For a peek at the future of the Internet of Things, check out the label on a bottle of Scotch whisky. Diageo, the global beer and spirits maker behind Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, is experimenting with liquor bottles featuring a proprietary smart label from Thinfilm embedded with a sensor. These sensors can tell Diageo whether a bottle has been opened. By pairing the bottle with a smartphone app, Diageo gets a flood of useful data about how frequently the customer is pouring a drink and on what days and times.
It’s a heady amount of data to capture and crunch -- tracking millions of bottles at a time -- but a hell of an opportunity. That’s where the new Evrythng platform comes in. Rather than invest in servers, software and developers to organize and parse those billions of bits of data flooding in from their bottle sensors, Diageo sends all its info to Evrythng’s cloud-based service, which spits out a real-time dashboard that Diageo’s marketing team can act on.
“You do this, and you’re turning the nonelectronic into the electronic,” says Evrythng co-founder and CMO Andy Hobsbawm. This move to digitizing everyday products is well underway -- research firm Gartner estimates that there are nearly 5 billion IoT devices in consumer and industry hands today, and that figure should jump to 25 billion by 2020.
Supplying the backend engine to the IoT is New York- and London-based Evrythng’s raison d’être. The company counts on the fact that IoT manufacturers want to devote their time and energy to their products, not to building out a big data department to organize information that’s collected from them. Evrythng operates a PaaS (platform as a service) model: Customers pay a license fee to sync their internet-connected products to the cloud service, in addition to a cost per thousand of unique packaged products active on the system -- or, in the case of durable appliances that last for years, an annual fee per connected product.
By outsourcing that data capture, a hardware manufacturer can accelerate its learning curve. “What this enables is incredibly granular insight,” says Simon Coombes, CTO of lighting-tech startup Gooee, an Evrythng customer that plugs its sensors into banks of LED systems used in commercial, industrial and office environments. “Think of a luxury retail setting, where the quality of the light can drastically affect the look of the product on display. Because we can heat-map a retail setting, we can study merchandising and proactively shift the intensity of the lights to make the product look better. We can study behavior in real time, adjust accordingly and suddenly, we’re driving sales.”
Gooee’s example explains why manufacturers and marketers are salivating over the IoT revolution. That and the size of the global market helped Evrythng raise $7 million in Series A funds in 2014 from Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström’s Atomico and New York-based BHLP (with a big contribution from networking giant Cisco), London-based Dawn Capital and Samsung. The appeal is that their platform turns every IoT device into a sort of customer.
“Think of us like a Salesforce.com for things,” Hobsbawm says. “Instead of managing database records about individual customers, we manage dynamic data profiles for individual products.”