Posted By Simon Montford on Sept 19, 2014
Almost ubiquitous connectivity has suddenly made the impossible possible. Dumb objects of almost every kind that have filled our homes, offices, warehouses and factories are starting to come alive! The Internet of Things (IOT) represents an unprecedented opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors and professionals of all kinds from software engineers and material scientists to structural engineers, data scientist and industrial designers. By installing processors and sensors onto hardware, magical things can happen when connected wirelessly to the Internet directly or via a smartphone.
The IOT has created a boom! Demand for cool connected products, wearable devices and drones means there is an unfulfilled need that must be met. Not only are the usual suspects like Apple, Google, Sony, Samsung et al responding but also a new generation of upstarts. These new kids on the block are developing some of the newest coolest connected gadgets around. They are small, nimble and have nothing to lose. They can therefore take chances that the big boys can't. I predict, therefore, that the greatest innovations will come from this thriving startup ecosystem. I mean take Apple for example, every announcement was rather predictable. Even their piece de resistance; the Apple Watch was nothing new, it was just their take on what's already out there. So if Apple's not at the cutting edge, who is? Well as I alluded to, its these unknown startups that are working in the shadows that are doing the really pioneering stuff. They will be the ones to go one better. Instead of simply imitating or incrementally improving, they will turn the status quo on its head by creating entirely new game-changing and potentially disruptive new categories of product. Examples include Owlet (wireless baby gadget that monitors oxygen levels and heart rate), Grove (allows people to grown their own healthy food at home) and QOL (Improves respiratory health and fitness). Other hardware ground breaking devices include Nest, Kano, Spire, Filip, Melon and SCIO.
So how is it possible that these minnows are able to take on and potentially beat the major players at their own game? Enter a new breed of startup accelerators such as Highway1, TechStars (R/GA) and Haxlr8r, Hardware.co and AlphaLab Gear. They add value by speeding up the time it takes for startups to get their product to market. This process is much more complex for hardware startups than for software startups. Beyond the standard fare offered by accelerators such as seed investment, office space, mentorship and networks, hardware accelerators also offer equipment and machinery to bring hardware devices to life. They also offer deep industry knowledge relating to supply chain, distribution and the hugely challenging process of manufacturing at scale which often involves dealing with Chinese suppliers and manufacturers. Although not a dedicated hardware accelerator, YCombinator is still a major force in the startup landscape.
Others that are jumping on the bandwagon include Bolt and Dragon Innovations, both US based, that offer prototyping services as well as assistance with manufacturing and commercialisation.
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