All posts in “Gadgets”

Klevio launches its smart intercom and app that lets you open doors remotely

Klevio, a smart home startup out of the U.K., is officially launching its first product: a smart intercom system that lets you control your front door lock via an iOS and Android app on your phone and remotely.

Dubbed “Klevio One,” the device is designed to be retrofitted to existing electric strike-enabled locks, and also interfaces with intercom systems found on the communal doors of apartment blocks. This, say its makers, means that it is better suited to flats than smart locks already on the market.

In a call with Klevio co-founder and CEO Aleš Špetič, he explained that the approach the London-based company has taken is different to smart locks that typically use a motor to turn the lock and require tearing out and replacing your existing lock. In contrast, if you already have an electric strike as part of your lock — which a lot of apartments do — the Klevio One can simply be wired to interface with it. If you don’t, a Klevio installer can fit one to your existing lock for you.

This major upside of this approach is that Klevio isn’t re-inventing the whole wheel, but taking years old, tried and tested electric strike technology, and simply adding smart connectivity to it.

It means the Klevio One works with multiple doors and there’s no need to modify the communal area of apartment buildings when installing it, since the device is located within an individual apartment. You can also still use your old physical keys as a backup, and the company says the use of Klevio won’t be obvious to anyone outside the building.

And as you’d expect, the Klevio system is cloud-connected so that you can control your lock remotely, and issue virtual and one-time use keys. It comes in a WiFi only version, and a subscription version with added 4G.

The startup’s back story is noteworthy, too. The Klevio’s original concept and eureka moment came at Onefinestay, the ‘upscale Airbnb’ acquired by Accor in 2016. After the exit, Onefinestay co-founder Demetrios Zoppos teamed up with CubeSensors’ Aleš Špetič and Marko Mrdjenovič to start the new company, including purchasing the needed patents from Onefinestay.

In addition, Onefinestay co-founder Greg Marsh is an investor in Klevio, alongside LocalGlobe’s partner Robin Klein (who I’m told has invested in a personal capacity). To date Klevio has raised £1.2 million in funding.

Meanwhile, Špetič tells me that prior to today’s wider launch — where it can be ordered via the Klevio website — the Klevio One has been piloted with 1,000 users across London.

Ring’s Jamie Siminoff and Clinc’s Jason Mars to join us at Disrupt SF

Disrupt SF is set to be the biggest tech conference that TechCrunch has ever hosted. So it only makes sense that we plan an agenda fit for the occasion.

That’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that Ring’s Jamie Siminoff will join us on stage for a fireside chat and Jason Mars from Clinc will be demo-ing first-of-its-kind technology on the Disrupt SF stage.

Jamie Siminoff – Ring

Earlier this year, Ring became Amazon’s second largest acquisition ever, selling to the behemoth for a reported $1 billion.

But the story begins long ago, with Jamie Siminoff building a WiFi-connected video doorbell in his garage in 2011. Back then it was called DoorBot. Now, it’s called Ring, and it’s an essential piece of the overall evolution of e-commerce.

As giants like Amazon move to make purchasing and receiving goods as simple as ever, safe and reliable entry into the home becomes critical to the mission. Ring, which has made neighborhood safety and home security its main priority since inception, is a capable partner in that mission.

Of course, one doesn’t often build a successful company and sell for $1 billion on their first go. Prior to Ring, Siminoff founded PhoneTag, the world’s first voicemail-to-text company and Unsubscribe.com. Both of those companies were sold. Based on his founding portfolio alone, it’s clear that part of Siminoff’s success can be attributed to understanding what consumers need and executing on a solution.

Dr. Jason Mars – Clinc

AI has the potential to change everything, but there is a fundamental disconnect between what AI is capable of and how we interface with it. Clinc has tried to close that gap with its conversational AI, emulating human intelligence to interpret unstructured, unconstrained speech.

Clinc is currently targeting the financial market, letting users converse with their bank account using natural language without any pre-defined templates or hierarchical voice menus.

But there are far more applications for this kind of conversational tech. As voice interfaces like Alexa and Google Assistant pick up steam, there is clearly an opportunity to bring this kind of technology to all facets of our lives.

At Disrupt SF, Clinc’s founder and CEO Dr. Jason Mars plans to do just that, debuting other ways that Clinc’s conversational AI can be applied. Without ruining the surprise, let me just say that this is going to be a demo you won’t want to miss.

Tickets to Disrupt are available here.

Tempow raises $4 million to improve Bluetooth

French startup Tempow has raised a $4 million funding round. Balderton Capital led the round, with C4 Ventures also participating. The company has been working on improving the Bluetooth protocol to make it more versatile.

Smartphones, speakers and connected devices all use Bluetooth in one way or another. There are only a handful of Bluetooth chipset manufacturers in the world, such as Qualcomm and Broadcom. While Bluetooth chips have become incredibly efficient as they use much less power than they used to, it’s been stagnant on the software front.

Tempow is a software company that wants to rewrite the Bluetooth stack from scratch. The company started with an audio profile.

Thanks to Tempow’s technology, you can connect a phone to multiple Bluetooth speakers at once. This is just a software improvement — it works with standard Bluetooth chipsets and all Bluetooth audio devices out there.

Lenovo liked this idea and licensed the technology for its Moto X4 handset. More than 5 million devices with Tempow’s Bluetooth stack have been sold.

With today’s funding round, the startup wants to tackle more use cases. For instance, Tempow wants to optimize the pairing process, enhance the security of the protocol and work on battery consumption. “Maybe you could pay using Bluetooth instead of NFC,” co-founder and CEO Vincent Nallatamby told me.

At the same time, the startup is negotiating with multiple manufacturers. You can expect to see Tempow’s technology in more devices in the future.

The company currently has 7 patents pending and just got its first patent last week. Eventually, Tempow thinks it can build a team of Bluetooth experts who push the protocol forward.

IBM’s Verifier inspects (and verifies) diamonds, pills and materials at the micron level

It’s not enough in this day and age that we have to deal with fake news, we also have to deal with fake prescription drugs, fake luxury goods, and fake Renaissance-era paintings. Sometimes all at once! IBM’s Verifier is a gadget and platform made (naturally) to instantly verify that something is what it claims to be, by inspecting it at a microscopic level.

Essentially you stick a little thing on your phone’s camera, open the app, and put the sensor against what you’re trying to verify, be it a generic antidepressant or an ore sample. By combining microscopy, spectroscopy, and a little bit of AI, the Verifier compares what it sees to a known version of the item and tells you whether they’re the same.

The key component in this process is an “optical element” that sits in front of the camera (it can be anything that takes a decent image) amounting to a specialized hyper-macro lens. It allows the camera to detect features as small as a micron — for comparison, a human hair is usually a few dozen microns wide.

At the micron level there are patterns and optical characteristics that aren’t visible to the human eye, like precisely which wavelengths of light it reflects. The quality of a weave, the number of flaws in a gem, the mixture of metals in an alloy… all stuff you or I would miss, but a machine learning system trained on such examples will pick out instantly.

For instance a counterfeit pill, although orange and smooth and imprinted just like a real one if one were to just look at it, will likely appear totally different at the micro level: textures and structures with a very distinct pattern, or at least distinct from the real thing — not to mention a spectral signature that’s probably way different. There’s also no reason it can’t be used on things like expensive wines or oils, contaminated water, currency, and plenty of other items.

IBM was eager to highlight the AI element, which is trained on the various patterns and differentiates between them, though as far as I can tell it’s a pretty straightforward classification task. I’m more impressed by the lens they put together that can resolve at a micron level with so little distortion and not exclude or distort the colors too much. It even works on multiple phones — you don’t have to have this or that model.

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The first application IBM is announcing for its Verifier is as a part of the diamond trade, which is of course known for fetishizing the stones and their uniqueness, and also establishing elaborate supply trains to ensure product is carefully controlled. The Verifier will be used as an aide for grading stones, not on its own but as a tool for human checkers; it’s a partnership with the Gemological Institute of America, which will test integrating the tool into its own workflow.

By imaging the stone from several angles, the individual identity of the diamond can be recorded and tracked as well, so that its provenance and trail through the industry can be tracked over the years. Here IBM imagines blockchain will be useful, which is possible but not exactly a given.

It’ll be a while before you can have one of your own, but here’s hoping this type of tech becomes popular enough that you can check the quality or makeup of something at least without having to visit some lab.