The Connected Future Is Now

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Why We Launched the R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator

While smart objects and connected hardware have been discussed for years, we wanted to think more broadly about this space and look at how digital products are converging with digital services

Contributed by:
Richard Ting, EVP, Global Executive Creative Director, Mobile & Social Platforms

In 2006, Adam Greenfield, author of Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing, visited R/GA to share his vision of a world where all devices and objects would be connected and able to communicate with each other. Smart buildings, smart homes, sensorladen wearables, and networked street signs would be all around us. At the time, that vision seemed like science fiction because most agencies were still wrestling with the nuances of the nascent mobile and social landscape. However, seven years later, that vision is quickly becoming a reality as our lives are being reshaped, our communities are being transformed, and our cities are being reinvented just as the Internet we currently know is evolving beyond our desktop screens and mobile devices.

New devices, wearables, and sensors are being introduced to the world, which can now monitor their environments, provide updates, receive directions, take action on those directions, and essentially talk to each other. This connected devices revolution marks a major leap forward for the Internet as the convergence of digital products and digital services accelerates and spills out into the physical world. However, consumers don’t want connected devices just for the sake of being more connected; they want to get more value, personalization, and earned data insights from these devices.

This is why R/GA decided to focus our inaugural start-up accelerator on the topic of connected devices. While smart objects and connected hardware have been discussed for years, we wanted to think more broadly about this space and look at how digital products are converging with digital services. This topic not only represents the future of digital products but also builds on the expertise that R/GA developed during our work on the award-winning Nike+ FuelBand, a digital product that many in the start-up community consider the pioneer of connected devices.

We also believe that the launch of our Connected Devices Accelerator is perfectly timed as the entire connected devices industry is buzzing with momentum. While large companies like Amazon, Google, and Nike are creating great products in the connected devices space, we also see a ton of amazing energy coming out of the start-up community. Connected device start-ups like Canary, Loop, and Nest are pushing forward on the next wave of product innovation and providing value for both the consumer facing side and also large-scale enterprises.

The venture capital community has also taken notice of the growth in the connected devices space and is starting to place big bets on upstart activitytracking companies like Fitbit, which raised a $43-million round in August 2013, and the Jawbone Up, which raised a $100-million round in September 2013. Other notable venture-backed investments that indicate a rising tide for connected devices include Zubie, a Best Buy-backed connected car gadget company that scored $8 million in financing, and Estimote, a Bluetooth beacon company that raised $3.1 million in financing in December 2013.

While the momentum in connected devices is heating up, we realize that this industry is still in its infancy, and we are eager to contribute to it. With that said, we carefully selected for our R/GA Connected-Devices Accelerator a portfolio of 10 start-ups that represent a diverse array of verticals including healthcare, the connected home, child care, retail, and navigation. Below are brief descriptions of the 10 start-ups that we selected for our class of 2014. We hope that the trends you read about here will excite you, motivate you, and inspire you to go out and create the future. These are exciting times indeed!


Class of 2014

01. Enertiv: Revolutionizing building energy management with real time data.
02. Footmarks: Transforming engagement in traditional retail with sensors that can detect consumers.
03. Grove: Powering the urban farming revolution.
04. Hammerhead Navigation: Heads-up navigation display for bicyclists with integrated social community.
05. Keen Home: Developing intelligent devices for your home, starting with a connected air vent.
06. KyteLabs: Consumer product that brings connectivity to everyday living.
07. Owlet Baby Care: The first baby health monitor that tracks what really matters.
08. ringblingz: A social notification platform that keeps you connected.
09. QoL: Improving respiratory health and fitness through innovative devices.
10. Qualia Health: Using data science to measure changes in overall health and improve lives.