This will be the Year of the IoT Developer, the research firm IDC predicts—what with hundreds of thousands of applications estimated to be in the works and 5.5 million new things being connected to the Internet each day. With so many products flooding the marketplace, it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to show their goods and learn how to improve them, to say nothing of attracting venture capital.
That’s why the IEEE Internet of Things Initiative and the IEEE Standards Association have partnered to present IoT startup events. They’ve held eight since 2014, most recently in January at the International Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas. Some of the forums have been stand-alone meetings; others are held in conjunction with related events.
“IEEE has created a forum for startups that’s a platform for collaboration among several constituencies: the startup and investor communities, established companies, and academic researchers,” says IEEE Member Oleg Logvinov, chair of the industry engagement track of the IoT Initiative and a director of special assignments for the Industrial and Power Conversion Division at STMicroelectronics in Piscataway, N.J.
No two events have been the same. A Best IoT Startup competition was held in Las Vegas. A workshop on the dynamics of IoT markets, followed by a discussion of the convergence of IoT platforms and services, took place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. Product pitches to investors were the focus of sessions in Grenoble, France; New York City; San Jose, Calif.; and Tel Aviv. Networking events are always part of the sessions.
“We picked these places because we feel that’s where the hot action is for IoT startups,” Logvinov says. “These events are about taking local community activities to a global scale.”
At the day-long San Jose event, attendees got an overview of the IEEE P2413 Standard for an Architectural Framework for the Internet of Things (IoT). They also learned the Standards Association’s role in fostering IoT innovation and helping grow the market for devices and were brought up to speed on the IEEE Internet Initiative, a program dedicated to bringing together the technical community with policymakers to discuss Internet governance, cybersecurity, and privacy. Logvinov chairs that initiative as well.
Jessica Groopman, then with the Altimeter Group, which researches disruptive technologies, talked in San Jose about the ethical use of the data being generated by IoT applications. Representatives from Cisco, Mentor Graphics, and other companies participated in a roundtable discussion covering challenges presented by the IoT and ways to grow the market.
“This event combined networking with others, educating people about the issues surrounding IoT, and what IEEE is doing to expand this arena,” Logvinov says. “Bringing established companies—like STMicroelectronics, Cisco, Intel, and Sony—together with young startups and even high school students is the key to fostering innovation.”
The day ended with a session in which startup companies presented their projects to potential partners and investors, as well as fellow attendees, and received advice and other feedback.
Twelve teams of high school students from the San Francisco Bay Area were invited to pitch projects at the event. One team proposed a smart backpack outfitted with sensors that measured a bag’s weight to determine how much strain it was putting on a child’s muscles and joints and to help students identify books not required based on the day’s schedule.
“What those kids were proposing in terms of products in IoT was unbelievable,” Logvinov says. “This is a preview of the disruptive innovation that will be driven by these future entrepreneurs.”
The annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has become a popular venue for startups. This year there were more than 900 of the 3,800 exhibitors displaying IoT products. It’s no surprise that for the past two years, IEEE IoT startup events have been held there.
This year, IEEE held a competition to select the three best startups as decided by a panel of four judges who represented industry, investors, analysts, and the news media. The initiative put out a call for projects, and 11 were chosen for the competition. The contestants were required to use at most 15 PowerPoint slides to explain in 5 minutes how their product used IEEE standards, grew the IoT space, and benefited society. In the end, four startups were recognized, with two tied for first place. (See “Four IoT Products Cited at IEEE CES Competition”).
Companies in the competition were able to display a poster about their product during CES, and their presentations are available on the IEEE IoT portal.
The events aren’t the only assistance being offered by the IoT Initiative. Its Web portal has several resources under the Startup link, including webinars on IoT-related topics, a calendar of upcoming events, and PowerPoint presentations of startup pitches from past events. The portal also carries news of upcoming IoT conferences, standards, online courses, and recent developments.
“We are starting to get a following from the investment community, established enterprises, academia, companies working in the IoT space, and young professionals who are driving the innovation,” Logvinov says. “Our events are getting everybody together. It’s very exciting.”
The initiative is pursuing partnerships with other organizations to offer prize money for IoT product competitions and with venture capitalists to fund projects, he notes. Events will be posted on the initiative’s website as they’re scheduled, he adds.
Would you like to be involved? Send a message to Oleg Logvinov at firstname.lastname@example.org so you can be part of this exciting program.