Founded in 2015, London-based Sensat is one of a number of so-called “digital twin” software companies that serve construction, mining, energy and similar industries with tools to replicate their physical footprint in the digital sphere. It’s all about converting the built world into a format that machines can parse to generate real-time insights into everything that’s happening on the ground.
The digital twins are built using data garnered from physical sensors attached to assets, wearables, satellites, lidar and drones, among other publicly available datasets such as traffic.
For example, U.K. water supply company United Utilities recently started a pilot project with Sensat to automate the process of detecting water leakage, meshing thermal data captured by drones with high-resolution photogrammetry to build an algorithm that predicts where leaks may emerge.
Ultimately, it’s all about helping companies better plan and manage major infrastructure projects, assess risk, predict outcomes and optimize efficiency before building work even begins.
While not a new concept, digital twinning technology has emerged as a major attraction for investors around the world, with the likes of Disperse, PassiveLogic and SiteAware all raising in the region of around $15 million each in recent months. Elsewhere, Amazon’s cloud juggernaut AWS last year launched IoT TwinMaker, a service that helps companies easily create digital twins of real-world systems.
It’s worth noting that all this jibes with the burgeoning metaverse movement, too, which at its core is all about transporting the physical world into a virtual environment. But with Sensat and its ilk, they are, at least, working on commercial implementations that Meta can only dream about for now.
Infrastructure as a service
Prior to now, Sensat had raised around $15 million in funding, including a $10 million Series A round from 2019 that was led by Chinese tech titan Tencent. The company’s latest $20.5 million funding round was led by National Grid Partners (NGP), the investment arm of U.K. multinational energy giant National Grid — a strategic investment if ever there was one.
Indeed, Sensat said that it plans to use its fresh cash injection to double down on infrastructure projects spanning energy, telecommunications and rail, specifically. But National Grid’s presence and experience of the U.S. market will also be vital for Sensat as it looks to extend its reach further across the Atlantic.
Sensat co-founder and CEO James Dean said since its commercial launch in summer 2021, it has been deployed on infrastructure builds amounting to more than $150 billion.
“Civil infrastructure is an inherently physical industry that lacks the automation and transparency that has transformed online industries,” Dean said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Accounting for roughly 8% of global GDP and the backbone of every global economy, civil infrastructure plays a critical role in societal development and our daily lives. This behemoth industry is one of humanity’s oldest and will be here for as long as we exist. But right now, it is undergoing seismic structural changes that are revealing latent opportunities the likes of which dwarf those seen over the past two decades.”