See how this innovative wireless technology company is connecting devices without batteries or radios!
Wireless technology has become the center of our daily lives. Yet there are still limitations to the ways wireless devices can connect to the internet and with each other.
Did you know American universities lead the way when it comes to innovation? According to an annual Reuters report of the world’s most innovative universities, more of the most innovative universities are in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. Imagine life without things like the internet, seatbelts, rocket fuel, chemotherapy drugs, solar power, touch screens, CAT scans, flu shots, GPS, Google, television, web browsers, computers, LCD screens, LEDs, insulin and so much more. All these innovations happened as a result of university research.
Connected – always
At the same time, as technology is becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives and into business, universities continue to put an even greater emphasis on innovation. One such innovation has come out of the University of Washington (UW), the number one most innovative public school according to the Reuters study. That Seattle-based startup, Jeeva Wireless (Jeeva), is making connecting devices possible with power requirements 1,000x lower than other technologies available today.
The founding team
Jeeva’s founding team includes Dr. Shyamnath Gollakota (Shyam), a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering; Dr. Joshua Smith, a UW professor of computer science and electrical engineering; Dr. Aaron Parks, a graduate researcher at the UW’s Sensor Systems Laboratory; Bryce Kellogg, a graduate researcher at the UW’s Mobile Systems Lab; and Dr. Vamsi Talla, a research associate at the UW computer science and engineering school. Now, Scott Bright has joined the diverse founding team as the company’s CEO.
Look, no batteries!
The Jeeva solution lets sensors, wearable devices and many other diverse “things” connect to wireless networks (and the Internet) by taking advantage of existing RF signals through a process called backscattering. Much like a signal-mirror, Jeeva’s technology allows devices to wirelessly send data without big, expensive batteries and without expensive, power-hungry radios. This means new wireless devices can be very small, very light, very cost-effective, can connect at greater distances and may never require recharging or replacing batteries – all of which have been roadblocks in the past.
As more sensors, automation and connectivity come into every aspect of business and everyday life, keeping things connected is becoming increasingly important. Ensuring data is constantly transmitted can be crucial, particularly when health, security, financial markets or safety issues are involved. Although the Jeeva approach is new, it works with existing wireless standards (Bluetooth, Zigbee, WiFi, LoRa, etc.) so it can be easily and cheaply deployed without building new infrastructure.
While Jeeva came out of the world of academia, its solutions are being implemented across a broad array of industries. Scott Bright, CEO for Jeeva, recently met up with us and shared five lessons he has learned throughout his entrepreneurial career and since he joined the founding technologists at Jeeva.
Lesson 1: Make your story crisp and easy to understand
There’s a transition that occurs when a technology goes from initial concept to commercial product. Early on, as the technology is developed, the organization needs to be technology-led. Though, as the technology matures, the company needs to become more commercially focused to thrive. As an example, the Jeeva technology really shines when you want to get a constant data flow. This can be particularly important in health and security applications for example. Yet, the technology behind the solution is somewhat complicated to explain. Bright says this doesn’t have to be a barrier to success though.
Leave out the jargon
“When you are talking about technology, you need to make it easy for everyone to understand. It can be a challenge when the technology is somewhat complex or if the way you use it is different from how things have been done in the past,” explains Bright. “Ultimately, most people don’t care about all the things that make our wireless technology work. They just care that it works. It’s easy to start using a lot of jargon and dig deep into the details, yet it’s best to keep it simple and easy to understand. When we talk about Jeeva, we are locally connecting devices and sensors at 1,000x less power consumption and far lower cost per device than anything else available today. This opens up a broad spectrum of connected wireless tech possibilities that never existed before,” shares Bright.
Lesson 2: Say no to distractions
As you are launching a startup, it is easy to get distracted. Until you identify specific market validation for your solution, it is tempting to take a number of different paths and it’s easy to get off course. Allowing every new opportunity that comes along to become the new focus can take a toll. Every shift in direction has a negative impact on momentum. But, how do you decide what is a distraction and what is an opportunity you should take action on?
“It isn’t always easy to separate the distractions from the opportunities. The most important thing is to identify what needs to be developed in-house and what you can outsource or pull from off-the-shelf solutions. You also need to understand what your channel to market is going to be, because this will inform what needs to be done and what doesn’t,” says Bright.
“For example, if you know you will sell through a partner ecosystem that will integrate your solution into their products, packaging isn’t going to be an important priority because your product won’t be sitting on a shelf somewhere beckoning consumers to buy it. Your team needs to be focused on the most important things that will get you to market faster. If it isn’t serving that goal, whatever is being considered should be labeled a distraction. You can always put that idea on a list you can revisit later,” explains Bright.
Lesson 3: Be picky about what you choose
The early stages of any startup are filled with a thousand choices every day. Gaining traction is important. One great way to do that is to leverage existing ecosystems and industry standards. Also, partnerships can make a big difference as well.
“You need to gain a foothold early on. Developing real-world solutions in vertical markets where you can deliver a high-value drives momentum, early business growth and attracts investment capital. There may be dozens of vertical markets where your solution could play a role, but it’s not realistic to align your solution with all of them at the same time,” says Bright.
“Focusing on two or three viable markets is a good initial approach. Picking the best markets is easier when you can specifically identify how your solution can help decrease costs, extend the life of important resources or remove friction from sales transactions. Pick the markets where your solutions have the greatest impact on your customers’ businesses, and where you can deliver a proof of concept that decreases the perceived risk that comes with implementing new technologies,” suggests Bright.
“Jeeva’s technology really shines where it’s important that data is constantly transmitted from a multitude of inexpensive sources, so that’s where we have chosen to focus our efforts initially,” says Bright.
Lesson 4: Know where you fit in the ecosystem
No matter the industry your startup is working in, there’s an existing ecosystem. Becoming familiar with the existing infrastructure, industry standards and solutions that are ubiquitous can play a major role in having early success and faster growth.
“While it can seem cool to have a proprietary technology, building something that doesn’t play well with industry standards can create a huge barrier to getting to market,” says Bright.
“We have taken the time to define where we fit within the existing ecosystem and the role we will play. Our goal is to make our solutions broadly applicable and as easy to work with and integrate into new products as possible. Jeeva technology is agnostic in terms of protocol and frequency. The technology can be made to work with virtually any wireless network. Though our first chip will support radio frequencies in the ~900 MHz range, we will ultimately be able to utilize a much broader set of frequencies. The decisions to ensure our solutions play well with existing standards has been instrumental in our initial successes,” shares Bright.
Lesson 5: Broadcast successes and failures
It’s great when things go as planned, but they rarely do. Some of the most valuable lessons are in the things that go wrong. It’s difficult to get people to talk about the failures though. At the same time, it may be one of the most important things you can do says Bright.
“Things don’t work out as planned. That’s just the way it goes. It’s human nature to sweep it under the rug when things go wrong though. We only want to broadcast the successes. But, when innovating, it’s important to get the entire organization benefiting from what everyone is learning across the company,” explains Bright.
“One of the most important ways to make this happen is to create an environment where coworkers are friends. Friends are more likely to share the challenges they run into and the lessons they learn along the way. Let’s face it, often the lessons have more to do with the failures than the successes. The personality of the workplace should foster a deep commitment to candor and trust. When your team wakes up in the morning and they can’t wait to learn and grow, it becomes a significant competitive advantage. That’s the type of environment we are striving to create,” shares Bright.
Getting internet connectivity to things that don’t have batteries hasn’t really been possible in the past. This has limited how small devices can get, how far they can transmit, how long they can operate without a recharge, where they can operate and how inexpensive they can get. Thankfully, companies like Jeeva are redefining what it means to have a wireless device. The possibilities are limitless.
Organizations from a broad range of industries including healthcare, security, retail, hospitality, industrial and manufacturing, agriculture and many others have the potential to benefit from this new approach to connecting devices. It will be exciting to watch as Jeeva works to create a new era in wireless connectivity.
Let’s review the lessons Scott shared with us:
- Make your story crisp and easy to understand
- Say no to distraction
- Be picky about what you choose
- Know where you fit in the ecosystem
- Broadcast successes and failures
To learn more about Jeeva, visit https://www.jeevawireless.com.
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