10th NC RIoT X 2016 (1)

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NC RIoT co-chair Larry Steffann opened last Tuesday’s RIoT X event with a bold claim. 

“IoT is the fourth industrial revolution.” 

The words resonated with the crowd of nearly 300 IoT entrepreneurs, investors and enthusiasts, who came together at the PNC Club in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. 

The 10th event of its kind, RIoT X focused on wearables, with a particular eye toward their applications in the sport, fitness and health industries. 

10th NC RIoT X 2016 (2)
Nearly 300 IoT entrepreneurs, investors and enthusiasts gathered for the 10th North Carolina RIoT X at the PNC Club in the Durham Bulls Stadium. Credit: Edgar Walker

The Pitches

After the opening remarks, three wearables companies took center stage, presenting brief pitches and engaging in Q&A with the crowd. 

Raleigh-based Valencell opened the pitch session, as company president Steven LeBouef explained that “companies are chasing the idea of how to help people live longer, healthier lives.” 

Valencell’s technology—which can determine heart rate, blood pressure and other biometric measurements—has been licensed for use in some of the most popular wearables on the market, LeBouef says. Outside of improving device accuracy—a recurring theme throughout the evening—LeBouef says that the biggest opportunity area for wearables is improving and adding appeal to the user experience of fitness wearables. 

BioMetrix continued the pitch session (Read our feature on BioMetrix here.), with co-founder Ivonna Dumanyan explaining the company’s position “at the intersection of big data, IoT and artificial intelligence.” Through a bandaid-like motion capture device that athletes can place on their back and heel, BioMetrix aims to help identify and correct problematic movements. The wearable has implications in injury rehabilitation and prevention efforts, and Dumanyan says it has proven “as accurate as clinical and video solutions.” BioMetrix is currently working with college athletic programs, and is making progress toward bringing on clients at the professional level. 

Former professional soccer player Devon McKenney closed out the pitches with Athlotech, his app that allows youth soccer players and teams to track their progress in practice and games. By utilizing sensor technology within a soccer ball, players can get accurate feedback on a number of different skills, from things as simple as counting the number of times the ball is juggled, to more detailed metrics like ball spin, height and dribbling angles. Athlotech is fundraising after being tested by a number of local soccer players. 

The Panel

The event continued with a short panel discussion on the evolution of wearables, and how each of the panelists’ companies see the future of the wearables industry. 

The panelists: 
Clay Hine - Regional Sales Manager for Nordic Semiconductor 
Andy Davis - Senior Director, Connected Intellegence for Flex 
Rich Brancaccio - Founder of Fokus Labs 

Hine opened the panel by saying the most important and pressing issues facing the continued growth of the wearables market are size, battery life and better integration of hardware—the actual device—and the software powering it. 

Davis built on this idea by saying that wearables are going to increasingly become a part of everyday life, and as demand and awareness continues to grow, device makers must ensure that the digital aspect of the devices are compelling and engaging. Brancaccio—whose original product was geared toward helping students with ADHD overcome distraction—predicted that companies will have an easier time selling wearables in the near future, as consumers have become far more educated about the devices in the past year. 

Davis closed out the panel in a similar fashion to Steffann’s introduction, after discussing how aggregated big data generated from wearables could lead to potential breakthrough health discoveries. 

“IoT saves the world.” 

Growth of RIoT 

RIoT—which stands for Regional Internet of Things—has found a strong foothold in North Carolina, with a Meetup group that is approaching 2,000 members since its inception in May 2014. 

Originally known as Raleigh Internet of Things, Matthew Davis—who is currently VP, Marketing at Reveal Mobile—and the RIoT team rebranded in January 2015 after realizing that the IoT community in North Carolina was far-reaching, and not confined to one area. 

“There’s a lot of talent here in the area; hardware and software, and they all have a hand in IoT,” Davis says. 

This was the second time that the group held an event at the PNC Club, which features a spectacular behind-home-plate view of Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The first event, in January 2015 had about 150 attendees, serving as another reminder of the group’s growth over that past 18 months. 

Outside of the growth in attendance, Davis says that interest in RIoT — and IoT in general — is continuing to increase throughout North Carolina. 

“We have people asking us to speak all the time,” Davis says, a sign that he believes means RIoT is taking strong steps toward achieving its mission: to facilitate major IoT growth in the Triangle community and throughout the state.