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IoT catches on in New England fishing town

Michelle Davidson | Sept. 7, 2016
Businesses in and around New Bedford, Massachusetts, discover the power of IoT-enabled sensors to improve farming, fishing and even winemaking

Fifty miles south of Boston, the Internet of Things is taking hold in the City of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

It isn’t something you’d expect in this fishing and agricultural area. But thanks to INEX IoT Impact Labs, Dell and the companies’ many IoT partners, small and midsize enterprises here are discovering the power of IoT-enabled sensors and monitoring—and the data that comes from them.

There’s a type of industrial revival taking place among those types of businesses—taking current infrastructure and renovating it with new technology, says Christopher Rezendes, founder of INEX. They’re recognizing how this technology can help them solve real business problems and do it without having to spend a lot of money.

“Most of this planet is made up of individuals and small and midsize businesses just trying to make their way, not Fortune 500 companies,” he said. “We want to make sure the little folks aren’t locked out from getting and using the technology—and the data collected from it. We have to figure out how to do this the right way in places that don’t have all of the resources of big cities—in resource-strapped locations.”

INEX is like an IoT incubator. It partners with startup IoT tech companies, helps them develop the technology in the lab, then finds small and midsize enterprises to pilot the projects in the field. Farms and fishing businesses are the living labs.

To date, INEX and its partners have 25 living labs in the New Bedford area. The IoT technology monitors environmental conditions so they can improve operations, better manage resources, and grow better and more product.

“Robots are not the answer for all things,” Rezendes said. “We want to help businesses become more stable so they can hire more people. A positive impact from this will be felt down the line—in the canning business, plumbers, HVAC, production, banking, website design and more. At the end of the day, boots go in a truck and screwdrivers have to be turned.”

The ultimate goal is to help the businesses become stronger and more profitable so they can hire more workers—and create healthier cities and towns.

INEX isn’t alone in this venture. The state of Massachusetts is helping with projects around the state, including in New Bedford, and is investing $60 million to get technology out of the labs, deploy it in cities and towns, and make the technology in the state, said Katie Stebbens, assistant secretary for technology innovation and entrepreneurship for the state.

“We forget that towns and cities have to be profitable,” she said. “Towns are going to be here no matter what. Businesses may leave, but towns and cities will still be here.”

 

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