Start-up of the week: HidnSeek

7 Mar 2016

The world's first open source GPS tracker for the Sigfox internet of things network

Our start-up of the week is HidnSeek, an internet of things start-up formed by former Intel Leixlip engineer Xavier Torres-Tuset that has built the first GPS open-source tracker using the Sigfox network.

The HidnSeek GPS Tracker ST-1A is an autonomous standalone device, rechargeable via a provided micro-USB port and LiPo battery, explains Torres-Tuset, who spent 14 years at Intel in Leixlip and is now based in Grenoble, France.

“It has an integrated antenna and connects to the Sigfox network straight out of the box, using a unique key for security and privacy. Users simply download the mobile or web app, register the tracker number in the app, and they’re up and running, able to set alerts, draw geofences or enter motion-detection modes, and start using the tracker immediately.”

Sigfox is a French start-up that has created a wireless network specifically for the internet of things and last year it raised $115m to build its network globally. The investors in Sigfox include Telefonica, GDF Suez, NTT DoCoMo Ventures, SK Telecom, Air Liquide and Elliot Management.

The opportunities being created by the Sigfox network are being seized upon by start-ups like HidnSeek as well as Irish-based player VT Networks, which recently raised €1.2m to build Ireland’s first nationwide internet of things network.

‘The whole IoT arena is really exciting and presents a huge opportunity for Irish start-ups. Ireland currently has a good infrastructure and support network for start-ups including academic, state and industry programs’

“The open APIs allow customers and developers to craft their own apps,” Torres-Tuset explained about HidnSeek’s GPS tracker.

“Key benefits over existing GPS technology includes greatly reduced power consumption for much longer battery life, along with much cheaper subscription costs and no requirement for a SIM card.”

The market

HidnSeek’s first product can offer asset management solutions, vehicle tracking, theft prevention, personal protection, child security, drone retrieval and light aircraft tracking, baggage tracking, building intrusion alerts and much more.

“Beyond our first product we want to design and build innovative IoT asset management solutions using SigFox connectivity.

“Traditional companies (who own or sell physical devices) cannot always benefit from the IoT revolution because it’s either complicated or they don’t have the knowledge.

“At HidnSeek, we really want to empower enterprise or customers by connecting existing assets to the digital world through IOT networks.”

The founders


HidnSeek CTO Stephane Driussi and CEO Xavier Torres-Tuset

Originally formed in Ireland but now based in Grenoble, France, HidnSeek was founded by an experienced team coming from the semiconductor, mobile and big data industries.

CEO Torres-Tuset is a technologist with more than 20 years’ experience in the semiconductor industry and worked at Intel Leixlip for 14 years before relocating to France recently.

CTO Stephane Driussi is a digital designer with 18-plus years in the industry.

“We are proud to be the first open-source GPS locator that is Sigfox-ready and shipping, with full app support for smartphones,” Torres-Tuset said.

“The combination of low-cost, high-accuracy and widespread international coverage has pushed us to ramp up fast to meet customer demand, both from end users and increasingly from business customers who want high-volume customisable tracking solutions and services.”

The technology

Previous trackers required either expensive GSM connections, or proximity to Bluetooth devices, which was impractical.

“We’ve disrupted that to make widespread affordable tracking a reality,” Driussi explained.

“The immediate market response is overwhelming, highlighting HidnSeek’s ease of use, low-connectivity cost, open source and our responsiveness to API questions.”

Sigfox’s networks provide low-power widespread coverage to enable communications over large geographic areas with minimal battery drain.

Its coverage is growing constantly to new cities and countries: western Europe is covered and the network is now being rolled out in Nordic, southern and eastern European countries.

The next phases are already planned for North and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.

“Our ultimate goal is to build IoT networks and assist our customers in their digital transformation. We want to enable them to deploy asset management solutions and analytics to empower and create value for customers.”

HidnSeek was started just over a year ago and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign with its first GPS tracker.

“We will need to attract investment in the near future since big players are currently evaluating our technology,” according to Torres-Tuset explained.

Human capital is key to the IoT opportunity

As Torres-Tuset points out, the canvas for opportunities in IoT is vast.

“And every day we come up with a new application for our product, therefore, it is challenging to keep our scope narrow until we can build a team to sustain our innovation.

“The biggest challenge is managing workload. It’s extremely difficult to take on and execute all of the responsibilities related to the setup of the business while delivering a product to the marketplace, so it is very important to rely on a trusty passionate team to progress. Human capital is really critical.

‘As with all start-ups, marrying technical innovation with commercial expertise is key to success and the start-ups that excel in both areas will survive’

“The whole IoT arena is really exciting and presents a huge opportunity for Irish start-ups. Ireland currently has a good infrastructure and support network for start-ups, including academic, state and industry programmes.

“As with all start-ups, marrying technical innovation with commercial expertise is key to success and the start-ups that excel in both areas will survive.”

Torres-Tuset’s advice for other start-ups is to consider crowdfunding as a way to get a viable product in place.

“Make sure your business idea is actually viable, do not hesitate to use crowdfunding to test your product and get customer feedback to have the opportunity to adjust your offering rapidly.

“Beyond obvious access to capital, the crowdfunding serves as a valuable learning experience and allows you to gain market validation.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years