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Main article: Internet of Things

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 45

Skylo raises $103 million to affordably connect the Internet of Things to satellite networks

18:52 | 21 January

One of the biggest opportunities in the new space economy lies in taking the connectivity made possibly by ever-growing communications satellite constellations, and making that useful for things and companies here on Earth. Startup Skylo, which emerged from stealth today with a $103 million Series B funding announcement, is one of the players making that possible in an affordable way.

The funding brings Skylo’s total raised to $116 million, following a $14 million Series A. This new round was led by Softbank Group (which at this point carries a complicated set of connotations) and includes existing investors DCM and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Skylo’s business is based on connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including sensors, industrial equipment, logistics hardware and more, to satellite networks using the cellular-based Narrowband IoT protocol. Its network is already deployed on current geostationary satellites, too, meaning its customers can get up and running without waiting for any new satellites or constellations with dedicated technology to launch.

Already, Skylo has completed tests of its technology with commercial partners in real-world usage, including partners in private enterprise and government, across industries including fisheries, maritime logistics, automotive and more. The company’s main claim to advantage over other existing solutions is that it can offer connectivity for as little as $1 per seat, along with hardware that sells for under $100, which it says adds up to a cost savings of as much as 95 percent vs. other satellite IoT connectivity available on the market.

Its hardware, the Skylo Hub, is a satellite terminal that connects to its network on board geostationary satellites, acting as a “hot spot” to make that available to standard IoT sensors and devices. It’s roughly 8″ by 8″, can be powered internally via battery or plugged in, and is easy for customers to install on their own without any special expertise.

The company was founded in 2017, by CEO Parth Trivedi, CTO Dr. Andrew Nuttall and Chief Hub Architect Dr. Andrew Kalman. Trivedi is an MIT Aerospace and Astronautical engineering graduate; Nuttal has a Ph.D in Aeronautics from Stanford, and Kalman is a Stanford professor who previously founded CubeSat component kit startup Pumpkin, Inc.

 


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2019 was a hot mess for cybersecurity, but 2020 shows promise

21:30 | 4 January

It’s no secret that I hate predictions — not least because the security field changes rapidly, making it difficult to know what’s next. But given what we know about the past year, we can make some best-guesses at what’s to come.

Ransomware will get worse, and local governments will feel the heat

File-encrypting malware that demands money for the decryption key, known as ransomware, has plagued local and state governments in the past year. There have been a near-constant stream of attacks in the past year — Pensacola, Florida and Jackson County, Georgia to name a few. Governments and local authorities are particularly vulnerable as they’re often underfunded, unresourced and unable to protect their systems from many major threats. Worse, many are without cybersecurity insurance, which often doesn’t pay out anyway.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said ransomware is designed to “inflict fear and uncertainty, disrupt vital services, and sow distrust in public institutions.”

“While often viewed as basic digital extortion, ransomware has had materially adverse impacts on markets, social services like education, water, and power, and on healthcare delivery, as we have seen in a number of states and municipalities across the United States,” he said earlier this year.

As these kinds of cyberattacks increase and victims feel compelled to pay to get their files back, expect hackers to continue to carry on attacking smaller, less prepared targets.

California’s privacy law will take effect — but its repercussions won’t be immediately known

On January 1, California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) began protecting the state’s 40 million residents. The law, which has similarities to Europe’s GDPR, aims to put much of a consumer’s data back in their control. The law gives consumers a right to know what information companies have on them, a right to have that information deleted and the right to opt-out of the sale of that information.

But many companies are worried — so much so that they’re lobbying for a weaker but overarching federal law to supersede California’s new privacy law. The CCPA’s enforcement provisions will kick in some six months later, starting in July. Many companies are not prepared and it’s unclear exactly what impact the CCPA will have.

One thing is clear: expect penalties. Under GDPR, companies can be fined up to 4% of their global annual revenue. California’s law works on a sliding scale of fines, but the law also allows class action suits that could range into the high millions against infringing companies.

More data exposures to be expected as human error takes control

If you’ve read any of my stories over the past year, you’ll know that data exposures are as bad, if not worse than data breaches. Exposures, where people or companies inadvertently leave unsecured information online rather than an external breach by a hacker, are often caused by human error.

The problem became so bad that Amazon has tried to stem the flow of leaks by providing tools that detect inadvertently public data. Those tools will only go so far. Education and awareness can go far further. Expect more data exposures over the next year, as companies — and staff — continue to make mistakes with their users’ data.

Voter databases and election websites are the next target

 


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Medigate partners with Cerner to secure medical devices and networks

17:00 | 19 December

Medigate, an Israeli startup working to secure medical devices and manage assets inside a hospital, has partnered with the medical information technology juggernaut Cerner on services and support for the Israli company’s security software.

Under the agreement, if customers work with Medigate, they’ll receive support from Cerner’s cybersecurity team to help with inventory of the devices in a location. Cerner will also offer remediation services to limit attacks if an organization has a security breach.

“With IDC estimating about 41.6 billion IoT devices in the field by 2025, it is extremely important that healthcare organizations have more visibility and control over what’s going on in their clinical network – and that needs to include medical devices and IoT devices,” said Medigate chief executive Jonathan Langer, in a statement. “Cerner has spent the last 40 years connecting people and systems within the healthcare industry. Working together will help thousands of health systems establish and maintain better control, to protect their data, ongoing operations and, ultimately, patient care.”

The security risks associated with increasingly networked healthcare technologies is an increasing area of concern for security professionals and a growing area of interest among venture investors and large corporation in the healthcare space alike.

“It’s important that the healthcare industry proactively work to prevent data breaches and cyberthreats rather than wait to react after the damage has been done, ,” said Jay Savaiano, Senior Director of Security Solutions at Cerner. “Our work with Medigate is a critical step in the right direction towards effective medical device security across healthcare organizations. We’re committed to helping our clients discover, manage and protect operations from today’s attacks and tomorrow’s threats.”

Medigate has a number of competitors looking at medical device and network security in the healthcare industry. Medcrypt, a recent graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator, raised $5.3 million earlier this year to tackle the problem and other companies, like Elektra Labs, are also looking at the security profiles of devices and therapies as part of an overall assessment of their efficacy.

 


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Europe is prepared to rule over 5G cybersecurity

18:23 | 25 February

The European Commission’s digital commissioner has warned the mobile industry to expect it to act over security concerns attached to Chinese network equipment makers.

The Commission is considering a defacto ban on kit made by Chinese companies including Huawei in the face of security and espionage concerns, per Reuters.

Appearing on stage at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow in Barcelona today, Mariya Gabriel, European commissioner for digital economy and society, flagged network “cybersecurity” during her scheduled keynote, warning delegates it’s stating the obvious for her to say that “when 5G services become mission critical 5G networks need to be secure”.

Geopolitical concerns between the West and China are being accelerated and pushed to the fore as the era of 5G network upgrades approach, as well as by ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China over trade.

“I’m well away of the unrest among all of you key actors in the telecoms sectors caused by the ongoing discussions around the cybersecurity of 5G,” Gabriel continued, fleshing out the Commission’s current thinking. “Let me reassure you: The Commission takes your view very seriously. Because you need to run these systems everyday. Nobody is helped by premature decisions based on partial analysis of the facts.

“However it is also clear that Europe has to have a common approach to this challenge. And we need to bring it on the table soon. Otherwise there is a risk that fragmentation rises because of diverging decisions taken by Member States trying to protect themselves.”

“We all know that this fragmentation damages the digital single market. So therefore we are working on this important matter with priority. And to the Commission we will take steps soon,” she added.

The theme of this year’s show is “intelligent connectivity”; the notion that the incoming 5G networks will not only create links between people and (many, many more) things but understand the connections they’re making at a greater depth and resolution than has been possible before, leveraging the big data generated by many more connections to power automated decision-making in near real time, with low latency another touted 5G benefit (as well as many more connections per cell).

Futuristic scenarios being floated include connected cars neatly pulling to the sides of the road ahead of an ambulance rushing a patient to hospital — or indeed medical operations being aided and even directed remotely in real-time via 5G networks supporting high resolution real-time video streaming.

But for every touted benefit there are easy to envisage risks to network technology that’s being designed to connect everything all of the time — thereby creating a new and more powerful layer of critical infrastructure society will be relying upon.

Last fall the Australia government issued new security guidelines for 5G networks that essential block Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE from providing equipment to operators — justifying the move by saying that differences in the way 5G operates compared to previous network generations introduces new risks to national security.

New Zealand followed suit shortly after, saying kit from the Chinese companies posed a significant risk to national security.

While in the U.S. President Trump has made 5G network security a national security priority since 2017, and a bill was passed last fall banning Chinese companies from supplying certain components and services to government agencies.

The ban is due to take effect over two years but lawmakers have been pressuring to local carriers to drop 5G collaborations with companies such as Huawei.

In Europe the picture is so far more mixed. A UK government report last summer investigating Huawei’s broadband and mobile infrastructure raised further doubts, and last month Germany was reported to be mulling a 5G ban on the Chinese kit maker.

But more recently the two EU Member States have been reported to no longer be leaning towards a total ban — apparently believing any risk can be managed and mitigated by oversight and/or partial restrictions.

It remains to be seen how the Commission could step in to try to harmonize security actions taken by Member States around nascent 5G networks. But it appears prepared to set rules.

That said, Gabriel gave no hint of its thinking today, beyond repeating the Commission’s preferred position of less fragmentation, more harmonization to avoid collateral damage to its overarching Digital Single Market initiative — i.e. if Member States start fragmenting into a patchwork based on varying security concerns.

We’ve reached out to the Commission for further comment and will update this story with any additional context.

During the keynote she was careful to talk up the transformative potential of 5G connectivity while also saying innovation must work in lock-step with European “values”.

“Europe has to keep pace with other regions and early movers while making sure that its citizens and businesses benefit swiftly from the new infrastructures and the many applications that will be built on top of them,” she said.

“Digital is helping us and we need to reap its opportunities, mitigate its risks and make sure it is respectful of our values as much as driven by innovation. Innovation and values. Two key words. That is the vision we have delivered in terms of the defence for our citizens in Europe. Together we have decided to construct a Digital Single Market that reflects the values and principles upon which the European Union has been built.”

Her speech also focused on AI, with the commissioner highlighting various EC initiatives to invest in and support private sector investment in artificial intelligence — saying it’s targeting €20BN in “AI-directed investment” across the private and public sector by 2020, with the goal for the next decade being “to reach the same amount as an annual average” — and calling on the private sector to “contribute to ensure that Europe reaches the level of investment needed for it to become a world stage leader also in AI”.

But again she stressed the need for technology developments to be thoughtfully managed so they reflect the underlying society rather than negatively disrupting it. The goal should be what she dubbed “human-centric AI”.

“When we talk about AI and new technologies development for us Europeans it is not only about investing. It is mainly about shaping AI in a way that reflects our European values and principles. An ethical approach to AI is key to enable competitiveness — it will generate user trust and help facilitate its uptake,” she said.

“Trust is the key word. There is no other way. It is only by ensuring trustworthiness that Europe will position itself as a leader in cutting edge, secure and ethical AI. And that European citizens will enjoy AI’s benefits.”

 


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WICASTR brings data to the edge

18:57 | 4 December

Content distribution is hard. You want to keep enough of it close enough to favorite customers so they don’t have to wait and reduce latency for new data. That’s why WICASTR created the SMART Edge Platform, a system for sending content to the very edges of the network, including compatible local routers and access points.

“WICASTR is an ‘all in one solution’ for edge computing,” said founder Armine Saidi. “We are like Android ecosystem but for access points, routers and other edge devices: we have hardware, operating system and app store solutions to develop or deploy applications at the extreme edge with a simple 1-click solution.”

The company raised $1 million and went through TechStars. Their edge platform was inspired by the events of the Arab Spring. The founders wanted to create a system that would sustain damage caused by governments trying to shut down networks.

“The team embarked on a mission to create technology to facilitate seamless and uninterrupted communications and content distribution via all smart devices in the event of deliberate mobile network shutdown by governments,” said Saidi. This means devices on the network can act as content providers, thereby ensuring data can’t go down during an attack.

The team has been together for seven years and they have “deep domain expertise in IoT, wireless, software, hardware development, manufacturing and distribution.” They’ve launched with over 20 paying clients and work with Intel, Cisco, and Deutsche Telekom to build out powerful edge delivery.

 


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Dubai startup raises $1.5m to use AI to reduce vehicle accidents and opens US office in Detroit

14:47 | 24 October

Derq aims to make cars smarter and recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Techstars Mobility Accelerator. In addition to growing its team and opening an office in Detroit, the company plans on using the cash to advance its tech that aims to reduce vehicle accidents by improving how cars and infrastructure talk to each other.

The company sees its product integrating into existing and future vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communication. Derq has developed and patented an application layer that sits between these communication layers and aims to predict incidents such as crashes and then notifies nearby drivers — something that will gain even more relevance as more autonomous vehicles hit the road.

The project was spun out of MIT where the founder and CEO Georges Aoude earned a Ph.D in aerospace engineering in 2011. The company is based in Dubai and plans to soon open its first office in the US in downtown Detroit and seek partnerships with auto makers.

Earlier this month, Derq signed an agreement with Dubai-based agencies to trial its technology. The company says this Memorandum of Understanding aims to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of connected vehicle technology in regards to road safety.

“Dubai is at the forefront of adopting innovative technologies that focus on improving road safety and autonomous vehicle deployments. We’re honored to be working with Smart Dubai Office, Roads and Transport Authority and Dubai Oasis Authority to implement Derq’s road safety technology in Dubai’s Silicon Oasis,” said Dr. Georges Aoude, CEO for Derq in a blog post. “While headquartered in Dubai, we recently graduated from Techstars Mobility in Detroit, and felt it was important to open an office in Detroit – the epicenter of mobility innovation in the U.S. Our recent seed round will help Derq establish a team here, grow our team in Dubai and continue improving our technology.”

The vehicle communication sector is quickly gaining new entrants as more companies try to become a key part of what is sure to be an important communication layer. Derq sits at an interesting vantage point by serving both V2V and V2I though they’re going to have to sell their vision to auto makers, auto suppliers and government regulators, which could prove a tougher challenge than building the product.

 


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Keep calm and automate to unlock the opportunity in the vertical Internet of Things

21:30 | 28 September

Since the term Internet of Things, or IoT, was coined in 1999, the industry has had its share of hype, consternation, successes, and now even twitter parody accounts (@InternetOfShit).

Although large-scale advertising campaigns for the IoT have become mainstream (seen any IBM Watson, Ring, or GE Digital ads lately?), recent news that GE had throttled growth expectations for its Predix IoT platform begs the following questions.

What is the current state of Industrial IoT?  Where are the areas of opportunity and what will emerge as winners?

As an Entrepreneur in IoT for the last decade helping to find product/market fit for companies like Greenwave Systems and August Home, I believe there are significant opportunities in the Industrial IoT segment, a less visible, but a significantly larger compliment to Consumer IoT.

Leveraging the baseline of consumer IoT and widespread adoption of Smart Grid and Telematics technologies, new “Verticalized IoT” startups – those attacking a specific industry vertical with an offering tailored to their unique requirements – will power the next wave of our industry’s evolution.

Where at we at with Industrial IoT?

Case studies have begun to quantify the early impact of Industrial IoT deployments.  The city of Barcelona saves $37 million a year, thanks to smart lighting.  Hershey used IoT sensors and Microsoft Azure algorithms for machine learning to improve production efficiencies on a Twizzler candy line.  Each 1% change in sizing (i.e. from 2.02 oz. to 2.00 oz.) for Twizzlers in a 14,000-pound holding tank resulted in a savings of $500,000.

OSI Soft, a leading enterprise infrastructure system to connect sensor-based data, systems, and people helped #2 Gold Producer Barrick save over a $1 million/mo in just one plant by optimizing oxygen consumption for production.

Large companies such as GE, IBM, and Verizon, and startups like Relayr, Greenwave, and Sight Machine have begun to partner accelerate overall adoption.  Strategic partnerships, large marketing campaigns, and early successes have led to some lofty growth projections:

  • McKinsey & Co. estimates a potential economic impact of IoT systems of as much as $11.1 trillion per year in 2025.  Approximately 70% of the value is derived from B2B applications.

  • GE believes the IoT will add $10 to $15 trillion to worldwide GDP growth by 2030—the equivalent of China’s entire current economy.

  • Intel forecasts 200 billion connected devices by 2020, nearly 25 connected devices for every person on earth.

  • IBM believes that making sense of data embedded in intelligent devices is creating a significant market opportunity that is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020.

Despite these compelling statistics, there are problems with current approaches.  For example, IBM believes almost 90 percent of the data captured via the IoT is never acted upon.

McKinsey also found that currently only 1% of sensor data from an oil rig with 30,000+ sensors is examined.

Why is that?

Consumer IoT will continue to move forward as a vertical opportunity (subject to a separate post) but the Enterprise will need better tools, newer methods to extract industry insights, and the ability to benefit from the information that the IoT enables.

Other Factors for Success

Attacking the Seam of “Incumbents” – In cases where target customers do not want larger system integrations and consulting spend, new “seam startups” have appeared.  Seam startups focus on specific industries and/or segment opportunities so they can fill gaps within the current offerings.

As these specialized seam startups begin to scale, they can partner more deeply with the large platforms and receive strategic investment dollars, but may ultimately choose to compete directly against the platforms.  In a recent LinkedIn post, GE CEO John Flannery reiterated his commitment to the GE Predix platform but discussed how their industry focus was going to center around a narrower band of vertical industries:

“Our strategic focus is on our verticals. We will leverage what we do best in energy, oil and gas, aviation, healthcare, rail, and mining, and draw on our core assets and equipment to deliver the best value and execution. We will broaden and strengthen our partner relationships to create a strong Predix ecosystem.” – John Flannery, CEO, GE

Software focused – As physical hardware becomes price pressured and more ubiquitous connectivity options are available to connect, new companies will be formed with a software focus.  Resting on top of these connectivity/collection solutions, new software offerings in processing & analysis utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning will deliver insights that will impact these industries.

Application software opportunities also exist within the enterprise.  Does hardware truly become a commodity?  Absolutely not!  Hardware, if executed correctly, will create a moat around software and reinforce the differentiation of a verticalized IoT startup.

SaaS / PaaS business model – Given the perceived risk many large companies face as they transition from physical to digital processes, SaaS business models are ideal.  Target customers may lack the capital budgets to purchase, maintain, and secure a new IoT offering and SaaS offers the financial benefit (operating expense vs. capital expense) that has made it so prevalent in today’s enterprise.  Additionally, look for outcome-based business models where efficacy for the engagement can be measured in expense savings, increased revenue, or higher uptimes.

Repeat Performers – According to the Kauffman Foundation, Entrepreneurs who succeeded in a prior venture have a 30% chance of succeeding in their next venture.  First-time entrepreneurs only have an 18% chance of succeeding.  Repeat entrepreneurs who’ve experienced applying communications networking technology to industry have the benefit of IoT experience and rolodexes.  Narrow opportunity windows for seam startups will require laser focus and rapid execution.

What Comes Next?

The next 6 -18 months will be critical in our industry.  Can Industrial IoT leverage successes across smart cities, connected homes, and quantified factories to meet these lofty analyst projections?  Will we as an industry fall into the trough of the hype cycle?

The sheer inevitability of IoT technologies is without debate but the realization of the opportunity takes collaboration among a myriad of sometimes-competitive stakeholders; practitioners, entrepreneurs, regulators, and investors. We believe that Verticalized IoT startups will play a major role to awaken the enterprise and deliver on the promise of Industrial IoT.

What are your thoughts? What industries do you think are most likely to embrace verticalized IoT?  What are IoT approaches that have delighted your customers or helped you gain velocity?  Who are the early leaders?  We’d love to continue the conversation, please tweet us at @KPCB @naywilliams.

 


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Amazon announces a high-end $99 Echo to compete with Apple’s HomePod

20:47 | 27 September

Today’s the big day at Amazon headquarters in Seattle. The company promised a day of big announcements, kicking things off with the announcement of a high-end Echo, a long-awaited replacement for the first generation device. The product is a higher end version of the original home assistant, designed to compete with Apple’s HomePod, but at the much more stomachable price of $99.

The new assistant is available starting today, bringing with it a more premium sound, including a dedicated woofer and tweeter, along with Dolby sound. The device also features the second generation of Amazon’s far-field technology, the microphone array the company uses so Echo can play nicely with other devices.

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As initially rumored, the product features a higher-end cloth covering, though what’s unexpected, is that the product also features six different shells, so the Echo can be coordinated for various rooms in the home.

The long-awaited update is clearly part of Amazon’s attempt to compete with higher-end home devices and make the product more than just another plasticky gadget. Though the far lower price point (which also includes a three pack for $50 off) is far more in line with Amazon’s long-standing position of undercutting the rest of the of the industry.

Amazon’s never had much interest in making a killing from hardware — instead, the goal of Echo has always been getting Alexa in the home, and the brand new Echo is no different. The device does represent more of a focus on audio. As the company noted during today’s event, Echoes are now a more popular platform for streaming Amazon Music than mobile devices.

The new Echo addressed users looking to get more out of their device. The earliest Echo was plasticky, with a pretty dismal speaker (in spite of being marketed as a “smart speaker”), and in the early days that was enough. After all, there wasn’t anything quite like the Echo when it first launch.

With the arrival of Google Home, Apple’s HomePod and myriad other device in the intervening years, that’s clearly no longer the case. As such, the flagship Echo has to do a lot more than just sitting around answering questions.

 


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Six truths for successful startups tackling the older adult care opportunity

21:00 | 9 January

David Glickman Crunch Network Contributor

David Glickman is an entrepreneur-in-residence and digital health advisor for Nokia Growth Partners (NGP) and founder of Lively (now part of GreatCall Inc.).

How to join the network

The current market for older adult care is massive — and growing at an unprecedented rate. According to an AARP report, the 106 million Americans over 50 represent a transformative force that will generate more than $13.5 trillion in annual economic activity by 2032, accounting for more than half of the U.S. GDP. In addition, Deloitte forecasts they will amass $26 trillion in financial assets by 2029.

The older adult care challenge will continue to expand as nearly 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age each day; in fact, research has shown that baby boomers will account for a 73 percent increase in the 65+ population. And, more than 30 million boomers will be managing more than one chronic health condition by 2030, according to the American Hospital Association.

So how will current and future generations take care of the massive surge of parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who live longer and want to stay in their own homes? While the need for ongoing older adult care advances is clear, we’re still not sure what to call it (e.g. elder care, senior care, older adult care — what’s the right phrase to use?). In addition, many entrepreneurs aren’t sure how to make the most of it.

Thankfully, older adults are embracing a variety of health-centric technology initiatives — from telemedicine and remote diagnostics to remote/automated monitoring and home-installed sensors, and I’m seeing the pace of this adoption increasing at a nice clip. We’ve got a ways to go, but the trajectory is in the right direction.

Yet, Accenture predicts that half of digital health startups will fail within the first two years. So how can entrepreneurs not only survive, but also thrive? As an entrepreneur who experienced these challenges firsthand, I’m often asked what we learned or what we could have done better with the gift of hindsight. Thus, here are my six top things for an entrepreneur to consider to create a successful business when building an older adult care product, service or experience.

Choose your words wisely

Labels and word choice matter more for this growing market than other endeavors — people want and deserve labels that preserve their dignity and let them age with grace. As an entrepreneur and investor, I struggled with this daily — and still do.

How do you describe and address your elders properly while still being respectful? Do they prefer “elder,” “older adult,” “senior,” “senior citizen”? Our team at Lively decided “older adult” was the best descriptor for our target audience, but you need to pick which one will resonate with your audience, then commit to it.

Solve specific problems

If you try to be all things to all older adults, you will fail. The older adult community consists of so many micro groups — from youthful 60-year-olds to frail 90-year-olds, sedentary to active, employed to retired, and so on (and frankly, “youthful” and “frail” are not usually age specific, so I caution against segmenting strictly by age — you need multiple filters).

Successful companies focus on one, maybe two, archetypes and provide effective solutions for those individuals. They often serve an extremely specific older adult demographic. Pick an archetype and use your chosen audience as the filter for all other initiatives. As difficult as it is for me to admit (given their fear-based selling and circa 1970 creative and product design), traditional personal emergency pendant companies like Life Alert understand this maniacal focus on targeting, and they do it well.

Dig into distribution

Investors and industry leaders offer startups so many tools for success — funding, product feedback, pilots to get in the door, etc. — but none compare to distribution. Entrepreneurs trying to build an older adult care business need to understand that it is a fragmented market with a complicated sales process, where the buyer is usually more than one person. You not only have to sell to the older adult, but also to the caregiver (often an adult child).

Successful older adult care businesses will be built on a foundation that addresses an incredibly specific audience.

In addition, successful older adult care solutions must fit into the existing workflow or you risk stalling adoption. Distribution is what it is all about in the older adult care business. Without it, you will never reach the scale you need to thrive.

The teams at ClearCare and Caremerge are good examples of companies that focused successfully on distribution. Both worked to understand what it would take to win in their market (home care agencies and senior living communities, respectively) by understanding how to make their product a “must have” rather than a “nice to have.” Once the solution became a “must” to decision makers, they had the will to mandate the solution through their organization.

Prioritize design

It doesn’t matter if you are 10 or 90, everyone appreciates great design. Ignoring design simply because you are targeting an older audience is an enormous, and costly, mistake.

Design for older adult care solutions goes well beyond simple look and feel; great design encompasses the entire customer experience. Design can bring your brand to life by making your product/solution so easy to use (and sell) that it becomes a “must have” for your target audience.

However, it is something that is extremely difficult (some may even argue currently impossible) to achieve at scale. The evolution of Personal Emergency Response (PER) buttons that don’t go around the person’s neck are a prime example: People crave it, yet no vendor has become the solution. I blame design. Our inspiration at Lively was the story of OXO and its focus on older adults leading to ultimate success.

Make the user the ultimate guide

Yes, the older adult should still be your primary focus. I have talked to so many startup founders in the space that lead with the benefits their solution or product provides for the caregiver, family, senior living center, hospital, insurer, etc. … basically every stakeholder other than the older adult themselves. We made that mistake when we launched Lively, but quickly realized that the older adult should take priority.

Design with your defined older adult archetype in mind, first and foremost, from the start, so they “want” it. You need to offer a direct benefit to make a personal, emotional, visceral connection that moves your audience to embrace the technology and make it stick. The 2016 Survey Report from Aging 2.0 is a helpful primer for any entrepreneur trying to break into the older adult care space.

Prototype everything

It may seem like an obvious point, but when many entrepreneurs (me included) think about prototyping, they focus solely on design and user experience. This is indeed crucial but, looking back, prototyping must also include the distribution strategy to succeed in the older adult care market. While in-home research, testing and listening is valuable as you design the experience, you must also spend time thinking about potential distribution strategies and partners.

Bring in potential partners early in the process and get answers to important questions like:

  • Will this fit into the current workflow?
  • How does it fit into the current payment model?
  • What does the partner’s sales cycle look like?
  • What is the real benefit to the user and caregiver?
  • What is the trigger point?
  • How can you reach the user at the exact trigger point?
  • and more.

The IoT opportunity

As the Internet of Things (IoT) evolution takes hold in mainstream consumer culture and smart devices and smart homes become the norm, the opportunity for entrepreneurs to solve older adult care challenges with technology advances will continue to grow. The established tech giants will be moving into the space soon, so now is the time for entrepreneurs to stake their own claim.

Related Articles

Honor Shifts Closer To An On-Demand Model By Offering Elder Care Within Two Hours Of A Request Aging2.0 #30in30in30 World Tour Wants To Find The Best Startups For Seniors Caremerge Aims To Help Coordinate Elder Care Communications

Timing is everything. Industry pundits predict that 50 billion devices and one trillion sensors will come online in the years ahead — from cars and computing devices to appliances and biometric sensors. The opportunities at the intersection of IoT and care are real and achievable. What would have seemed like something out of a Sci-Fi movie 10 years ago now seems like a viable next step as smart home advances and sensors continue to permeate the market. Yet, it is still quite early, and I know firsthand there are many challenges when applying IoT to older adult care solutions.

Michael Rogers may have said it best in a previous AARP report: “Boomer ideals were forged in an era when human rights and individual freedoms were central concerns … Boomers want technology to fit the lives they have made and the values they hold dear.”

Successful older adult care businesses will be built on a foundation that addresses an incredibly specific audience, understands the importance of distribution, makes design and user experience a priority and solves the prototyping puzzle. Entrepreneurs who can create that foundation will be able to reap the rewards of this exploding, yet challenging, market opportunity.

Featured Image: Michael H/Getty Images

 


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This DIY Stranger Things light kit will make you forget about Barb

17:55 | 18 October

Are you and your friends all in love with the same strange girl who bleeds from her head? Does she like waffles? Are you afraid of monsters? Then have we got the Halloween decorations for you. This DIY LED light kit allows you (or Winona Ryder) to communicate with your child who has been taken to the Upside Down using an Arduino board and some clever wiring.

The plans are available as an Instructable and consist primarily of an addressable string of LED lights and an Arduino board. The lights can be controlled individually and the Arduino board simply sends the right signals at the right time so you can tell your Mom that “The Monster is coming” and to “Send Doritos.”

The code, sadly, is a little convoluted but it’s a great effort at building a sort of random word generator. Because the entire thing is so simple, however, it’s well worth digging into. Most version of this I’ve seen involve lots of LEDs and lots of soldering by those addressable LEDs really make things much easier. The best thing? You can connect your Arduino to the Internet and have people send you messages, eventually driving yourself mad as you wait for your son to explain just exactly how he got sucked into the back of the garden shed by a monster.

 


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