40 under 40
Before “internet of things” was a household phrase, Netronix was building its own tools and a network of companies to make our world smarter, faster and better connected.
When Dr. Vasileios Nasis left his native Greece to attend Drexel in 2000, his plans were simple: earn an undergraduate degree and get a job. Instead, he went on to earn his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical and computer engineering, teach at Drexel and start a company that employs some of his former Drexel students.
“I’m a Drexel product, 100 percent,” he says. “An engineer, but a practical engineer: the guy who rolls up his sleeves, the guy who spends time in the lab, the guy who goes and meets with clients.”
Most of those meetings are with current and potential customers of Netronix, the company he launched in 2008 to help bring the “internet of things” technology revolution to the masses.
The internet of things, often shorthanded as IoT, refers to the trend toward networking an ever-expanding universe of household objects and everyday equipment capable of collecting, transmitting and receiving data. The “things” include buses that transmit their locations to transit systems to provide real-time route information; home thermostats remotely controlled by electric utilities to conserve power; and manufacturing equipment that alerts factory operators when it needs maintenance.
Information technology consulting firm Gartner Inc. estimates there are 8.4 billion “connected things” in use this year and predicts there will be 12.9 billion by 2020.
Netronix makes it easier for other companies to use or offer IoT products and services. Its IoT platform includes hardware that can be connected to existing devices or built inside new devices to make them part of the IoT; a cloud platform for controlling data flow to and from IoT devices; and software for developing IoT applications. Current customers include SAP, 3M, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, as well as numerous companies that provide remote monitoring services in the environmental and health sectors.
One of the latter, Airthinx, provides continuous air-quality monitoring in indoor spaces such as buildings and aircraft. Dr. Nasis helped it get off the ground with funding from Netronix Ventures, which he created to back companies that use Netronix’s technology. He believes those companies, which along with Netronix now comprise the Netronix Group, will show how easily Netronix’s technology can enable entrepreneurs to turn their ideas for using the IoT into profitable businesses.
“He definitely has the charisma to be a successful entrepreneur and it’s clear that his team is just really passionate about the product and where Netronix is going,” says Shintaro Kaido, director of startup services for Drexel Ventures, the University’s tech-commercialization business accelerator.
Dr. Nasis thinks the Netronix Group can spawn 100 companies over the next decade. Most, he believes, will be based in Philadelphia, laying the groundwork for a local business hub centered around the IoT technology.
“I have the support of Drexel and the support of John Fry and I think that we’ll make history,” he says. — Peter Key
Peter Key, Drexel Magazine