WASHINGTON, DC - An event poster featuring lovable 80's alien E.T. declares, “In the future EVERYTHING PHONES HOME.” This set the vision for more than a hundred people who gathered on August 27 at downtown startup incubator 1776 to launch Internet of Things DC. (event agenda slide here)
“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,” said Greg Toth, founder and organizer of the group. He went on to describe the purpose and vision of this new community and how it brings together a diverse yet interconnected set of people and organizations in the DC area. (slide deck here)
"Many of the underlying technologies have been around for a while, and recent advances in miniature sensors, low power microprocessors, wireless networking, cloud computing, mobile applications, and big data analytics have all come together to provide the right ingredients for making the Internet of Things a reality," says Toth. He goes on to add that the DC area is in a unique position because of its combination of people and organizations who are involved in technology, use cases, entrepreneurship and investment, data analytics, and policymaking.
While the inaugural event featured several speakers and demos, Toth said future events will include meetups, workshops, hackathons and community service projects. The inaugural 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, Maryland based Hillcrest Labs who specializes in motion sensing technology.
Nova Labs is 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 decided to lease a 1,600 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.
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.
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 for sure 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 commented, “Silicon Valley has nothing like this.”
Deconstruction CEO Brendan Robinson seeks to help builders monitor construction sites for noise and vibration to ensure they're being good neighbors. (slide deck here)
As a child of the 80s, Robinson made references to the Ghostbusters as well as Jim Henson's Dark Crystal and The Muppets, which he credits for his creativity. He talked about how creativity is a key aspect of designing services that use the Internet of Things to do something good for business or social purposes.
Robinson argues that complex event processing, big data and predictive analytics, and creative visualization need to be combined to maximize the potential of IoT. These combine to provide a useful service that customers and users can benefit from.
“Without services there is no Internet of Things,” he said. Robinson went on to show the sensor module that gets placed at construction sites to monitor noise, vibration and weather fluctuations. He demonstrated some of the data analytics and visualization applications that combine data logging of past sensor readings with real-time predictions of current and future noise and vibration levels at adjacent property lines. The objective is to reveal valuable information in real time that was previously only available after-the-fact.
Brian Nordmann, Director of Verification and Transparency Technologies for the U.S. Department of State, is looking for innovative and low-cost solutions to better monitor the eradication of weapons of mass destruction. (slide deck here)
During his talk, “From Lettuce to Warheads,” Nordmann talked about how old-school monitoring technologies are large and expensive, with long lead times. Business as usual won't get the job done in the future and innovative approaches from the Internet of Things world may provide better ways to support the mission and help determine future policy.
Nordmann revealed that while other departments are cash-strapped, the U.S. Department of State has 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 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. Those in the Yes pile are the ones that get attention and he gave the audience tips for getting on the Yes pile.
The overall message was that raising capital is a hard process, and to make it efficient you should have a detailed business plan that shows how you will execute your goal, builds credibility for you and the team, and is logical in its financials. Working to be clear on your financial needs and trying to find a financing partner that focuses on that area of investment is also key.
People took to Twitter and the meetup.com event page to give their feedback and reactions to the event, as well as commenting to organizers, presenters and fellow attendees. Overall the response was very positive and many people were excited and inspired by the event and are looking forward to the next meetup.
The next IoT DC meetup is already being planned, so stay tuned.
Greg Toth is on the lookout for interesting and relevant speakers, places to meet, and corporate sponsors, so if you're interested please contact him at info [at] iotdc.org
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.
The goals are to bring people together, learn and discover, socialize and collaborate, get inspired, and contribute something back to the broader community.
This is done through meetups, workshops, hackathons and community service projects throughout the Washington DC metro area.
For more information, visit: www.iotdc.org
To join the Meetup group, visit: www.meetup.com/Internet-of-Things-DC
Contact: Greg Toth - info [at] iotdc.org