January 17, 2017

Roambee lands $3.1 million investment from Deutsche Telekom

Asset tracking firm will expand coverage of its wireless freight sensors through telecom firm's global cell network.

By Ben Ames

Roambee Bee tracking device
The "Bee" from Roambee is a device that helps track inventory. It's roughly the size of two iPhones.

Logistics technology firm Roambee Corp. will expand its asset-tracking sensor network thanks to a $3.1 million investment from German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom, the companies said.

Roambee also announced a partnership with the Deutsche Telekom AG subsidiary T-Systems International GmbH, an IT and communications service provider that will support Roambee's wireless sensors through its global cellular network and cloud computing infrastructure.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Roambee makes a networked tracking device called the "Bee," a hardware block about the size of two Apple iPhones that supports a variety of sensors and sends data to cloud storage platforms over cell phone networks as it travels with assets and inventory.

The investment came primarily from Deutsche Telekom Strategic Investments (DTSI) with additional participation from other Silicon Valley investors. Further details were not released.

Roambee plans to use the funding to expand into new geographies and to grow its customer base from the roughly 150 companies and 3,000 sensors now in operation, Roambee CEO Sanjay Sharma said in an interview.

"This is a very bold problem we're solving; people have tried to solve it in the past through fleet management systems and electronic data interchange (EDI)," Sharma said. "But the real value is in mining the data and making predictions, so the customer can reduce risk and disruption."

Asset tracking networks have been expanding quickly in recent months, in line with sinking prices for wireless sensors and rising investment in supply chain Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives. In September 2016, the smartphone pioneer BlackBerry Ltd. rolled out an asset-tracking tag called BlackBerry Radar that delivers near real-time data on the location and condition of truck trailers and containers.

Roambee plans to distance itself from the pack through a flexible billing system, whereby it charges users for the asset tracking service on a per-shipment or per-month basis, as opposed to selling the sensors outright, Sharma said.

The flexible cost structure opens the asset tracking up to a variety of use cases, he said. Three typical applications are: ensuring the delivery of high-value or time-sensitive shipments; using demand forecasting tools to fulfill orders by considering both inventory in hand and inventory in transit; and enforcing service-level agreements (SLAs) by tracking transportation performance to ensure that carriers are meeting delivery deadlines and travel conditions.

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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