In this Research Note, we examine recent investments by building automation players and IT vendors in startups developing edge-to-cloud platforms, which are regarded as critical technology for smart autonomous buildings.
In January 2022, Johnson Controls completed the acquisition of FogHorn, a developer of edge-to-cloud AI software for industrial and commercial Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Their Edge intelligence, combined with cloud-based model building enables secure real-time machine learning to take place at the device level, which means easier access to actionable insights and increased flexibility for customers.
Foghorn Systems, founded in 2014, had received around $72.5 million in venture funding from investors including Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Honeywell Ventures, prior to the acquisition. FogHorn’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, California now functions as an “AI Hub” for Johnson Controls.
FogHorn software is integrated throughout the Johnson Controls OpenBlue platform embedded within their OpenBlue Bridge data exchange which allows for better applications of intelligence at the edge device level, more security, and lower costs relative to cloud-based applications. In Q4, 2022, Johnson Controls announced an expanded suite of digital services including OpenBlue Bridge v3 with built-in AI at the edge.
George Oliver, CEO of Johnson Controls commented at the Q1 earnings call, 2nd February 2022:
“We view Edge intelligence as a critical technology for the future of smart autonomous buildings and for Johnson Controls. FogHorn gives us and our OpenBlue platform, an immediate competitive advantage in Edge AI with a software platform that is widely recognized as best-in-class. It avoids the time and cost to build out these capabilities organically.”
Startups in the edge-to-cloud sector are gaining funding, exemplified by 2 investments announced recently.
IOTech, a UK headquartered startup in open edge computing, announced its expansion in the North American market, backed by additional investment led by Dell Technologies Capital. The investment will support go-to-market in the region and accelerate strategic product development of its open edge data platform.
The new investment also includes SPDG (Société Anonyme de Participation et De Gestion), the holding company of the Périer-D’Ieteren family, Northstar Ventures, and the Scottish Investment Bank. The company is also strengthening its presence in the U.S. via the appointment of David C. King, former CEO of FogHorn, as a board and company advisor.
IOTech partners and customers are comprised of some of the largest industrial OEMs, ISVs, and SIs across industrial automation, renewable energy, building automation, and other vertical markets. Customers include Accenture, EATON, Fluence Energy, Johnson Controls, King Steel, and Schneider Electric.
In August 2023, ABB announced a strategic partnership and investment with Austin, Texas startup, Pratexo, an edge-to-cloud acceleration platform company. The alliance aims to improve security for decentralized electrical networks. The partnership involves a minority investment in Pratexo through ABB’s venture capital unit, ABB Technology Ventures (ATV).
“With the increased focus on IT security and privacy, companies are moving away from centralized cloud to edge and micro cloud-based IoT solutions to retain resilience, flexibility and scalability,” said Mads Moeller, head of ABB Technology Ventures for Electrification. “This partnership will fast-track the development of software technology for ABB’s customers to perform real-time, causal analysis for electrical faults, allowing for improved operations.”
This article was written by Daphne Tomlinson, Senior Research Associate at Memoori.