It is one of the most talked about spaces in technology today: the Internet of Things.
And in the UK, an increasing number of start-ups are hoping to harness this emerging tech. From soil sensors for farmers to home heating, to interactive museum exhibits and proximity advertising, there seems to be an infinite number of uses for IoT technology.
Here are some of the most exciting UK companies operating in this space.
This two-person operation has transformed into a multi-million pound firm working in three countries.The company believes that every physical thing around us is coming to life digitally in some shape or form. They have set up an IoT smart products Platform-as-a-Service that connects consumer products to the web and manages real-time data – products being anything from cars to clothes, beer bottles or homes.
Using satellite technology and in-field sensors, KisanHub collects data farmers can use to boost efficiency and make better decisions. These sensors provide precise information on rainfall, irrigation, crop growth, wind speed, cloud cover and so on, all of which is displayed on dashboards. The idea is that farmers will use this info to optimise inputs, boost returns and improve farm efficiency (which we desperately need).
This Cambridge company offers “the car alarm reinvented”. Users can log into an app to see where their car is. The app receives continual updates via a device plugged into the car. If something ‘eventful’ happens, say a burglary or fire, you are notified immediately via your phone. (Which does indeed sound better than all your neighbours being notified at 3am by your car!)
Welcome to a whole new generation of advertising. Blue Sense Networks make “iBeacon hardware and proximity applications”. Their beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy can be used to provide what they call proximity engagement solutions. This includes personalised discounts and advertising in shops, interactive apps in museums tailored to the exhibit you are looking at, home automation products and 'smart signage'. Scary.
Chirp uses sound to transfer information. Rather than pairing devices Bluetooth-style, with Chirp you press a big yellow “Chirp' button, and anyone running the app will 'hear” the data. Any device with a speaker or microphone is able to send and receive data, and for small pieces of data, no network connection is required. WOW.
nCube says it is the “brain at the heart of your home”. It links together all your smart devices in one place, allowing you to control all of your home devices from one smartphone app. It is compatible with all devices and works offline, so you can remotely check any of your smart appliances from wherever you are.
OpenTRV hopes to save energy by not heating rooms that you are not physically in or using. Instead of using one thermostat for the whole house, it is designed to be simple to fit to existing UK housing stock with radiator central heating. OpenTRV is currently planning a trial run of devices.
Product Health, set up in 2013, provides telemetry and alerts for batteries and solar home systems, allowing firms to find out how customers our using their battery, pre-empt when it needs upgrades or replacing.
The takeaway is that British entrepreneurial talent is successfully raising money in the IoT space. Not only are they raising money, these companies are getting past the start-up phase. This is no small feat considering IoT products and services are in their infancy, and the idea of the internet of things itself is far from mainstream. With steel mines closing and textile companies moving abroad, it is nice to see that Britain is likely to help lead the way in this exciting, high-growth technology sector.
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