Energy high at London IoT start-up event

Billed as the place to discover today’s rising companies within the London hardware and IoT scene and connect with the people reinventing the future of the Internet of Things (IoT), I naturally ensured I attended Show Me the Product, Hardware Pioneers‘ hardware, wearables, and IoT start-up demo night. What I feared encountering was a poorly-planned Shark Tank/Dragon’s Den emulation, with bored-looking journalists battling to derail speakers by berating their respective business models. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The British are notoriously reserved when it comes to networking, yet upon entry I immediately struck conversations with those who have studied IoT (I’m enthralled that this is now course subject matter) and those heavily invested in the periphery of the IoT revolution, specifically patent protection and incubating such start-ups to mass-market success.

Another sign that my preconception was wildly out of tune was the need to scramble to obtain one of the few unoccupied seats well before the event kicked off. Once it had, I was treated to the inspired (not exclusively) youth passionately waxing lyrical about their IoT invention, solving problems I wasn’t aware existed with connected technology.

The energy in the room was unexpected and I pinpointed this to be borne from the short and sharp format. Those presenting their wares had strictly three minutes (enforced by iPad timer) to convey their message and, critically, no slides were permitted. This meant presenters were forced to engage the audience, demanding shows of hands to identify target audiences and some actively involving the audience themselves.

One start-up showed their wireless mesh network temperature sensors, reducing manual monitoring which invariably falls in the hands of over-qualified engineers. Another demonstrated a child tracker where paired wristbands alert one another if a selected proximity is exceeded. A Smart Menu, designed to live on restaurant tables displaying high resolution images and videos of available food and beverages, aimed to allow customers to order directly themselves, freeing up waiting staff to concentrate on service, and enabling pay via NFC.

With the world seemingly obsessed with Pokémon Go, it was no surprise that augmented reality (AR) made an appearance, though not how I expected. Koskigame demoed their AR vision in the form of a family board game. This all sounded a little far-fetched, employing technology for technology’s sake, but the reality is an engaging experience with seemingly limitless possibilities.

An astute reader would have observed that, bar the last example, my report is devoid of any specifics, be that company names, product names, hyperlinks or literally anything. While the ban on slides were one of the events greatest strengths, they were also a big weakness. While I desperately tried to record URLs, email addresses, and other details spoken expeditiously with an obvious eye on the giant countdown, I, and many others I’m sure, failed miserably.

My advice to Hardware Pioneers? Maintain that energy and keep everything the same – well, almost everything. At least permit demonstrators a single slide, to give the audience their product and company details!