Brite, YBI Strike Partnership with ‘Internet of Things’ Initiative

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Business Incubator and Brite Energy Innovators, Warren, have partnered in an effort to help local manufacturers become more competitive through advanced technology.

The Valley Internet of Things Initiative combines Brite’s work with energy firms with the YBI’s experience in additive manufacturing and software development, said Rick Stockburger, executive director of Brite.

“Anytime we can partner with the YBI, it’s a great opportunity,” Stockburger said.  “We’ve had success with energy companies, such as Intwine Connect, and we have an Internet of Things lab.”

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a concept that integrates high-speed broadband connectivity that can provide real-time data to instruments such as a smartphone. A simple example is a phone app that can control the thermostat in your home or unlock your car door.

On a more complex level, IoT enables manufacturing equipment on a factory floor to provide real time data such as production levels or flag maintenance issues so managers can be more informed, Stockburger said. 

“It’s all about helping manufacturers make better decisions,” Stockburger said. “We view this partnership as a way we can help manufacturers be competitive with China and other places where we’ve lost manufacturing.”

The collaboration would allow YBI to use Brite’s IoT lab, for example, while Brite would make use of the YBI’s expertise in additive or software, Stockburger said.

Stockburger said that Brite is working to attract new companies to the region that could contribute to the electric-vehicle supply chain, as major developments such as Ultium Cells in Lordstown move forward. The partnership with YBI would only enhance the potential of developing this network locally.

“We’ll connect our entrepreneurs with area manufacturers,” he said. “It’s sort of like matchmaking and then training.”

Barb Ewing, the YBI’s CEO, said that the collaboration would open up new opportunities for local manufacturers. 

“The Internet of Things is literally the future of everything, from refrigerators to manufacturing lines,” she said. “This funding will allow us to build new programming to support our local manufacturing base figure out how to use the technology to make themselves more competitive.” 

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, announced Tuesday that his office helped secure $312,744 in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations draft bill to support the initiative.   

“I am proud of the work that is being done by both the YBI and Brite in working together to ensure that the Mahoning Valley is at the forefront of advanced manufacturing and ‘making things,’” Ryan said in a statement.  

The funding still needs to be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee before it proceeds to the House floor and then the U.S. Senate.

Ryan, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, serves as chairman of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee and vice chair of the Defense Subcommittee.

A recent survey by Youngstown State University interviewed multiple sectors and found that more than 75% of local companies do not use real-time data and more than 50% said that they did not have the expertise or training to adopt this technology, Ryan’s office said. The investment would be used for training and technical assistance. 

Brite and YBI have partnered on other initiatives, such as the Minority Business Assistance Center, and the Apex program – an effort to collaborate on defense and military-related programs.

“This opportunity to work with YBI could not have come at a better time as we see the collision of analytics and manufacturing as a key indicator of how we are going to bring back good paying jobs for talented young people,” Stockburger said.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.