Ukraine: The Silicon Valley of IoT Hardware?
Ukraine is a hidden gem of high-tech IoT development. Here's how its workers are tackling problems from agriculture to healthcare.
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When you think of IoT and hardware innovation, Ukraine is a country that might not come first to mind. It's a country that's home to a plethora of highly educated and talented programmers with access to lucrative remote work thanks to the USD-to-Ukrainian Hryvnia conversion rate. Further, VC funding is typically lower than that of the US and many UMEA countries, and thus the cost prototyping and product development can be an acute pain point. However, the country is home to over 2,000 startups including Grammarly, Terrasoft, and Looksery, and an ecosystem that's building around IoT. Currently, more than 100 multinational tech giants have R&D offices in Ukraine including Samsung, Boeing, Siemens, and Oracle.
In late 2015, Microsoft opened an IoT Lab in Kyiv, and in June this year, mobile operator Lifecell and IoT Ukraine created the first in Ukraine Internet of Things laboratory. If you were looking for the next hub of IoT innovation, you might want to look beyond Europe and Asia towards Ukraine. Let's take a look at some of the most interesting hardware innovations in IoT, not all have gone to market, but they offer some pretty interesting products:
It's not all that often that I come across products that I am desperate to review, let alone buy. But this is one of those times. Senstone is creating a wearable device that enables you to take notes by recording your voice. A small audio recording device attaches to your clothing and the wearer taps on it to start recording and taps to stop recording. Far easier than fiddling with a phone app. Further, it syncs to the cloud, where a software platform converts voice memos into text, extracts keywords, to-dos, and analyzes your speech patterns.
The product has yet to go to market but the company had successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter earlier this year of was the winner of the Best B2C product at this year's IT Arena conference in Lviv, winning an invitation to the Seedstars Ukraine national final.
Led by a team of engineers and cardiologists, Cardiomo is intent on creating the world's first consumer health monitoring ecosystem. It's a wearable product containing an ECG heart rate monitor, respiration sensors and electrodes that sit against the skin below the heart. It measures heart rate, breathing rate, and skin temperature data and can recognize and up to 40 diseases including strokes and heart attacks. The corresponding software offers the wearer health and lifestyle recommendations with the added kicker that it can send an alarm message to relatives, caregivers and doctors if the user doesn't respond to advice. It's currently available for preorder.
In many countries, IoT connected utilities are commonplace, and Ecoisme is offering the next stage of a truly smart home with their Energy Monitoring System, a device that connects to a single outlet in your house and uses an easily-installed clamp to attach to your main power line, automatically recognizing the power profiles of your devices. This lets you track energy usage, get alerts when you leave devices like irons, hair curlers, or AC units on, and can even get reminders to close the fridge door. In addition, it can talk to other smart devices on your network, letting you manage them from a single app, and can let you weed out inefficient devices to help bring down your energy bills.
The company is currently undertaking an 8-month pilot project with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) an eight-month pilot project to improve energy efficiency in the emirate after their participation in a three-month acceleration program in Dubai Future Accelerators. The startup this year received €80,000 in funding investment from Hubraum and its backer Deutsche Telekom and was selected to participate in Richard Branson’s Virgin Media Accelerator program. The first batch is expected to be released this year.
SolarGaps have created “the world’s first solar smart blinds,” plug and play blinds that automatically track the sun and generate electricity that can be used to power home or office devices. An alternative to solar panels, a square meter of SolarGaps blinds can produce 100 watt-hours of electricity per day when mounted outside the window, or up to 50 watt-hours per day when mounted inside, which is "enough to power 30 LED light bulbs or three MacBooks."
A corresponding app allows remote monitoring and opening and closing and there's integration with smart devices like Google Home, Echo and Nest Thermostat. Excess electricity can be stored and sent back to the grid, allowing the user to sell energy back to your power company. The company successfully crowdfunded in June this year and while the prices are high compared to the returns of solar energy, as with all new tech, these are a product that I believe will increase in popularity as the company is able to scale manufacturing.
Showing that sustainability is an integral part of Ukranian innovation, Helio Pulse is creating a high-performance solar collector concentrator for home and industrial use. The energy generated is used to heat water up to 250 ° С, achieved by concentrating the sun's rays that fall on the mirror and aiming at the tube that is constantly in focus.
The HelioPulse system can be used for heating water for hot water supply, heating, heating pools industrial applications. The company intends to integrate the product with corresponding smart home platforms. According to the creators I spoke to, the financial return is 2-4 times faster than that of classical solar collectors.
The company are preparing a commercial sample and readying themselves for small-scale production. Helio Pulse are finalists this month in Climate Launchpad, the world’s largest green business idea competition
There are 570,000,000 farms in the world, and 500,000,000 of them are smaller than 2 hectares, and they cannot afford high tech devices to make their farms effective. As a result, their soil is exhausted and small farmers have to put more and more chemicals into the ground for plants to grow.
Agri eye combines the technologies of remote sensing and soil analysis to bring high efficiency to small land farmers through a high-performance multispectral camera carried by a drone and online mapping service, a system for collecting and monitoring data on sown areas, a navigation system for quality control of agricultural machinery, and cloud-based analytical system for the collection, storage, and intelligent data processing algorithms based on Machine Learning and Intelligent Prediction. When the data is processed, mapping shows where and in which quantities fertilizers and herbicides should be applied, which helps to optimize and reduce the use of chemicals.
While a product like Pet Cube may not be solving universal problems like agriculture and health monitoring, pet owners make up a huge part of the population, most of whom are willing to spend money on their pets. Pet Cube is a smart video camera that enables owners to keep an eye on their pets remotely-they can see them and talk to them and, depending on which device they purchase, either play with them with a laser pointer game or dispense treats on a schedule or at the click of a button. Pet Cube is considered one of the poster children of success for the Ukraine tech community and won the Europas Award for the Best Hardware Startup in 2014.
Whether you're looking for somewhere to invest, new team members, or examples of the latest in innovation, take a look at Ukraine. Even better, go for a visit and explore the startup scene that's just about to explode on the international consciousness.
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