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Startup Helium Hopes Keeping Things Cool Is a Hot Market

Showcasing its connected-device approach by targeting the medical and grocery markets with a wirelessly connected temperature sensor.


A recent problem with a malfunctioning refrigerator at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford means that 1,500 kids will need to be re-vaccinated.

Helium, a San Francisco startup, says its forthcoming product would have prevented that issue, as well as more serious incidents that happen when critical refrigeration systems fail. Its system monitors conditions and connects to the Internet to offer an instant alert if the temperature leaves a predetermined range.

“That turned out to be fairly innocuous,” Helium CEO Amir Haleem said of the Stanford incident. But other medical refrigeration issues can be costly and deadly. Nonetheless, many hospitals and clinics monitor their refrigeration manually, with a nurse writing down the temperature by hand. “It’s sort of insane we are talking about monitoring fridges in 2015,” Haleem said.

The company is developing a broad system for industrial connected devices, but is targeting the medical and grocery markets initially to showcase the benefits of wiring business equipment with sensors that can communicate with a network. The company is in trials now, with plans to eventually bill customers as a service, rather than the $1,000 per unit that hospitals often pay for such sensors — some of which aren’t even wirelessly connected.

“Cost is a real problem,” said former Qualcomm executive Rob Chandhok, who joined Helium as president last year.

In demos, Haleem shows how the system could be used for connected door locks or other purposes.

While there are lots of other approaches and potential standards for connecting devices to the Internet, Helium says its system uses far less power than Wi-Fi, and is more secure than other approaches.

Helium announced $16 million in funding last year and broadly outlined its technical approach to the Internet of Things market, but it had not previously announced any products or the markets it was specifically targeting.

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