The startup world is bursting with companies tapping Internet of Things technology for a wide variety of purposes. Here’s our second look at three such businesses.
A Wearable for Pregnancy
Many women who are expecting, face the same frustration: finding answers to their questions. They don’t get a chance to see their obstetricians that often and research online often yields inaccurate information.
Julian Penders and Eric Dy, who met while working at the Leuven, Belgium-based research institute IMEC, developing advanced clinical grade wearable technologies, figured there had to be a better way. So in 2014, they founded Bloom Technologies, a women’s health startup, to develop and sell a wearable device and app for measuring and tracking in real-time, a pregnant woman‘s contractions. Later updates will allow users to monitor for frequency of baby kicks and fetal heart rate. Called Belli, the device looks like a Band-Aid and sticks on a woman’s stomach, an inch below the belly button. It measures electricity created by, say, a baby‘s heartbeat or a woman’s contractions.
While the product targets consumers, according to Dy, it also can provide doctors with intelligence to help detect potential complications before they get out of hand. A decrease in a baby’s movement, for example, can be an early warning sign of fetal distress. Plus, as more information from devices is pushed out to the cloud, the company will create a crowdsourced data set about prenatal health. “There’s no consumer tool on the market that can provide longitudinal data to better understand what a normal pregnancy looks like,” says Dy. “We were blown away by how little innovation there’s been in this area.”
The startup started shipping early versions last fall and is planning a soft launch for later this year. At the moment, the plan is for women to rent the system, with a reusable sensor and disposable patches. “Women aren’t pregnant their whole lives,” says Dy.
Smart Devices that Communicate—and Respect Your Privacy
There’s a cacophony of Internet-connected devices on the market: a wealth of products that can do everything from counting your steps, to monitoring your glucose level -but lack the ability to talk to each other.
Enter Neura. Earlier this year, the three-year-old startup introduced an app that allows more than 55 devices and software channels to communicate. Then it takes that capability one step further—collecting physical data like location and networks regularly encountered by users, analyzing that information to build a contextual understanding of their behavior patterns and suggesting automated actions. For example, a coffee maker starts brewing when a connected alarm goes off, or a smart lock detects when a family has gone to sleep for the night and bolts the door.
The company, which is based in Sunnyvale, CA, and Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, also focuses on privacy. Knowing when you wake up or what particular health problems you suffer from may be information you don’t want widely shared. So customers choose the specific data that can be linked to each service. Thus, a smart thermostat may set the temperature in your home at a certain level before you come back from the gym, but only with your permission.
Co-founder and CTO, Triinu Magi, got the idea from personal experience several years ago, after doctors misdiagnosed an illness. Because conventional tests didn’t provide enough information, Triinu, a data scientist, devised a way to gather blood sugar readings and correlate them with her fitness and nutrition history. The result: She was diagnosed as having diabetes –and she decided to turn the basic technology into a product.
It took three years for the 30-employee startup to produce the app. “By the beginning of this year, we felt it was good enough to release to the public,” says Dennis Vitchevsky, vice president of strategy. The company also raised $13 million in two rounds of venture capital funding.
In January 2014, Per Ljung started an Oakland, CA company with the germ of an idea: sell a smartwatch-like bracelet that would display anything from meeting updates to notifications from friends, at a glance. He discovered the most enthusiasm came from women, who liked the concept of jewelry being able to show digitally transmitted patterns and photographs that could be changed as often as they wanted.
Thus was born Looksee Labs, and its Eyecatcher family of bracelets. With a built-in mini USB port, the jewelry connects via Bluetooth to an app, which lets users change the design. They can also transmit anything from maps to boarding passes to be shown on the bracelet.
The display includes a laminate of printed electronics and E Ink film, which is a paper-like display technology with low power requirements. It contains tiny black-and-white-charged balls that can be moved by applying an electrical field. By creating many pixels, you can display high-resolution images; every element is controlled by the printed electronics on a plastic substrate. The result: a flexible, thin and always-on display.