Telepresenz, based in Edison, has an unusual origin story.
Wife and husband team Indu and Ritesh Tolia had created CARE4D, an edtech startup in Edison, in 2014, with the idea of bringing immersive technology — like augmented reality and virtual reality — to education.
However, during that company’s successful run — in which they developed much engaging AR educational content for students to use on their iPads and tablets — the founders were approached by other companies that were aware of their AR expertise.
At the beginning, they were asked to help companies figure out what to do with AR glasses and to offer some basic AR training. The founders were bootstrapping at the time, so they were eager to accept this work to help keep their startup afloat.
As it happened, while the duo was busy selling its vision to the education market, AR devices began to mature, and customers began to ask them to create solutions for other problems, said Indu Tolia, who is CEO and also the company’s tech lead. That led the two to delve further into the service and maintenance sector, to understand how AR could help workers and the companies that employ them.
“There was a core fundamental problem about how to support teams with a collaboration tool that can be used anywhere, whether it’s in the field, whether they’re working on a pole 30 feet above the ground,” she stated.
The Tolias formed Telepresenz, a division of CARE4D, about three years ago, and they secured their first customer shortly thereafter. According to the two founders, business has been thriving ever since. CARE4D and Telepresenz remain bootstrapped, but the founders may be seeking funding for Telepresenz soon to support its growth, Ritesh Tolia said.
AR-based video collaboration platform
Telepresenz is a video collaboration platform for real-time, on-demand remote assistance, said Ritesh Tolia, who is chief revenue officer. When he has to give his elevator pitch, he tells people that Telepresenz is Microsoft Teams on steroids, and it’s the steroids aspect that makes all the difference. Certainly, Telepresenz heightens team communications, but it also virtualizes experts back at the office.
Service or repair people are sent out into the field with AR glasses. They can refer to step-by-step instructions and, if necessary, call an expert to help them resolve a situation they may not have seen before. The expert, usually someone with many years’ experience, can see the problem through the glasses and explain how to solve it. This procedure speeds up repair or service time and ensures that the job is done right the first time around.
The product features an all-in-one integrated workflow. For example, if you are doing an inspection, the expert who knows the equipment really well or who is from the manufacturer side is able to tell the technician what procedures to follow. There are different procedures for installation, maintenance and servicing equipment, Indu Tolia said.
She noted that the company offers a device-agnostic platform that connects workers and teams, whether they are using glasses, iPads, phones or some other devices.
“We actually provide a remote collaboration and remote mentoring platform,” she said.
She added that the company has a development team in India, and that all of the people who work there are CARE4D employees.
Ritesh Tolia is responsible for global partnerships.
“Today, Telepresenz has a global footprint,” he said. “We’re not only here in North America, we’re also in Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, a few European countries and in the Asia-Pacific area, including Singapore and Hong Kong. We have our own sales force in Italy, Australia and New Zealand. The other regions are served by a distribution network set up through our channel partners.”
The platform transcends industry verticals, Indu Tolia stated.
“Whether you’re in a utility business, and you’re trying to support your field force when they’re going out and doing repairs and maintenance, and you’re trying to connect them to somebody that’s a senior engineer or a supervisor that’s not locally available, or you’re in manufacturing and using it for training new employees or connecting their different groups to be able to communicate and collaborate on our platform, you can use the platform,” she said.
That being said, there are “some industry verticals that are aggressively pursuing the adoption of AR,” she added. These are utilities such as oil and gas, manufacturing, maintenance and repair operations and telecom for field services.
“Aerospace companies are looking at us because they’ve got these large hangars and facilities in different locations of the world, and the platform allows their senior engineers to dispense their domain expertise to workers anywhere,” she said.
Asked about distribution, she responded: “We are partners with the manufacturers of the devices we support. For our customers that are looking for a solution, we can offer them the entire package: hardware, software, any customized services that they need, that allow for the solution to work the way they envision it to work. Whether it’s integrated into their existing (customer relationship management) or ticketing systems or SAP (software), whatever types of services that they need around our platform, we offer that as well.
“In addition, our partners, including device manufacturers, systems integrators and large technology distributors, are offering our solution to their customers.”