Today, the startup has a $9 million, three-year Other Transaction (OT) award from the Air Force Civil Engineering Center and Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) to deploy an installation-wide data integration platform. Simplesense has also received $3.4 million from the Integrated Base Defense Security System Modernization program office and AFWERX to modernize intrusion detection systems at Tyndall AFB. Moreover, the startup won contracts to integrate emergency systems to regional public safety agencies with the 88th Mission Support Group at Wright-Patterson AFB, the 60th Mission Support Group at Travis AFB, the 19th Mission Support Group at Little Rock AFB, and the Program Executive Office-Digital at Nellis AFB. Here is the Simplesense story…
When Brooklyn-based startup Simplesense launched in 2017, their flagship sensor product tracked Pringles potato-crisp inventory at grocery stores. Today, Simplesense has over $15 million in contract awards with the Department of Defense (DoD) and partnerships with Fortune 500 companies.
The key to Simplesense’s growth? Listening. By listening to the needs of potential clients, the team shifted the service model for a supply-chain sensor to a robust solution that could improve response times during emergencies and save lives.
Specifically, Simplesense found opportunities to integrate data and technology to ensure military and civilian operators and responders obtain the information needed to react faster in emergency incidents.
Operators and first responders rely on a complex mix of legacy and modern information systems to coordinate actions during emergencies. However, these systems don’t always interoperate well, which could delay response times at critical moments and be the difference between life and death. To illustrate, the probability of death increases by 10% for every minute of delay in a cardiac or neurological emergency response.
“Dispatch operators are looking at 12 screens with six different software systems they have to manage. They need help integrating and making their data simple,” said Eric Kanagy, CEO of Simplesense. “They’re overwhelmed when a crisis happens, and within the first 90 seconds of a crisis, all of the metrics show they’re overloaded.”
From 2017 to 2019, Simplesense participated in four venture accelerators to test its integration idea, interview emergency workers, and learn what problems existed that the team’s software could solve. From Dubai to Boston, Simplesense conducted over 600 interviews to discover how it could best add value to emergency workers. During these interviews, the team confirmed no one was going to emergency dispatch centers and listening to the dispatch managers discuss what they needed or their problems.
“It’s surprising how much progress you make just by shutting up and listening,” said Kanagy. “People get product and solution fatigue. They’re sick of salesmen who don’t understand the actual problem, which leads to disappointing results.”
Simplesense joined NSIN’s Seeing into the Unknown - Situational Awareness in Dense Urban Environments Hackathon Challenge in May 2020 to learn what emergency information sharing looks like in urban environments like their hometown of New York City. During the Hacks competition, Simplesense had to secure the greater metropolitan area in a scenario where an incident occurred on the Brooklyn Bridge, and responders and resources had to communicate and coordinate quickly. Simplesense interviewed 94 emergency management command and control (C2) stakeholders to determine how the team could adapt their current software. Through this process, Simplesense found that existing city emergency software platforms were built on manually entered data and were not communicating, causing delays ranging from two to six minutes per incident.
Simplesense discovered its unique value proposition during the NSIN hackathon by listening to the needs of military and first responders. The startup realized it could solve problems in places where the day-to-day responsibilities of U.S. forces and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) require joint responses to emergencies.
Simplesense listened to the needs of operators in an emergency and presented its software to them as a solution, not a product. What began as a hackathon concept helped the team develop a relationship with representatives at AFWERX, which eventually led to Simplesense receiving two small business innovation research (SBIR) Phase II contracts for almost $2 million.
One contract was to connect the fire dispatch center at Tyndall AFB with surrounding county-government dispatch centers. With SBIR funding in hand, Simplesense would need to continue listening and learning to resolve the mission partner’s challenge.
During a meeting with the base’s civil engineering team, the engineers told Simplesense that it was impossible to share information from a critical civil engineering system to county governments because they were incompatible due to the age difference between the technologies. Instead of ending the meeting, the Simplesense team engaged in further conversations with the base’s engineers.
Having heard similar issues almost 600 times before in operator interviews, Simplesense recognized the opportunity to improve emergency communication operations and make the base a safer place to live.
The Simplesense team explained what it was trying to do- just as its military mentors had taught the startup in the accelerators. Simplesense showed how its new zero-trust architecture now makes information sharing possible in ways that weren’t possible a decade ago. The results showed how simple partnerships between the private sector and the DoD could be through collaboration. The engineers initially saw Simplesense as another tech company trying to sell a solution, and then as a potential partner that could help solve issues they had managing data on base.
Over the next two years, Simplesense received $15 million in contracts to develop the Installation Resilience Operations Center (IROC) at Tyndall AFB. The IROC is the first common technical architecture at an AFB between civil engineers and security forces that prevents siloed and incompatible emergency software solutions. Tyndall AFB is now also the first base globally connected to both local 911 and the state emergency operation center in real-time.
“We’re on base to solve problems and deliver actual capability that solves those problems,” said Kanagy. “Everybody being able to see the same data at the same time, without a radio or telephone in between, is a huge deal.”
Today, the Simplesense workforce is growing to fulfill the demands for its services. As for the future, Kanagy wants Simplesense to fully focus on helping the dispatchers and operators who keep us all safe and secure.
“In 10 years, I hope that a major will say, ‘yeah, those guys really helped me, I had a problem and they helped me move forward in my job. They made my job easier, less stressful, and I can complete my mission faster,’” said Kanagy.
Simplesense is based out of Newlab workspace and prototyping facilities in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and partners with NSIN for other startup accelerator programs. In addition, the company has worked with other NSIN partners such as Decisive Point and MassChallenge. For more information on the company, visit their website at https://simplesense.io/.