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SMU Student And DAL Researcher Develop Online Oil Tank Monitor

This may be the perfect winter to illustrate the value of Jon Fraser and Victoria Smith’s new product. (At least we better hope there’s not a better winter for it.)

With the thermometer plunging and heating bills soaring, there probably won’t be a better winter to test Stromline Technologies, whose product measures and monitors fuel tanks in real time.

Stromline’s first product is StromSense, which is a sort of smart cap for an oil tank, or tank holding other liquid fuel. It screws on to a common oil tank and measures the level of the fuel in the tank. It then sends out readings via the cellular network to a desktop or device so the user can tell the oil levels in the tank. It can allow an oil company to deliver oil only when it’s needed, thus improving efficiency over a system that estimates when a delivery is needed. Or it can tell the tank’s owner when to order more fuel.

The duo of entrepreneurs is now focusing on commercial or industrial customers, which typ-ically own tanks with a capacity of up to 15,000 litres. They generally are legally required to conduct daily volume inspections to ensure the volume coincides with use to make sure there have been no catastrophic leaks, mismanagement or theft.

“Our customers would include schools, construction companies, office buildings, companies with fleet vehicles,” said Smith. “StromSense alleviates their pain by eliminating manual inspection, providing daily consumption data via an easily accessible web portal.”

The second most important market for the Halifax-based company would be oil delivery companies. The benefits for this market are obvious, as the companies could monitor their customers’ tanks and only make deliveries when the oil or other fuel is needed.

The residential delivery market is huge, as more than 1.1 million Canadian households and 7.6 million American homes depend on home heating oil, with more than 80 per cent of the market in the Northeast.

Stromline also has plans to use the data collected from these readings to help customers plan for oil delivery and the best use of their resources.

Smith (an MBA student at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University) and Fraser came up with the idea for Stromline last summer and developed it with Dalhousie University engineering professor Peter Vanberkel. They have spent the winter beta testing the product with a handful of homeowners. They’ve received good feedback, and plan a full commercial launch next winter with their chosen market segments.

Though they’re focused now on monitoring fuel tanks, Fraser said this is only the first product that the company is planning. “The goal is to branch out to other machine-to-machine devices,” said Fraser, referring to the new tech segment in which machines communicate through the Internet.

“What we’ve done is created a platform that can communicate with a range of sensors,” said Fraser.