Finding the next Fitbit: US-based Wearable IoT World to launch accelerators in Hong Kong, Shenzhen to tap connected devices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 6:07pm

Consumers will soon be wearing devices to map their moods and help them make decisions and businesses must keep pace or risk losing out, according to the head of a US-run accelerator for start-ups specialising in wearables which is set to open a branch in Hong Kong soon.

Redg Snodgrass, CEO and co-founder of Wearable IoT World, a San Francisco-based accelerator aiding start-ups build up the Internet of Things (IoT), said the new technology has vast potential.

The IoT refers to a network of connected gadgets, including wearables and smart devices, that can exchange data - “talk to each other” - using embedded sensors and software, thus obviating the need for human directions or commands.

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Snodgrass said corporations must think of better ways to utilise IoT devices as people become more used to monitoring their every move through wearables and base decisions on the wealth of data collected.

Giving the example of a mother who tracks her child’s emotional state during the day and finds a dip after the youngster eats some candy, Snodgrass said such information could be of value to both parents and businesses.

“When you see that your kid feels [irritable] when they eat a candy bar, you’re going to change your buying decisions, which is going to be a huge shift,” Snodgrass said.

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“It’s really important to understand that emotion is going to be a component of buying things in the future. It already is, but we’re going to be able to quantify it and understand it.”

Internet of Things devices are proving increasingly popular, with the number of connected devices expected to reach 30 billion by 2020.

The global market for IoT is predicted to hit US$1.7 trillion in 2020, up from US$665.8 billion in 2014, with devices taking 31.8 per cent of this total, according to International Data Corporation.

Wearable IoT World has partnered with Cyberport and Radiant Venture Capital to create the US-Pan Asia IoT Superhighway accelerator.

The accelerator, which is supported by a US$4.5 million fund led by Radiant Venture Capital, is now accepting applications to start the 15-week programme in May in Hong Kong. A similar programme in Shenzhen will start in the third quarter of this year.

“We are coming together to connect the world’s two largest markets, the US and China, around IoT. Hong Kong will be our hub. It will be a launchpad into China and Singapore and Southeast Asia,” the company said.

Its launch in Hong Kong comes after the city’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced a HK$2 billion matching fund for investment in start-ups in his policy address last week.

Leung also promised to open up government data and use technology to turn Hong Kong into a smart city, or one that uses the IoT to function more efficiently, such as providing real-time updates of bus schedules at bus stops.

The IoT programme will accept international and local teams and help them develop ideas into prototypes, or build on these to create a product that is ready for the market, said Kyle Ellicott, chief labs officer for Wearable IoT World.

More than 80 companies have passed through the accelerator over the past two years, raising a total of US$85 million in capital.

Companies who received mentorship and support from the accelerator’s 15-week programme include Grush, a toothbrush linked to a game to encourage children to clean their teeth properly and Skully, a motorcycle helmet that lets wearers see behind them.

Andreas Birnik, CEO of 3D pen start-up CreoPop, itself a graduate of the Wearable IoT World accelerator, said the programme allowed his team to break down the steps needed to get their product to market.

“It’s not a big mystery thing. It’s about breaking this down into pieces, having top-class service providers and working that methodology,” he said.

CreoPop is now stocked in more than 1,000 Best Buy electronics stores in the United States.

The Wearable IoT World programmes in Asia are backed by Radiant Venture Capital, which led a U$4.5 million fund for the expansion alongside investors TEEC Angel Fund and wCapital.

“As an investment company, we look for opportunities and we see a great one because the IoT and wearable market has gone through a very rapid growth, and we believe it is really just starting to happen,” said Gordon Yen, managing director of Radiant Venture Capital.

Yen highlighted figures from the China Academy of Telecommunication Research which said the Chinese wearable market grew five-fold to 12 billion yuan (US$1.82 billion) in 2015 compared to 2014.

Hong Kong’s traditional manufacturers are also interested in the industrial potential for IoT, Yen said.