Understanding the IoT business environment
A comprehensive collection of articles, videos and more, hand-picked by our editors
New Internet of Things startups are popping up daily, and it's easy to understand why. Who wouldn't want to be part of the next big sensation and take their piece of the IoT pie, which some estimate to reach $6.2 trillion in less than a decade?
After sifting through the options, we've found some IoT startups you should know about. Here they are, listed in alphabetical order.
1. BLiNQ Networks
The company makes non-line-of-sight radio gear for mobile wireless small cell deployments, calling itself "the leader in software defined transport solutions that allow [mobile network operators] to plan, deploy, scale and manage heterogeneous networks at the lowest cost per megabit."
BLiNQ Networks' wireless backhaul system was released in February 2014. X-1200 is a dual-band, sub-6 GHz point-to-multipoint adaptive wireless transport system that supports licensed and unlicensed bands, and provides backhaul for multimode LTE, HSPA and Wi-Fi small cell networks.
The NetLiNQ software suite, released in May 2013, works in tandem with X-1200, allowing mobile operators to design, optimize and scale fixed wireless networks in cloud-based and complex environments.
2. Davra Networks
Davra Networks emerged amongst IoT startups from stealth in June 2014 with RuBAN, its end-to-end, cloud-based platform for systems integrators and VARs.
RuBAN aims to help providers embrace the IoT market; it uses fog computing to collect data from networks, connected devices and sensors, and then allows companies to translate that data into "an easily accessible open format that can be analyzed and presented to their own highly visual GUI or fed to third-party app developers and data consumption tools such as ERP systems, CRM and predictive analytics tools."
The RuBAN IoT management platform supports more than 1,000 sensors, works with more than 200 IT and OT systems, and offers asset lifecycle management, multi-tenancy and geolocation. It can be used in scenarios from remote asset monitoring or smart connected fleets to connected mass transit or oil, gas and mining.
The Dublin, Ireland-based company has partnered with numerous systems integrators and sensor manufacturers including Cisco, Comstor, IBM and Rockwell Automation. It supports gateways from Cisco, Ping Network Solutions, Semtech Corp. and Tata Consultancy Services Limited.
3. Electric Imp
The Electric Imp platform is designed to help customers connect products to the Internet "quickly, securely and seamlessly."
Electric Imp was conceived when co-founder Hugo Fiennes wanted to add Internet connectivity to lighting in his remodeled bathroom. After "much frustration" with available tools, Fiennes was determined to make a simpler solution. The name "Electric Imp" pays homage to Interface Message Processors; Electric Imp's imps -- SD card-like chips comprising a Cortex-M3 processor core and Wi-Fi transceiver -- provide the same networking functions for IoT that the IMPs of the 1960s provided ARPANET.
The Electric Imp platform is centered on the imps and also features the lightweight imp OS (which manages connectivity, compute capabilities, power management, and security and resilience), the server technology called Electric Imp Cloud (available as public cloud, dedicated server, private cloud or an upcoming enterprise service options), and imp Open API (for developing enhancements such as messaging and monitoring). The company's patented BlinkUp setup technology helps clients connect products to the Internet in "just a few seconds."
Electric Imp, which has been called the "Amazon for the Internet," was founded in 2011 by Fiennes, Peter Hartley and Kevin Fox, and is headquartered in Los Altos, Calif. The company has announced partnerships with key industry players including Amazon Web Services, Keen IO and Salesforce.
Estimote has emerged as one of the IoT space's top beacon providers, offering its flagship Estimote Beacon as well as Sticker Beacons the company calls "nearables."
Founded in 2012 by Jakub Krzych and Łukasz Kostka, Estimote has teams in the U.S. and Europe. It develops "an operating system for physical locations" -- one that will "change how people run businesses in the physical world and how consumers interact with real-world products and venues."
Estimote's beacons, compatible with iBeacon and Eddystone, boast a battery life of about three years, a range of up to 70 meters, and an ARM Cortex-M0 core processor.
While Estimote's primary focus is in retail environments -- it's piloting solutions with "the largest retailers in the US and Europe" and has partnered with companies including aisle411 -- its beacons can also be used in non-retail environments, as seen in its partnerships with hospitality mobile solution provider GuestDriven and mobile payment platform nTrust.
Estimote's SVP of business and operations Steve Cheney said, "Estimote is not a beacon company; we're a full stack location intelligence company building beacon and sensor hardware. And we've successively brought together very disparate products -- beacon hardware, cloud software, on-device device SDKs and smart data science -- to make a platform for local intelligence and context."
This self-described "Web of Things" IoT startup software company makes applications that connect consumer products to the Web. From appliances and electronics to entertainment and food, giving each "thing" a profile and an identity helps Evrythng clients create digital profiles for and gather data on physical objects.
Founders Niall Murphy, Andy Hobsbawm, Dominique Guinard and Vlad Trifa launched Evrythng in late 2012. Its IoT Smart Products platform connects products to the Web to make them smart, interactive and trackable, and also allows manufacturers to digitally enable products for tracking and authentication. Evrythng also offers consulting, training and professional services.
In October 2012, the London-based company announced its first customer, beverage company Diageo. Its clientele has since expanded to include GE, Coca-Cola, Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline, among others.
In its short existence, Evrythng formed the Internet of Things Architecture Forum with ARM and other technology organizations, and published the industry's first proposal for a Web-based IoT standard.
Evrythng has also formed a number of partnerships; in July 2014 it integrated its platform with Thinfilm's suite of printed electronic products, and in September 2015 partnered with Avery Dennison to integrate its SaaS into the DirectLink interactive packaging solution. In February 2015, Evrythng and GOOEE joined forces to "become the operating system for smart connected lighting."
Helium's managed smart sensor systems aim to help organizations "make sense of their things."
The company, founded in 2013, released its smart sensing solutions in 2015, comprised of Helium Smart Sensors, the Helium Network and Helium Cloud. Helium's battery-powered wireless sensors "can be unboxed and deployed within minutes." Its radio-based network technology is a modified 802.15.4 and operates at 2.4 GHz and 900 MHz bands. Helium Cloud is the "control and storage center for the entire distributed smart sensing system" and offers machine learning and real-time alerting.
Helium has partnered with healthcare and food organizations to reduce manual processes, eliminate inventory loss, help achieve regulatory compliance and provide remote diagnostics and data capture.
The company was co-founded by Napster co-creator Shawn Fanning and video game designer Amir Haleem with the intentions of targeting wide area wireless services but has since refined its target audience to smaller areas such as factories or neighborhoods.
In January 2016, the company announced its soon-to-be-released Helium Sensor Development Kit, which aims to improve industrial and enterprise monitoring. Also in January 2016, the company introduced the Helium Mobile App and an upgraded user interface. The app, available on iOS soon on Android, gives clients access to their Helium Platforms on-the-go.
IFTTT -- short for "If This, Then That" -- is a web service that helps users gain control over products and apps by automating actions.
Founded in December 2010 by brothers Linden and Alexander Tibbets, IFTTT -- pronounced "gift" without the "g" -- was publicly launched in September 2011. What started as a desktop app quickly found its following after it went mobile on the iPhone in 2013 and on iPad and Android devices in April 2014.
IFTTT's "IF Recipes" allow users to connect two separate apps; a user can say, for example, that if a picture is posted to Instagram it should be saved to Dropbox. Linden Tibbets calls IFTTT's conditional statements the "digital duct tape" that connects two services; it works with hundreds of apps -- or "Channels" as the company calls them -- including Box, Gmail, Salesforce and Twitter.
In 2015, IFTTT added "DO Recipes" for iOS and Android. DO Recipes leverage three apps -- DO Button, DO Camera and DO Note -- that allow users to, for example, turn on/off the lights, share photos over email or add a to-do item to a checklist -- all with the tap of a button. The company has integrated several partners' products into IFTTT, including Belkin's WeMo home automation system, Withings' smart products, UP by Jawbone, Philips' hue connected bulb system, SmartThings' smart home products and Honeywell's intelligent heating system.
Wireless sensor network hardware specialist Libelium provides "a modular, horizontal and open source wireless sensor hardware platform that sends any sensor data, using any communication protocol to any information system."
Established in 2006 by Alicia Asín and David Gascón, Libelium officially released its flagship open source sensor platform "Waspmote" in 2009. Waspmote, which can be used in scenarios from smart cities and retail to industrial control and home automation to security and smart agriculture, was designed for low power consumption and high flexibility in connectivity. It supports 17 different wireless interfaces including long-range LoRaWAN and Sigfox, medium-range ZigBee and Wi-Fi, and short-range NFC and Bluetooth. More than 80 sensors can connect to Waspmote, and it offers over-the-air programming and encryption libraries including AES 256 and RSA 1024. Waspmote is ready to integrate with third-party cloud systems from Axeda, Esri, IBM, Microsoft and ThingWorx, as well as the MQTT protocol through Libelium's Meshlium wireless sensor gateway. The website says more than 2,000 developers from over 75 countries use Libelium's hardware and software to deploy IoT, M2M and smart cities solutions.
Libelium, headquartered in Zaragoza, Spain, released its Waspmote Plug & Sense encapsulated wireless sensor devices in October 2012. Waspmote Plug & Sense features waterproof casing, solar power options and multiple radio connectivity options.
In May 2015, it released a smart cities sensor platform based on Waspmote Plug & Sense. In October 2015, it added six new cloud integration options from software partners around the world. The company's customer base includes NASA, IBM, Boeing, UMass, Siemens and Intel.
Samsara, one of the wireless sensor IoT startups on the list, has a complete industrial system "deploys in minutes, not months" and is designed to be used for anything from fleet management to cold chain monitoring. The company bundles its plug-and-play sensors, wireless connectivity and cloud services to "make large-scale wireless sensor systems a reality."
Samsara, a Sanskrit word meaning "eternal cycle of life and rebirth," was founded in 2015 by Sanjit Biswas and John Bicket, the duo behind the Meraki wireless networking product line purchased by Cisco in 2012 for $1.2 billion.
In Samsara's out-of-stealth announcement, Biswas wrote, "We believe that if we make it easy to deploy sensors and analyze data that customers of all types will finally be able to install them by the thousands in places they've never been used before."
With a product line of IoT gateways, input modules, and environmental and power monitors, a Samsara system starts at $5,000, "1/10th of the cost of Industrial IoT solutions."
Sigfox calls itself the first and only company to provide global cellular connectivity for IoT and M2M communications, and says it is "reinventing connectivity by radically lowering prices and energy consumption for connected devices." It expects its low-throughput, low-energy consumption, low-priced network to spread across 60 countries within the next five years.
Using Ultra Narrow Band-based radio technology -- which was first used for communications during World War I -- the global network doesn't interfere with other radio technologies and is secured by anti-replay, message scrambling and sequencing. It is compatible with existing transceivers and is being accommodated on a growing number of platforms, including those from Texas Instruments, Intel and Libelium.
Co-founded in 2009 by Ludovic Le Moan and Christophe Fourtet, Sigfox is headquartered in Labège, France and has offices in Madrid, San Francisco and Paris. Sigfox's global network is deployed through the Sigfox Network Operator partnership program; more than 400,000 square miles have already been connected in France, Ireland, Spain and the UK, among other countries. Early adopter cities include Warsaw, Munich, Milan and Dublin, while Prague, Vienna, Mumbai and Las Vegas are all listed on Sigfox's site as "in progress." In its latest release, Sigfox announced in February 2016 deployment plans for Germany.
Sigfox has a certification program to help partners ensure optimal radio capacity of devices. Sigfox-connected devices can receive up to 140 messages per day, and each message can be up to 12 bytes of payload data. It also offers Sigfox Cloud for device management and data integration.
The company is considering a U.S. IPO by mid-2017.
Check out the legacy giants shaping the IoT landscape.