Innovation around consumer hardware is at the nexus of Franco-Japanese collaboration. The momentum was born at the official launch of the France-Japan Year of Innovation in October. Then in November, Tokyo’s largest hardware startup accelerator, DMM.Make, welcomed France’s business angel community, organized by LaFrenchTech in connection with 50 Partners. And to cap off the year, French and Japanese IoT startups took center stage at OrangeFab Asia’s demo day on December 8th.
impressionant, les startups innovantes en #IoT chez @OrangeFabAsia demo day! @FrenchTechJapan
— mark bivens (@markbivens) December 8, 2015
In the spirit of the Rude VC’s original appeal to patronize French startups, here are my picks for the coolest IoT hardware gifts for the holidays (available now or on pre-order). All of these companies have some affiliation with FrenchTechTokyo.
One of five French startups selected for the prestigious Dash Camp in March 2016 in Japan, Seven Hugs aims to bring a new and unique approach to sleep monitoring. While most sleep monitoring devices focus on the individual, hugOne takes a more holistic approach, enabling the entire family to get a better night’s sleep. hugOne also takes the goal of promoting family wellness even one step further with added features such as temperature and humidity monitoring, temperature controls, and smart lighting / lightbulb controls to ensure more natural lighting.
Not surprisingly, robotics are hot in Japan. The now infamous Pepper launch in June this year was an unmitigated success with the first batch of robots selling out in under a minute and the second batch this November doing the same. Yukai Engineering is another robotics company that’s starting to generate quite a bit of buzz. It’s robot, Bocco, has a different take on how robotics can be seamlessly integrated into consumers’ lives. They’ve identified one area, connecting families, where Bocco plays. So, for example, when mom or dad are away on a trip they can talk to their kids via Bocco, bringing fun and enjoyment into a sometimes tough situation for kids. Having already taken Japan’s top design prize, the 2015 GOOD DESIGN award this year, Bocco’s launch is underway in Japan and will soon be arriving in other markets as well.
Cerevo, who’s founder Takuma Iwasa spoke at the Rude Baguette’s Connected Conference earlier this year, is a veritable IoT factory. They seem to roll-out new innovations every few months or so which is an impressive feat in IoT. They wowed CES attendees with their connected snow board SNOW-1, making the concept of ‘connected sports’ a reality. The interesting thing is that they don’t limit themselves to one category, offering connected hardware across a range of categories, including audio-visual systems, gadgets, smart toys, home products, and ‘maker’ devices. One new device that caught my eye is their smart power controller Otto. At first glance Otto just looks like a more aesthetic power strip. However, it is actually rethinking the power strip itself. While it’s sleek design does help it fit in with the decor, it’s biggest utility is its functionality that enables users to not only do things like adjust lighting strength, but also turn specific outlets within Otto off remotely. With Otto Cerevo proves that even the most basic of devices can be reimagined.
Also making the cut for next year’s Dash Camp, Wistiki continues a long tradition of solutions to help people find things that are lost. The most obvious use case, which certainly resonates the most with me, is solving the lost key problem. The way it works is that using a small device which you attach to objects you want to keep track of and a corresponding app, you can make your objects ‘ring’ to locate them. You can also track you items via GPS and using a virtual leash you can be alerted if your item is moving a way from your smartphone, a nice way to offer added security. Finally, as the lost smartphone scenario may, in fact, be displacing that of the lost keys, from your Wistiki you can employ their reverse ringtone feature to quickly locate your phone. Smart indeed.