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Steve Serracino Activant Capital

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 HAXlr8r 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 take time.

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


bob_dahlberg_arrayent

Arrayent
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 features.

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 money.”

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 advance.”

The Arrayent Connect Platform has four components:

  • Arrayent Connect Cloud is an Internet of things operating system.  It hosts virtualized devices and supports a growing list of services that are common across all Internet of Things applications. 

  • Arrayent Connect Agent is firmware that manages the endpoint product’s or device’s communication session with the Arrayent Connect Cloud. 

  • Arrayent Mobile App Framework helps mobile app developers rapidly bring apps to market.

  • 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

© 2014 IoT Perspectives

 


Eric Miller Avi-on

Avi-on Labs
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.

Avi-on’s Simple 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 versa.

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 sniffing.

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.

Avi-on’s proprietary app-cloud-firmware technology extends the functionality of Bluetooth Smart and CSRmesh architecture, delivering wired performance without wires. Avi-on’s 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 demoDana Kunz Avi-onnstration 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 without wires.”

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


Rod McLane of Ayla

 Ayla Networks
6 October 2014 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief

 

Ayla Networks (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, including three 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.

Its 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 2014.

Ayla 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 into products.

According 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.

Since 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.”

Ayla 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.

Ayla 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

 


Azul Scott Sellers

Azul Systems
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 sectors.

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 space.
  • 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, in general.

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 implementation.”

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

 


Chris Rouland Bastille

Bastille
17 May 2015 - By Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief


As 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 only one,” according to founder and CEO Chris Rouland.

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.

Bastille 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.

At 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 – helping protect physical and human assets.

The 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.

According 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.

Historically, 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 projects that 20 percent of enterprises will “invest heavily” 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 Representative’s 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."

According 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’.”

Thus, 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 privacy,” 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


Elliot Klein BluVision

BluVision
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 reBluVision Beaconsal 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 small.

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.

BluVision designs and manufactures its own SoC (system-on-chip) thanks to its strong engineering team.

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 their gates.

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 industry standards.

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.

Internationally BluVision 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 followed.

Elliot told us that the company is planning some exciting announcements in the coming months. We’re all ears.

 

Photo of Elliot Klein and BluVision products courtesy of BluVision

© IoT Perspectives 2015


Craig Hollingworth Concirrus

Concirrus
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 market.
CH: 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. M2M 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?
CH: 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.

MB: How about sharing more customer case studies?
CH: 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.

MB: What kind of acquisitions?
CH: 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

© 2014 IoT Perspectives

 


Eric Norwood Curb

Curb
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).

The 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 needed.

The 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.

Curb Screen Shot

Until 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.

The company 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.”

Founded 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

© 2014 IoT Perspectives

 


Alon Maimoni FortyCloud

FortyCloud
15 December 2014 - By Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief

 

Security 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.

Thus, 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.

According 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 cloud.

On 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.

Alon 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, they combine:

  • Host-based firewall

  • Cloud brokering

  •  Network appliances

  • Encryption

Cloud 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 base.

Image of Alon Mamoni Courtesy of FortyCloud

© 2014 IoT Perspectives

 


Philippe Kahn Fullpower

Fullpower
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 technologies.

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 data science.

IoTP: What problems (specifically for the IoT) are Fullpower addressing?
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 confidential. 

IoTP: Is the IP software, hardware, or both?
PK: 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 community?
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 Fullpower?
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. 

Fullpower SmartwatchesIoTP: 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 Jawbone. 

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 Bedding.

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