Progressive Insurance good-driver technology based in Camarillo
By Bridge Carney 04/11/2013
In this edition of Plugged In, we highlight one of our local technology companies that does just that: plugs in.
How does a shipper control the temperature of a cargo container carrying perishable food when a ship is far at sea? How can an insurance company provide lower rates to safer drivers? How can a truck’s engine warn of a problem before it breaks down?
Xirgo Technologies in Camarillo (www.xirgotech.com) has become the leading innovator of plug-in technologies that help our food stay fresher, car insurance be cheaper and trucks on the road run better.
Started in 2006, Xirgo is a privately held company with a core executive team of six partners, all of whom worked together previously here in Ventura County. Xirgo’s software design team is located in Minnesota. Xirgo’s headquarters and executive offices are located in Camarillo. The group’s familiarity with Ventura County and its local resources of technology talent, access to various partners in the area and life style were factors in the location decision.
At the core of Xirgo’s expertise is its technology for creating devices that are remotely attached to other devices installed on assets such as cars, trucks or containers on deep-sea vessels. Xirgo devices monitor critical information from those assets and send data through wireless connections to computers anywhere in the world where they can be monitored and controlled. This interaction of one device communicating with another is called machine-to-machine connection, called “M2M” in the technical world.
Xirgo’s M2M solutions have brought better efficiency, lower operating costs and new marketing opportunities to its customers. Xirgo has made breakthrough solutions that help container cargo shippers monitor more than 100-plus factors, such as heat and humidity, of perishable food cargo they are transporting. For example, if the heat outside a warehouse or ship is making it too hot for a container to maintain food at its best freshness, the Xirgo system senses that and can adjust the temperature and humidity in that container to cool it down and keep it drier (or wetter). With some ships that carry thousands of containers, being able to control each and every container individually helps to ensure that the best and freshest food gets to our markets.
Starting in 2007, some car insurance companies began to offer lower insurance rates for safer drivers and those who drive less. These are based on what are known as usage-based rates. But how can an insurance company really tell the driving habits of one driver from another? Or the distances they drive? Xirgo developed a device that quickly plugs into cars’ existing electronic jack to verify and communicate, via its own built-in cell phone communications, a driver’s habits and travel distances. This solution provided one of Xirgo’s most well-known customers, Progressive Insurance, with new sales and marketing opportunities using Xirgo’s XT-3000. The XT-3000 is used by Progressive for its “Snapshot” program to offer better insurance rates to verified better drivers.
This past February, Xirgo also received the prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), Buenaventura Section, Project of the Year award for this system. It was selected, in part, as an example of technology bringing better information to the car insurance companies and providing a more accurate basis, i.e., actual use, to calculate billing rates.
In a product for long-distance trucks, Xirgo has a plug-in device that measures and communicates the operating health of a truck’s engine. Trucking companies must have trucks that run reliably to ensure prompt and safe deliveries. The Xirgo solution monitors truck motors in real time, that is, it checks their engines a few hundred times every minute the engine is running. The system monitors critical factors such as running temperature, oil pressure and hours of operation. If any of the key factors run outside acceptable levels, the Xirgo device can immediately contact the driver and trucking company about the problem. This avoids letting what may be a small, easy-to-fix problem turn into a really big, expensive one. In the long run, it helps prevent truck breakdowns on our roads and highways, as well.
To date, Xirgo has 28 products. It continues with new research and development, including solutions to further new safety and efficiency for car and truck drivers.
“Our goal is to keep our leadership position in the M2M market by constantly introducing new products that will set the bar for others to follow,” said Shawn Aleman, chief sales and marketing officer. “This will result in rapid improvement in efficiency while lowering the operating costs for our customers in such markets as transportation, insurance, fleet management and medical.”
Plugged In is a new monthly column focused on new technology in and around Ventura County and it will be featured the second week of every month. Plugged In authors Bridge Carney and Karl Geiger are chair and past chair, respectively, for the Ventura Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE], the world’s largest professional organization, with over 800 local members in Ventura County. Please find them at www.ieee-bv.org.