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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10. Theatro
What it does:
Provides small Wi-Fi based wearable devices intended for indoor communications within the enterprise.
Chris Todd. Prior to Theatro, Todd was CEO of AppTrigger, a telecom software startup, which was acquired by Metaswitch. Before that, he headed up Global Sales and Support at Extreme Networks and served as Group Vice President of Service Providers at Cisco.
Theatro just closed (Aug. 26, 2014) a $5 million investment from Khosla Ventures in a Series A round. Added to early angel funding, this brings the total raised to date to $8.8 million.

Why it's on this list: There are roughly 32 million+ hourly workers in the U.S. alone, including such workers as retail store associates, hotel employees, manufacturing/distribution center/warehouse employees, etc. Today, these workers must rely on antiquated communications technologies, such as overhead speakers and walkie-talkies, to communicate with other workers on the job. These employees tend also to be disconnected from the enterprise IT infrastructure, which means they have no access to email or the Web to access key information. This acts as a significant obstacle to higher worker productivity.

As the IoT market gains momentum, a key aspect that has been overlooked is connecting employees who can take an action to address the Thing's communications or status. For example, if a light bulb communicates that it has burned out, to whom does it send the message? The hourly employee who would change the light bulb does not have a tablet or an e-mail address and is probably disconnected from the IT infrastructure.

To address this problem, Theatro has developed a small (1½ ounce) Wi-Fi based enterprise wearable used for in-door communications for hourly workers, connecting every employee to one another and to enterprise information systems.

By leveraging the Wi-Fi infrastructure, Theatro provides a simple voice-activated solution that can be used for communications, indoor location and access to the broader IT infrastructure.

Workers access applications and capabilities through a variety of simple to use voice commands enabling them to be "Heads-Up and Hands Free" while serving the customer. For example, if a retail employee needs to check an inventory of a product, he or she would say "check inventory SKU 235678," and the Theatro system would connect them to the inventory system to provide the lookup and the status of the inventory of the SKU.

Customers: The Container Store is an early named customer.

Competitive landscape: The entrenched incumbents are Motorola Solutions and Zebra Technologies, which both provide a variety of radio products that leverage legacy broadcast walkie-talkie technologies. The second type of competitor Theatro says that it encounters tends to be standalone application vendors that leverage a computer platform (smartphone or tablet) to offer discreet application communications capabilities.

This story, "10 hot Internet of things startups to watch" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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