Worldsensing, smart city pioneers

This Catalan company's technology has optimised mobility in Bogotá and improved safety in the largest mines in the world

Ignasi Vilajosana, CEO and cofounder of Worldsensing, won Aijec’s Young Business Person’s prize for 2015
Ignasi Vilajosana, CEO and cofounder of Worldsensing, won Aijec’s Young Business Person’s prize for 2015
It seems that the concept of the smart city has been exhausted with overuse, even though not everyone has understood it. One company that has dominated the sphere for years is the Barcelona firm Worldsensing, set up in 2008 when almost no one was talking about smart cities. "It was the result of the coming together of three doctoral theses," its CEO and cofounder, Ignasi Vilajosana, tells Via Empresa. His research, that of his brother Xavier and of Jordi Llosa into wireless sensor networks to monitor natural phenomena led to them see an opportunity. "We saw the value of the technology we were developing at a time when no one was talking about the Internet of Things," says Vilajosana. Almost 10 years later, they have more than 60 employees under their charge, which they hope to increase to a hundred during 2017. It is a year in which they also hope to double their 2016 turnover of 4.6 million euros.

"Worldsensing began as a wireless sensor network company and has turned into an industrial internet company," says the CEO. "We deliver operational intelligence, we help clients with decision making by anticipating what might happen." To understand it, it worth learning about some of their projects. For example, one of their first successes was the system of sensors to help parking in Moscow, the largest system of its kind in the world, with 12,000 sensors.

Vilajosana also highlights their contribution to the Colombian city of Bogotá. "The technology for managing their mobility is one of our flagship projects," he says proudly. Worldsensing also recently won the tender to provide systems for capturing geo-technical data for the Grand Paris metro, "one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe today." In the past two years, they have been into the largest mines in the world "providing solutions that improve their safety and efficiency," points out the entrepreneur.

What's more, this week Worldsensing will be at the Advanced Factories fair, the congress for industry 4.0 that is being held in Barcelona between April 4 and 6, and that expects to attract more than 8,000 attendees . "We want to show the world our technology," says Vilajosana. "If industry wants to refinance its transformation it has to maintain its efficiency level and margin. They need to go digital and extract data that helps them to make more efficient decisions," he says. Worldsensing can help them to connect their assets: people, materials or machinery. "Optimising it generates profitability," he says.

Worldsensing also installed its sensors on the Port bridge in Hamburg. Ceded

Awarded the last Young Business Person's Prize by Aijec, Vilajosana already explained in an interview with VIA Empresa that "in the past seven or eight years there has been a very strong process of winning converts [to smart cities], in which we have been pioneers." Their first two years were devoted to developing technology in the university sphere, until they closed a first round of venture capital with the José Manuel Entrecanales Foundation. "From here on we have focused on taking on two large markets: smart cities, which was just starting out; and the monitoring of civil infrastructure," says the company's CEO.

"In 2011 and 2012, we continued to improve our products, taking advantage of the fact that the smart city market was still very hot." They won the Moscow parking project, something that "put us on the map" and in 2013 they closed a seed investment round with the Family Office group, and also Entrecanales, for 1.8 million euros. "That gave us energy and fuel to grow," says Vilajosana.

What's more, during 2013 Worldsensing acquired the Barcelona company Bitcarrier, devoted to technology for tracking vehicles and people in real time, and which completed their portfolio of solutions. "We had been to 15 or 20 countries and in 2015 managed to close a series A funding round with Cisco, Kibo and Entrecanales to consolidate our international expansion and thus pivot," Vilajosana reveals. In all, by last year Worldsensing had reached 44 countries.

El pont del Port d'Hamburg és un dels seus darrers projectes. Cedida

The evolution of the market
"The company began with some very technical profiles and oriented towards technology; all we talked about was chips," admits the cofounder. Getting close to clients and listening to the market required them to reorient their products. "We can only sell what our clients want to buy and the evolution of the company responds to the process of absorbing the technology in this space," says Vilajosana. The entrepreneur is clear that "we are seeing the digitalisation of industry that is tied to the transformation of organisational processes. Cities also have to go digital and cannot stand by and not grow the service layer."

According to the Worldsensing CEO, "increasingly every day what the end client buys is the result of applying technology. That has turned us into more of a software company than before." They take the data from the devices they have installed, which arrives wirelessly at the servers that process them to get relevant information for the management of a business process. "That is Connected Operational Intelligence," he says.

The CEO of Worldsensing, Ignasi Vilajosana | Jordi Borràs

Focused on growth
"We are very focused on growing the company, and we have the necessary partners to allow us to do so," responds Vilajosana when asked about possible offers to buy up the company. Being located in Barcelona, "one of the epicentres of the market in Europe," encourages them to continue to go their own way. "Whether it is due to Barcelona Tech City, venture capital or because a lot of people come to set up companies here, the city is an interesting centre of investment," he concludes.
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