R/GA is betting big on the internet of things’ next phase–and it doesn’t involve smart fridges or speakers.
The internet of things has never quite found its footing, and some proclaimthe once-hyped concept is dead. Even as tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google pour money into smart speakers, there’s no real, tangible use for them. Other companies have tried–to little avail–to sell us dumb smart products like smart refrigerators and smart water bottles. And smart homes? They spy on users–and they’re just plain annoying.
For Matt Webb, a technologist at R/GA London, the potential of the internet of things isn’t inside your home. It’s outside of it. “It’s where we can finally start assembling parts to make products or services or companies with a smaller number of people or with greater ambition than before,” he says. “IoT is solving problems in the business space really clearly.”
Webb is the managing director of R/GA London’s IoT Venture Studio, where every year the agency invests in and works with nine startups for three months. Today the studio announced its 2018 startups, and the new batch of companies are evidence for Webb’s belief that the internet of things isn’t dead. Instead, we’re just starting to explore what can be done when connectivity transcends the screen and enters the real world. Each startup has its own vision for the next generation of IoT. Here are their ideas.
ENDING PACKAGING AND FOOD WASTE
Americans waste about 60 million tons of fresh produce every year, and as much as 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is never eaten. One of the new R/GA incubees, a company called Mimica, is trying to tackle this problem using a food label that tracks how hot or cold the outside temperature is for a given food item. The startup’s smart label then uses that information to more accurately tell consumers that something in their pantry or fridge has gone bad. And as they track this data over time, perhaps they could tell that food goes bad faster on particular truck routes–enabling shipping companies to find more efficient ways to transport food. It’s technically IoT, because each label acts as a sensor, but it’s certainly a lot more useful than a smart coffee maker.