Michael Simon is getting his firm’s networking technology wedged into some of the strangest places.
The LogMeIn Inc. chief executive is looking beyond the company’s original audience of IT professionals to find clients for its cloud-based services. He wants his technology inserted in everyday items: trash cans, cat doors, shower heads.
Simon’s operation built its reputation with remote support, collaboration, and identity-management software. Now Simon sees a bright future in what’s known as the Internet of Things, a catch-all phrase that describes how objects in businesses and homes can be outfitted to connect and share information with each other and collect and crunch data.
“It’s without a doubt the biggest opportunity in tech that I’ll ever see in my lifetime,” Simon said. “There are so many products that you can make much better for the consumer.”
LogMeIn’s Internet of Things business, known as Xively, is still a small piece of the company, accounting for 10 percent of its nearly 1,000-person workforce, and it faces a number of potential rivals. But its success in growing Xively will play a key role in LogMeIn’s quest to become one of Boston’s big high-tech anchor employers.
LogMeIn will double its office space on the South Boston Waterfront when it takes another 117,000 square feet on Summer Street, across from its headquarters, in a few months. Within the next several years, LogMeIn executives also aim to roughly double the number of
employees — in Boston, where about 450 people work, and globally — and the company’s annual revenue of roughly $250 million.
Simon sees the Internet’s evolution in phases: the PC era, then the age of smartphones. The next phase? “It’s just this enormous wave of devices and products,” Simon said. “We’re really trying to help companies transform from manufacturers of things into connected product companies.”
Simon points to LogMeIn’s work with a Braintree plumbing manufacturer, Symmons Industries, as an example of what will drive Xively’s growth.
Picture a shower that can warn you when you’re using too much water. That might sound annoying. But it could be a godsend to operators of hotels and assisted-living facilities who want to control their water bills.
Symmons and LogMeIn designed a device that measures water flowing through the showerhead. It sends the data to a screen on the wall for hotel guests to read and to a central location for operations workers to track.
Symmons’ chief executive, Tim O’Keeffe, said his team suggests that hotels spur guests to cut their showers short by offering them rewards points, and that they use the data to keep an eye out for breakages. He expects to sell the device for $150 to $180 per shower head, and said it would pay for itself in water savings in about a year.
“Think of the power of the connected product,” he said. “We’re doing this with water, but there are so many other plays that this could be applied to.”
LogMeIn’s big bet on the Internet of Things has come a long way from when it was jokingly referred to as “Mike’s Science Project.” Simon said LogMeIn started researching the possibilities in 2010. Along the way, there were two significant acquisitions: the $15 million purchase of Pachube, a British Internet of Things pioneer, in 2011, and a $12 million deal for Boston-based Ionia last year.
Simon and president Bill Wagner, who takes over as CEO in December (Simon remains chairman), see LogMeIn as well positioned to help make Boston a hub for companies that specialize in Internet of Things technology. They drew hundreds to Boston last week for the first LogMeIn-sponsored IoT conference.
There are opportunities for growth that they can’t even see yet — another shower head or cat door just around the corner. “Most people think we live in a hyper-connected world,” Wagner said, but “virtually nothing is connected. Just wait 10 years.”