of co-founder Tre Zimmerman’s house. Ubicquia had been working on an IoT project in Rome, involving IP cameras and smart water grids. The biggest issue they had was keeping the devices on 24 hours a day to record data they needed. “The cost of lithium-ion batteries, the cost of cabling, the cost of fiber, all of these things started to create a big impetus on the platform,” says Zimmerman. Then he spotted a street light outside his son’s room, still on at 2:00 pm.

“It gave me the sense that there obviously was power coming off the top of this light pole, and that all we had to do was figure out how to tap into it. There’s a light pole every 120 feet apart in every major city in the world. Do the math. That’s 255 million street lights just waiting to be connected.”

By taking advantage of the existing network of street lights, Kairo allows cities to become smart overnight. A city like Sao Paulo that suffers from major air pollution can simply plug Kairo into the cobra head on its light poles and suddenly have a network of pollution sensors ready to go.

“I knew Avnet as a component supplier, but I didn’t know Avnet as a full-service shop. Someone that can literally go and look at my plans, take my ideas, wrote down notes and help me figure out all of the logistical steps needed to bring my product to life.” Tre Zimmerman, Ubicquia Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer

Getting to the world to change the world

Deploying Kairo meant finding a partner who could help guide the product through the design process to market, which is where Avnet entered the picture. “We help customers optimize the cost profile of their product. We also help them source the right components. We help them find the right manufacturing partners. And we help them take the product to market,” says Chuck Loomis, the Avnet FAE (Field Application Engineer) who worked with Ubicquia.

“Avnet does a fantastic job in supplying their customers with FAEs to come and sit in our lab with us while we source these components,” adds Zimmerman. “Then they cross-reference them from their line card to check availability as well as quantity, which really speeds up our process of decision making in terms of building out the product as a whole.”

Zimmerman was also impressed with Avnet’s global scale and distribution, which was something he said a small start-up like his could “only dream of.”

Smart technology gets smarter

During development, Avnet also suggested Ubicquia make the product customizable online. “Kairo is a stack of boards, basically, that all have different functions. Depending on what you want from this device, you just add a board or take a board out,” explains Avnet account manager Matt Bossaers. “So now you can go online and just click, drag and drop these different boards in place and create your product for what your needs are.”

“Avnet didn’t just show us how to make the product,” says Zimmerman. “They showed us how to make the product better.”

The end result was a product both teams could be proud of. “When you get involved with somebody like Tre and Ubicquia and doing a product like this,” says Avnet FAE Loomis, “you know it’s special.” Zimmerman shares the sentiment.

“When I think about the nights and nights that I spent in my garage developing this product, then I look out at the impact that it could have around the world, it reminds me why I got into this business in the first place.”

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