Got hardware? Well then, listen up, because our search continues for boundary-pushing, early-stage hardware startups to join us in Shenzhen, China for an epic opportunity; launch your startup on a global stage and compete in on November 11-12. . Why? It’s your chance to demo your product to the top investors and technologists in the world. Hardware Battlefield, cousin to , focuses exclusively on innovative hardware because, let’s face it, it’s the backbone of technology. From enterprise solutions to agtech advancements, medical devices to consumer product goods — hardware startups are in the international spotlight. If you make the cut, you’ll compete against 15 of the world’s most innovative hardware makers for bragging rights, plenty of investor love, media exposure and $25,000 in equity-free cash. Just participating in a Battlefield can change the whole trajectory of your business in the best way possible. We chose to bring our fifth Hardware Battlefield to Shenzhen because of its outstanding track record of supporting hardware startups. The city achieves this through a combination of accelerators, rapid prototyping and world-class manufacturing. What’s more, takes place as part of the larger TechCrunch Shenzhen that runs November 9-12. Creativity and innovation no know boundaries, and that’s why we’re opening this competition to any early-stage hardware startup from any country. While we’ve seen amazing hardware in previous Battlefields — like , , tools, for diabetics and , we can’t wait to see the next generation of hardware, so bring it on! Meet the minimum requirements listed below, and we’ll consider your startup: by August 14th You must have a minimally viable product to demo onstage Your product has received little if any, press coverage to date Your product must have a hardware device or component Here’s how Hardware Battlefield works. TechCrunch editors vet every qualified application and pick 15 startups to compete. Those startups receive six rigorous weeks of free coaching. Forget stage fright. You’ll be prepped and ready to step into the spotlight. Teams have six minutes to pitch and demo their products, which is immediately followed by an in-depth Q&A with the judges. If you make it to the final round, you’ll repeat the process in front of a new set of judges. The judges will name one outstanding startup the Hardware Battlefield champion. Hoist the Battlefield Cup, claim those bragging rights and the $25,000. This nerve-wracking thrill-ride takes place in front of a live audience, and we capture the entire event on video and post it to our global audience on TechCrunch. takes place on November 11-12. Don’t hide your hardware or miss your chance to show us — and the entire tech world — your startup magic. , and join us in Shenzhen! Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Hardware Battlefield at TC Shenzhen? Contact our sponsorship sales team by .
Hardware can be a , but the Pacific Northwest is replete with ambitious gadget makers looking for creative solutions to problems of all sorts. Private email servers, heart monitors, smart home gadgets and a drone well-versed in operating in tight spaces — this year’s crop of finalists for Hardware/Gadget of the Year at the 2019 GeekWire Awards has it all. Led by serial entrepreneurs and alums of some of the world’s biggest companies, the finalists — Bardy Diagnostics, Helm, Lubn, Vtrus and Wyze Labs — are aiming to upend their markets. We’ve opened voting in 11 GeekWire Awards categories, and community votes will be factored in with feedback from our more than 30 judges (see ). On May 2 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends April 19. Last year, the high tech manufactured housing startup Blokable took. Other past winners include , , and . Read about the finalists and vote on all the categories while you’re here. And don’t forget to , as the GeekWire Awards sell out every year. The Carnation Ambulatory Monitor, or CAM for short, is designed to be worn comfortably for approximately a week, with the goal of improving patient compliance. (Bardy Diagnostics Photo) Bardy Diagnostics wants to change the way medical professionals monitor heart conditions. The Seattle company makes a non-invasive cardiac monitor patch that helps detect arrhythmia. The Carnation Ambulatory Monitor, or CAM for short, is designed to be worn comfortably for approximately a week, with the goal of improving patient compliance. Last summer, Bardy of undisclosed size to grow its sales team and monitoring services, advance research and development programs and accelerate development of artificial intelligence diagnostic capabilities. The company recently through an alliance with JNC Medical, a medical technologies distributor based in Ottawa, Ontario. News of the expansion came just a few weeks after Bardy said it reached a for the CAM patch in January. Bardy is led by Gust Bardy, a long-time cardiac electrophysiologist who also serves as a clinical professor of medicine, cardiology, at the University of Washington and is the director of the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research. Bardy sold his previous company, Cameron Health, to Boston Scientific in 2012. The Helm. (Helm Photo) This Seattle-area startup wants to redefine email at a time when privacy and security issues related to hosted by big tech companies in the cloud . Helm, formerly known as Privacy Labs, last year that lets consumers send and receive email from their own domain, in addition to saving contacts and calendar events. The company’s personal physical email server puts it squarely in the crosshairs of tech giants such as Google. The device is about the size of a router and looks like an upside-down book placed on a table. It connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm supports standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting connection between the device and the apps. According to the , the device is sold out right now, but Helm promises to make more. Buyers can reserve their spot in line for $99. The idea comes from and , two entrepreneurs who previously sold a security startup. The co-founders, based in Bellevue, Wash., raised from top venture capital firms in 2017. The LTE smart key box by Seattle startup Lubn won a 2019 CES Innovation Award in the smart home category. (Photo: Lubn) Lubn is part of a movement toward a smarter lock-and-key solutions. The Bellevue-based startup is developing hardware and software products designed for property managers, retail store owners and others to remotely manage who comes and goes at their properties. Its main product is a smart key box with visual authentication that connects to the cloud via 4G LTE. The LubnBox was a at the giant electronics show in Las Vegas this past January and last year the company show. Lubn also offers an app and dashboard to let users remotely control who can enter their properties and at what times. As a father who was juggling a career at Microsoft while also managing multiple rental properties scattered internationally, Lubn co-founder and CEO Yuan-Chou “YC” Chung got the idea for the product from his own experience. He wanted a simple solution for controlling and coordinating access to the properties to give him more time for family. He teamed up with fellow co-founders Autumn Li, who is the company’s CTO, and Charles Chang, adviser, to create Lubn. Smart locks are a hot technology, with Amazon’s in-home package delivery program garnering global attention. Bellevue, Wash. startup Drones are everywhere these days, but it’s still unclear what their best use will be. A Seattle startup is seizing on the technology to conduct precision inspections of industrial facilities. Vtrus, based near the Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, has developed an indoor autonomous drone known as the ABI Zero that can navigate its way around the tricky surroundings of a warehouse environment without the need for a remote operator or GPS waypoints. The company, which has skirted Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on outdoor drone flights because it works exclusively indoors, is to continue refining its offerings. ABI Zero can conduct an aerial survey for as long as 10 minutes, and then return to its base station for charging. The base also serves as a WiFi-enabled link for receiving streaming data from the drone and relaying it to Vtrus’ cloud service. Vtrus takes advantage of a computer vision technique called SLAM (Simultaneous Location and Mapping), which enables drones to build a high-fidelity map of their surroundings. Thirty times a second, the SLAM software keeps track of 300,000 depth points captured by an array of cameras and sensors. , CEO, previously co-founded Surreal Vision, a computer vision startup that , Facebook’s VR subsidiary. He went on to work at Oculus VR for more than a year as a research scientist in Redmond, Wash., then helped lay the groundwork for Vtrus, which he launched in 2017 with chief technology officer and chief design officer . Fresh off earlier this year, Kirkland, Wash.-based Wyze Labs is making waves in the smart home security market with its low-cost camera. Wyze was founded by Amazon veterans Yun Zhang, Dave Crosby, Elana Fishman and Dongsheng Song in 2017. Later that year, the startup launched its camera with 1080p HD video and 14 days of free cloud storage. At $19.99, the price severely undercut the group’s former employer, as Amazon for $119.99 around the same time. Fishman of GeekWire’s Elevator Pitch this past summer and said at the time that the company had sold over a quarter-million units in less than six months. The company launched another piece of hardware, the $29.99 , in May 2018. Join us at the 2019 GeekWire Awards on May 2!
“If AI is so easy, why isn’t there any in this room?” asks Ali Farhadi, founder and CEO of Xnor, gesturing around the conference room overlooking Lake Union in Seattle. And it’s true — despite a handful of displays, phones, and other gadgets, the only things really capable of doing any kind of AI-type work are the phones each of us have set on the table. Yet we are always hearing about how AI is so accessible now, so flexible, so ubiquitous. And in many cases even those devices that can aren’t employing machine learning techniques themselves, but rather sending data off to the cloud where it can be done more efficiently. Because the processes that make up “AI” are often resource-intensive, sucking up CPU time and battery power. That’s the problem Xnor aimed to solve, or at least mitigate, when it . Its breakthrough was to make the execution of deep learning models on edge devices so efficient that a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero could perform state of the art nearly well as a supercomputer. The team achieved that, and Xnor’s hyper-efficient ML models are now integrated into a variety of devices and businesses. As a follow-up, the team set their sights higher — or lower, depending on your perspective. Answering his own question on the dearth of AI-enabled devices, Farhadi pointed to the battery pack in the demo gadget they made to show off the Pi Zero platform, Farhadi explained: “This thing right here. Power.” Power was the bottleneck they overcame to get AI onto CPU- and power-limited devices like phones and the Pi Zero. So the team came up with a crazy goal: Why not make an AI platform that doesn’t need a battery at all? Less than a year later, . That thing right there performs a serious computer vision task in real time: It can detect in a fraction of a second whether and where a person, or car, or bird, or whatever, is in its field of view, and relay that information wirelessly. And it does this using the kind of power usually associated with solar-powered calculators. The device Farhadi and hardware engineering head Saman Naderiparizi showed me is very simple — and necessarily so. A tiny camera with a 320×240 resolution, an FPGA loaded with the object recognition model, a bit of memory to handle the image and camera software, and a small solar cell. A very simple wireless setup lets it send and receive data at a very modest rate. “This thing has no power. It’s a two dollar computer with an uber-crappy camera, and it can run state of the art object recognition,” enthused Farhadi, clearly more than pleased with what the Xnor team has created. For reference, this video from the company’s debut shows the kind of work it’s doing inside: As long as the cell is in any kind of significant light, it will power the image processor and object recognition algorithm. It needs about a hundred millivolts coming in to work, though at lower levels it could just snap images less often. It can run on that current alone, but of course it’s impractical to not have some kind of energy storage; to that end this demo device has a supercapacitor that stores enough energy to keep it going all night, or just when its light source is obscured. As a demonstration of its efficiency, let’s say you did decide to equip it with, say, a watch battery. Naderiparizi said it could probably run on that at one frame per second for more than 30 years. Not a product Of course the breakthrough isn’t really that there’s now a solar-powered smart camera. That could be useful, sure, but it’s not really what’s worth crowing about here. It’s the fact that a sophisticated deep learning model can run on a computer that costs pennies and uses less power than your phone does when it’s asleep. “This isn’t a product,” Farhadi said of the tiny hardware platform. “It’s an enabler.” The energy necessary for performing inference processes such as facial recognition, natural language processing, and so on put hard limits on what can be done with them. A smart light bulb that turns on when you ask it to isn’t really a smart light bulb. It’s a board in a light bulb enclosure that relays your voice to a hub and probably a datacenter somewhere, which analyzes what you say and returns a result, turning the light on. That’s not only convoluted, but it introduces latency and a whole spectrum of places where the process could break or be attacked. And meanwhile it requires a constant source of power or a battery! On the other hand, imagine a camera you stick into a house plant’s pot, or stick to a wall, or set on top of the bookcase, or anything. This camera requires no more power than some light shining on it; it can recognize voice commands and analyze imagery without touching the cloud at all; it can’t really be hacked because it barely has an input at all; and its components cost maybe $10. Only one of these things can be truly ubiquitous. Only the latter can scale to billions of devices without requiring immense investment in infrastructure. And honestly, the latter sounds like a better bet for a ton of applications where there’s a question of privacy or latency. Would you rather have a baby monitor that streams its images to a cloud server where it’s monitored for movement? Or a baby monitor that absent an internet connection can still tell you if the kid is up and about? If they both work pretty well, the latter seems like the obvious choice. And that’s the case for numerous consumer applications. Amazingly, the power cost of the platform isn’t anywhere near bottoming out. The FPGA used to do the computing on this demo unit isn’t particularly efficient for the processing power it provides. If they had a custom chip baked, they could get another order of magnitude or two out of it, lowering the work cost for inference to the level of microjoules. The size is more limited by the optics of the camera and the size of the antenna, which must have certain dimensions to transmit and receive radio signals. And again, this isn’t about selling a million of these particular little widgets. As Xnor has done already with its clients, the platform and software that runs on it can be customized for individual projects or hardware. One even wanted a model to run on MIPS — so now it does. By drastically lowering the power and space required to run a self-contained inference engine, entirely new product categories can be created. Will they be creepy? Probably. But at least they won’t have to phone home.