Enterprise-IoT platform Particle acquires IoT hardware startup RedBear for an undisclosed sum

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Particle, a company providing IoT hardware, software, and connectivity solutions bought Shenzhen and Hong Kong-based IoT hardware firm RedBear Labs, makers of RedBear Duo and a variety of other connectivity boards. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

RBLink

Buying RedBear marks Particle’s first acquisition. Particle has deployed IoT connectivity solutions in various industries from industrial and municipal IoT applications to manufacturing facilities. It implies the San Francisco-based company has focused on ‘enterprise market’ and entering the enterprise IoT market in China may prove to be a huge win for the company in coming years. And, what best way than to acquire a thriving local startup.

The company’s partnership goes back to Particle’s launch of three meshed devices, i.e. Argon, Boron, and Xenon as RedBear helped the company in product development of meshed devices for IoT connectivity.

RedBear started out by launching Particle-powered product, the RedBear Duo, a thumb-size development board for IoT projects on Kickstarter in November 2015. It got an overwhelming support from backers and delivered the product in the promised time of three months. Now the startup is set to contribute its hardware development experience to Particle’s Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi-enabled IoT hardware.

“Particle is committed to building the best team in the business to enable anyone to create IoT solutions that produce real value. The RedBear team impressed us with their track record of enabling IoT makers to bring their ideas to life in a third of the time and a tenth of the cost as in the past. This acquisition enables Particle to bring new products to market faster and scale to meet soaring demands for IoT connectivity, adding valuable expertise from the heart of the electronics industry in Shenzhen.”Zach Supalla, Particle co-founder, and CEO.

The enthusiasm of sharing a company already serving 8500+ clients in North America and elsewhere was evident from the statement by RedBear’s CEO.

“Particle and RedBear share the same laser focus on creating connected solutions that help product creators at any stage create value with IoT.” Chi-Hung Ma, CEO of RedBear and Particle Director of New Product Development.

It appears Particle will also benefit from RedBear’s existing network of customers and the reseller network the latter has developed in Asia, Europe, North- and South-America.


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Apple supplier Foxconn buys Belkin for $866M in case to carve out its smart home business

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Foxconn Interconnect Technology Limited (FIT), a company most famous for being a supplier of Apple’s smartphones announced it has bought US consumer electronics maker Belkin International for $ 866M.

Belkin F7U014 wireless charging pad

Belkin is a maker of consumer electronics products including wireless chargers, home automation, and intelligent water solutions. Its three core brands are Belkin, Linksys and, WeMo. FIT expects to leverage Belkin’s sales networks, technology and production capabilities, thus carving out its ‘smart home’ business by acquiring Belkin as well as its Linksys and Wemo businesses.

The acquisition was framed as a merger between FIT and Belkin leaving Chet Pipkin, CEO and founder, Belkin International at the helm of Belkin with additional responsibilities as part of FIT’s management team. “FIT is excited to acquire Belkin and its capabilities in the premium consumer products space,” Integrating Belkin’s best-in-class capabilities and solutions into FIT, we expect to enrich our portfolio of premium consumer products and accelerate our penetration into the smart home,” said Sidney Lu, CEO, FIT.

The merger announcement comes on the heels of President Trump’s blockage of Broadcom’s bid to acquire Qualcomm. “The FIT-Belkin merger is subject to approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States,” reports Financial Times.

As opposed to the current trend of hardware startups raising millions in several rounds of outside investments, Belkin only raised a private equity round in 2002 led by Summit partners. Neither it acquired any companies during its growth journey to become a multi-million enterprise.

On the contrary, Apple supplier Foxconn previously bought several companies to grow beyond smartphone market. It bought Japan-based Sharp Corporation, a manufacturer and, a seller of electric telecommunication, electric and electronic equipment for $ 3.8B in Mar 2016.

FIT-Belkin merger marks the second high-profile acquisition deal of 2018 as Google announced last month its acquisition of Xively from LogMeIn for $ 50M.


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Mythic, an AI-chip maker for autonomous devices banks $40M Series B

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Mythic, an AI-based microchip for parallel computing in connected and autonomous devices raised a $ 40M Series B round led by Softbank Ventures. Other investors included DFJ, Lux Capital, Data Collective, and AME Cloud Ventures, and new investors Lockheed Martin Ventures and Andy Bechtolsheim.

Mythic’s chip

The latest funding brings Mythic’s total equity funding to $ 49M as it previously raised $ 9M Series A in March last year. It will use the funding proceeds to bring to market its Silicon used in the AI chips.

Mythic was incubated at the Michigan Integrated Circuits Lab and it’s high-speed; low-power AI chips can be used in autonomous drones, fitness bands, battery-powered monitors, and smartphone. Comprised of both hardware and software, a key difference in technology Mythic is pushing to market is the use of analog electrical signals and flash memory to perform machine learning inference calculations.

It implies most of its use cases and applications will include ‘edge compute’ scenarios where data is stored and analyzed locally on the device rather than in the cloud.

An interesting and understandable development was the appointment of Rene Haas as a board member of Mythic. He belongs to Softback and has stints in Nvidia and ARM, both being major competitors of chip-making.


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Smart thermostat Ecobee banks $61M Series C growth capital

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Home automation company Ecobee and the maker of Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostat raised a $ 61M Series C round led by Energy Impact Partners. Other investors include Amazon Alexa Fund, Relay Ventures, and Thomvest. Ecobee so far has $ 112M in equity funding since it launched in 2007.

ecobee4

Amazon Alexa Fund, a $ 200M venture fund to fuel voice technology innovation is the repeat investor in Ecobee. The fund also participated in Ecobee’s Series B round of $ 35M in Aug 2016.

Ecobee4, company’s fourth generation smart thermostat features voice-activated control through the Amazon Alexa and comes with room sensors to help manage hot or cold spots.

Adjust temperature and comfort settings easily from the ecobee mobile app on your Android and iOS devices.

A recent study by NPD group states that Ecobee has captured one-third of the smart thermostat market, reports Stephen Lacey of Greentech Media. This tells about the company’s ability to raise multi-million rounds of investment.

However, the investments also reflect the feud between Google and Amazon as the former owns Nest, maker of thermostats, indoor and outdoor security cameras, smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, security system, video doorbell and more.

A third and more established competitor is Honeywell, a $ 100B global conglomerate with business interests in aerospace, building materials, engineering services, and home and building technologies. The competition is expected to intensify as Statista Research predicts 33M U.S homes will have a smart thermostat by 2020, compared to 12M in 2017.

It might be that the competition for ‘smart home’ space is more between Google, Amazon, and Honeywell rather than Nest and Ecobee. Amazon recently acquired smart video doorbell company Ring for $ 1B. Nonetheless, Ecobee’s voice-enabled feature integration with Amazon Alexa may provide superior user experience to customers as more and more people adopt voice computing.


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Cyber security company serving IIoT clients grabs $18M Series B

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CyberX, an IIoT and industrial control system (ICS) security company raised a $ 18M Series B round led by Norwest Venture Partners, early investors in cybersecurity leaders FireEye and Fireglass (acquired by Symantec). Existing investors that participated in the round include Glilot Capital Partners, Flint Capital, ff Venture Capital, and OurCrowd.

To date, CyberX raised a total of $ 30M in venture funding. The company plans to use the proceeds to expand in the United States and Europe, product development, and to grow security research and threat intelligence teams.

CyberX’s continuous ICS threat monitoring platform uses ICS-specific self-learning that enables it to map and predict information security threats (in operational technology) in less than an hour.

A key factor that differentiates CyberX is it does not rely on rules, specialized skills, or any prior knowledge of a user’s environment.

The company’s target market includes companies from energy, oil & gas, and manufacturing. The customers can protect their operational technology from attackers performing cyber reconnaissance to sniff passwords and crucial network credentials.

CyberX Sanbox

It appears that cyber incidents like WannaCry and NotPetya have made executives from legacy industries like manufacturing and oil & gas nervous. There are reasons for the worry.The latest research by CyberX, based on analyzing 375 industrial control networks via Network Traffic Analysis (NTA), reveals that every one out of three industrial sites is connected to the public internet making it vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The company also found that un-patchable Windows operating system is found everywhere in the industrial settings. It reported such systems can be easily compromised by malware such as WannaCry/NotPetya.

“As a top-tier global VC, NVP’s investment in CyberX is recognition that we are successfully delivering differentiated technology and expertise enabling us to win over the world’s most sophisticated and demanding customers.” Omer Schneider, CyberX co-founder and CEO.

Pointing towards CyberX’s technology, Dror Nahumi, general partner at Norwest Venture Partners dais that “there is a growing need in many enterprises to connect their IIoT and ICS networks to corporate IT networks for performance, monitoring, and manageability reasons. This trend creates a new security risk which requires a modern, IIoT-optimized, security solution”.


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Particle introduces IoT development hardware: Adds mesh support

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Particle, an integrated IoT company has announced new hardware Particle Mesh to its product portfolio. Based on OpenThread networking protocol, the company launched three meshed devices Argon, Boron, and Xenon in alliances with the Thread Group. These are IoT hardware development kits.

The traditional IoT devices depend on the cloud to connect and relay messages between devices, even those which are few meters away. With Particle Mesh, networks have increased coverage and can capture more data with higher reliability at a reduced cost-ultimately making IoT solutions more intelligent, by using the thread platform. They help collect sensor data, exchange local messages, and share their connection to the cloud.

The company aims to solve connectivity problems and improve the collection of data with the mesh network, something that is a “market in need”, says CEO Zach Supalla. “When we’re pursuing a new technology, we’re doing it because it solves some customer problem that we can point to,” Supalla said.

The Particle Mesh family includes three mesh-ready devices: Argon and Boron which work alone or as gateway nodes for mesh network, and Xenon, a mesh-only endpoint. All three devices integrate with Particle Device Cloud, the company’s cloud management platform.

The device kits are set to ship in July followed by modular version later in 2018 at a discounted price of $ 9. The company is also adding Particle Mesh network management capabilities to its device management console, which will also launch towards the end of this year.

Postscapes reported that Particle raised $ 20M Series B round in July last year from Spark Capital.

Particle Mesh from Particle on Vimeo.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

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R/GA announces nine IoT startups for its 2018 program

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IoT Venture Studio, a UK based accelerator has announced nine startups as part of its second incubator program for the year 2018. The selected companies are a diverse mix of startups that use IoT innovatively to transform everything from retail to food wastage.

Kinduct’s Platform

Headquartered in NewYork, R/GA is an international digital agency that launched its accelerator program Ventures in 2014. In partnership with UK government’s innovation agency Innovate UK, R/GA Ventures started the IoT Venture Studio focusing on building IoT based startups. The selected companies will have the chance to work closely with R/GA and use its expertise in strategic marketing, consulting, branding, design, and technology. The companies will also have access to the agency’s network of clients, industry partners, global brand leaders, mentors, and investors. The program will be based at R/GA London’s connected headquarters in Shoreditch.

In Feb 2017, R/GA Ventures announced its first round with ten companies to participate in the UK based program. Latch, a pioneer in enterprise IoT also joined the program as a sponsor. “These startups are bringing the disruptive and refreshing power of the internet to the real world. They show us that Internet of Things technologies is now mature, and ready for business,” said Matt Webb, managing director of the R/GA IoT Venture Studio UK.

NUMA, a Paris-based international technology, innovation, and startup incubator also launched NUMA Angers IoT, the manufacturing, and business acceleration program dedicated to IoT startups in January this year. Another organization IoTA Wales also offers £50K for IoT startups.

Some of R/GA Ventures’ portfolio companies include Shottracker, Sensing Feeling, and Hoxton Analytics.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

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Cloud-native platform for IoT edge apps Zededa closes $3.06M in Seed investment

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Zededa, a startup providing a cloud-native approach to the deployment, management and security of real-time edge applications closed $ 3.06M in Seed funding. Wild West Capital, run by Angel investors Kevin DeNuccio and Rich Nottenburg led the round. Almaz Capital also participated in the round.

There’s an increased trend of analyzing data close to the ‘edge’ or devices/systems that generate it. For some IoT apps, such as in self-driving cars and industrial robots, it perfectly makes sense to minimize or even eliminate the time it takes to transfer data to the cloud and then running analytics. However, Zededa takes a different approach to its solution.

“True digital transformation requires a drastic shift from today’s embedded computing mindset to a more secure-by-design, cloud-native approach. This will unlock the power of millions of cloud app developers and allow them to digitize the physical world as billions of ‘things’ become smart and connected.” ZEDEDA CEO and Co-Founder Said Ouissal

However, the startup hasn’t explained how it achieves the so-called ‘cloud-native’ approach of deploying and managing edge-apps. It appears Zededa is still going through the R&D phase as it will use the funding proceeds for continued research and product development, investment in community open-source projects, and sales and marketing.

The startup has lined up resources having experience in operating systems, virtualization, networking, security, blockchain, cloud and application platforms. Its investors have previously funded IoT startups including Theatro and Sensity Systems (now Verizon).

As billions of devices and sensors get internet connected, there are a number of startups branching out in edge-domain. Losant, an edge-to-analytics platform for enterprise IoT customers raised a $ 5.2M Series A round. Interestingly, Losant was backed by Rise of the Rest, a seed-stage fund backing startups outside Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston area. The fund is backed by Eric Schmitt, Jeff Bezos, Meg Whiteman, Michael Bloomberg, and Reid Hoffman and other investors who believe innovation and next-gen technologies need not come from Silicon Valley and that’s why they’re betting on areas outside the Valley.


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Freight shipment tracking startup FourKites banks $35M Series B

Fourkites, a freight-shipment tracking startup that provides real-time visibility and predictive analytics to shippers and 3PLs (third-party logistics providers) raised a $ 35M Series B from August Capital. Existing investors Bain Capital Ventures and Hyde Park Venture Partners also participated in the round.

A driver-facing app to capture proof-of-delivery, e-signature and delivery site ratings

The latest round brings FourKites’ total funding to $ 51M. The company will use the funding proceeds for geographic and product-line expansion. Since its founding in 2014, FourKites has scored several high-profile customers including Unilever for supply chain tracking across Europe, AB InBev in South Africa, Best Buy, Kraft Heinz, Nestlé, and US Foods among others. The company’s fast growth is understandable given that manufacturers and other businesses are relying on ‘just-in-time’ shipments of components and raw materials. And, customers are able to see in advance if the shipment will be on time or late.

FourKites Insights & Benchmarking

FourKites’ key use cases include shipment location tracking, real-time trailer temperature, condition monitoring, and predictive analytics. It currently provides services to industry segments including truckload, less-than-truckload (LTL), rail, ocean, and parcel.

The solution works by tracking a load throughout its lifecycle. The load info and carrier name are pulled from shipper’s TMS/ERP. It then pulls truck, trailer, and GPS identifier from dispatch system. It then pulls data from a shipment’s GPS/ELD and Telematics system like TomTom Telematics, Zonar, or Vnomics. Typically, FourKites’s system pings the telematics device every 15 minutes. On the last leg of the solution, FourKites provides a driver-facing app to capture proof-of-delivery, e-signature and delivery site ratings.

FourKites’ key competitors include TransFix, Cargomatic, Cargo Chief, and Trucker Path, though, these companies have a different operating model.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

Wearable ring Token raises $5M Series A: Enables contactless access to things and services

Token, a wearable ring that lets users make contactless transactions at millions of merchant locations raised a $ 5M Series A investment, bringing Token’s total funding to $ 7M. Investors include New York Ventures, Blockchange Ventures led by Ken Seiff and the VC fund Neo. The startup will use the funding proceeds to fine-tune its go-to-market efforts, hiring in in Rochester and New York City and forge partnerships.

The ring essentially uses a fingerprint sensor on the inside of the ring that scans users’ finger as they put it on to unlock things. Some of Token’s popular use cases are using the ring to log into Windows 10, or using it to access things across digital and physical touchpoints. The device combines 2FA (two-factor authentication) since it proves possession of the device along with the biometric second factor. Customers can expect using it instead of passwords, house key, credit card, car key, access badge and transit card.

“As a team, we are focused on making smart, elevated lifestyle accessories that give you complete control over your identity in a world where that is becoming harder (yet more critical) to do every day.” wrote Melanie Shapiro, CEO, and co-founder of Token

Key features of Token ring are internet connectivity via Bluetooth and NFC, waterproof body, and a two week battery life. It is currently being sold at $ 249 and comes with a USB inductive charger.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things