US backs MIT-led research into wearable devices

By Jon Chesto Globe Staff 

A consortium of colleges and businesses led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has won a national competition to host a novel federally funded research program to turn clothing fibers and fabrics into wearable electronic devices…

“Here is a bold vision that’s not just manufacturing stuff that we know about but also enabling a whole new interpretation of the fabric industry,” said Yoel Fink, director of the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics, who will lead the effort.

From Fink’s perspective, the possibilities are essentially endless. Clothing fibers could be designed to change color, monitor health, or even store energy.

The federal government has pledged $75 million to the effort over five years, while the Baker administration pledged to provide up to $40 million in state funds, with additional money coming from members of the consortium that could push the total contributions to more than $300 million.



GE and the turning point for Boston

Michael E. Porter, Boston Globe op-ed

GE’S DECISION to relocate its global headquarters to Boston is a turning point for the city and the state, not just because of what GE brings, but because of why it is coming. This decision was not about taxes and incentives — Massachusetts is not a low-tax state, and the Commonwealth stopped competing on incentives decades ago. While recognizing the need to compete for investments, ours are well below the kinds of incentives offered by other states.

So where does Boston come in? GE established a software development center in Silicon Valley in 2011. However, Silicon Valley did not have all the answers in this new field. The Boston region, in contrast, has long been a major hub in business-to-business software. Leaders such as PTC, Autodesk, Dassault, and others have a major presence here, and Boston has also spawned leaders in data storage, data analytics, sensors, and IT security. Leading competitors in the core platform technology for SCPs have emerged in Boston, and numerous companies have also emerged around specific technology applications, such as strong clusters in robotics and medical devices.

SimpliSafe’s success awakens sleeping giant

Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe

Today, the company offers a range of equipment, including glass-break detectors, panic buttons, and water sensors for basements. All of them can send alerts to, or be controlled by, a smartphone. SimpliSafe had 100 employees at the start of 2015, and ended the year with almost 250. BestBuy and Walmart also began carrying its products in November.

Nick Heymann, an equities analyst who covers ADT for the Chicago investment firm William Blair & Co., says about 26 million homes in the United States have installed traditional alarm systems, but the number has plateaued in recent years.

SimpliSafe, by contrast, has built a business by selling to people who haven’t bought a traditional system. “They saw them as too expensive, too difficult, too cumbersome,” Chad Laurans says. And some customers wanted to install sensors that alerted only them about occurrences in their home, rather than summoning the police.

SimpliSafe’s success awakens sleeping giant

GE’s new Current gives the Internet of Things a jolt of energy

Stacey Higginbotham, Fortune

As companies everywhere experiment with new business models enabled by the Internet of things, GE is building a brand new $1 billion energy business called Current to take its experimentation out of the lab and into the real world.

Last week Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO hinted at Current’s creation, telling attendees at GE’s  GE  Minds + Machines conference that the conglomerate was building a new business aimed at energy efficiency that would combine LED lighting, solar and energy storage, along with GE’s Predix platform to offer customers something new.

The business is called Current and will be based in Boston. It’s headed up by Maryrose Sylvester who led GE’s LED lighting business. That whole line of commercial LED lighting folds into Current, which also will encompass some of the solar technology and battery technology that GE is working on as well.

Censio, Led by Ex-Zipcar CEO, Brings Mobile Tech to Car Insurance

Gregory T. Huang,

In the business of connected cars, at least one clear market has emerged: insurance. Today a Boston startup is taking a big step in that market.

Censio, which has been growing quietly next to the Harvard Innovation Lab, said Wednesday it has formed a partnership with Progressive Insurance to develop a mobile app to monitor driving data. The app, called Snapshot, captures information about how people drive—things like mileage, time of day, and braking habits—and rates drivers on safety and usage. Progressive will start testing the app with customers this month, with the goal of rolling out a finished version in 2016.

See also:  Censio Announces Close of $10 Million Series A Financing From General Catalyst Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and Lakestar



Massachusetts chip maker Skyworks Solutions to buy California rival for $2B

David Harris, Boston Business Journal

“With our acquisition of PMC, Skyworks will be uniquely positioned to capitalize on the explosive demand for high performance solutions that seamlessly connect, transport and store big data,” said David J. Aldrich, chairman and chief executive officer of Skyworks, in a statement.

Sunnyvale, California-based PMC had 1,442 employees as of the end of last year, while Skyworks had 5,550 employees.

Boston startup Kuvée wants to sell you the last wine bottle you’ll ever need

Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe

Keurig coffeemakers and Sodastream carbonation machines have made it easier to brew a cup of joe or fizz up a bottle of lemon-flavored seltzer. A Boston startup called Kuvée wants to bring similar convenience to pouring — and preserving — a bottle of wine.

Kuvée is designing an Internet-connected wine bottle that would hold different canisters of wine. It will be able to dispense one glass at a time, while preventing the rest of the wine in the canister from being exposed to air, which causes them to go bad. A “smart label” on the outside of the bottle will show you what brand and vintage of wine is inside it and tell you a bit about the wine. If you enjoy it, you can click a button to order more canisters, which are delivered to your home.

CEO switch, job cuts at Cambridge startup working on wristband to track hypertension

Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe

What the heck is going on at Quanttus, the best-funded wearable device startup in town? The company has raised $22 million in venture capital, but after saying that it would unveil its product — a wristband that can monitor your blood pressure — in April, nothing happened.

Now, former employees say there has been a new round of layoffs and resignations. The chief executive, Shahid Azim, is also out, but a new CEO hasn’t yet been named.

Smart-home heating startup Ecovent lands $6.9m investment, touts $1m in pre-orders

Curt Woodward, Boston Globe

Boston startup Ecovent is getting the attention of a much bigger player in its market.

The two-year-old company, which makes a “smart” heating vent system for homes, has landed a $6.9 million investment to help it launch its product later this year. The financing round was led by Emerson Climate Technologies, which sells consumer and commercial heating and cooling systems.

Ecovent is developing a system of battery-powered vents that can be individually opened and shut by sending a digital signal over a dedicated wireless network. Ecovent says that will allow owners to tweak the temperature in individual rooms of their home by using a special smartphone app.

Ecovent says that level of detailed control can help eliminate nagging hot or cool spots in a home, which in turn can lower heating and air conditioning bills by firing up the furnace only when necessary.

.406 Ventures raises new $217m fund for early stage enterprise startups

Curt Woodward, Boston Globe

Venture capital firm .406 Ventures has raised its third pool of investment cash, pulling together a new $217 million fund earmarked for early stage companies in digital security and other behind-the-scenes tech sectors.

Its investments also have a Boston flavor, shunning consumer technology, gaming, social media, and other eye-catching sectors in favor of enterprise companies in the security, health care tech, data analytics software, and online infrastructure industries.

Amid the Internet of Things, a new ‘life’ for Lycos

Boston Globe


Brad Cohen, the Lycos president and chief strategy officer, launched the Lycos Life division last month, with a focus on selling wearable wristbands and rings that act as fitness trackers and password managers. These devices are also prepped to “talk” with home devices — from toasters to thermostats and coffee makers to cars — and would presumably become increasingly useful as more consumers trade up to more-connected appliances.

Restaurant tech startup Toast surpasses 100 employees, gets ready to move

Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe

There’s a scrum underway among startups that want to replace the clunky old cash register at restaurants, bars, and cafés. Companies like Square, Breadcrumb, and Cambridge-based Leaf have all been touting the benefits of using sleek tablets and cloud-based software. But one of the quieter local players, Toast, has been steadily building momentum.

The Cambridge company recently surpassed 100 employees (13 new hires started this week), and later in July, Toast will move from Alewife into roomier digs in the Landmark Center in Boston. CEO Chris Comparato says the new space could accommodate as many as 250 employees.

14th International Conference on Computers in Urban Planning and Urban Management, July 7-10, 2015

For more than 20 years, CUPUM (Computers in Urban Planning and Urban Management) has been one of the premier international conferences for the exchange of ideas and applications of computing technologies to address a diverse range of social, managerial, and environmental problems impacting urban planning and development.

The 14th International Conference on Computers in Urban Planning and Urban Management (CUPUM) will be held at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts USA on July 7-10, 2015.

Stanley Healthcare’s Experience Center in Waltham simulates hospital to demonstrate IoT offerings

SearchHealthIT’ s Kristin Lee visited Stanley Healthcare’s Experience Center in Waltham, Mass., which has simulated hospital rooms — such as the emergency department, post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) and medical-surgical intensive care unit — for the company to demonstrate its Internet of Things (IoT) offerings.

Biotech Connection Boston: Making Sense of Data

Now what? This is the question that wearable tech companies face as they attempt to make the transition from wellness to healthcare. While many wearables allow users to track wellness metrics like steps and sleeping time, there is a critical need to analyze and translate this data into clinically actionable health information. One company that has successfully answered this question and is leading the way in this area is BioSensics, who were the showcase exhibitors at Biotech Connection Boston’s recent event, Big Data Gets Personal: Transforming Healthcare in the Age of Wearable Tech.

BioSensics has positioned themselves at the critical junction between biomedical research and product development by focusing on unique wearables in the healthcare space. Founded at Harvard in 2007, every project BioSensics explores is grounded in collaborative academic research with leading medical centers, including the University of Arizona, the Arizona Center on Aging, and, here in Boston, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Embrace Watch: Preventing Epileptic Deaths, One Wearable at a Time


Medtech Boston

Rosalind Picard, a professor at MIT and co-founder of Empatica, is trying to change the face of epilepsy, the often-stigmatized neurological condition, along with her team. An affective computing company consisting of roughly fifteen members, they’ve developed a new wearable technology that seeks to prevent deaths from seizures with a simple watch. “The idea is that you want to get information to somebody nearby as soon as possible,” Picard says, which is what the watch and its accompanying app will do.

Philips moves R&D center to Cambridge, Mass. and pledges $25 million to MIT


“The old headquarters were founded very much on this older philosophy of R&D where you needed to be in a quiet place for research and then you handed your ideas to the business for commercialization,” said Henk van Houten, executive vice president & general manager, Philips Research.

But now that philosophy has changed and R&D must be more integrated with the business, as well as with startups and other potential partners in big businesses and academia. Given that Philips will focus on lighting and healthcare technology for its R&D, Boston makes a considerable amount of sense, especially on the health side. There are plenty of academics who can parse data as well as research hospitals willing to explore how the combination of sensors, connected technology, and predictive algorithms can come together to help deliver better patient care, especially in the home.


What’s exciting in Boston right now?

Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe

Amidst the endless string of funding announcements, office leases, Kickstarter campaigns, and initial public offerings, it can be tough to discern what’s actually happening in Boston’s innovation economy.  [Indeed.  And, without Scott Kirsner we would all know substantially less about what’s happening!] 

What are the new industry clusters that are growing fastest locally, and seem to be more than flashes in the pan?

  • Wearables:
    Quanttus, Fitbit, Whoop, Thync, Neumitra
  • Edtech:
    EdX, Cengage, Valore, Harcourt, Panorama Education, Houghton Mifflin
  • Marketing and adtech:
    DataXu, Brand Networks, Fiksu, Nanigans, HubSpot
  • Biotech and medical devices
    Moderna Therapeutics,  Biogen, MicroCHIPS, Intarcia Therapeutics,  Syros Pharmaceuticals
  • 3-D design and fabrication
    Onshape, Voxel8, Formlabs, Markforged, SolidWorks
  • Energy and sustainability
    XL Hybrids, Gridco Systems, Digital Lumens, Ambri, Oasys Water
  • Robotics:
    Vecna, iRobot, Rethink Robotics, CyPhy Works, Harvest Automation
  • Spoken language recognition:
    Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Nuance, Semantic Machines
  • Internet of Things:
    PTC, LogMein, Robin Powered, Weft
  • Security, big data, and enterprise efficiency:
    Veracode, Actifio, ClearSky Data, Bit9 + Carbon Black, Tamr

Echo fuels Amazon’s hiring spree in Cambridge

David HarrisBoston Business Journal

what’s fueling Amazon’s hiring in its Kendall Square office in Cambridge? The answer is Echo, the company’s always-connected virtual assistant device that costs $199. The wireless gadget doubles as both a speaker and voice-prompted remote control for online activities such as shopping and video streaming.

According to one source at the company, Amazon has an entire floor in its Kendall Square office dedicated to teams working on the Echo.