Activant Capital Group
25 March 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
Steve Sarracino is the founder of Activant Capital Group in Greenwich, CT, which, like the
incubator, is solely focused on investing in later stage Internet of Things
(IoT) hardware ventures. Over
his career, Steve has invested more than $2 billion of equity across a broad
range of technology companies. Prior to founding Activant, Steve was a founding
member at Serent Capital. Previously, he
helped open the technology investing office at American Capital, Ltd. in Palo
Alto, CA. He also worked as a Summer
Associate at McKinsey & Co. in their Hong Kong office. He began his career in mergers and
acquisitions at Robertson Stephens in San Francisco, CA. Steve has an MBA from
The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. We held an informative
Q&A with him.
IoTP: How do you define the IoT?
SS: The IoT space is so big, that we narrow it down. We
don’t consider wearables or devices tethered to your phone as IoT. We make this
distinction of what we see as IoT as devices that are inherently connected
themselves, not those piggy backing off another devices connectivity. For
example, fitness type wearables are typically connected through a phone so to
put them in the category of IoT doesn’t work in our definition. Our focus is
IoT in industrial and enterprise verticals such as oil fields, mining, agriculture
and retail. We like these areas as it’s difficult to start business there – you need both hardware and software expertise,
coupled with deep domain knowledge to get off the ground.
IoTP: What are some of the challenges you see?
SS: With “real” IoT it’s really hard to integrate devices and
software. To be frank, a lot of the leg work in IoT for the enterprise is not
done yet, meaning if you want to integrate gauge meters on an oil rig, no one
has done it before so you have to write the firmware, network configurations
and protocols. So these companies require more capital. If you raise just a little
capital, your product is probably not differentiated or sufficient to sell to
tier 1 customer. Furthermore it’s a long sales cycle, selling to these guys,
and many companies just don’t last.
IoTP: We think that the real story of the IoT is industrial
and enterprise. It feels like the microprocessor era. What do you think?
SS: I totally agree. We’re seeing the industrial guys
driving IoT on the consumer side. That’s how it was in the 70s, 80s and 90s
with National Semiconductor and Fairchild. HP started in the enterprise and
migrated into the consumer space – will see this in the IoT.
IoTP: How did you get into this whole area?
SS: I was in the SF Bay area for 12 years and moved to the
east coast. It’s refreshing to get out of the [Silicon Valley] nonsense, and
that the common wisdom was to only invest in software. I saw hardware
investments; hardware is differentiable and patentable – you can’t even patent software.
We’re running the other way. Also, deals out here – the pricing more reasonable.
We look for ventures that fix problems, for example, oil fields are terribly inefficient. One of our investments, RetailNext,
provides in store analytics to retailers, similar to what Omniture did for
online, this sounds simple but it’s really hard to pull off, you need people on
the ground installing hardware, teams helping retailers interpret the data and
people dealing with 12 months sales cycles. What gets us excited is that the
problems are real and the ROI is there in enterprise IoT, it’s just going to
IoTP: What is your investment philosophy?
SS: I think that guys who do well in venture run the other
way. We are also all the way into IoT. We look at hardware startups all over
the world. The amount of hardware at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was
incredible. Silicon Valley is way behind on the industrial side. IoT is global,
it’s moving fast, and it’s super early innings. Although we’re small, there are
five of us, and not a brand like Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, but we’ve done
more deals in enterprise IoT than any VC firm. It’s all about working with people
you really trust.
IoTP: Do you offer more than capital to your investments?
SS: We think it’s important to know the vertical buyers –
the right people [buyers] to be gotten to – so we talk to the people who would
buy one of our investment’s products. We know the Tier 1 vertical market players.
They take time to talk to us and want to know what’s going on in the market. We
act as a screen for them.
IoTP: What’s your investment profile?
SS: Our fund is at $200 million right now, we write check
sizes typically for $7-$8 million-up to $30 million. We prefer the lower end of
growth equity, not taking massive product risk. So, late stage growth. Our goal
is to help expand the business. There are some exceptions for early stage. We
like to see 30-35% plus returns per year. It’s so hard to model out these
businesses. Are these guys going to be the winner in their segment; is the
segment big enough to matter? The ideas is don’t lose money but invest wisely
around winners that solve big problems.
IoTP: How do you mentor investments? If you do.
SS: We spend a lot of time with them using our value
creation framework. They all deal with the same problems, that is, how to build
out a channel strategy, for example. We collect a lot of data around what is
helpful. It’s very tactical and operational. It’s also nice for the CEO/founder
to have someone to talk to, so we’re part psychologist. We can make customer
introductions, board member intros, VP hires and whatever the companies need.
No one else does that.
We're impressed with Activant's wholly IoT hardware investment focus, as well as with their ability to make customer introductions and help with operations. This seems like the kind of VC that can really make a difference to a startup.
Image of Steve Serracino courtesy of Activant Capital
© 2015 IoT Perspectives
10 January 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
Technology Editor Ron
Bingham and I spent time with Arrayent’s
Vice President of Business Development Bob Dahlberg about the company’s
IoT cloud and analytics solution. Arrayent’s business model is to arm major companies, such
as their customer Whirlpool, with the ability to add IoT capabilities and
According to Bob,
Whirlpool, for example, wanted to increase its relationship with their
customers post-purchase, as well as reduce costs and energy usage in order to
meet a U.S. Government grant to design and build appliances compatible with the
Smart Grid. The goal for these appliances was to “save the grid”
and “save consumers
As Bob Dalberg explained,
“During product trials, Whirlpool discovered the tremendous value of having
connected customers. Consumers showed more interest in convenience features
(such as receiving text message alerts when a fridge has been open for more
than five minutes) than anticipated. And by reducing purchases to a single button
click, Whirlpool’s new Arrayent app reduces the friction involved in purchasing
water filters, fabric care products, and other high profit consumables. They
were also able to reduce energy usage.”
Bob added, “Connected
products are proving to be a game changer for Whirlpool. At best, appliance
manufacturers like Whirlpool interact with their customers once every ten years
— whenever the customers purchase a new appliance. Arrayent’s Connect Platform
enables Whirlpool to engage their customers on a weekly basis. Whirlpool’s
connected customers are more satisfied customers and provide Whirlpool with a
deeper understanding of how customers interact with their products. In
addition, service costs are reduced thanks to product information available in
The Arrayent Connect
Platform has four components:
Arrayent Data Analytics deliver business intelligence
reports common to all a manufacturer’s products, such as device locations,
device-app interactions, and peak usage trends.
Arrayent’s business model of
focusing on “brand name” manufacturers has advantages and disadvantages. This
model can enable extremely rapid growth, however, large companies tend to take
a long time to make decisions and implement.
Shane Dyer, a Stanford
graduate, founded the company in 2002 and computer systems engineer who dreamed
of a service delivery platform that could serve as the backbone for the
Internet of Things. Arrayent has 70 people in offices in Redwood City and
London. They have a number of case studies on their web
site that demonstrate the different ways manufacturers are using the IoT to
cement relationships with customers and create increased value during the life
of the product.
Having a problem figuring out what filter to order for our refrigerator, we'd certainly like the capability of pushing a button to automatically order!
Photo of Bob Dahlberg Courtesy of Arrayent
7 May 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
We met with the co-founders of Avi-on Labs at Bluetooth World 2015, CEO Eric
Miller and General Manager Dana Kunz. Avi-On is a privately held company that
started in January 2014. They have 20 people and are based in Salt Lake City.
They have raised some $1.5M from “super angels”
and are a family-owned business.
Bluetooth Home is, they claim, the world’s first wireless lighting ecosystem for global market OEMs. Avi-on
offers OEMs an SDK for fast development. They are targeting major, well known
home and building automation brands.
The company created a Bluetooth (BT) Smart mesh network in the
beginning of their venture, but now use CSR’s (Qualcomm’s) BT Smart mesh networking.
As we have written in IoT Perspectives Bluetooth (BT), in
order to address the needs of the Internet of Things (IoT) has to evolve into a
mesh architecture. CSR’s BT
Smart mesh networking (CSRmesh) is the foundation for Bluetooth’s evolving mesh networking standard. The
advantages of a Bluetooth mesh network is that it is more reliable, since
messages can travel throughout a network and can pivot when faced with any
blocks, as well as being low power, low cost and high performance.
According to Miller, Avi-on has had influence on the development of CSR’s BT mesh networking, and vice
Avi-on has also locked down its BT Smart mesh network; they
tested it but were not able to hack into it. Each Avi-on device has a unique
key so it can bar unauthorized access. The device can’t be discovered by evildoers, even via BT
The issue with Bluetooth, compared with Wi-Fi, has been range.
However, according to Avi-on, their BT Smart mesh network can achieve 80-100
feet plus ranges, including through walls. Two-to-three Avi-on powered devices
can cover 2500 square feet. Regarding power management, Avi-on lighting
products are getting multiple years on a coin battery.
proprietary app-cloud-firmware technology extends the functionality of
Bluetooth Smart and CSRmesh architecture, delivering wired performance without
integrated platform enables major manufacturers to bring connected products to
market in less than six months.
The Avi-on platform is already powering a complete line of
GE-branded Bluetooth Smart products, manufactured by Jasco Products, coming to
market in Summer 2015. Jasco serves some 85,000 retailers with GE-branded
lighting (Jasco licenses the GE brand). The price point for one of these smart
lights will be around $40.
Each device is assigned
a unique security key. One
can add or move devices from the network if one has a security key. The key can’t be discover by a BT phone, or even with BT sniffing
tools. We saw a demonstration of this. It’s a simple one-click process to pair and authorize the smart light.
Dana Kunz described a few OEM scenarios. One was able to conceive
a smart ceiling fan device. They got their dev kit Tuesday at noon and were demonstrating it to their
executive team by that Thursday. Another OEM, a commercial lighting company had
a production-ready solution for sale within six weeks.
With their solution, they believe they can eliminate 50% of the
wires needed for their smart devices. As Kunz said, they provide “wiring
They have opened their platform to 3rd parties, as
they feel they have a great platform and communications network.
We think that the combination of CSR's Bluetooth Smart mesh network with Avi-on's OEM platform approach, that also focuses on security, is a smart one.
Photos of Dana Kunz and Eric Miller courtesy of Avi-on Labs
© 2015 IoT Perspectives
6 October 2014 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
(pronounced “aay-lah") caught our eye due to investment by networking
powerhouse, Cisco Systems, who is making significant investments internally and
externally in what it calls the “Internet of Everything.” For example, in April
2014, the company announced that it had
set up a $150M fund for early-stage startups,
minority investments in IoT accelerators and startups Alchemist Accelerator, Ayla Networks and EVRYTHNG.
Founded in 2010, IoT cloud
platform venture, Ayla Networks, closed a $14.M Series B round in April 2014,
with new investments from Cisco; the International Finance Corporation, a
member of the World Bank Group; Linear Venture; SAIF Partners, one of China’s
largest venture capital firms; SJF Ventures, and existing investors Crosslink
Capital and Voyager Capital.
founders include semiconductor veterans CEO David Friedman and Tom Lee (no
title), VP of Engineering Adrian Caceres, who helped launch the first several generations of Kindle with
Wi-Fi, and China business leader, VP & GM of Greater China Philip Chang.
The company is based in Sunnyvale, CA with local presence in Shenzhen, China.
There are currently 40-45 employees with plans to expand to 75 by the end of
has developed a cloud-based application enablement platform for OEMs to connect
any device to the Internet. It includes software agents embedded in both IoT
connected devices as well as on the mobile device applications. The platform
has been architected with secure connectivity and to integrate data intelligence
to Sr. Director Product Marketing Rodrick (Rod) McLane, who recently joined the
company in July 2014, the goal of Ayla’s cloud platform is to enable
manufacturers to concentrate on their product expertise, and let Ayla help reduce
time-to-market by handling the cloud-based technology infrastructure needed for
development and use of IoT solutions.
security is of great concern, Ayla has focused on Fortune 500 company-type end-to-end
security measures, including a 2048-bit key burned into the communication
module that is unique for every IoT device, multi-factor authentication and SSL
connectivity, which, as Rod McLane described, is like a “VPN between your
dishwasher and the cloud.”
sees a huge market in China for the IoT, and, probably because of the
background of co-founders Chang and Lee, is focused on penetrating the Asian
market. McLane explained that the People’s Republic of China has developed ICP
certification for Internet traffic, which Ayla has, and is an example of China’s
commitment to IoT development in the country.
has partnered with wireless technology companies such as Broadcom and NXP, and
with module manufacturers such as USI and Murata for complete regulatory
certified solutions. While not a hardware
company, they have worked with hardware technology leaders to create simple to
use “serial-to-cloud” solutions.
Especially as Ayla is a Cisco investment, we have high hopes, and will be fully convinced of its success when the company discloses a significant number of global customers and case studies!
Photo of Rod McLane Courtesy of Ayla Networks
(c) 2014 IoT Perspectives
25 March 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
We spoke with founder and CEO, Scott Sellers, about Azul Systems’ newest addition to its 100%
open source Java runtime and development kit, Zulu Embedded. Zulu Embedded was
designed for embedded (naturally), mobile and robust IoT development. Our
conversation focused on the benefits of Zulu Embedded and Azul’s
open source philosophy for IoT developers. (There’s a podcast with Scott about his background,
including Princeton, and the founding of Azul. Done by the company)
This venture-backed, privately held 100-employee company has
been in business since 2002 (venture funding not disclosed). While they started
with a series of proprietary hardware offerings, over the past two years they
have focused on providing open source Java runtime and development tools, with
revenue strategy similar to the Red Hat model: customization and support. They
have a flexible pricing model for this – whether per device, per user, flat
rate and customer-specific plans. They first launched Zulu with Microsoft, for
Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. The company has sales and support offices and
engineering “depots” around the world, enabling them to deliver 24/7 support
regardless of time zones, with a guaranteed one-hour response time.
Azul offers 100% open source, enterprise-grade Java runtime
and development tools (referred to as a JVM and JDK respectively), thus
obviating the need for paying for licensing and distribution as Oracle’s
HotSpot requires. This, of course, reduces cost for the embedded/IoT developer.
According to Sellers, “As Java continues to be used in
mission critical deployments, we see traditional JVMs fall down under
significant load and latency requirements. We developed our first software-only
product, Zing, to address those specific concerns.”
Scott noted that Azul’s client base, because of their open source, reliability,
high performance and low latency Java JVM, is comprised of many of the world’s
largest investment banks and trading companies (40% of their business – the
last time you made a stock trade it was probably running on Zing), large online
properties, such as Overstock, Saks Fifth Avenue and Priceline.com, etc., where
downtime is also a critical issue, as well as SaaS, government and military
Zulu Embedded is Azul’s newest product, which is designed
for perhaps not the most extreme performance needs as financial or online
retail markets, but for embedded, mobile and certain kinds of IoT development
(more on that below). Scott believes it is a “game changer” and provides a
strong open source alternative to Oracle’s closed source Java
HotSpot. Zulu Embedded is available for a wide variety of operating
systems, hardware platforms and Java versions 6, 7, and 8.
When asked about the benefits of Java for IoT makers and
developers. Scott noted,
“One of the important things in the Java community, beginning
in 2007, was an evolution of both the Java language and the Java runtime being
developed in the open source community. OpenJDK
is a big, vibrant, community, for example, that is where future versions of
Java (like Java 8, and similarly for the next version Java 9, expected in
spring of 2016) are developed and evolved. Developers can go to and look at
thousands of millions of lines of code. It’s an important project - Oracle is
very involved as is IBM, Azul, Red Hat and many others.”
Scott said that Azul’s Zulu products are the only multi-platform,
commercial-grade, open source JVMs/JDKs on the market, offering developers a
“drop in” alternative to Oracle HotSpot.
Launched in March 2015, Zulu Embedded offers benefits to IoT
developers and makers, as it is:
- 100% open source solution, a major benefit for
cost-constrained IoT environments.
- The only 100% Java SE standards-compliant solution for the embedded
- Customizable for different embedded environments and IoT
apps to reduce time-to-development. Azul offers a wide range of customization
that an embedded customer can choose out of Azul’s Java runtime, while being
fully compliant with Java SE specs. They say that they can do customization and
bug fixes very quickly for those who choose customization as they are highly
automated, although they will fix bugs and add security updates in the open
source version. According to Scott, “We can very rapidly deliver customized
builds for specific [IoT and other] applications.”
Appropriate for more robust IoT development, while avoiding
vendor lock-in and licensing/distribution fees, according to Scott, Java may
not have had the success it deserves as a programming language for the IoT because
of the unfounded belief that it requires a lot of memory and storage. He
believes Azul has overcome such belief with its Java tools. Zulu Embedded, for
example, has a low footprint of 40MB and below – important for IoT development.
Another advantage for Java developers is the huge amount of
3rd party libraries. It’s also a more stable and secure environment
than C or C++.
While there may be a perception that Java is harder to use,
Scott said, “It’s absolutely the opposite, it’s easier to program in Java, whether
for the IoT or any other application. In general, the standards now being put
in place for IoT and development and test environments are very much a moving
target. Thus, products and solutions are needed and being developed to make
programming for the IoT easier, many not language specific at this point.” Scott believes Java, because of all its
advantages, will become the preferred language for IoT and embedded development,
More and more, Azul is working with chip companies, as they provide
reference platforms as starting points for IoT solutions. Scott told us, “We
have some interesting dialogs going on now and look forward to making some announcements.
The ideal goal for us is that for standard development environments for developing
IoT apps and for anything Java-based – Zulu Embedded will become the most
popular and the de facto standard.”
As far as the IoT maker market, it’s “another great market,”
said Scott, “and an area of interest for us. The hobbyist market is an important
starting point, as that is where so much innovation is.”
Brian Partridge, VP, 451 Research Mobility team, said:
“Today’s market for embedded computing and M2M applications is wrought with
fragmentation and high costs. For the industry to take the next step towards
realizing the expansive vision of IoT, development environments built on open
source technologies have the potential to deliver the flexibility, economics,
and time to market advantages needed to match an increasingly long set of
compelling use cases. Zulu Embedded provides an intriguing, pure open source
solution for the IoT and embedded markets requiring a robust Java SE
We think that Java may well have a role in IoT development,
particularly for the enterprise and the Industrial Internet, and thus Azul is
on the right track with its open source approach.
Photo of CEO Scott Sellers courtesy of Azul Systems
© 2015 IoT Perspectives
17 May 2015 - By Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
we learned from new venture, Bastille, at the 2015
RSA Security Conference, when it comes to IoT communications “you’ve
got 99 problems and WiFi’s
founder and CEO Chris Rouland.
a veteran cybersecurity expert and entrepreneur, founded Bastille in April 2014
to pioneer IoT security through next-generation sensors and software that can
monitor new threats in the corporate airspace.
provides heightened visibility enabling enterprise IT security professionals to
monitor IoT devices entering their environments, particularly those that
connect to wireless communications protocols beyond WiFi, such as Zigbee,
Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, and others. The advanced insight empowers
corporations to accurately quantify risk and mitigate 21st century airborne
threats that are the unintended consequences of IoT.
the most complex level, Rouland explained, Bastille’s ambient detection enables security
teams to prevent RF data leakage by identifying airborne threats and flows.
Their patented solution (they’ve filed eight patents on their algorithms) also provides a
complete, holistic solution with visibility into the location and movement of
each IoT device –
physical and human assets.
company has 20 people, five in San Francisco and the rest in Atlanta, GA. They
are in quasi-stealth mode, with initial focus on financial enterprises in New
York and London, where the need for security is particularly stringent and
Bastille is already getting traction with pilot programs. They expect general
availability in 2016.
to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “Five
months after launching, Bastille raised $1.5 million from investors, including
Tom Noonan, who co-founded Internet Security Systems before selling it to IBM
Corp. for $1.6 billion, and venture capitalist John Huntz. In January 2015
Bastille extended its angel round with a $1 million investment, including
funding from David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners, one of the most
successful investors in cybersecurity startups. The extended angel round will
help Bastille fuel engineering and support its pilot programs.
said Bastille, security has accounted for about five percent of total IT spend.
For IoT specifically - analyst firms estimate that the market will surpass
50-90 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020, and Gartner
that 20 percent of enterprises will “invest
in IoT security by
2017. In addition, IDC projects the market size at $7.1 trillion by 2020. Thus,
there is no doubt that the emergence of the IoT creates significant and complex
challenges for those who are responsible to protect information networks and
physical environments; a sentiment reinforced by the U.S. House of
decision to form an IoT caucus.
“It’s easy to monitor and filter Internet
packets moving in or out of routers, but how do you see - let alone secure -
the wireless RF packets zipping by us all the time?" asked David Cowan,
co-founder of VeriSign, Good Technology, and Defense.net. “When I heard that Rouland’s team was developing a generalized
solution to IoT security, I asked him to let me join the round."
to Rouland, “IoT sensors are small and dispersed by
design, which is what allows them to spread far and wide like little data
collecting honeybees. This dispersed nature is great for gathering lots of data
and intelligence, but it also means that IoT sensor computing power (which
affects battery life) must also be small. Because of this, over the air updates
are challenging and patches on many IoT devices must be done manually.
Unfortunately, when updates require human intervention, there is not only a
drain on resources but also an additional layer to consider in patch management
policies. The enterprise struggles to keep up with patching today, but in 2020
we are talking about TRILLIONS of patches a year; entrepreneurs note, there’s probably a new
startup there ‘GigaPatch’.”
Bastille sees a void in the market for intrusion detection and vulnerability
assessment for devices on the IoT. With wearable technology predicted to be a
$10 billion dollar industry by 2016, these devices as well as a host of others
utilizing protocols like Bluetooth, ZigBee and EnOcean will be entering
enterprise buildings with insufficient security. Likewise, Bastille is also
aiming to protect corporations from malicious devices operating on cellular
bands that could be used for unauthorized data collection or to launch attacks
on corporate networks.
“There are thousands of manufacturers
scrambling to bring IoT devices to market without concern for security or
said Rouland. “As these devices begin to infiltrate business environments
en masse, new complex and sophisticated threats will frequently evolve, and the
responsibility will be on the enterprise to protect their assets and employees
from accidentally or maliciously introducing new vectors of compromise.”
Photo of Chris Rouland Courtesy of Bastille
© 2015 IoT Perspectives
30 March 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
Privately held BluVision,
Inc. uniquely combines Bluetooth BLE
(low energy) BEEKs beacons with integrated sensors that connect to their cloud,
BluZone, which they have architected, through a Bluetooth-to-WiFi gateway, called
BluFi that eliminates the dependency for customers to have a mobile app present
or running on their device.
We spoke with Elliot
Klein, the company’s CMO, who said BluVision is a world leader in beacons,
having shipped nearly one million in 2014. The company’s growth rate is
currently 50% per year. BluVision was founded in 2012, and was initially funded
through Indiegogo, raising more than $1M. Since then, the company has been privately
funded. They have 29 employees; primarily design engineers, between their
headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale and in a research facility Berlin, Germany.
Their core engineers each bring more than ten years Bluetooth expertise. The company’s
vision is to enable customers to solve problems with robust sensor data that is
part of a whole cloud solution platform designed to provide valuable analytics
for alerts and actions.
Their first BEEKs beacons
were for consumer applications, such as finding one’s keys, but BluVision has
pivoted towards enterprise applications and enabling the Internet of Things,
which we think is a smart move and bodes well for their future.
Elliot believes that
their “BluFi is a real game changer in terms of Bluetooth beacons with simple
cloud connectivity and creating a real IoT platform.”
BluFi is a Bluetooth
LE to WiFi gateway that eliminates the need to have a mobile app. As Elliot explained,
“Think of a factory or warehouse, and you want to track assets or measure
analytics in real time. BluFi is like a listener of Bluetooth signals and
reports those signals thru WiFi back to our cloud platform, BluZone. It’s a
uniquely complete management system that allows companies to take actions. If
this, then that.”
BEEKs are also
sensors, creating an IoT smart pipe. The sensors include a 3-axis
accelerometer, temperature and light sensing (e.g., whether the lights are on
or off, thus enabling an action, such as turning a light on). They can
customize their BEEKs beacons to any kind of on-board sensor as long as it’s
Elliot said that the
RoI of todays’ beacons, which are typically $20-$30, make sense for industrial,
enterprise, military and government use, vs. consumer (which is not their
market, anyway). He told us that their beacons do reduce cost, as they don’t
require expensive engineering or professional installation, thus they are easy
to self-install and configure. Their beacons are Apple iBeacon certified.
and manufactures its own SoC (system-on-chip) thanks to its strong engineering
Elliot noted that
two years ago, the beacon market hardly existed; now it’s growing very fast and
there is huge demand.
When discussing use
cases, as Elliot noted, retail cases are very, very exciting, but they (and we)
are finding industrial applications even bigger. Although sales cycles are
longer, they have had about a dozen proof of concepts with large name brand
companies for a year that are in various stages of roll out.
They have found
success in airports and airlines around the world, for example, including Miami
International airport, American Airlines and Emirates Airlines. Via an app on
your smartphone, one application is to help you find your gate and/or a retail
store in the airport. The airlines also use BluVision’s solution for industrial
uses, such as maintenance and indoor navigation to guide passengers and crew to
Today they are
working with BeamWallet in the UAE that is incorporating their beacons for
loyalty programs and PoS (point-of-sale), but they are not the same as NFC paying.
Elliot believes that there is a lot of development work and experiments still
needed for BT wallet and PoS application. However, these BT applications will
be able to do more than NFC, and/or augment it. Beacons can do things NFC may
not be able to do, or augment existing NFC applications. It will grow with
For their analytics
they partner with different companies, such as Splunk or SalesForce via APIs,
but have built their own cloud architecture. They find that their standards-based
system is “simple and elegant,” uniquely combining hardware with cloud support
and beacon management. Thus, via APIs, customers can connect to any 3rd
party analytics enterprises. Developers can sign up on a web site for tools and
a knowledge base via the Developer Portal or visit their website to learn more about
its beacons, cloud and BluFi platforms.
does a lot in Japan and the Asian markets, they say, strong in Europe, it’s not
just a US-based opportunity. Mobile devices are sold internationally. Apple,
for example, has seen growth in China and the BT beacon market definitely
Elliot told us that
the company is planning some exciting announcements in the coming months. We’re
Photo of Elliot Klein and BluVision products courtesy of BluVision
© IoT Perspectives 2015
14 October 2014 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
It’s always impressive to me
when a startup is forthcoming about its customers and has case studies,
especially when one is in early days of a revolution such as the Internet of
Things. Concirrus (con-seer-us) is a UK-based IoT cloud (and more in my opinion)
startup that boasts an impressive number of Internet of Things case studies.
One beef I have with the American press is that they often give short shrift to
“foreign,” i.e., non-US-based companies, as though we’re not living in a global
economy. Thus, I appreciated Concirrus co-founder and COO Craig Hollingworth’s
time to answer email questions that I put to him (I did “Americanize” some of the
grammar, however!). This written Q&A doesn’t do justice to Craig’s passion
for Concirrus and IoT – I look forward to hearing him speak this November at
RE.WORK’s IoT Summit.
MB: What business is Concirrus in?
CH: Concirrus provides a
cloud platform for The Internet of Things (IoT) and making it work for business,
including the Industrial Internet, a multi-billion dollar market today, and a
multi-trillion dollar market within five years. The Internet of Things is a way of describing how more and more
of the technology and equipment we interact with is being connected and managed
online. Thus, we describe ourselves as more than a technology company, we’re using technology and the cloud to create,
disrupt and improve business models for our customers. Concirrus makes this
process easy through a unique combination of consultancy and technologies:
hardware, firmware, cloud platform and mobile applications
MB: Tell me about your views about the huge M2M
I’m really proud that Concirrus is one of the companies that are actually doing
IoT; since the IoT has an impact on literally everything you can imagine.
is a type of IoT that refers to machine-to-machine connectivity, with none or
very little human intervention. Our IOT solutions allow Concirrus to collect
in-depth information for our customers, in real time and then organize and
assess that information so they can take a fresh look on things; creating
positive change in business (our specialty). The M2M space, which we believe is where IoT
is mostly happening, allows not just business, but all of us to experience so
much more about ourselves, our environment, our world… just everything!
MB: So what’s Concirrus’ business approach?
CH: We have rotating a five-step
approach called our 5 Ds. This starts with us “Debating the possibilities;” we begin with a consultative approach
and try to understand the customer’s business model assumptions, often that can
use updating. Then we “Discover what
can be done,’‘ “Design how it would
work,” and “Deliver,” seeing what
technologies we already have in our arsenal or designing new things from
scratch, even completely new products or services. After that we “Deploy” and roll out the solution.Where we really add value to
our customers is the second turn of our 5 Ds circle. We go back to “debating,” but this time helping a
business understand the new real-time data that they are now receiving. This usually means some form
of change for their business and this is where our expertise plays a key role.
MB: You’ve spoken about how positively disruptive IoT
is, what do you mean?
Yes, the Internet of Things is positively disruptive for our customers, the industry
and all of us. It means that assumptions can be removed by
collecting in-depth information about a product or service in real-time. Then
by understanding and organizing that information, we can take a fresh look at
current practices and generate business change. For example, we’ve
had a client that has literally turned his entire business around because of
the Internet of Things; he went from selling cable to selling an entire
service. They found their valuation was
worth not the former 2x earnings, but 15x their earnings. They had
revolutionized their solution into a recurring revenue model - how they sold,
how they invoiced and how they managed their financial infrastructure. The
Internet of Things fundamentally changed their business model and what they do
today. It’s also bringing out what I like to call the anarchists, people who are breaking traditional
economic models and becoming empowered to change.
about sharing more customer case studies?
We work with very large insurers in the UK. We’ve helped them develop models
for driver behavior and a platform that helps them record damages or injuries
in real-time called EFnol. This predicts which driver was at fault and what were
the conditions – rainy or icy, using 3rd party APIs like Google Weather. It’s all about helping customers build the bigger
picture from data they have never had before.
Caterpillar came to us. They
realized there would be a shortage of rubber in the future and oil is immensely
expensive. Thus, they wanted to make tires last longer. We created a solution that
doesn’t depend on the driver, that monitors their vehicles’ tire pressure and
temperature in real-time, saving a lot of money on wear and tear. We took Caterpillar,
via our sensors and “black box” in the cabs, into the cloud, along with a GUI
interface for Caterpillar to see what was going on.
Our technology is in UK
airports. Smiths make scanning machines that analyze checked baggage. We worked
with our client CHS and Heathrow airport who asked us to help since these
multi-million dollar machines would have problems. We put temperature, humidity
and vibration sensors all over the machines, we then started to map and predict
the failure of components, so Heathrow knows what components to stock and how
to work with Smiths to keep the 35 machines in working order.
We also developed a product
called Watchie for a client, an advanced personal locator, that they
are hoping will aid thousands of Alzheimer patients and their loved ones to
keep track of the patient (they plan to launch it this year or next). It will allow
you to keep track of a loved one indoors and outdoors to one foot. It’s small
and uses e-ink and an iPhone app is being developed, to make it easy to use and
comfortable to wear. One of our board members lost a wife to Alzheimer’s so
this was an important project for us.
You can see more case studies on
our web site.
MB: What about security – that’s a big concern these days with the IoT and
mobility/cloud services for the IoT.
CH: We choose Microsoft’s
Azure platform. Microsoft has not only spent billions developing it, but
customers are comfortable with it. It enables them to check the security box.
MB: Tell me about the company
CH: We were founded two
years ago by industry veterans from the mobile and GPS industries, including from
companies Orange and Trimble Navigation. As we have in our careers with other
ventures, we are growing our company organically and through acquisitions. I’m
proud that we’ve been profitable since month one. We have a number of offices
in the UK and plan to have 35 anarchists on staff by the end of the year.
kind of acquisitions?
We merged in a well established cloud business in Scotland called Alpha Micro
Systems, a hardware business that can design chipsets, including Bluetooth and
GSM; a company called ToughTracker that has a patent on a unique material –
it’s a new tough material that is radio telecom translucent, the result is we
have Tracking devices that are practically indestructible, very handy for CAT, and,
most recently a business in France, that makes tiny sensors that fit into palm
of your hand and can sense 20 things, such as humidity or air quality. Legally I’m not allowed to release their name
yet I’m afraid.
MB: I look forward to hearing you speak at the RE.WORK IoT Summit in San
Francisco on 6-7 November, especially as I understand you’ll be focusing on the
positive disruption that IoT is causing for business and all of us.
CH: Thanks, it’s been our
pleasure to answer your questions!
Photo of Craig Hollingworth Courtesy of Concirrus
28 November 2014 - By Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
Curb announced at DEMO Fall 2014 the Q1 2015 availability of the Curb monitoring
system for monitoring and sharing home energy use; claiming to be the first
company to take a “holistic approach to home energy intelligence.” By using proprietary software algorithms, and
voltage and current data from the home’s electrical panel, they can monitor
down to the device level. The Curb hardware and software system is able to
sub-meter individual devices in order to provide granular data for each device,
whether it be a toaster or vacuum cleaner.
This is a breakthrough in
being able to monitor down to the device level without having to instrument
each device (and is also very clever).
system is installed in the home’s circuit breaker box with a single piece of
hardware. It is able to analyze the unique electrical signature (current and
voltage) of each electrical device in order to get the granular results to help
one identify specific energy use – and enable the user to take action as
information is transferred to the cloud through HomePlug Alliance-compatible home-plug-to-Ethernet
adapters using the in-home wiring and connecting to the user’s Internet router.
This enables Curb to focus on the monitoring and not re-invent the wheel.
Curb's patent-pending software
algorithms provide the intelligence needed for the down-to-the-device-level
monitoring. A graphical user interface provides the information in an easy to
understand way. In addition, the system is designed to be shared, as well as
compare, others’ energy use, in order to encourage use of the Curb system, and,
make it fun to do so.
distributors/resellers are announced, Curb will be using a waitlist to manage
product deliveries. People can get on
the list by pre-ordering the Curb system at energycurb.com/betausers. No financial
commitment is necessary to pre-order.
Although pricing was not disclosed, it
will be comparable to other home IoT products. A free app, Energy Curb, is now
available for Android (with video demo), as well as for iOS.
recommends that the system be installed by an electrician, which, they say,
will be a straightforward process. Curb intends to announce in the future its
partners for installation and support.
“At Curb, we believe that
the way you use energy is a reflection of your life. While people are becoming more
conscientiousness about their energy footprint, understanding energy usage is
still very complicated,” said Erik Norwood, president of Curb.
Continued Norwood, “Electricity bills are continuing to rise and
are exceedingly unpredictable, yet it’s impossible to identify which devices
use the most power or are the biggest wasters. Even the best smart home
solutions only target a single light, outlet or appliance, but Curb provides
details for the whole home and all of the devices inside.”
in May 2012, the venture-backed company is headquartered in Austin, TX. It has 150 residential customers in Austin, Atlanta and
other cities. Curb spun out of a home solar installation company, Circular
Energy, as Erik Norwood began to realize the need for overall and device-level
electrical power monitoring to help customers better manage their electrical
use and costs. A national rollout is planned for next year, as Curb expands in
the US market.
According to public
information on private equity crowdsourcing web site Onevest, Curb places itself in a multi-billion dollar energy “Engagement
and Intelligence” market. The company also notes that, “Industry averages show
users saving about 11%, but we've delivered much higher savings to our test
customers. It's important to note that savings occur when users are actively
engaged. If you install Curb but never use it, you won't reduce your energy or
save money.” Their material also states that “Curb has unique advantage given the traction
with a national channel partner in this space.”
"After traveling the
country and vetting hundreds of companies on our DEMO Tour, we are excited to
bring Curb as one of the few selected companies launching new products solving
big problems at DEMO Fall 2014," said Erick Schonfeld, executive producer
of DEMO. “Curb has the potential to be a game-changer."
Images courtesy of Curb, including Founder & CEO
15 December 2014 - By Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
is one of my biggest concerns when it comes to the IoT. Right now, it is up to
individual vendors/manufacturers and users as to how they want to handle
security. It’s all over the map.
we spoke with FortyCloud’s Chief Marketing
Officer Alon Maimoni at the Innovation Enterprise Internet of Things Summit, 11 December 2014, after hearing CEO
Amit Cohen make a presentation about cloud security, and how the major cloud
providers have security gaps or holes in their offerings.
to Alon, to solve this problem, FortyCloud turns your public cloud deployment
into a private network, as if it were located on your own data center, while
maintaining public cloud benefits, such as virtualization, flexibility, agility
and cost advantages - without any need to change the way you work with the
the network side, the company aims to enable customers to connect and control
disparate systems spread across a variety of environments through a single
console. FortyCloud intends to enable security and compliance on the host
itself, also regardless of environment and location. Tying both fronts together
is some policy-driven automation configured from a SaaS-style Web console.
By isolating one’s private cloud via an overlay network, they aim to reduce the
vulnerability of a public cloud deployment to attacks (virtual back-end servers
become inaccessible to anyone except the company’s employees, and all traffic
to/from your cloud account is encrypted). It also significantly upgrades the ability
to control and monitor the access to the cloud network (configurable access
rights, monitoring active users, logging, etc.). Companies use a standard VPN client to connect
to the private cloud.
claims that due to the shared responsibility model, no other cloud provider has the comprehensive cloud security solution
for the IoT that they have, including the ability for IoT companies to handle
peaks. It integrates VPN, encryption, identity and networking technologies. Thus,
and virtualization agnostic, FortyCloud's solution is currently compatible with over ten cloud suppliers, including Amazon (AWS),
Rackspace, SoftLayer and Google public clouds.
Founded in Israel, 15-people staffed FortyCloud went from
garage mode in 2011 to becoming a company in 2012 and officially launching
products in May 2014. They plan on more announcements shortly. They were funded
by Israeli VC firm, Magma, which also
backed Waze that was acquired by Google for around $1B (according to various press
reports). Also based in the U.S., FortyCloud has primarily a U.S. customer
Image of Alon Mamoni Courtesy of FortyCloud
9 July 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief
We were delighted to hold an email Q&A with Fullpower
Technologies (founded in 2003) founder and CEO, and serial entrepreneur,
Philippe Kahn. Kahn has run a number of successful ventures based here in Santa
Cruz, including Borland, Starfish Software and Lightsurf Technologies.
Philippe is credited with creating the first complete camera
phone solution, sharing pictures instantly on public networks. Philippe's photo
from the birth of his daughter, taken and instantly shared on June 11, 1997, is
the first known publicly transmitted and shared camera-phone picture. He is
also the inventor of 100 technology patents covering wearable and IoT, eyewear,
smartphone, mobile, imaging, wireless, synchronization and medical
Fullpower licenses technology and IP (Intellectual Property)
for IoT manufacturers. It offers the patented MotionX ecosystem for wearable
and IoT sensor-based solutions supporting state-of-the-art sensor arrays for
advanced wearables, smartwatches and the smart bed, including automatic
activity and sleep monitoring.
His enthusiasm for his company comes through loud and clear,
including an “ask” for more talent to join his venture.
IoTP: As concisely as possible, please describe Fullpower.
PK: Fullpower is
the technology leader for wearable and IoT sensor-based solutions powered by
IoTP: What problems (specifically for the IoT) are Fullpower
PK: Fullpower is focused on the smart bed and the smart
bedroom, integrating with IoT open standards.
IoTP: Since customers license your IP, what is the price
structure? Per device?
PK: Fullpower licenses technology and IP with business
models that vary by market and by partner. These terms are generally
IoTP: Is the IP software, hardware, or both?
IoTP: Is the IP portfolio home grown, acquired or both?
PK: It’s 100 percent home grown, including over 100 patents.
IoTP: What sensors can developers use?
PK: Fullpower works confidentially with partners such as
Nike and Simmons, for example. Some sensors are widely available, others
are innovative next-generation sensors developed by Fullpower. This is, of
course, proprietary and confidential IP and development.
IoTP: Does Fullpower assist with development? Is there a developer
PK: Fullpower assists its business partners as needed for
the deployment of the Fullpower MotionX technology platform.
IoTP: What products have been developed to date based on
PK: Many successful global solutions are based on
Fullpower’s IP and technology. To name a few: Nike’s diverse digital sports
offerings, the Swiss Horological Smartwatch and MMT, the Simmons Smarted,
Jawbone’s UP and infrastructure, among many others.
IoTP: Are your customers global?
PK: Yes, Fullpower’s customers are global and sell their
offerings globally. Companies such as Nike, Simmons, Mondaine, MMT, Alpina and
IoTP: How do your MotionX and Sleeptracker platforms compare
with other industry solutions?
PK: Here is what Nike and Simmons say about Fullpower’s
technology and IP. From Simmons, the
world leader in bedding -- "To build
the smart bed, we evaluated many potential technology partners and
Fullpower's Sleeptracker technology platform stands out as the clear
leader,” said Executive VP, Michael Hofmann, Executive VP, Serta Simmons
From Nike, the world digital sports leader about the MotionX
activity-tracking platform --"We
took great care in evaluating sensing technologies and found the MotionX
technology platform to be superior,” said Vice President of Digital Sport at
Nike, Stefan Olander.
IoTP: How much has Fullpower raised and by whom?
PK: The company is profitable, growing and generating cash.
No outside investors, no need for venture capital! That’s the best situation
that there can be for customers and team members and shareholders!
IoTP: How many employees do you have?
PK: 75+ team members all in Santa Cruz. We are looking for
great talent for embedded, server, data science and iOS/Android application
development. Come and join our rocket ship we are looking for the most
talented in the industry to join the best team in the industry!
IoTP: What's it like running a tech company from Santa Cruz?
PK: This is the 4th consecutive successful company that I am
building with a fantastic team in Santa Cruz. Remember, I built the most
successful consumer electronics device of all times in Santa Cruz: the
camera-phone! At Fullpower, we are technologists and inventors and as such,
Santa Cruz is a fantastic environment.
IoTP: What is your vision for Fullpower?
PK: At Fullpower we build technology that helps improve Ms.
and Mr. Everyone’s life. At Fullpower, we do this without compromises while we
thrive as a high growth, cash generating, profitable success and continue
building the most talented team in the industry!
Photos of Philippe Kahn and MotionX products courtesy of Fullpower
© 2015 IoT Perspectives