|If you remember using a rotary phone... you're not old. If you remember when phones were the size of Satellite phones... you're not old. If you are talking to someone who says he started in his industry when people were still talking on analog cellular phones…you’re still not old, but you sure might feel that way. This month's Oklahoma Restaurant Association featured Allied Member is Steve Montgomery, chief executive officer for Digital Six Laboratories. Montgomery seems to be a quiet guy, until you ask about his business, at which time he really lights up and it's not long until any Baby Boomers and Generation Xers in the will likely be lost in the abyss of tech jargon. "I'm a technology guy, so I love technology," Montgomery exclaimed. “The thing I love about what we do (at Digital Six) is that our technology has a long-term impact on the customers who use it and that means something. You can develop fad technologies that sell well today and not be used in five years. If our customers can operate their businesses more efficiently and give their owners and shareholders a better return on investment and if our technology can help quick serve restaurants deliver safer food, then we've made an impact on society and that's what I've always wanted to do. I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to have this opportunity and that is what makes me excited to come in every day.” Digital Six Laboratories is an Oklahoma City-based "start-up" developer of engineered wireless IoT solutions and components for commercial and industrial markets. If you're NOT a Millenial (or a "technology guy"), IoT stands for the Internet of Things, which, according to Google, is “the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and connectivity which enables these objects to connect and exchange data.” Digital Six Laboratories is around technology developed by Montgomery, who had a vision of marketing it to the oil and gas industry, Unfortunately, he developed the technology right around the time gas prices tanked in 2015, so he starred looking at other applications for product. At the time, Montgomery had been in this particular area of product development for quite a while, developing battery-powered wireless||technologies for almost 30 years. “I was doing this since before WiFi and Bluetooth," he said with no hint of condescension in his voice as he spoke to someone who thinks of those things as newfangled technological advances. "When I started, we were still talking on analog cellular phones." Montgomery started Digital Six because he saw an intersection between Web/Cloud technologies and the ability to have long range, low-powered sensors to develop applications to help companies run more efficiently. With the advantage Of Oklahoma's wide open spaces, he could place and read line of sight sensors miles away. When developing technologies in general, Montgomery explained his company follows two principles. One is "Peel and Stick" — "Our equipment is retrofitted to existing equipment. It really is as simple as peeling and sticking it to the wall or equipment. The second principle is "Fire and Forget" — "Once the product is installed, it should work for the life of the asset. There should not be any battery changes or reconfigurations." As the concept of IoT was gaining speed in the technology world, Montgomery jumped in with both feet and built a comprehensive platform that could manage many things. While his original intention was an oil and gas product, he quickly saw other uses for it. "We saw the need for this technology in healthcare, grocery stores and Other large facilities," he said. “And, we found that the predominant place our technology was needed was in food safety. It was a shocker to me. But it makes sense." Montgomery explained that internal policies in quick Serve restaurants and governmental policies to protect the health of the consumers cause food safety challenges. And, when the public is pushing to remove preservatives from foods, the challenge increases. "When you pull the preservatives out with the antiquated way of handling food safety, it carries a lot of risk," he said. "Even though technology has proliferated almost every aspect of QSR, restaurant staff is still using clipboards, pens and eyeballs to temp refrigerators, cooked and refrigerated foods. It's not for lack of looking and trying to find a solution, but finding a solution to do everything needed is challenging." Montgomery met that challenge With FoodSafe.io®, a solution for monitoring refrigeration, food temperatures|
and even employee hygiene. He proudly states that FoodSafe. Io® is able to do "everything" needed to monitor food safety. "It's more than just recording temperatures. Are employees washing their hands? We go into a fast food restaurant and put a little drop-in kit in their soap dispensers and track how employees are washing their hands. This information is fed back to management and they get an alert on their phones if people aren't washing their hands. They can look at the website and see data that shows what times of day people are washing their hands or not washing their hands. If it's a problem, they can work with their employees to correct it. Without a feedback mechanism, it is hard to know where you need to improve." For monitoring refrigerator and food temperatures, Digital Six provides a kiosk tablet to the client and it runs an application that is attached to a Bluetooth probe, enabling the user to grab the information from the thermometer. "It records temperature, when it was taken and who took it. Our customers gain 360 degree visibility into the food safety of their business in real time." Additionally, if temperature readings are not done on time, FoodSafe.io can send text messages to the management team to let them know. Membership in the ORA has helped Digital Six network with restaurant leaders, not only in terms of finding customers, but in understanding the needs of those customers. "The relationship (with the ORA) has helped us deliver better and more targeted products." Less than three years after starting out as a self-funded bootstrap organization with support from i2E, Digital Six now works with about seven large QSRs and 15 to 20 smaller organizations. "Together, the large QSRs represent about 110,000 locations," he said. "i2E led our investment run and got us funded which helped us do what we wanted to do. We closed that last October and have been growing customers and product ever since. Digital Six now has about 20 employees, including Montgomery's wife of nearly 30 years, Tracey, and their oldest son, Ryland, who is production manager. Another son, Blake, 16, works for the company part time and their youngest son, Hunter, is 14. Montgomery, who is a third degree black belt, teaches martial arts in his spare time. His two youngest sons are also involved in martial arts. "That's pretty much all the extra time I have. Running a start-up is pretty intense." For more information on Digital Six products, go to www. D6labs.com
April Sandefer, "Digital Six Laboratories Staying Ahead of Technology Curve," Oklahoma Restaurateur, Summer 2018 Edition, pp. 37-39.