6 IoT and smart city start-ups to look out for in 2021

12 Aug 2021

Image: © Bits and Splits/Stock.adobe.com

As technology continues to revolutionise the way we live and work beyond the pandemic, here are some early-stage companies innovating in the IoT space.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Technology Pioneers of 2021 represent a collection of 100 early to growth-stage companies identified as trailblazers working with new technologies and innovations.

This year’s list includes start-ups shaking up data and cybersecurity and blazing a trail in blockchain and digital assets.

Here, we take a look at the IoT and smart city start-ups on the list, covering innovators that are finding advanced tech solutions to a burgeoning list of complex challenges in an increasingly digitised post-pandemic world.

Diligent Robotics

Founded by Andrea Thomaz and Vivian Chu in 2017, Diligent Robotics is a female-led early-stage company that makes AI-powered robot assistants for healthcare workers. The technology incorporates mobile manipulation, social intelligence and human-guided learning capabilities to assist workers in hospitals and medical centres.

The Austin-based company is noted for the creation of Moxi, a robot that works in hospitals to help clinical staff with non-patient-facing tasks so workers have more time for patient care. It runs time-consuming errands such as fetching and gathering and has been deployed in several hospitals across Texas.

Both Thomaz and Chu have been featured in MIT’s 35 Innovators Under 35 list. The two worked together at Georgia Tech where Thomaz co-advised Chu’s PhD in robotics. Diligent Robotics raised $10m in Series A funding last year in a round led by DNX Ventures.

EQuota Energy

Based in Shanghai, China, EQuota Energy is a data analytics SaaS company that supports large manufacturing factories, industrial parks, commercial buildings and other utilities. It uses the power of AI and big data to monitor energy consumption, optimise efficiency and improve business operations.

The start-up was founded by CEO Chunguang Charlotte Wang in 2014. MIT alumnus Wang graduated in 2012 with a master’s in management and engineering, and the EQuota website says that its core team is made up of MIT graduates.

EQuota has deployed its tech in China in high-tech industrial parks, steel manufacturing sites and commercial buildings. It has received investments from big players in the sector such as Shell as well as the Asian Development Bank.


HumanFirst is a medtech company that builds the operational infrastructure needed to bring decentralised trials and healthcare into the home.

Formerly known as Elektra Labs, the US start-up helps medicine manufacturers and hospitals use sensor technologies to monitor key metrics such as a patient’s heart rate and sleep patterns. It has developed workflow management software to enable remote monitoring through connected sensor products.

Co-founded by CEO Andy Coravos in 2017, HumanFirst is backed by Maverick Ventures, Lux Capital, Threshold Ventures, Arkitekt Ventures, Boost VC, SV Angel, Village Global and angel investors. Earlier this year, the start-up raised $12m in fresh financing.


A software solution for urban planners and facility managers, Numina is a start-up that builds technology to measure street-level activity and deliver insights across 25 cities globally.

The company aims to gather real-time data based on the behaviour of people, bicycles and vehicles in cities and convert this into digital formats that are safe to share, without compromising privacy. This helps inform decision-makers attempting to build smart cities that are more walkable and bike friendly.

The company was co-founded by CEO Tara Pham in 2014 and is headquartered in New York. Numina projects have been supported by the Knight Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Clinton Foundation. Its investors include Shasta Ventures, Betaworks and BMW, among others.


The only other non-US start-up on this list after EQuota is Videonetics. This Indian company has developed a unified video computing platform that uses the power of AI and deep learning to make sense of surveillance data. The technology helps users carry out auditing and review of CCTV footage in real time, creating intelligent incident reports for quick escalation and resolution of incidents.

The company was founded in 2008 by academic and entrepreneur Tinku Acharya and is based in Kolkata, India. Its video management software is used by more than 100 companies, including the Airports Authority of India, and its traffic management system monitors more than 15,000 lanes in the country.

Acharya, who is the company’s managing director, previously worked in engineering roles in Intel and AT&T in the US. Videonetics’ investors include Webel and GenNext, among others.


WooBloo is a start-up that creates smart home technologies using IoT and AI-powered voice assistance. The company says that its aim is to make homes more interconnected by making products that “do 10 things compared to consumers buying 10 products to get things done”.

Headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, WooBloo was founded in 2017 by siblings Sirisha and Sandeep Gondi along with entrepreneurs Rahul Devarakonda and Bob Wysocki.

In 2020, the company launched its first product, a smart home assistant and projector called Smash. The Alexa-powered smart projector is designed to be portable and can use video streaming apps such as Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube. With eyes on North America, the UK, India and Australia, WooBloo intends to raise funding from investors and meet the growing IoT demands of the global smart home market.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic