WASHINGTON — An event poster featuring lovable 80′s alien E.T. declares, “In the future EVERYTHING PHONES HOME.” This set the vision for several hundred people gathered at downtown startup incubator 1776 on August 27th to launch Internet of Things DC.
While the inaugural event featured several speakers and demos, founder and organizer Greg Toth said future events will include workshops, hackathons and community service projects. The event was a collaborative effort between Internet of Things DC, Nova Labs, and the Data Innovation DC Meetup group. The event was sponsored by Rockville, MD-based Hillcrest Labs, which specializes in motion sensing and motion processing solutions.
“We’re bringing together the business, technology and investor communities in the Washington DC area who are interested in building and using the Internet of Things,” Toth said.
Toth emphasized that the DC area is in a unique position because of the convergence of people and organizations involved in technology, entrepreneurship and investment, data analytics, and policy making.
Nova Labs (Makerspace in Reston)
Highlighting his point, Toth introduced Nova Labs, a well organized and active hardware-focused makerspace located just outside of downtown DC in Reston, Virginia. Nova Labs Co-Founder Justin Leto spoke about how and why the space exists.
“As a country, we’ve forgotten how to make physical things. We need to get back to that,” Leto said.
He recounted how 15 founders sat around a table and agreed to lease a 1600 sqft facility in early 2012 that has since quadrupled its membership and doubled in size. Leto invited those expressing an interest in hardware development to visit the space and learn more about the maker community.
Nova Labs contributed its own IoT demo for good measure with the help of member Brian Briggman. Briggman showed off a prototype of a 3D printer he connected to the internet using a Raspberry Pi.
The solution is the beginning of a 3D Fax machine, which he used to wirelessly 3D print keys that could open the same model of a deadbolt lock used by 80% of residential homes.
While building the solution, Briggman realized that popular deadbolt manufacturers use a simple 5 digit code to indicate how the key was cut. Just by seeing the key or a photograph of the key, someone could recreate the key in 4 minutes using a web app and a hobbyist-level 3D printer.
The goal of the demo was to dampen fears that an IoT home security solution could be any less safe than a common deadbolt lock.
The main presenters included venture-backed home automation startup SmartThings, construction site monitoring startup Deconstruction, the U.S. State Department and business investment and consulting company Tandem.
SmartThings (Georgetown IoT Startup)
SmartThings CTO Jeff Hagins showed how a robust home automation platform was already a reality. On display at the podium were two lamps he controlled from his smartphone. “The smartphone is the perfect console for the physical world,” he said.
He described a number of scenarios where internet-connected smart devices help in the home.
“It’s important for me to know I shut the garage door when I left the house,” Hagins said.
SmartThings provides open source libraries that allow developers to easily add apps and connect devices to the platform.
“You don’t have to worry about implementing specific protocols — bluetooth, XBee, WiFi. All that is taken care of,” he added.
Noting the size and enthusiasm of the IoT crowd Hagins admitted, “Silicon Valley has nothing like this.”
Deconstruction Inc. (An IoT Startup in DC/Baltimore)
Deconstruction CEO Brendan Robinson seeks to help builders monitor construction sites for noise and vibration to ensure they’re being good neighbors (slide deck).
As child of the 80s, Robinson diverted a number of times to reference the Ghostbusters and Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal and The Muppets, which he credits for his creativity.
Robinson argues that complex event processing, big data and predictive analytics, and creative visualization need to be combined to maximize the potential of IoT.
“Without services there is no Internet of Things,” he said.
U.S. Department of State (Federal Government)
Brian Nordmann, Director of Verification and Transparency Technologies for the U.S. Department of State is looking for solutions from citizens to better monitor the eradication of weapons of mass destruction (slide deck).
During his talk, “From Lettuce to Warheads,” Nordmann revealed that while other departments are cash-strapped, the U.S. Department of State has the money to fund IoT projects that enhance U.S. monitoring capabilities. Awards could range from $500 to half a million dollars depending on the project.
Tandem (Business advisor and investor in DC)
Tandem CEO Mike McDevitt described some of the challenges founders face when raising capital.
Referencing the A-Team’s John “Hannibal” Smith, McDevitt stressed, “You need to have a plan. The plan has to be detailed to show exactly what you aim to execute on and who is responsible for executing each part of that plan. Having a team of big league advisors with no responsibility is not enough.”
McDevitt added that when he’s reviewing business plans he has two piles: a “No” pile and a “Hell Yes” pile.
The overall message was that raising capital is a competitive process. Having a detailed business plan that shows realistic financials and brings into clear focus how the company will execute on its goals builds credibility for the team. Being up front about intentions and expectations and doing the legwork to find a financing partner that focuses on that area of investment is critical.
Le-Marie Thompson (@nettadonna) tweeted: “Hardware Engineers, our time seems to have come, the Internet of Things needs the skills.”
“I learned that the Internet of Things has gone way beyond GPS dog collars.” -Donita Prakash, CEO of Other Division, Inc.
Brent Bovenzi (@bbovenzi) tweeted: “You can now 3D fax something”
The next IoT DC meetup is already being planned, so stay tuned.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an industry moniker describing the use of data-driven devices that are networked together to perform useful tasks ranging anywhere from home and industrial automation to lifestyle enhancement.
Software is out, Hardware is in
The technology is nothing new, but the cost and availability of internet accessible hardware platforms are now within reach of inventors and innovation is flourishing. As a result, investors and entrepreneurs are seeing increased opportunity and lower risk in hardware startups. This positions hardware engineers and makers at the center of the movement.
IoT encompasses embedded controllers, sensors and actuators, biomedical devices, compact power sources, wireless networking, mobile and web apps, cloud computing, and large-scale data analytics.
Internet of things DC
Internet of Things DC was formed to bring together the business, technology and investor communities in the Washington DC area who are interested in building and using the Internet of Things.
For more information
On the Web: www.iotdc.org
Internet of Things DC Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/Internet-of-Things-DC
Contact: Greg Toth – info [at] iotdc.org