BeadedStream: A Small Business, Unboxed
When you are dealing with tough geotechnical engineering design and construction issues in the arctic, a cardboard box seems an unlikely candidate for housing your base of operations. But, when Brian Shumaker, P.E. launched BeadedStream in 2004, the foundation was just that: an old box full of aging thermistor cables in need of repair or replacement.
Today, BeadedStream, LLC delivers temperature monitoring technology and data, as well as specialized project support to customers in Alaska, Canada and Antarctica. The company has outgrown that old box to continue its pursuit of outside-the-box innovation. Whether measuring temperatures in single pavement cracks, or on an ocean-going buoy, or monitoring the foundation beneath the 70,000 square foot Deadhorse Aviation Center, Shumaker and his team of 12 are constantly working to integrate with and improve on existing methods of recording and using temperature data for a wide range of applications: Customers may want to gauge the stability of a single building foundation element or observe long-term trends in regional permafrost temperatures. Additionally, recent interest in environmental conservation and developing science-based State and Federal policies is also driving this innovation at an incredible pace.
“When I started, analog thermistor cables were the tools of the day. People needed them, all the time, to measure temperatures in remote locations all over. But it was a cottage industry—and it was hard to get your hands on a cable—especially one that worked reliably,” says Shumaker.
Finding few standards for design of such specialized equipment and even fewer people willing to repair and maintain thermistor cables, Shumaker was inspired to learn for himself. Eventually, he found Jim Movius, a brilliant electrical engineer who estimated he had soldered about 75,000 sensor beads by the time Shumaker sought his expertise. Movius was more than willing to pass his knowledge on.
Shumaker’s desire to provide a more resilient and reliable cable led to the development of his original BeadedStream Temperature Acquisition Cables (TACs), which started to meet the demand for a more sophisticated temperature data acquisition product. The TACs have greater capability to withstand extreme climate conditions, more flexibility, reduced weight and the intelligence to communicate using a standardized digital interface. The TACs have continually evolved so that BeadedStream’s customers can now receive accurate temperature data in real time via the web, with little to no special training. Today, BeadedStream offers a selection of versatile data loggers and data collectors, along with the TACs, to meet most customer requirements.
Yet, Shumaker points out that BeadedStream is more than a cutting-edge product development company. The combined experience of his team adds a strong field logistics component to their service,
“We can provide products only to our clients, but we’d rather lend our expertise in the field to their project and ensure that they are utilizing our technology to its greatest potential, so that they get the best results possible.”
When you are trying to monitor temperatures in a 600-foot deep borehole in interior Alaska or a floating jet strip off the coast of Antarctica, that kind of support might make the difference between logging miles and logging data.