Sonas raises $3.1M to develop power-saving multi-hop wireless network technology

From left: Jiro Kumakura (General Partner, Global Brain), Kenta Kitsuka (Principal, Global Brain), Yasuhiko Yurimoto (CEO, Global Brain), Sotaro Ohara (CEO, Sonas), Makoto Suzuki (CTO, Sonas)
Image credit: Global Brain / Sonas

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Sonas, the Japanese startup developing a wireless communication technology for IoT (Internet of Things) called UNISONet, announced on Tuesday that it has fundraised a total of 350 million (about $3.1M US) from Global Brain and Anri in the series A round. This is a follow-on investment for Anri after also participating in the seed round (in 2017, precise time and amount undisclosed). Sonas will increase the number of employees with the amount raised at this time round.

Sonas was established in 2015 and began doing business in wireless communication technology in 2017. Many of its members hail from the University of Tokyo’s Morikawa Laboratory (named after Professor Hiroyuki Morikawa), which specializes in advanced studies of mobile and sensor networks.

Multi-hop wireless network configuration (topology) can be roughly divided into two categories: star type and mesh type. Sigfox, LoRaWAN, Zigbee, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), etc., are all examples of star type conguration where each node and hub communicate, but the speed and range of communication are in a trade-off relationship. On the other hand, with mesh type configuration the routing of the data depends on the communication environment, so it is difficult to synchronize timing among nodes and create a power saving design.

UNISONet, developed by Sonas, is a technology capable of taking the “cherry pick” of star and mesh type configuration. It has realized a high-performance, power saving multi-hop network by combining simultaneous flooding and intricate scheduling.

Sonas x01 (left) and Sonas xs01 (right). Photos not to scale.
Image credit: Sonas

In an environment where existing communication technology and power supply are difficult to secure, and because values can be obtained at the same time among numerous communication nodes, it is often used for inspections and safety checks on buildings and structures with accelerometers.

Sumitomo Mitsui Construction has adopted UNISONet for the PoC (proof of concept) of its health monitoring system on Gunkanjima (a.k.a. Battleship Island) in Nagasaki, and it has also been used in monitoring multiple bridges. It is also expected that companies will use UNISONet to improve the efficiency of safety inspections on buildings and for saving on labor.

Additionally, the company will partner with K-Opticom, the telco subsidiary of Kansai Electric Power Company in Osaka. It will be used for monitoring in environments where it is difficult to secure a power supply and communication paths, such as power plant equipment and safety checks for motor bearings. By doing this, it is easier to discover abnormalities in advance, prevent future problems, and replace regular check-ups.

Sonas’ UNISONet technology begins with its own wireless communication modules, but in order to make it easier for corporate users the company has developed the sensor devices Sonas x01 and Sonas xs01 which combine a high-precision accelerator sensor, a power-saving sensor, a processor, and storage along with a cloud capable of integrating and analyzing Windows software and data. Until now this package has been available to companies working together with Sonas, but with the funds procured this time around the company plans to launch full-fledged sales. In addition to expanding sales in Japan, the company is also considering expansion in the US and China.

Sonas is subsidized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation Grants Project, and was also selected for Tokyo University’s collaborative platform titled The 1st University of Tokyo IPC Entrepreneur Support Program, as well as the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ Strategic Information and Communications R&D Promotion Programme (SCOPE). It has been adopted by the Japan Patent Office’s IPAS (Intellectual Property Acceleration Program for Startups).

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda