From a Garage to a European Player: ACRIOS Systems and Their Journey to Top IoT Solutions

ACRIOS Systems, a dynamic company focused on innovations in the field of IoT and hardware solutions, under the leadership of CEO Radim Malinowski, has established itself as an important player in the European market. In an interview, Radim Malinowski talks about the company's unique approach to product development, which streamlines energy systems and measurement processes without requiring lengthy installation.

The company, which stands on solid foundations of its own research and specialized product portfolio, not only provides its customers with technical solutions but also comprehensive advice aimed at reducing total cost of ownership. ACRIOS Systems, thanks to its focus on quality and innovation, creates products that are not only functional but also strategically advantageous for companies seeking robust and long-term sustainable technological solutions. The interview was conducted by Jozef Verbovský, CMO of SOS electronic.


Mr. Malinowski, I am glad that you found time for this interview amidst all your responsibilities. During my visit to your company, I was captivated by your enthusiasm for solution development. Could you explain to our readers what ACRIOS Systems does?

Gladly. In short, our company stands on two pillars. The first is our own research and development in hardware, such as for water vending machines, gas boilers manufactured worldwide, or devices for measuring explosion velocity in military environments. The second pillar is IoT hardware focused particularly on energy measurement and remote readings. This includes converters for industrial gas meters, residential water meters, and similar devices.

Where does the company design and manufacture?

Currently, all design and manufacturing are concentrated in the Czech Republic on the SMT lines of our contract partners. We not only conduct quality control but also directly upload specific configurations for the customer during the manufacturing process. Imagine ordering 1,000 units and needing to configure each one. Even if it took just 6 minutes per unit, you would spend 6,000 minutes or 100 hours on this task alone.

For which sector do you produce the most?

Our clients are usually integrators or companies working for energy companies. They often seek hardware they can use to modernize existing meters in their operations. We aim to enable them to modernize with lower costs, especially after taking into account the total cost of data acquisition (TCO). Currently, we have customers in most European countries, as well as in South Africa and Dubai.

Who are the key people in the ACRIOS Systems team?

I founded ACRIOS Systems along with Marek Novák and Tomáš Šimíček. Other key people in the company include Mojmír Pala, our production manager, and Zdeněk Mlynář, our technical support, who plays a crucial role in any phase of customer implementation. Lukáš Smetana leads the sales department, supported by Jakub Kodes from marketing, and the senior management is completed by Markéta Vymazalová, the head of HR.

How many employees do you have?

In our company, there's a relatively compact but highly effective team of 32 employees. Currently, we're hiring new team members approximately every 2 months. It's a bit unconventional, but definitely necessary for our growth, especially as we transition from a local startup to a European player in the field of IoT and measurement.


Transforming a startup into a successful company with sought-after products was probably not an easy journey... 

The beginnings were challenging, and we had to primarily sell services to stay in business. Our first product came in 2017, it was an M-Bus to LoRaWAN converter powered by batteries. Our first customer was from Slovakia and ordered 40 units - I vividly remember how long it took us to deliver them, the learning curve in the manufacturing process, the errors we had to address that didn't show up in the samples. It was a crazy time, but in the end, everything turned out well.

In 2020, when there were 5 or 6 of us, we had a joint venture with a manufacturer who wanted to explore the IoT world a bit more. For this collaboration, I approached my current colleague Lukáš Smetana, whom I knew from the startup community. Although the collaboration with the manufacturer didn't work out, Lukáš stayed in our company, and gradually, we transformed together into a product company. This move paid off, and currently, products constitute the majority of our revenue, with the original M-Bus to LoRaWAN converter being the main product along with the wM-Bus converter (or wireless M-Bus) to NB-IoT.

How do you differentiate yourselves from the competition? Are you unique?

We try to avoid claiming that we are "revolutionary" or "unique" because we're not. Our products are very good at what they do, but in the end, they're just boxes that fulfil their function. We love these products, but we don't attribute any supernatural superlative abilities to them in terms of marketing. They have incredible value for us and our customers, of course.

In terms of our business philosophy, we are somewhat exceptional. We don't try to sell connectivity to our customers, we don't persuade them to buy additional services, nor do we try to be the cheapest in the market. We realize that the success or failure of a project is determined by the total cost of ownership, which can narrow down to details such as the type of terminals you use or that the screws won't fall out of the cover when you loosen them. All the little details matter, helping to install our hardware as quickly as possible, with remote configuration and without having to do the installation twice because that costs more than a new product.

How does such a large deal come about?

We've always believed that what we do makes sense, and we realize that there's no such thing as a "quick business." The sales process typically takes about 1 year or longer because every customer needs to feel confident when introducing such a number of devices to the market. Just imagine if there were a small error, and you had to go back to each individual device. That's unacceptable, and we're fully aware of it. 

Do you have any "lessons learned" from the past? What mistake or misstep did you make?

Our devices usually require some terminals, whether it's pulse inputs, Modbus units, or M-Bus. Since these terminals are something you use only once, we decided to use plastic screws for the terminals. It worked on the table, it held the wire, so why not? Then we got to installation, and we had to install several of our units. Imagine holding the concentrator on the wall with one hand while the other tries to push the wire into the small screw in the terminal and at the same time tighten the screw that should hold the wire. But it wasn't just tightening an ordinary screw. It was such a tiny screw, like the ones you'd find in a watch!

After this experience, we quickly redesigned all our products to use WAGO terminals. They're probably 30 times more expensive compared to the original solution, but it's worth every cent - and that brings us back to the total cost of ownership. It's not just about the cost of the hardware itself, but also about how quickly you can deploy the hardware in certain quantities. 

Quality employees stand behind the entire company. Is there an issue with their recruitment, training, retention?

In terms of compensation, we need to ensure competitive salaries. We don't wait for employees to ask for a salary increase; instead, we proactively financially motivate them. Currently, we're also improving our benefits program to make it more attractive. We also place great emphasis on the work environment and corporate culture to promote open communication and team spirit. 

What does the future hold for the company, what's your strategy?

In the future, we aim to further expand within the EU and become one of the leading hardware suppliers for meter modernization. Since new meters often already have built-in communication, we still see potential in connecting existing meters. Of course, over time, we'll need to adjust our product portfolio, which we're already working on, but that's something that will come with time. 

Do you remember the beginning of your collaboration with SOS electronic?

We started with the mentioned first batch of 40 units, and from the beginning, we've been fortunate to have great sales support from SOS electronic, particularly from Tomáš Zukal. Tomáš has been with us from the very beginning, and even though it may not have been such an interesting business for him, he still supported us with development boards, tips on best practices. He gave us insights into the market and taught us how it works. He advised us on suitable components, and I hope he considers that time a good investment now.

I'm glad that now we're a good customer for SOS electronic, a company that has followed our growth and supported us on our journey. We're looking forward to what our collaboration will bring and where we can take it together.

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