Amazon and Samsung invest in battery-free Bluetooth sensor start-up
January 23, 2019
Amazon Web Services, Avery Dennison and Samsung have joined Israeli start-up Wiliot's original investor group for a $30m series B funding round, anticipating a future where paper-thin battery-free Bluetooth sensors connect people with packaging and products.
This brings Wiliot’s total funding to $50m and follows its demonstration of the first-ever sticker-sized Bluetooth sensor tag incorporating an Arm processor powered solely by scavenging energy from ambient radio frequencies. Wiliot made the announcement at this month’s NRF Retail Big Show in New York.
A Wiliot chip glued to a simple antenna printed on plastic or paper can authenticate the proximity of a product by transmitting an encrypted serial number along with weight and temperature data from a device the size of a postage stamp. Eliminating most of the components associated with traditional Bluetooth, these tags can lower sale and maintenance costs.
The tags use nanowatt computing to communicate with any device enabled by Bluetooth Low Energy, such as smartphones, wifi access points and IoT devices that can connect to digital displays, wifi and LTE cellular networks.
On the heels of its first successful tests, Wiliot closed a series B round of funding with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Investment Arm, Samsung Venture Investment and Avery Dennison. These organisations have joined Norwest Venture Partners, 83North, Grove Venture Partners, Qualcomm Ventures and M Ventures to raise an additional $30m of funding.
"We believe that disposable electronics based on battery-free, low-cost systems are the foundation for future IoT systems," said Tal Tamir, Wiliot CEO and co-founder. “We are on the edge of dramatically changing the way products are made, how they are distributed, where and when they are sold, and how they are used and recycled. Re-cycling the radiation around us to power sticker-size sensors can enable new ways for consumers to interact with products that were previously not feasible. Products can share when they are picked up, their temperature or when they need to be replenished. Without batteries or other high-cost components, tags have unlimited power and lifespan, so can be embedded inside of products that were previously unconnected to the internet of things."
Bluetooth tags can be embedded in the production phase of consumer goods, allowing real-time tracking through the manufacturing process, to the warehouse and from the store to the end consumer, all while being sensed for critical information.
At the retail level, the transponder can overcome the limits of human-readable product information on tags or packaging, unlocking interactive engagement through the consumer's own phone or displays.
At home, consumers can communicate with their products to get instructions and reminders of when and how to use them, and Wiliot-enabled containers can automatically reorder themselves when empty.
Valuable products can be tracked in case they are lost or stolen without having to add a dongle with limited battery life. Clothing with the tags can communicate with washing machines to ensure whites never turn pink.
"Wiliot's strategy for battery-free Bluetooth transponders, which sense and communicate without needing specific action by consumers, is very relevant to Avery Dennison's intelligent label strategy," said Francisco Melo, vice president at Avery Dennison. "We believe in a future where every item will have a unique digital identity and a digital life, benefiting both consumers and brands, with relevant and contextual information. We see this as an extension to our world-leading RFID solutions, enabling consumers to connect with products through multiple smartphone and IoT devices from end to end."
Wiliot is a semiconductor company founded by the leadership of the gigabit wifi pioneer Wilocity, a group of wireless engineers experienced in building products and the ecosystems required. Wiliot has a research and development team in Israel and a business development headquarters in San Diego, California.
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