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Work gets underway at Fishers tech lab even before official opening

January 12, 2018

Tech firms are moving into the Indiana IoT Lab in Fishers and work there is underway, even though the hub meant to spur the development of internet-connected devices is still two months from officially opening.

All eight dedicated offices in the 24,562-square-foot space are leased and 50 people have joined the internet-of-things lab as members, said John Wechsler, director of Launch Fishers, which operates the lab.

And already, Wechsler is fielding calls from companies big and small that have heard about the lab and want its help figuring out how to create products to enhance their brands.

“It’s surprising, quite frankly, the pedigree of companies that have called us,” said Wechsler, who plans to hire an executive director soon to oversee the lab. “We’ve already got some projects we think are going to move forward.”

The lab is a collaboration of the city of Fishers and the not-for-profit Launch Fishers, which operates a co-working space in the Hamilton County city. It was announced to much fanfare nearly a year ago and was originally expected to open last summer. It’s now planning a grand opening for March 21.

The goal is to offer companies—especially those in manufacturing, distribution and agriculture—a sort of one-stop-shop for the development of internet-connected devices. It’s a market referred to as internet of things, or IoT, and the lab’s members will offer different elements and services needed to create those devices.

One firm could help a company customize a sensor, while another provides the software to connect the sensor to a dashboard, another offers the cloud storage for the resulting data and yet another provides the cybersecurity needed to keep the information safe.

“Think of the lab like a mall,” Wechsler said. “What we’ve done is create little stores … where you can find everything you need.”

And those “stores” range significantly in size—from big guys like ClearObject, an IoT services specialist and founding member of the lab, to smaller, so-called backpack entrepreneurs, who provide a single, specific service.

The members expect to work on projects together, Wechsler said, and refer clients to one another to take advantage of the expertise in the building. Down the road, that expertise may be in affiliated labs outside Fishers, too.

Wechsler envisions a network of IoT labs throughout the state to take advantage of regional specialties, such as plastics and packaging experts in southwest Indiana. Talks are already underway.

“We’ve had multiple conversations, and I can’t name them yet,” Wechsler said. “But I am very sure that soon we’ll be able to announce one or two additional nodes on the network.”

Launch Fishers won’t own or operate those spaces. Instead, they’ll be locally organized and then affiliated with the Fishers operation, which is at 9059 Technology Drive in Northeast Commerce Park, not far from the Super Target store near East 116th Street and Interstate 69.

Despite the pomp with which it was announced, the lab is more or less a bootstrap operation, Wechsler said. It’s in a former manufacturing facility that was remodeled by the landlord. The city of Fishers leased the property and is subleasing it to Launch Fishers for what he called a “bargain” price.

Equipment including 3D printers, soldering irons and oscilloscopes, which are used to observe signal voltages, will be purchased using revenue from sponsorships and founding members, including ClearObject and Indiana University. Operating expenses will come from income earned by members.

Eventually, Wechsler envisions that companies seeking services will temporarily move teams into the lab to work directly with members. He said the space is designed to create short-term offices or work spaces using portable dividers and easily movable furniture.

“We’re trying to flex our way into meeting the needs of the market,” he said.

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