20 of Europe’s most innovative hardware and IoT start-ups

22 Jan 2018

Image: Your Lucky Photo/Shutterstock

Which IoT and hardware players are the ones to watch in 2018? Here, we list 20 of the most innovative and diverse start-ups to keep an eye on.

The internet of things (IoT) represents the intersection of hardware and everyday objects with the fixed and wireless internet. Many believe this will bring about the next industrial revolution (Industry 4.0).

When it comes to innovation, European start-ups have it in spades. Much of this is owed to a fine engineering legacy that goes back hundreds of years, from Tim Berners-Lee inventing the World Wide Web in 1990, to advances today in 4G and soon 5G.

With the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) forecasting that about 30bn connected objects will constitute the worldwide IoT by 2020 – an estimated $7.1bn market – European hardware and IoT start-ups hold the controls to one of the biggest revolutions of our time.

From breakthrough chips to sensors and drones, our ones to watch in 2018 are an eclectic mix of technology innovators from all corners of Europe.

This listing is part of our Europe Start-up 100 series for 2018 that also includes fintech, health/medtech, consumer/e-commerce and enterprise/SaaS entrepreneurs.

Actility (Paris)

Actility is a Parisian start-up that specialises in the machine-to-machine (M2M) market of communicating IoT objects deployed on a massive scale in various industries, particularly in the energy sector.

Founded by Olivier Hersent in 2010, the firm has received funding from the likes of Electranova Capital and Ginko Ventures. As IoT transforms businesses, Actility’s platform provides numerous ways for firms to accelerate development. The company’s ThingPark platform helps to simplify the build and commercialisation of IoT services and discover new insights.

Adveez (Toulouse)

Adveez is a Toulouse-based company launched in 2011 that specialises in data capturing to improve the safety of goods and people, particularly in the airport sector in both software and hardware.

Founded by Karim Bendhia, who is now its CEO, the IoT company completed its Series B funding in March of last year with a total of €3.3m. It aims to expand its international remit, in addition to its first international office in Phoenix, Arizona.

While it has achieved notable success in the airport sector, it is now looking to move into healthcare safety management through technologies such as keyless entry systems.

Drone Hopper (Madrid)

20 innovative European IoT and hardware start-ups to watch in 2018

Drone Hopper is a heavy-duty drone designed to provide aerial support for fighting wildfires. It can also be used for pest control and crop management.

Each drone has a maximum capacity of 300 litres (79 gallons) of water. The water is nebulised directly above the seat of fire for its extinction. The design makes use of the high-speed air generated by the drone propellers to perform this process.

Each drone includes a magnetic system to control the nebulisation of water in order to use the appropriate amount of water mist for each specific type of fire.

DecaWave (Dublin)

Founded in 2004 by Michael McLoughlin, Dublin-based DecaWave has grown significantly in recent years to become the one to watch globally in the semiconductor market, according to the Global Semiconductor Alliance.

Working within the IoT sector, DecaWave creates wireless devices – which now total more than 1m – that can be located indoors to an accuracy of 10cm. It was deemed worthy of a €2.5m investment from STMicroelectronics in April 2017.

Having raised €30m in funding to date, the start-up now has offices in France, China and South Korea.

DigiFlak (Tallinn)

Creator of innovative security devices called Flak Secuters, Estonian start-up DigiFlak is shaking up the infosec world.

Flak Secuters are all-in-one USB and NFC devices that enable authentication without passwords. A European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) scale-up, the company recently entered a partnership with Engage Black, a US Cryptographic Alliance manufacturer.

Founded in Tallinn in 2013, DigiFlak was the winner of the Cyber Security and Privacy category of the 2015 EIT Digital Challenge, and was the first Estonian company ever to take the top prize in this pan-European competition.

Flo Live (London)

20 innovative European IoT and hardware start-ups to watch in 2018

Image: Flo Live

Flo Live is a UK-based provider of end-to-end solutions for IoT networks. The firm leverages mobile networks and big-data analytics in a bid to preserve the integrity and security of IoT, and offer a “global ecosystem in the cloud”.

Flo Live was founded in 2015 by entrepreneur and fintech investor Percy Grundy. The company, at the time of writing, is present in London, Paris, Limassol, Hyderabad and Tel Aviv, and it is currently setting up a US office in California.

The company experienced a boon in 2017 when it drummed up $4.2m in Series A funding led by Arie Capital and Golden Sunflower Capital.

Graphcore (Bristol)

Bristol-based Graphcore is creating the AI chip of tomorrow. The company is building intelligence processing units (IPUs) and, according to the company, its IPU can improve the performance of machine intelligence training and inference workloads by a factor of 10 to 100 compared with current hardware.

Founded in 2016 by Nigel Toon and Simon Knowles, the company recently secured $50m in a Series C round led by Silicon Valley venture capital titan Sequoia. Other investors include: Amadeus Capital Partners, Atomico, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, C4 Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, Draper Esprit, Foundation Capital, Pitango Venture Capital and Samsung Catalyst Fund.

Graphcore has already attracted investments from many of the biggest names in machine intelligence, including: Demis Hassabis, co-founder of DeepMind; Zoubin Ghahramani of Cambridge University and chief scientist at Uber; and Pieter Abbeel, Greg Brockman, Scott Gray and Ilya Sutskever from OpenAI.

H&D Wireless (Stockholm)

Sweden’s H&D Wireless facilitates wireless sensor and multimedia data access to the internet in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way. It is used in a wide range of applications, from smart energy meters for clean tech, to streaming data for digital media.

Founded in 2009 by Pär Bergsten, the company achieved one of its first major steps in December 2017 by announcing that it had been approved for listing on the Swedish stock exchange, Nasdaq Stockholm First North.

Konux (Munich)

Earlier this year, Siliconrepublic.com shone a light on some of the magnificent start-ups with momentum in Munich, and it was no surprise that Konux made the cut.

Using a mixture of smart sensors, data and AI-based analytics, Konux provides solutions for the industrial IoT sphere. According to Crunchbase, the start-up has raised more than $18m in funding, with investors including New Enterprise Associates and MIG AG.

Founded in 2014 by Andreas Kunze, Vlad Lata and Dennis Humhal, Konux has won numerous awards and was included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Industry list for Europe in 2017.

Lilium (Gilching)

One start-up expecting to fly high in the coming years, quite literally, is Berlin-based Lilium, which is working on releasing one of the earliest available flying taxis.

Founded in 2014 by Daniel Wiegand, Matthias Meiner, Patrick Nathen and Sebastian Born, the company has received substantial backing not only from the European Space Agency, but also Chinese giant Tencent Holdings, which pumped $90m into it in September of last year.

When operational by 2025, the flying car will be capable of flying from London to Paris in around one hour, at speeds of close to 300kph.

Nexiot (Zurich)

Since spinning out of the esteemed Swiss university ETH Zurich in 2015, Nexiot took 10 years of research in big-data algorithms and ultra-low-power embedded technology to create a range of IoT technologies.

Specialising in self-sustaining smart sensors and software for monitoring shipments, the company’s core product, GlobeHopper, merges non-powered mobile assets with IoT.

Set to take off in the years to come, Nexiot was included in the list of the top 100 start-ups in Switzerland, as ranked by Startup.ch. In spring 2017, it announced that Europe’s largest private rain wagon leasing firm would be using its sensors.

Netatmo (Paris)

Aimed squarely at aesthetic home-connected devices, Paris-based Netatmo has been referred to as France’s answer to Nest since its founding in 2011 by Fred Potter.

The company achieved its biggest single round of funding in 2015 when it secured €30m in what was also one of the largest funding rounds for a French hardware maker that year.

Starting off with a personal weather station and air-quality sensor, its portfolio expanded into the smart thermostat market late last year with a connected radiator valve.

Relayr (Berlin)

Founded by Harald Zapp, Jackson Bond, Michael Bommer and Paul Hopton, Relayr is an IoT start-up that enables device manufacturers, app developers and software companies to leverage the power of IoT.

Relayr was founded in Berlin in 2013 and has had a number of successful funding rounds since then, including Series A funding of $11m in 2015 and more than double that in 2016.

Its most recent funding round was in November 2017 from a single investor – though, as of yet, the funding amount is undisclosed.

Seebo (Tel Aviv)

Founded in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv in 2012 by Lior Akavia and Liran Akavia, Seebo is now a major IoT platform provider with additional offices in San Francisco and Shenzhen.

The company’s cloud-based software combines tools for IoT modelling, simulation, execution and behaviour analytics into pre-packaged business solutions, and is aimed at the lucrative industrial IoT market.

In November 2017, the company announced a Series A investment of $16.5m, bringing its total funding to $22m, which will be used to extend the company’s recently signed and soon-to-be announced strategic partnerships.

Sensolus (Ghent)

Belgian start-up Sensolus is making major strides in the world of IoT. It is tracking things in the skies as well as the Antarctic, where its sensors have been used to keep an eye on wandering scientists.

Founded in 2013 by Kristoff Van Rattinghe, the success of its SticknTrack sensors saw it attract the interest of investors to the tune of €2.75m in October of last year.

With this new funding, the company expects to be able to make a push outside of Europe as part of the Sigfox IoT network, having recently signed a major deal with aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus.

Sentiance (Antwerp)

Sentiance is based in the Belgian city of Antwerp, and it harnesses IoT sensor data to create valuable insights into human behaviour as well as rich real-time information.

From the connected car to the smart home, the Sentiance team – led by CEO Toon Vanparys – aims to help define behavioural patterns to enable firms to deliver better customer experiences.

Sentiance was founded in 2012 and has received funding from Volta Ventures and the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, among others.

Sonarc (Dublin)

20 innovative European IoT and hardware start-ups to watch in 2018

Sonarc founders Paul Gilligan and Sorcha O’Brien. Image: NDRC

Sonarc is a company developing the world’s first commercially viable speaker with no moving parts. Founded by Sorcha O’Brien and Paul Gilligan, Sonarc combines novel methods for creating and controlling atmospheric plasma to build its innovative sound devices.

Sonarc achieves greater sound volume per unit area (up to four times louder) than current speaker technology by controlling air movement around the speaker.

As inventor and CEO, Gilligan started building speakers when he was 12 after inheriting his grand-uncle’s speaker and radio collection. He has now developed a process to replace vibrating cones – standard speaker build – with plasma, which results in smaller speakers with better audio and bass response when compared to traditional designs.

Waylay (Ghent)

Another Belgium-based start-up worth keeping an eye on is Waylay, which offers a platform to connect IoT devices with enterprise IT systems.

Founded in 2014 by Piet Vandaele and Veselin Pizurica, the Ghent-based company secured its largest amount of funding in early 2017, leading to a total of €1.2m.

This allowed it to invest in the growth of its sales and marketing divisions, bolstered by the fact that it has been included in a number of illustrious IoT company lists, such as Gartner’s Cool Vendor 2017, the Cloud Innovation World Cup and IoT Stars.

Wia (Dublin/Belfast)

20 innovative European IoT and hardware start-ups to watch in 2018

From left: Mike Brennan, Enterprise Ireland; Wia founder and CEO Conall Laverty; and Barry Downes, managing partner at Suir Valley Ventures. Image: Louise Dunne

Wia, led by Conall Laverty, is an NDRC-based IoT start-up that originated in Belfast, and aims to provide makers with a platform to bring home and school projects to life.

The company is targeting both consumers and businesses.

Wia’s SDK provides an interface between a hardware device and its real-time service. With just a few lines of code, a developer can create a production-ready product as well as a complementary mobile app.

A former Start-up of the Week on Siliconrepublic.com, Wia recently raised €750,00 in an investment round involving Suir Valley Ventures and Enterprise Ireland, enabling it to double its staff numbers.

Wingtra (Zurich)

Wingtra has developed an unmanned aerial robot that flies like a plane, but takes off and lands vertically. It can be used in professional industries to gather aerial data of physical assets.

Founded by Elias Kleimann, Maximilian Boosfeld and Basil Weibel in 2014, Wingtra has raised $8.9m in funding to date.