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

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Humavox's solution is intended to eliminate the need for wires and batteries. The startup claims its platform is able to match the power of a traditional USB cord. In order to convince users to replace the simple, straightforward experience of plugging a USB cord into a device, the alternative must work perfectly and ultimately match the performance of that cord.

To convince users to switch, Humavox allows you to take the guesswork out of powering devices with a solution that can simultaneously charge all powered electronics at once. When a device is placed into the charging space, Humavox's technology initiates a "handshake" that begins the energy transfer. Through the handshake, the smart charging solution is able to identify the devices in the charging station, their specific needs, battery material and charging curve. It provides each device with the most effective charge for its particular needs, and stops automatically once the devices are charged.

Humavox's platform allows manufacturers to implement wireless power in a way that is conducive to the overall user experience of their devices. Manufacturers may choose to create a charging station as simple as a bowl to store and charge several devices, or they could integrate charging into a car cup holder, the case of a wearable device, a hotel safe, or even a toy box.

Because there is no limit to the size of the wireless charging technology or the devices it charges, it can even be used for military purposes such as charging an entire platoon's AR goggles or communication devices in one secure area.

Competitive landscape: There are three standards for wireless charging today: Qi by the Wireless Power Consortium, The Power Mat Alliance and Rezence by The Alliance for Wireless Power. These competing standards all provide the same type of enablement using the same technological form -- magnetic induction. These standards are supported by the biggest names in tech, many of which have invested billions in wireless power solutions. Yet, despite the lack of widespread consumer adoption, the big players seem locked into dead-end solutions and have been slow to consider alternatives.

If Humavox is able to deliver on all of its claims, it could immediately tap into pent-up demand.

6. Neura
What it does:
Neura's goal is to become the "glue connecting the Internet of things" by developing an open platform that bridges objects, locations, people and the Web.
Headquarters:
Sunnyvale, Calif.
CEO:
Gilad Meiri. Meiri previously co-founded and served as CEO of Spicebox.
Founded:
2013
Funding:
In April 2014, Neura secured $2 million in funding, led by Greenhouse Capital Partners, alongside SingTel Innov8 Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital, TriplePoint Ventures and prominent angel investors, including Ben Narasin and Isaac Applbaum.

Why it's on this list: Finding good programmers and developers is a struggle for many businesses. Neura argues that for IoT to gain mass relevance, we'll need either a heck of a lot more programmers or some sort of shortcut to sidestep this bottleneck.

Neura believes that devices and device ecosystems need to "understand the human." Smart devices will need to learn when to suggest and respond to prompts, as well as figuring out how to allow the user to opt into certain actions, rather than having prompts and triggers set in stone (well, code).

Neura does two things to help devices "understand the human." First, Neura's platform offers a way for an individual's devices to communicate with one another. More importantly, Neura helps a person's devices understand context (where, when, with whom), semantic (what does this mean) and pattern behavior.

By combining these streams of data, devices could eventually have predictive features and will be able to respond to an individual's daily activity. For example, after a user spends time in the kitchen and then leaves home, Neura will make sure the oven is shut down. Neura can prompt a vacuum cleaner to work harder after multiple people have visited your home. Or if a user comes back from a run in the park, Neura can allow the user's connected glucometer to have access to their activity, sleep and blood pressure information.

Neura says that it can also help smart devices understand how contextual elements, such as jet-lag and weather, impact human factors, such as blood glucose.

Competitive landscape: Google is Neura's most direct competitors. There are plenty of other company's dealing with AI, machine learning and M2M communications. Neura argues that most solutions deal only with connectivity. At Neura, the focus is on data applications. "Creating device-oriented cognition in consumer-facing scenarios is a relatively new problem that the market is trying to tackle," a spokesperson said.

7. PubNub
What it does:
Provides a global real-time network that "solves the problems of large-scale IoT connectivity in the wild, enabling IoT providers to focus on their core businesses."
Headquarters:
San Francisco
CEO:
Todd Greene. Prior to founding PubNub, he was the founder and CEO of Loyalize, a company that provided real-time audience participation software, synchronizing TV viewers with collaborative voting and chatting apps on their phones and tablets. After closing deals with Yahoo and Viacom, Loyalize was acquired in 2011 by Robert FX Sillerman, the owner of American Idol.
Founded:
August 2010
Funding:
PubNub has raised $15.5 million in two rounds of financing. PubNub was initially bootstrapped by its two founders, Todd Greene and Stephen Blum, until achieving a 7/24 average of over 100 transactions per second across 40 customers. A Series A of $4.5 million was completed in early 2012 with funds coming from Relay Ventures and TiE Angels. A Series B of $11 million was closed in the summer of 2013, led by Scale Ventures and including follow-on investments from the Series A investors.

Why it's on this list: PubNub argues that the IoT space is held back by two major obstacles: a lack of reliable communications and security issues.

First, while reliable bi-directional signaling for IoT devices is easy in the lab, trying to achieve this in the wild becomes a huge problem, putting at risk the overall success of the deployment. It is very difficult to guarantee device connectivity through corporate and home networks, cell towers, firewalls and variable-speed wireless networks.

Second, security is a huge concern. Hackers have successfully attacked numerous highly protected corporate networks. How does an individual connected device stand a chance?

To hurdle over the first obstacle (poor M2M communications), PubNub has built and deployed a global real-time network running in 14 data centers globally. Customers connect their devices to PubNub with a single line of code, and then they can send and receive data with 0.25-second guaranteed delivery latency. PubNub also solves the issue of device status by providing real-time updates about every device's status (online/offline, etc.) across millions of devices.

PubNub says that it connects over 100 million devices monthly and processes an average of 50,000 transactions per second -- peaking at over 3 million transactions per second -- through its global network. Because PubNub replicates all data across all data centers, PubNub can provide 99.999% SLA uptime guarantees (i.e. less than 6 seconds of downtime per month).

To tackle the security issue, PubNub boosts device security in three ways: 1) access control for data streams, 2) closing open ports and limiting the ability to communicate to devices without any network ports being open on the Internet (a common attack vector for hackers) and 3) securing all communications with multiple data encryption standards like AES and SSL.

Customers: Insteon, Revolv, Lyft, Sidecar and Zoomy.

Competitive landscape: Frozen Mountain and Kaazing offer install-it-yourself commercial offerings, while myriad open-source solutions like node.js, Faye and Mosquito offer similar software. PubNub argues that these solutions (both commercial and open source) put the onus of handling operations, scalability, reliability and security on their customers.

Most companies in this space also tend to focus on the challenges of building a connectivity layer, but not the challenges of deploying and maintaining the network to support it. Typically, addressing the initial development of a connectivity solution is about 25 percent of the pain and cost, PubNub contends, whereas 75 percent of the pain and cost is related to the redundant and reliable operation of a global network.

8. Revolv
What it does:
Unifies control of your smart home via a smartphone or tablet app.
Headquarters: Boulder, Colo.CEO: Tim Enwall, who formerly founded and served as CEO of Tendril, a provider of integrated consumer engagement for energy providers. Prior to Tendril, he founded Solista, a global technology management firm, which was acquired by The Gartner Group in 2000.
Founded:
2012
Funding:
Revolv has raised $6.7 million in funding led by the Foundry Group.

Why it's on this list: If your coffee table is like many, it has a half a dozen remote controls sitting on it. Some of these controllers never get used and of the ones that do get used it's pretty much only three or four buttons tops. And that's just for home entertainment.

Seems like it's time to consolidate and simplify, doesn't it?

The best bet for consolidation is the smartphone, which has already become the de facto command-and-control center of our connected lives. As more and more connected home products hit the market, managing them all means either remote control sprawl will worsen until it's akin to kudzu along a southern highway, or we'll consolidate management via smartphones.

There's one problem with this, though: The kudzu-like sprawl may well shift from physical remote controls to apps, since everyone under the sun wants to tie their connected product to a product-specific app.

Consumers, however, are already showing signs of app fatigue and long for simplicity. They are confused by the onslaught of connected products, each with different (often incompatible) wireless technologies and control interfaces.

Revolv intends to solve this issue by unifying consumers' connected devices through one simple app that helps smart home products work together. Revolv was purpose-built to take the complexity out of connecting, controlling and automating a smart home. It also has the capability to automate devices used in daily routines through time, place and sensor triggers. For instance, with its GeoSense technology, Revolv can automatically activate (or shut down) connected devices when the user reaches a certain geo-radius to and from their home.

Revolv incorporates 7 radios in its hub and speaks 10 different wireless languages, giving it the ability to support the most popular brand-name smart devices available today.

Competitive landscape: The smart home hub is something being tackled by both brand names, such as Staples Connect, and startups, including SmartThings, which was just acquired by Samsung for approximately $200 million.

9. TempoDB
What it does:
Provides a cloud-based sensor data analytics backend for IoT and M2M.
Headquarters:
Chicago
CEO: Andrew Cronk, who previously served as director of product development at Indie Energy, a geothermal technology company, and as CEO of Cameesa, an ecommerce apparel company (now part of Zazzle).
Founded: 2011
Funding:
The startup has secured a $4.1 million Series A round from Hyde Park Angels, John Ives, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Divergent Ventures and Chicago Ventures. Prior to that, seed funding was raised from TechStars, Data Collective, John Ives, Jason Seats, Lew Moorman and John Engates.

Why it's on this list: Pretty much every industry has the potential to be revolutionized by sensor analytics -- from real-time monitoring of manufacturing equipment to prevent costly failures to operational analysis of solar arrays to optimize electricity yield to exploratory analysis of medical device data to discover correlations and improve patient outcomes.

The opportunities to reduce cost or increase revenues by leveraging IoT are well-understood, but the challenges in making sense of the data generated by sensors are unlike any big data challenges yet encountered. TempoDB argues that without purpose-built, integrated sensor analytics solutions, businesses will struggle to realize the tremendous promise of a connected and measured world.

TempoDB notes that legacy approaches and generic big data solutions -- from general-purpose open source databases to complicated, expensive on-premise enterprise analytics solutions -- were never designed to provide sensor analytics at scale or in a cloud-native architecture. TempoDB intends to help solve this problem through a sensor analytics backend delivered as a private cloud service. The services makes it simple for users to add sensor analytics to their products or services.

TempoDB provides proprietary real-time sensor data monitoring and analytics engines, which are integrated into its custom data store, to ensure performance and security as users scale up to (potentially) millions of devices and sensors.

Customers: Wattvision, sMeasure, Government of Australia, Cloudability, NinjaBlocks and Signal.

Competitive landscape: The most direct competition comes from Savi and SensorCloud. TempoDB will also compete with providers of IoT-enablement platforms, such as ThingWorx and Xively, as well as with certain big data providers building out IoT use cases, such as Vertica.

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