10 hot Internet of things startups to watch

As Internet connectivity gets embedded into every aspect of our lives, investors, entrepreneurs, and engineers are rushing to cash in

As Internet connectivity gets embedded into everything from baby monitors to industrial sensors, investors, entrepreneurs and engineers are rushing to cash in. According to Gartner, Internet of things (IoT) vendors will earn more than $309 billion by 2020. However, most of those earnings will come from services.

Gartner also estimates that by 2020, the IoT will consist of 26 billion devices. All of those devices, Cisco believes will end up dominating the Internet by 2018. You read that right: In less time than it takes to earn a college degree (much less time these days), machines will communicate over the Internet a heck of a lot more than people do.

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With the IoT space in full gold-rush mode, we evaluated more than 70 startups to find 10 that look poised to help shape the future of IoT.

Note: These 10 are listed in alphabetical order and are not ranked.

1. AdhereTech
What it does:
Provides a connected pill bottle that ensures patients take their medications.
New York
Josh Stein. He received his MBA from Wharton in 2012, and, before that, he worked for a number of successful startups in New York City, including Lot18, PlaceVine and FreshDirect.
October, 2011
$620K from Blueprint Health Accelerator

Why it's on this list: There are plenty of companies trying to cash in on IoT by tethering it to healthcare. Let's call it the Internet of Health (IoH). What's impressive about AdhereTech, though, is that it focuses on a discrete problem and knocks it out of the park with its solution. It's simple and smart.

Prescription adherence -- sticking to your prescribed medication regimen -- is one of the biggest problems plaguing medicine. Current levels of adherence are as low as 40 percent for some medications. Poor adherence to appropriate medication therapy has been shown to result in complications, increased healthcare costs, and even death. Medication adherence for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, asthma and depression, is an even more significant problem, often requiring intervention.

According to AdhereTech, of all medication-related hospital admissions in the United States, 33 to 69 percent are related to poor medication adherence. The resulting costs are approximately $100 billion annually, and as many as 125,000 deaths per year in the U.S. can be attributed to medication non-adherence.

AdhereTech's pill bottle seeks to increase adherence and reduce the costs associated with missed or haphazard medication dosage. The bottle uses sensors to detect when one pill or one liquid milliliter of medication is removed from the bottle. If a patient hasn't taken his/her medication, the service reminds them via phone call or text message, as well as with on-bottle lights and chimes. The company's software also asks patients who skip doses why they got off schedule. In addition to helping people remember, AdhereTech aggregates data anonymously to give a clearer picture of patient adherence overall to pharmaceutical companies and medical practitioners.

Customers: AdhereTech has trials running with Boehringer Ingelheim for a TBD medication, The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for type 2 diabetes medication and Weill Cornell Medical College for HIV medication.

Competitive landscape: Vitality GlowCap is the most direct competitor for AdhereTech. Other less direct competitors include RXAnte, an analytics company that helps to identify patients most at risk for falling off their prescription regimen, and Proteus Digital Health, which puts tiny digestible sensors inside of pills to give doctors a clearer picture of patient compliance.

2. Chui
What it does:
Combines facial recognition with advanced computer vision and machine learning techniques to turn faces into "universal keys." Chui refers to its solution as "the world's most intelligent doorbell."
Boulder, Colo.
Shaun Moore. Prior to this role, he co-founded Housou Mobile with Nezare Chafni (who also co-founded Chui). Housou developed a solution that helped content publishers convert Web content to mobile.
A crowdfunding campaign has garnered more than $72,000.

Why it's on this list: Home and business security systems are expensive, generate tons of false alarms and really can't be called "intelligent."

Chui's facial recognition technology replaces keys, passwords or codes, allowing you to disarm a security system with facial recognition. Chui emphasizes that our faces are unique, universal and nontransferable. Your features cannot be hacked, nor can they be spied on.

For businesses, or even homes with service people stopping by regularly, Chui also keeps track of who is coming and going, documenting visitors and time-stamping their visits.

Even better, the system also learns as it goes. If a person's facial appearance changes over time, the system will learn this. It is also able to distinguish between identical twins, and it is able to recognize attempts to fool the system with pictures or videos.

The first application of this system is an "intelligent doorbell."

You can use it to open your door to invited guests, such as a cleaning service or dog walker, right from your smartphone. You no longer need to hand out keys to service providers. Chui ensures you have complete control over who is entering your home through real-time notifications and the ability to engage in live conversations with visitors.

Customers: In less than four months, Chui says that it has acquired 311 customers. A company spokesperson notes that they have more than doubled their crowdfunding goal ($300,000), selling the devices at $199 per unit.

Competitive landscape: Chui's three major competitors are Goji, Skybell (formerly idoorcam) and Doorbot. However, none of the other smart doorbells utilize facial recognition, offering only video connections.

3. Enlighted
What it does:
Provides a smart lighting system.
Sunnyvale, Calif.
Tushar Dave, who was previously the co-founder/managing director of Newpath Ventures, as well as the vice president of business development at Broadcom.
Enlighted's most recent funding, a $20 million Series C round, closed in 2013. RockPort Capital Partners led the investment round and was joined by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Intel Capital. This brings total funding to date to approximately $36 million.

Why it's on this list: Lighting is an immense cost to building operators, as well as a large factor for employee comfort.

"Lighting consumes 25-40 percent of commercial office building electricity and is a major factor in worker comfort and productivity, yet more than ninety percent of existing buildings have little more than a wall switch," said CEO Tushar Dave. "When asked, facility managers tend to identify cost and complexity as the key reasons why they have allowed such waste in their facilities."

Enlighted has created "people-smart sensors" that gather real-time environmental data and analytics at each light fixture within a building, while networking those sensors in a way that delivers even more value to building owners/operators.

Enlighted takes a slightly different tack to the smart lighting challenge than many of its competitors. The key differentiator of Enlighted's product suite is the fact that it centers a lot of its control intelligence in the "Enlighted Sensor" devices, which attach to new or existing LED, fluorescent, CFL, or HID light fixtures.

Unlike a typical wireless lighting network node, which tends to connect directly to lighting drivers (for LEDs) or ballasts (for fluorescent or HID lights), Enlighted's sensors not only control lights, but also monitor light levels, temperature, occupancy and power consumption for the 100 square feet of floor space directly beneath each of them.

That means that each sensor both knows not only what its individual light is doing, but also what it should be doing. In other words, instead of relying on the vagaries of wireless networking architecture to carry data back to a central control platform, come up with preferred control options, and then send those commands back to light fixtures, Enlighted's nodes can handle most tasks on their own.

In addition to creating innovative lighting sensors, Enlighted is also creating new IoT products within their Enlighted Labs, a testing ground for product ideas. One such product is the Occupancy Sensing App, currently being used at the Enlighted headquarters for potential larger-scale launch. The app detects heat and movement within conference rooms, so that employees can easily look on an app to see which conference rooms are occupied. This cuts down time employees constantly spend circling an office building looking for a space to hold a meeting.

Enlighted is also working on using its sensor data for other things, like integrating their data with building HVAC systems to fine-tune heating and cooling, or to respond to utility demand response calls to shed power use when the grid is under stress.

Customers: LinkedIn, the City of San Jose, Interface Global, Menlo Business Park and Agilent Technology.

Competitive landscape: Enlighted will compete with Lutron, Watt Stopper, Redwood Systems, Daintree, Adura and Digital Lumens, among others.

4. Heapsylon
What it does:
Turns clothes into computers.
Redmond, Wash.
Davide Vigano. He joined Microsoft as an intern in 1987 to work on the first versions of MacWorks and MacOffice. Before leaving the company, he was GM for the Healthvault and Amalga healthcare product lines (now part of a joint venture between Microsoft and GE).
The company is backed by $1 million in angel funding, as well as $115,000 it raised in an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

Why it's on this list: Wearables are certainly a booming subsector of the IoT market. However, if you spend a couple hours researching the space or walking around the wearables section at CES this winter, you'll find that most of the products seem to be hunting for problems to solve, rather than the reverse case.

Conversely, Heapsylon's pinpoints an existing problem for which there is, presumably, pent-up demand for a solution: preventing injuries for runners.

Heapsylon's Sensoria socks are infused with textile pressure sensors and paired with proprietary electronics. Not only do the sensors accurately track steps, speed, calories, altitude gain, environmental temperature and distance, but they go well beyond that to track cadence, foot landing technique, center of balance and weight distribution on the foot as you walk and run.

For runners, this could be a big deal.

There are 25 million runners in America alone, up to 85 percent of whom will suffer some type of injury this year. According to Daniel Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, when running, landing on your heel is no different than somebody hitting you on the heel with a sledgehammer (300-400 pounds of force about 1,000 times each mile). That may seem like an exaggeration, but repetitive low-impact forces build up over time, a problem the NFL and NHL are both coming to grips with now.

Heapsylon intends to help runners identify injury-prone running styles, such as heavy heel striking, so they can avoid injury.

Heapsylon also offers a Sensoria T-Shirt and Sport Bra, each of which comes with built-in textile electrodes that allow you to simply snap your favorite heart rate monitor (Polar or Garmin) and get rid of uncomfortable plastic straps.

All Heapsylon garments leverage the Sensoria mobile app to coach the runner in real-time via audio cues. The Sensoria dashboard can also help achieve goals, improve performance and reduce risk of gravitating back to bad tendencies.

Customers: All of Heapsylon's IndieGoGo backers and the company recently inked a nonexclusive worldwide distribution agreement with British shoe manufacturer VIVOBAREFOOT.

Competitive landscape: Wearable technology is blowing up. Heapsylon's main competitors include Nike Fuelband, Fitbit, Intel (in process developing a smart shirt), Omsignal and a wide range of other startups entering the wearables market.

5. Humavox
What it does:
Creates technologies to wirelessly power IoT by using radio frequencies, thus eliminating the need for wires.
Kfar Saba, Israel
Omri Lachman. Prior to Humavox, Omri launched several startups, including EXACTME! and Boominga.
The company is backed by $5 million in seed funding.

Why it's on this list: Wireless power is a necessity for the Internet of Things, but the current wireless charging solutions already on the market haven't really moved the needle. Mobile devices are increasingly adopting wireless charging technology, but consumers quickly get frustrated by the competing standards and regulations prohibiting their mobile devices from being charged effectively.

This has halted innovation in wireless charging, which Humavox argues is an essential element in IoT adoption.

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