When Machines Talk, Augury Listens

There has been lots of excitement about the Internet of Things, — where devices communicate with humans and one another. But machines talk in many ways, not just digitally, but through the sounds their motors, gears, belts, etc. all make. Our recent investment, Augury Systems, actually listens to these sounds and uses AI technology to do predictive maintenance on the machinery. We call it DaaS – Diagnostics as a Service.

While there have been vibration monitors for years, they have been extremely expensive to purchase, and require lots of expertise to analyze the results. Augury’s cofounders, Saar Yoskovitz and Gal Shaul, have brought an inexpensive sensor, coupled with smart phone technology to the task of collecting the data and uploading to the cloud.

Once in their cloud, it can be analyzed with their specialized algorithms to determine, for example, that there is a hairline crack in a fan blade, or that a gear is slightly off round. Finding these conditions early permits preventive maintenance to be performed, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars of repair it that fan blade broke off and hit other parts of the machine. And the user interfaces and dashboards provide a great view of the health of a building’s systems through time.

As any of you who’ve been on a power boat know, your ears become acutely tuned to the sounds of the engine. When it speeds up, slows down, or hopefully rarely, starts to make grinding noises, everyone knows there’s been a change that may need looking at. The Augury team, which includes former Naval personnel, took this idea and found a way to implement it, initially for industrial machinery. This is a giant market, and they have pilots in several countries with major building and equipment maintenance businesses.

While good preventive maintenance can save money for building owners and others, Augury has found that Predictive Maintenance can increase these savings by 8–12% over just preventive. And the US Department of Energy says that building owners can save $1/sq ft/year by implementing Predictive Maintenance, which amounts to real money for even modest sized buildings.

In the longer run, their sensors could be put on every washing machine, refrigerator, etc. uploading baseline data to the cloud, and warning the owners before expensive repairs are needed. Prognostics is this new science of predicting the future, while helping keep that internet of things running.

First Round Capital is thrilled to have led the investment in Augury, joined by Orfin Ventures, Lerer-Hippeau, and a number of others. We have no doubt that eventually, all of our machines will have embedded sensors that report this type of vibration and acoustic data, and that using the big data and AI methods in the cloud will radically reduce the amount of down time we have to endure. And we believe that Augury Systems is leading the way.