Securing investment is a crucial part of a start-up's lifecycle. The seven winners of the Internet of Things (IoT) Launchpad fund set up by Innovate UK with Tech City and Cambridge Wireless may have support to get started, but they need to secure more funding to develop their ideas and businesses.
Innovate UK and Tech City recently hosted an event at the Digital Catapult for the winners to showcase their concepts and attract investment from the likes of John Lewis, EE and Unilever.
However, Matt Sansam, programme manager at Innovate UK, told V3 that the IoT Launchpad is about more than just funding.
"It's about identifying businesses operating in that IoT space that can benefit from support. Some of that is funding but, as this is a launchpad, it is also about engaging and supporting companies within a cluster of companies," he said.
"There's quite a big community around IoT. Some of it differs around hardware and services and some of it differs around software.
"Trying to encourage those businesses to work together, or at least support the cluster as a whole, has been quite an interesting challenge."
It is this challenge, and the opportunity to secure more funding, that saw some of the winners pitch their ideas to potential investors and take the opportunity to network with their peers.
V3 attended the event where several IoT start-ups caught our attention.
Digital Shadows was founded in 2011 with the goal of protecting banks from cyber security breaches and data leaks. The company has developed a big data analytics and threat intelligence platform that monitors sensitive information in cloud, mobile and social networking services.
The start-up claims to monitor over 80 million information sources in 26 languages across the world to detect whether a company's information has leaked beyond a firewall and is in danger of being exploited.
This insight into potential cyber threats allows companies to take preventative and corrective action to avoid data leaks and hacking attacks.
A spokesman at Digital Shadows, told V3 that these insights and preventative measures are necessary because traditional security measures, such as firewalls, are ineffective on their own.
"That traditional way of doing things no longer works because of the modern technologies that are evolving now, particularly the IoT but also mobile technologies, cloud technologies and social media," he said.
"We're finding a lot of our customers' confidential data out there in the open despite all the precautions they already have, so we're trying to mitigate those problems."
Kisanhub and NWave
A partnership between farm data monitoring and analytics firm KisanHub and IoT network specialist NWave has resulted in a project to connect the 'dumb', unconnected sensors used in farming and provide real-time data.
Jonathan Wiggin, chief executive of NWave, said that networking the sensors could overcome some of the challenges faced by farmers.
"They have to go out into the field and take a reading themselves, or the sensors they may have might be running on satellite. The expense is so high that they may have only one per farm, and that doesn't give the granularity they need to really make a difference," he said.
NWave's low-power, low-cost network technology can connect sensors and extract the data to KisanHub's analytics software, presenting farmers with up-to-date information that can avoid wasted resources and improve crop yields.
Both of the companies' products are currently in the market, but Wiggin explained that they will still need funding to ensure the project's success.
"We've been putting a lot of effort into individually interfacing our universal IoT modem with third-party sensors. This is very complex and time consuming, and means that we can't pass on the savings that we'd like to end users," he said.
"What we want to do with this funding is create a more plug-and-play interface, so that widely available sensors can be easily plugged into our modem to make them smart. At KisanHub's end they're taking real-time data in the field for the first time."
Mark Hill, co-founder of openTRV, wants to save the world from carbon emissions. "We're a company bent on saving the planet," he said.
"But we've also been advised that to save the planet you've got to pick what you're going to do, make a business out of it and then do what you originally tried."
To achieve this openTRV has developed an IoT hardware platform for energy saving. The firm has created smart radiator valves that prevent energy being wasted, while claiming to cut household carbon emissions in half.
Hill has declared an intention of using openTRV to cut the UK's total carbon emissions by 10 percent. This ambitious goal has involved a partnership with Energy Deck, another start-up housed in the Idea London centre.
Energy Deck provides an online energy management platform allowing companies to monitor a building's energy consumption, while openTRV provides the hardware and integration expertise to get networked sensors into a building.
Hill said that openTRV is also working with a major bus operator to install sensors that measure the footfall in bus shelters, thereby providing better information about customers. It also gives openTRV a revenue stream to support its ambitions.
"To turn this into commercial reality, the quick sell is to the advertising companies which then know how many people are looking at their adverts," he said.
"But the long goal is to improve public transport by getting more people onto buses by doing better journey planners and getting [operators] to manage their fleets better."
It would appear that Innovate UK's support of these start-ups has put them on road to success, although they will no doubt face many hurdles as they attempt to grow.
V3 will keep an eye on their progress over the coming months.
The IoT is just one of the areas in which Innovate UK is supporting start-ups. The organisation recently launched a £210,000 fund to fuel wearable technology innovation.
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