By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Nearly seven years after receiving its initial outside funding, Knoxville-based GTI-Aldis now finds its GridSmart® traffic management system deployed in 30 states and 22 countries.
Much of the international coverage is in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, according to Bill Malkes, the company’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer.
“We have remained true to our core focus,” he told us during a recent conversation. “We would not chase the plan of the day.”
For many, the corporate name might seem different. In fact, it is.
The company was founded as Aldis Corporation, but has chosen to adopt the product brand as part of its corporate name going forward. The legal name has changed to GridSmart Technologies, Inc., but the Company will employ the moniker of GTI.
“Aldis has been the Company and GridSmart® the brand, going forward, the communal message is substantiated,” Malkes explained. “We are evolving . . . progressing. The new name affirms our commitment as a technology company in traffic.”
We first profiled Aldis in October 2012. At the time, Malkes described the company as “revolutionizing traffic management with easy-to-use software that delivers intelligence to the intersection.”
Its GridSmart® software provides a variety of services – data on the number and types of vehicles traveling through intersections, functionality to optimize traffic, pedestrian detection and counting, wrong way and stopped vehicle detection, “horizon to horizon” views with a single camera, and real time data. There’s even an app for iOS.
While the company has maintained this focus on traffic, it has also continued to bring new innovations to the core product. Malkes said the fifth generation of GridSmart® has just been released, an event that marks an important shift in the company’s philosophy.
“We are changing the way that we interact with our customers,” he explained. One significant aspect of the change is a move to the Cloud. Another is a shift from exclusive relationships to partnerships.
“We want to play with everyone,” Malkes said, referring to traffic system providers. “We want to be the preferred smart sensor provider.”
The shift to the Cloud and to partnerships enables this strategy.
GTI has begun to license the core technology to third parties in 2014, focusing on the company’s core competency of software-firmware.
“We will integrate our sensor product into other products as smart sensors,” Malkes explained.
As GTI continues to grow, Malkes continues to fine tune the company’s thinking.
“It’s not about adding headcount,” he explains. “It’s about adding partnerships and leveraging software.”
And, no conversation would be complete without Malkes praising the GTI venture investors that include Battelle Ventures, Innovation Valley Partners, and Meritus Ventures.
“They have been patient money,” he says. “That is rare and prudent in the venture community”.