Breaking through borders: Our partnership with Onomondo
When you’re moving goods around the world, every border is a barrier. An invisible line which presents real challenges to trade and collaboration.
Since Maersk started out back in 1904, we’ve strived to break through these barriers. In Onomondo, a startup from our own home patch of Copenhagen, Denmark, we recognize a company that shares this vision.
Onomondo has created a global cellular network for the Internet of Things, allowing all the world’s connected objects to communicate across borders without roaming restrictions. Like us, they’re working to accelerate international trade and remove the impediments to international collaboration.
We invested in Onomondo in November 2019, and have since then worked with them to revamp our own connectivity solutions. In this post we’ll take you deep into the partnership, to show you why we invested in this amazing company and how our ‘rocket fuel’ is enabling them to create a smaller, faster and more connected world.
The proposition — One World. One Network.
The Internet of Things is based on real, physical objects. Devices which talk to their owners via chips and sensors, sharing information about their surroundings and performance, while collaborating with one another to benefit both businesses and consumers.
Unfortunately, this technology is being hampered by something which isn’t real: the geographic borders drawn by man’s imagination.
As people, when we hop from one side of these imaginary lines to the next, our cellular provider changes and we lose coverage, or have to use roaming networks. IoT devices face this same restriction, but with wider reaching consequences. Many of them can’t communicate with their operators once they have moved outside a certain geographic location and using roaming solutions for IoT introduces new security issues and loss of critical network control.
Onomondo has dismantled this invisible wall. Its team of 20 employees has integrated over 700 individual cellular providers to create a unified global network across 180 countries, specifically designed for IoT.
When a client installs Onomondo’s SIM cards in their IoT devices, information about each device is securely sent to the Cloud, using Onomondo’s Connectors. When a device moves from one country to the next, the Onomondo platform simply manages the secure connection end to end through the local network operator. The device doesn’t need to update itself or share any essential data with local networks, and the device owner stays in full control over every data interaction all the way from cloud to device.
Onomondo has created a secure HTTP-based API backed by powerful network management tools, to ensure developers worldwide can tap into their global grid. In doing so, users gain full and immediate access to network information so they can manage and debug any otherwise-unattended IoT device in real-time, globally.
With this virtualized, global network infrastructure and operations across more than 180 countries, Onomondo enables a more secure, cost-efficient and scalable connectivity option, which is breaking down the barriers for truly global IoT solutions at scale.
We first heard about Onomondo in the summer of 2018 when we met CEO Michael Karlsen on stage at the Techfestival in Copenhagen. Appropriately enough, we were both speaking about startup/corporate partnerships.
At first, we probably didn’t entirely understand the solution that Onomondo and Michael were building. But we were curious about the potential impact and the founders’ vision, technical knowledge and energy. So we decided to spend some more time with the team and engaged our internal experts to help refine our understanding.
As we got to know each other and got deeper into the problem, we got increasingly excited about Onomondo. In fact, it even overlapped with a project we were working on in Maersk: How to efficiently connect our fleet of refrigerated (reefer) containers to the internet.
Maersk operates around 25% of all the world’s reefer containers, about 380,000 in total, and they ensure the smart preservation of perishable goods such as food, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. While in transit, the containers feed status updates on temperature, humidity and other environmental variables to Maersk’s Remote Container Management system, as well as the port of arrival, equipment management and repair vendors. Reliable, border-free connectivity is vital.
In 2019 we agreed a two-pronged deal: In addition to investing in Onomondo, Maersk leveraged its solution to provide connectivity to our reefer fleet. Before talking about our investment, we’ll give you some background on how the partnership has developed.
The containers were previously sending their information to Maersk’s on-premise services, many of which relied on end-of-life technology. Now the containers could send their information through Onomondo’s Connectors in the Cloud, using Microsoft Azure. It’s the single biggest Cloud migration that Maersk has ever undertaken.
The project has enabled every single Reefer container to communicate via a common, secure and totally transparent network. Wherever the containers are in the world, they will always be as accessible as if ‘at home’. We (and our customers) know exactly where the asset is and can see key performance information in real-time via the Cloud. And the system is seamlessly integrated with Azure’s Device Provisioning Service, which ensures each device in the network receives just-in-time updates and attention.
At the same time, Onomondo enables Maersk to be truly agnostic in its communications technology. Our Reefer containers work across a full range of speeds, from 2G to 5G. Onomondo enables all of them to work together.
“The Onomondo Connectors are more secure than the system we used before and offer improved device management,” says Klaus Bruun Egeberg, head of mobility and connectivity at Maersk. “Now we have a holistic view of all our devices, and there is no longer a ‘home’ or ‘roaming’ network. They’re one and the same. Most importantly, data gets to the customers faster, so they can see the condition and progress of their goods.”
When investing in a company, we usually ask ourselves two key questions:
- The venture opportunity: Can the company grow rapidly and develop industry-leading solutions?
- The strategic value: Does the company fit within our vision to transform the future of trade and can we honour our commitment as an active investor and provide more than capital to the company?
The answers to the first question was a resounding yes. We loved the fact that Onomondo allowed assets to travel across borders without losing touch with their owner, and they fitted perfectly into our vision for companies that accelerate emerging technologies by removing man-made impediments.
Above all, though, we were excited to work with Onomondo to reach its potential through our own brand and assets — what we call the rocket fuel.
The rocket fuel
Our ‘unfair advantage’ as an investor, derived from the size and history of our mothership, can be broken down into five specific areas:
After every investment, we sit down with the startup to identify the precise blend of advantages that will suit their specific circumstances.
In Onomondo’s case, we agreed to focus on the following opportunities:
Assets: Exploring further opportunities to collaborate on connectivity solutions across our asset base and engaging Onomondo as an expert advisor on connectivity and visibility-related topics.
Brand: Maersk launched a campaign to announce the investment and partnership including support on movie production, expert interviews, media outreach, content creation and distribution.
Customers: Maersk provided an introduction to multiple Danish and international customers, all of them on Onomondo’s key target list. Most of the customers were introduced via ‘warm introductions’ and some received additional support to facilitate the right conversations.
Expertise: Maersk leveraged our relationship with strategic vendors to facilitate a partnership discussion between Onomondo and targeted partners where we identified a potential opportunity for synergies.
The Maersk rocket fuel has already had huge material benefits for Onomondo. To cite just one example, the media campaign achieved more than 500,000 views in less than a month and increased commercial interest significantly — while at the same time adding a ton of credibility to how Onomondo was perceived globally.
At the same time, the Reefer collaboration has shown Maersk what is possible with a true connectivity solution, one that allows us to access all our devices immediately, wherever they are in the world, on a single platform — to the benefit of our own operations as well as the supply chains of our customers.
In fact, we are exploring options to move more of our asset portfolio onto the Onomondo system. Maersk’s fleet comprises 700 vessels, 70 container terminals and 12 million containers around the world, equipped with cranes, trucks and hardware that all rely on internet connections.
“We want to be an integrator of logistics at a global level, providing a system which can transport a product across its entire journey, and show customers where their product is at any time — whether it’s being transported by land or sea” says Philip Adrian, Maersk Growth.
Klaus Bruun Egeberg adds: “Connectivity will be essential in developing this system in a way that is both safe and secure. We see Onomondo as a crucial partner in making this vision reality.”
Interested in building solutions that matter?
If you’d like to read our previous blog post, in which we talked about how we work systematically with value creation post-investment, you can find it here.