Ivani, cofounded by EMBA
Alum’s company featured with partner at Consumer Electronics Show

Justin McKinney, EMBA 45, reports that the company he cofounded, Ivani, has earned a featured spot with a global business partner at the Consumer Electronics Show, which starts today in Las Vegas.

Ivani, which develops technology that links smart devices, allowing them to detect whether people are in the room, will be a featured partner at the booth sponsored by French company Legrand, along with Marriott and Samsung. McKinney reports that he’ll be presenting Ivani’s “network presence sensing” technology and Ivani’s partnership with Legrand, the largest wiring device company in the world.

We caught up with McKinney for a quick Q&A before he headed for Las Vegas.

The news of the moment is Ivani’s featured spot at the Legrand booth at CES. What does that mean to attendees, to our readers—and to Ivani.com?

Legrand is the leader in occupancy sensing technology on a global scale. It speaks volumes that Legrand leadership believes in Ivani’s network presence sensing technology and sees this as a human sensing platform where their users can benefit from and grow with the technology.

To date, there have been few impactful advancements in the “internet of things” (technology that links everyday devices, home appliances, wearable devices, etc., to the internet). One of the primary discussions in IoT right now revolves around autonomous buildings or buildings that respond to people rather than the opposite.

This is where Ivani’s network presence sensing (NPS) changes things. NPS technology is a set of custom firmware and software packages which turns groups of wirelessly connected IoT devices like Legrand’s smart switches and outlets into advanced occupancy sensing systems without adding to or changing their hardware. Along with Ivani’s partners like Legrand, the data NPS provides can enable autonomous lighting, advanced physical security, optimized HVAC, proximity marketing and more.

What exactly does it mean to be an “occupancy sensing system”?

For the first time, occupancy sensing will be a software solution rather than a solution limited to a traditional hardware sensor, which will enable new business models like occupancy as a service. This allows the user to experience new functionalities over time through over-the-air updates.

For instance, a homeowner who has a group of NPS-enabled smart switches and outlets in their home could, with a simple update, enable motion sensing without having to add new hardware. A month later, another update could allow that homeowner to experience presence sensing (a valuable sensing capability currently not yet available on the market).

Beyond this, NPS holds the promise of counting and locating people all through software updates. These new functionalities would elevate their lighting experience, save them money on their energy bills and insurance, make their home more secure, and more.

Ivani’s partners could simply place a button in their app to activate these updates, allowing their customers to add functionality to their existing devices. This means customers can activate the functionality they want, and Ivani and its partners can share in the revenue generated by those activations.

Something else this news speaks to is the level of tech coming out of the greater St. Louis area. There is a myth that disruptive tech only comes from the coasts. Along with many other extraordinary tech companies in the area, we are hopefully changing this stereotype.

How does the company affect the everyday lives of its customers?

Ivani provides the world with innovative solutions to foster everyday sustainability. As a technology and intellectual property development company, Ivani focuses on providing our partners with cost-effective market-leading solutions to human presence detection for IoT applications. Along with my fellow co-founders, we started the company in 2014 and went through two important pivots that set us on the path we’re on now. We’ve been focused on our current technology—network presence sensing—since 2015, and we haven’t looked back.

Being a startup, we all wear many hats. The Ivani cofounders together determine strategy. As COO, I’m generally responsible for the company’s budget, marketing, business development, and overall operations. That said, I do nothing by myself and lean heavily on my co-founders and the Ivani team.

Using analytics and machine learning, Ivani turns groups of wirelessly communicating IoT products like smart switches, outlets, and lamps into advanced occupancy sensing systems without adding to or changing the hardware.

Why is NPS technology so significant? Don’t we already have things like motion detectors?

As the number of IoT devices grows exponentially, we see NPS becoming a standard because of its cost-effectiveness and the impact it can have on so many people’s lives at home, work, and in public spaces.

Occupancy data is key to making IoT devices smart. They need to sense people to respond to people. While this seems simple, it is often overlooked by many manufacturers of these products. With NPS technology, many of these devices can become truly smart, saving energy and significantly improving their user experience.

How did the name “Ivani” come about?

This is a fun story. One of our cofounders loves creative word games. After playing around with the word innovation, he came up with something we all loved as a name. Remove the words “no” and “not” from “Innovation,” shift a couple letters and voila! IVANI!

In what ways did your WashU Executive MBA influence your path toward cofounding the company?

Among other things, I was inspired by my fellow cofounders to step up my game to go for my Executive MBA at WashU. The EMBA experience has been invaluable for both myself and Ivani. It has influenced my decision making in all areas of the company, like strategy, marketing, operations, negotiations, and leadership—just to name a few. Additionally, the contacts I made during my time at WashU, both fellow students and faculty, have been very helpful with key advice when needed.

Pictured above: Ivani, cofounded by EMBA ’16 graduate Justin McKinney (inset), develops technology that can detect human presence by linking internet-connected smart devices.

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