It’s finally business value that matters in IoT
Matt Webb, Managing Director of the R/GA Internet of Things Venture Studio UK, blogs about how IoT is ‘finally’ shifting its focus from the number of connected devices to the businesses creating real value.
It’s the unassuming Internet of Things I like; where the tech is well understood, and small companies are already making a big difference. That being said, here are three companies who I think are doing exactly that.
Take Winnow Solutions. By adding a tablet and an internet-connected weighing scale to a commercial kitchen, they supply data that cuts food waste by up to 50%. Food waste is a $750 billion problem, every year.
Traditionally, hardware like Winnow’s weighing scale is thought to be the risky end of IoT. Hardware is hard to scale and has low margins. But here it’s an advantage. Winnow charges a service fee, so they avoid the hardware margin trap, and the presence of their hardware in the kitchen enhances customer retention.
What’s most surprising about this startup is that they are a small team, and that’s due to a special property of this category of quiet, humble IoT technology: Companies no longer need to build everything themselves.
We saw this on the web. The web boom of the mid-2000s was driven by using shared, interoperable technology. This allowed startups to focus on their real differentiators. We’ve now hit that same point with IoT.
BuffaloGrid is one startup taking this approach. Using their internet-connected battery pack, agents travelling village to village in rural India sell power where the grid doesn’t reach. A user plugs their phone into one of the bank of USB ports on the battery, and pays for the charge with a premium SMS message.
When I imagine how this service would be built only 5 years ago, I shudder at the complexity. Yet BuffaloGrid, in their trials, have tens of thousands of unique customers per month. It’s a big deal: A charged smartphone boosts economic and social prospects. BuffaloGrid isn’t simple. But to my mind, they have used to simplifying quality of today’s well understood IoT to make possible something previously unimaginable. Another small company making a real impact.
That said, sometimes the technology involved is cutting edge.
Hoxton Analytics has solved that age-old retail problem of footfall: Knowing how many people are in your store, by counting people walking in and out.
The current state of the art is far from accurate. Hoxton Analytics uses a small camera pointed at the floor by the shop door, and the latest in artificial intelligence. Now their device can provide pedestrian counts at 95% accuracy, and even (taking an educated guess) whether the store visitors are women or men.
Accurate, real-time visitor stats are the key to success in e-commerce, and have made online retail into a science. Physical retail has been lagging behind… until now.
The Internet of Things isn’t just technology. It’s a way of thinking and a way of combining technologies which cuts costs, has impact with a fraction of the effort, and opens up new ways of doing business.
On 27 October, R/GA are hosting an evening event to bring together some of our favourite IoT startups, and the IoT community of corporates and practitioners. Come along — you’ll get an insight into how IoT is being used here and now, and maybe you’ll even meet a startup you could work with. Winnow Solutions, BuffaloGrid, and Hoxton Analytics will all be sharing their pitch, and a few others besides. It promises to be an enjoyable and insightful evening. Sign up here.
Matt Webb is Managing Director of the R/GA Internet of Things Venture Studio UK; a new 12 week programme investing in IoT and connected hardware startups. This programme is based around creative services and building partnerships with R/GA’s client network. It is R/GA’s first London program, after a series of successful programmes in the United States, and is supported by Innovate UK and IoT UK. Applications close on 14 November, for a programme start in February 2017. For more information, see the program website where you can also apply, and sign up to the newsletter to hear about future events.