FreePoint Technologies (FreePoint) is a technology firm located in London, Ontario. Established in 2013, FreePoint helps industrial and manufacturing firms join the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) revolution. They do this with their unique, “machine wearable” technology that connects machinery to the cloud, allowing for simple collection and analysis of data on existing machinery.
However, FreePoint is more than just the value-add of their products. FreePoint is driven by an understanding of what manufacturing means to society and an understanding of what Industry 4.0 means for manufacturing.
Paul Hogenhoorn, the founder and owner of FreePoint, demonstrates these understandings and how they are at the core of everything the company does. In the eyes of FreePoint, manufacturing is the driver of the middle class, a social centerpiece for employment and provision of basic goods. These underlying purposes must be kept in mind as Industry 4.0 changes the face of manufacturing.
FreePoint is taking a slightly different approach to Industry 4.0 than many others. While many companies’ Industry 4.0 solutions are extremely complex, FreePoint is moving in the opposite direction. Industry 4.0 is certainly about technology and data, but FreePoint believes that people are left out of the equation too often. The first step is getting data from machines, but the second is getting data to the people. The sophistication of the technology comes second to usability of the data for those operating the machines.
FreePoint began five years ago, but the idea was conceived long before that; if cellphones can give us ubiquitous information and power at low cost, why can’t we bring the same ubiquitous IT technology to meet the needs of manufacturers now? From this idea, FreePoint began developing their IT products with the shop floor in mind, kick-starting the democratization of Industry 4.0.
This mission is achieved through FreePoint’s two main products. The first product is a simple remote I/O device, often referred to as a black box, which is attached to existing machinery and allows any signal to be easily connected to a database. In fact, the name FreePoint stemmed from the idea of the black box being a “free I/O point” that allowed any I/O point to be easily connected to the existing IT infrastructure, freely.
The advantage of this technology is that it allows data to be collected on legacy equipment. The average age of manufacturing machines on shop floors is 28 years. With this is mind, purchasing new machines with built in digital capabilities is often not possible for manufacturers. Black box technology resolves this issue. In fact, the oldest machine FreePoint has connected to the cloud was built in 1914.
FreePoint’s customers maintain ownership of the data collected by the black box technology. To date, the technology has been added to over a thousand machines, and collected over one billion lines of data. This data is invaluable for analyzing processes and efficiency, whether that be by firms themselves or consulting companies.
FreePoint’s second product is called ShiftWorx. This product addresses the issue of getting data in the hands of people. ShiftWorx is a software platform that organizes and analyzes data collected from black boxes. The interface allows data to be shared effectively and creates actionable information.
The ShiftWorx platform makes data visible to workers on the shop floor, giving the opportunity to make physical changes to work processes in real time. This product is central to FreePoint’s belief that the machine operator is central to the information stream. Keeping in mind the digital upbringing of millennials entering the workforce, ShiftWorx “gamifies” the display of data on the shop floor, making it conducive to the operator, hoping that they will take pride in improving the operation of their machine. The combination of black box technology and the ShiftWorx platform create FreePoint’s mantra for the adoption of IIOT: measure, analyze, share.
In addition to developing and installing their products, FreePoint also offers consulting services to optimize the use of their products and turn the data into actionable insight for the shop floor. The company often collects data over a period of three months in order to establish a baseline, then make informed decisions.
FreePoint’s location is important to founder, Paul Hogenhoorn. London is an important centre of Canadian manufacturing with a big IT community. The company envisions itself trying to be the Google of the plant floor, and with this vision is the opportunity for London to become the epicentre of the IIOT in Canada. As part of the London community, FreePoint maintains dynamic relationships with Fanshawe College and Western University.
FreePoint’s products have an international presence, with 80% of sales split between Canada and the US, and the remainder in Mexico, China and New Zealand. FreePoint firmly believes that any nation that values their middle class would value their technology. Given this belief, FreePoint has plans to increase international marketing in 2018, while continuing to grow domestically.
Although FreePoint is a tech company, the firm believes that the most important focus is people. Technologically, they strive to meet the people where they are at. The company’s purpose-driven products are grounded in their value of the worker. For FreePoint, the goal is to engage workers, restore dignity to labour, and reconnect meaning to work.
For more information on FreePoint Technologies, visit www.getFreePoint.com.
Headquarters: 25 Invicta Court., London ON, N6E 2T4, Canada
Executives: Paul Hogenhoorn – President
Year established: 2013
Number of employese: 15
80% of sales split between Canada and the US, and the remainder in Mexico, China and New Zealand.
Government/Educational: Fanshawe College, EMC, London EcDev