The Internet of Thursdays

The advent of the Internet of Things has ushered in a new era of innovation, and Plug and Play has remained at the forefront of this revolution in everyday connectivity. Yesterday evening, some 300 entrepreneurs gathered here at Plug and Play headquarters in Sunnyvale to hear five panelists from across the globe discuss emerging trends and challenges in IoT. The panelists included: Andrew Clark, Director of Strategy for IBM’s Venture Capital Group; Josh Bradshaw, founder of WorkTechWork.com; Stefano Marzani, CEO of DQuid; Eduardo Pinheiro, CEO and Co-Founder of Muzzley; and Ludovic Copere, Manager of Growth Ventures and Innovation for Sony. The moderator was Redgie Snodgrass, the founder of WearableWorld.com. Redgie quizzed each panelist on topics surrounding the development of a network of everyday objects in constant communication with one another.

IoT is a very general term that covers a vast array of internet connected ‘smart’ devices. Any household object made capable of connecting to a network that was previously unable to do so can be categorized as a part of the Internet of Things. When asked to offer a definition, Andrew Clark referred to the Internet of Things as “the integration of the physical and the digital world.” Josh Bradshaw also weighed in, adding “we’re going to have devices, ‘things,’ and those things will add to peoples’ lives and this will be a natural and seamless interaction.” The reality of IoT as it was discussed by the panel involves a world in which we are constantly plugged into the internet across each of the devices we use every single day. Those devices employ the data collected from an individual person to understand the manner in which their technology can improve that human’s enjoyment and quality of life.

The challenges addressed in the panel largely dealt with current technology as it stands in relation the the promise of an IoT reality. According to Redgie, by referring to a fully realized Internet of Things we are “painting a rocketship when we are still at canoe level.” Considering this, Josh Bradshaw maintains that we need to take ‘baby steps’ to successfully move forward. He referred to the integration of automatic lane correction in today’s automobiles as an incremental step towards the widespread acceptance of cars that drive themselves entirely. When asked how he would handle customer disappointment with a slower pace of technological evolution, Bradshaw responded, “Tech does limp, but it also moves in leaps and bounds. Just because we’re limping this month, it does not mean that we won’t be moving at a breakneck speed the next.”

Another challenge inherent to IoT relates to the amount of bandwidth required to keep objects in consistent communication with one another. In order to move towards an IoT reality, innovators are going to need to devise a way to account for an unprecedented amount of data. Each of the panelists agreed that an influx in smart devices would create a traffic problem regardless of how fast the internet is. Stefano Marzani believes that one possible way to reduce the amount of bandwidth necessary would be to “form communication under the cloud.” He believes that by employing powerful computing, most of the heavy lifting can be done by the hardware within the devices. If analytics are performed at the edge of the network, less bandwidth is required to communicate among devices.

Redgie also voiced concerns about the accessibility of this IoT reality, stating that he feels it is of utmost importance to maintain an “ethos that enables poor people to participate as well.” As wearable and medical devices are connected to the internet, it is important that we allow everyone access to the technology that can enable them to be a better human being. He referred to the example of a connected heart monitor, arguing that everybody should be entitled to protection from heart problems if it is technologically possible.

These panels offer an excellent opportunity for leaders in the IoT world to call specific problems to the attention of attending entrepreneurs. Towards the end of the panel, Redgie turned to the audience and said “we hope that the solutions are in the crowd.”  It is this manner of opportunity that makes IoT so exciting, and we can look forward to another panel with similarly engaging speakers next month.

root Systems: Adaptive Irrigation Solutions

“If you drive through any farm in America, you will see stagnant puddles of water. Often, at the same time, there are dead trees one door down. That doesn’t make sense and it needs to be fixed.”

root founders Sai and Sandeep are trying to change the way that farmers look at water using a scientific approach. Their platform analyzes data collected from soil sensors placed in a field alongside climate data available online to provide optimized irrigation schedules for farmers.

It was a summer internship spent at an automation company in an extremely hot and dry Indian climate that inspired Sai to develop the original concept for root. As he was automating solar-powered irrigation pumps in the field, he came to the conclusion that pumps would be more efficient if they were “sensor-driven rather than timer-based.” The ideological seed for their startup was then planted when the two young entrepreneurs connected at a hackathon in February of 2014. They pitched a ‘smart’ coffee machine, arguing that an internet-connected version of the appliance would increase workplace productivity. The idea behind their pitch was simple: if a coffee machine refreshes itself automatically, employees will not waste any time replenishing its supply.  Recognizing the synergy between this concept and his original idea, Sai invited Sandeep to work on another Internet of Things project, which became root. Though founded initially as a consumer product, root has developed into a solution tailored to farmers.

According to Sai, eighty percent of the world’s freshwater resources go to agriculture. In California’s current drought, there are large plots of fertile soil that go entirely untouched due to limited water resources. root’s founders feel that this should not be a problem, that we would have more than enough water if we managed the supply properly. Where current farmers use imprecise guesswork to determine when and how to water their crops, root employs a scientific process to eliminate waste and optimize yield.

root embeds sensors in the soil of individual crops to provide a comprehensive view of how to irrigate each part of a farm at any given time. Sensors above the ground monitor metrics such as humidity, soil moisture, soil temperature, and air temperature to extrapolate the rate at which crops absorb and lose water. Any change in the status of a plot of crops is communicated immediately via push notification to the farmers tending it, enabling them to adapt on the fly using the root app on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Sandeep reasons, “a farmer might get a push notification that says ‘water for three hours in five minutes,’ he understands that as the environment changes the needs of his plants will change as well.”

root’s founders were introduced to Plug and Play managing Partner Alireza Masrour through Startup Next, a pre-accelerator program.  They were offered a spot immediately after their presentation in spite of a live demo that had some technical difficulties. He recognized that water scarcity is an ongoing issue that calls for the type of innovative solution that root’s team is working towards.

They are currently working on a prototype model, and they will be piloting with select farms at the end of August. Their web platform is currently live and allows any California farmers to view climate data from online sources for their individual crops. You can access their app at roots.farm.

 

 

08/18/2014 Last Week In Tech, In Tweets

1. Tech superstars step up to raise ALS awareness.

 

2. Startups in London launch an average of twelve new crowdfunding projects each day, more than both San Francisco and New York.

3. Should law enforcement officers be required to record themselves?

4. Silicon Valley’s favorite roadster is getting a battery upgrade.

5. Minecraft is a video game that will teach your kids how to code.

6. After a slow winter the tech market is healthy for new public offerings.

7. Uber announces moving service, plans to help Atlanta students move back in to school.

 

8. Smartphone enthusiasts eagerly anticipate Apple’s next announcement.

 

9. Xbox One’s August update brings changes to interface, adds mobile purchases.

 

08/11/2014 Last Week In Tech, In Tweets

1. Google takes on yet another giant tech company in Amazon, but it can’t do it alone.

 

2. Who needs a brain when you can have IBM’s new chip that can mimic a million neurones.

 

3. Britain wants bitcoin. Can we call it Britcoin?

They seem pretty serious about it.

 

4. Have you seen Iron Man? No, I’m not talking about the movie.

 

5. The “Right to be Forgotten” law is now in effect. Is this a step towards personal privacy or freedom-encroaching censorship?

 

6. Our greatest energy source may be the same as our body’s.

 

7. We no longer need sound to hear. It almost doesn’t make sense.

 

8. So all Wikipedia needed to get donations was bitcoin? That was easy.

 

9. Twitter’s monetization strategy so far has been pretty week for being one of the largest social networks. Not anymore.

 

10. Elon Musk is scared of artificial intelligence. Or is he?

 

11. Uber and Lyft continue to battle it out with new features fuelling their rivalry.

 

12. Foursquare gets a massive overhaul, aiming to eat Yelp for breakfast.

Plug and Play at NRFtech 2014

     The NRFtech Retail Technology Leader Summit is a developing education program that addresses top-of-mind, relevant, and forward-thinking topics. Its development is supported by the NRF CIO Council, an established corps of premier retail IT leaders.

     Considered the retail industry’s most influential senior-level IT event, NRFtech offers a forum for leading retail IT executives. Bringing together leading retail CIOs, the forum promotes peer discussion, knowledge-distribution, and industry networking. The NRFtech Summit aims to educate invited participants on the latest trends in retail technology, business process innovation, and strategic alignment between business and IT.

     We recently launched Plug and Play Retail, an accelerator focused on connecting brands and retailers with early stage startups, and the program has taken off at full speed. Opportunistically located in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Plug and Play has played an integral part in the establishing of a strong network between retail and IT companies, many of which are leveraging technology to solve the biggest problems that top brands, retailers and industry players face today. Developing solutions in areas like inventory management, forecasting, augmented reality and beaconing, these startup technology companies ultimately assist retailers and brand companies in ways that make their operations more efficient and effective.

     With partners such as Kohl’s Yum! Brands and Procter & Gamble, Plug and Play utilizes tailored deal flow, themed workshops, and face-to-face interaction to enable corporations to engage with startups that may complement their respective suite of offerings or create new potential revenue streams

     Due to the success of the Plug and Play Retail Accelerator, our CEO, Saeed Amidi, and our Director of Retail, Michael Olmstead, hold a great deal of information and knowledge on the subject of strategic-relationships between IT and retail. During the event, Saeed and Michael spoke at the closing session of the last day of the NRFtech Summit, where they examined the technological take-over of today’s generation.

     With an emphasis on the fast and easy, they discussed how communication is now being condensed and expressed through technological gateways at almost every level. Additionally, Saeed and Michael introduced new trends in the startup space and technology industry, and presented participants with valuable insights on how to take advantage of and better manage the endless technologies emerging in this next fast-growing generation of digital retailing.

- Article written by Nicole Chen

7/28/2014 Last Week In Tech, In Tweets

1. Apple files a patent for its smartwatch, possibly named iTime.

Jimmy Kimmel decides to have a little fun with the news.

 

2. Shoes become the latest accessory to be turned “smart”, thanks to Indian startup Ducere Technologies.

 

3. Facebook launches a new feature, called “Save”, with a function similar to Pocket.

 

4. Is 3D printing going mainstream already? Amazon creates an online market place for 3D printed goods.

 

5. Apple aiming to step up its e-book game by acquiring e-book data startup BookLamp. Should Amazon be scared?

 

6. Amazon becomes the latest big player to take a shot at a virtual “wallet”. Can they succeed where Apple and Google couldn’t?

 

For gamers:

EA Games has announced a Netflix-for-games subscription service that gives you unlimited access to their titles for $5 a month. Excited? Just don’t forget to take a break and eat once in a while!

7/21/2014 Last Week In Tech, In Tweets

1. NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony launches a seed-stage venture capital firm.

As expected, Tweeters come out swinging with the basketball jokes.

2. The state of New York proposes regulations, deemed “BitLicense”, that would make life for Bitcoin startups very hard.

These new regulations could have implications stretching far beyond the borders of New York.

3. Microsoft lays off 14% of the entire company as part of major restructuring.

Apparently, Wall Street likes big layoffs.

4. Apple and IBM join forces – could be double trouble for Google, Microsoft, Samsung.

Does this move signal the end of PCs?

5. Amazon releases Kindle Unlimited, to be the “Netflix for ebooks and audiobooks”.

But not everyone is excited for it.

For laughs:

Ryan Block (former head of Engadget, founder of GDGT, and now product guy at AOL) records a hilarious phone call with Comcast employee while trying to cancel his service.

Vinod Khosla Keynotes Health 2.0, Talks Tech Trends

It’s a Tuesday evening at the Plug and Play Tech Center. There’s excitement in the air, just like every other day here. Outside on the beautiful open patio, there’s a group of diverse entrepreneurs from Plug and Play’s International Acceleration Program1 chatting over beers. Inside, there’s a large group of Bitcoin enthusiasts and curious explorers2, listening carefully to the words of Bitcoin startup recruiter Jason Rumney.

Great things happen every day here, and it’s an absolutely amazing place to work. But this day was particularly special. Vinod Khosla, a man I’ve heard referred to as a “Godfather of Silicon Valley” and a “legendary investor”, was in our press room talking to Peter Day of the BBC.

Vinod Khosla chats with BBC's Peter Day

Sound a bit intimidating? Not at all. Mr. Khosla is a genuine, heartfelt man. He’s shockingly approachable and invites anyone to shoot him an email with their ideas. Definitely not how most people imagine an investor. He’s almost as friendly as our CEO and founder Mr. Saeed Amidi. Almost.

When you run a search for Mr. Khosla, one of the first things that comes up is his attempt to restrict public access to a beach in San Mateo. Many have used this to paint him as an example of Silicon Valley greed. After hearing him speak on a number of topics, I can’t help but strongly disagree. Khosla’s mind is a great one, and one that many won’t be able to understand. What is obvious is that he’s not in it for the money. When asked to choose between cutting costs and improving outcomes, he chooses the latter without hesitation. He says cutting costs should only be the priority if money is the focus, and he constantly underlines that it shouldn’t be.

Vinod Khosla Keynotes Silicon Valley Health 2.0

Like a few other Silicon Valley visionaries we read about, Khosla wants to change the way things are done. At the risk of sounding cliché, he wants to change the world. Elon Musk wants to revolutionize transportation, Peter Thiel wants to reform education, Vinod Khosla wants to repair healthcare. I say repair because according to him, the current healthcare system is “broken”. “It’s not healthcare right now, it’s sickcare”, he says, and he’s right. He usually is. It’s one of the many reasons he has hundreds of extremely intelligent people packed in a hall at pin drop silence, carefully considering his every word. Another reason is those opinions of his that he voices without restraint. They’re radical, they’re revolutionary and they’re unapologetic. Among his shockingly innovative thoughts is his desire to replace doctors with computers. He wrote a guest post on the subject for TechCrunch; I’ve included the link below3.

Throughout his talk, Khosla emphasizes two important qualities of a successful entrepreneur: flexibility and boldness. He wants entrepreneurs to be willing to take risks and break rules, while constantly adapting along the way. He even goes to say that experience can work against an entrepreneur, because they have been working within a certain set of rules for too long. One audience member asks him how an entrepreneur could possibly compete with large institutions, and soon regrets it. His reply draws cheers from the audience, “How can a big institution possibly compete with an entrepreneur? If you’re asking that question, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.” You might think this as the mindset of someone who believes himself to be unbeatable. You would be very wrong. Khosla is someone who has mastered the art of failure. It doesn’t sound like an art most aim to master but Khosla argues, and proves, that if done right, failure can be the key to success. His genius is that he gets more from his worst failures than most do from their greatest successes.

Vinod Khosla fields questions from the audience

He isn’t all optimism though. An audience member asks Khosla how an entrepreneur can find a balance between his grand vision and building a scalable business. It’s a question that brings out precious words of wisdom from Khosla. Despite his massive success, he remains reasonable and very practical. He says an entrepreneur must, “be optimistic, confident and paranoid at the same time”, shooting for the sky while questioning himself all the while. “Nobody has ever climbed Mount Everest without first getting to case camp”, he wonderfully analogizes. He reminds us that every climber sets out dreaming of reaching the peak, but working and planning to get to the base camp first. It’s a perfect analogy for an entrepreneur pursuing his dream. He also makes sure to point out that “the journey from base camp to the summit is not linear”. As he advises many times, every business plan should be done with repeated iterations.

500+ Attendees listen intently to Vinod Khosla

Khosla’s speech has a magnetizing quality. The crowd is visibly drawn in to his words, becoming more engrossed by the minute. When Khosla took the stage, I was standing behind the rows of chairs placed in the halls. As he walked off to thundering applause, I found myself sitting in the front row.Vinod Khosla is a man of ideals. He keeps his focus away from money, takes every risk, imparts invaluable wisdom, and stays grounded through it all. I, for one, could not help but walk out of that hall inspired, with a new idol to motivate me through my days.

- Article written by Ahraz Arifuddin

Links:

1Plug and Play’s International Acceleration Program: http://bit.ly/ItlPnP

2Weekly Bitcoin Meetup: http://bit.ly/SVBtc

3Do We Need Doctors or Algorithms – Vinod Khosla: http://bit.ly/DocPnP

4Stay in the Loop – Calendar of Events at Plug and Play: http://bit.ly/PnPEvt

 

7/14/2014 Last Week In Tech…In Tweets

1. Ebay teams up with Sotheby’s to run auctions online.

It didn’t work in 2002, but Sotheby’s and eBay believe the online art buying market has matured enough to try again.


2. Rap Genius raises $60M

From rap lyrics to literature – Rap Genius focused on a small and tight community before expanding laterally. It’s a good model for content startups.

3. Secretly raises $25M at $100M valuation.

Anonymous content is liberating to post and fascinating to watch, but can content creators build brands on a nameless social network?

4. LinkedIn acquires Newsle

How will specialized content about your network fit in with LinkedIn’s own content strategy?

5. Square acquires food delivery company TryCaviar.

Square has been trying to get into food services, but only did take out before. Now they can get in on the fast growing food delivery industry.

6. Google Glass Creator Heads To Amazon

It’s another big blow for Google Glass, which wasn’t even mentioned at their recent I/O conference.

And for fun…

7. Lebron James returns to hometown team Cleveland Cavaliers.

7/07/2014 Last Week In Tech…In Tweets

1. Tinder sued for sexual harassment by former executive.

The lawsuit led to the suspension of one of the co-founders.

Is Silicon Valley workspace behavior following the rocky path of finance a generation ago?

2. Google buys Songza

More stuff for Google and Apple to fight about!

3. Facebook busted for tinkering with people’s emotions

You have to admit – the results are interesting. Important even.

4. Speaking of Facebook, they acquired Video Ad startup LiveRail.

Improved video ads or another step towards launching a YouTube competitor?

And for fun…

5. Drone takes us flying through a fireworks show.