With more than 26 billion (or more) connected devices anticipated by 2020, there’s a big question about how those devices will talk to one another. But the scientists behind Neura, a startup that has offices in both California and Israel, are less worried about how devices will talk to each other and much more concerned with how humans will interact with them. It’s not like people want to spend hours tweaking their dozens of devices just to make them work.
Neura, which was founded in January of last year, thinks it has a solution to this problem in the form of a technology stack for the internet of things. The company has raised $2 million in seed funding led by venture capital firm Greenhouse Capital Partners, alongside SingTel Innov8 Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital, TriplePoint Ventures, and several angel investors. That funding is in addition to a $300,000 pre-seed round. While I might quibble with Neura CEO Gilad Meiri about his definition of a seed round, I like his thinking on the technology stack he’s promoting.
Neura’s goal is audacious: to make the internet of things all-inclusive and anticipatory. To do this, Neura has three layers of technology starting with data normalization. It calls this layer Harmony, and the idea is to essentially build device profiles and make the data each device gathers fit into a specific profile.
So while there are dozens of fitness tracking options on the market, the Harmony layer attempts to take each of them and figure out what information is relevant and then grab that data and turn it into a potential subscription. So it might be the number of footsteps from an activity monitor or the time spent asleep. For heart rate or glucose monitors, it will track down whatever the relevant metrics are, and then store it in a common format.
The next layer is a rules engine that will let the user or Neura partner set conditional rules (like if this, then that) today, but will eventually evolve into a pattern recognition engine that will then suggest rules to the end user based on their habits, devices and even connections. Neura calls this Trac.
On top of that is what Neura calls the physical graph, which is a pretty common terminology among folks developing products for the internet of things, but for Neura actually means a database of contextual elements that will influence and inform the rules engine. Meiri expects that your devices will share information about what they are connected to, who you’re connected to based on proximity (for example a Nike Fuelband that is constantly sleeping next to another person’s Jawbone every night implies that the people are married or at least in a close relationship) where someone is, and what services to offer based on all that information.
Neura’s core technology is set, but saying you want to be the connective tissue for the internet of things and actually getting there is another matters. Neura’s CEO has decided to focus first on building out the database and profiles for the health and wellness market, focusing on a few partners who will implement the Neura technology and include it as part of an app or service offering.
Currently the Neura team has added profiles for about 80 apps, which can take anywhere from an hour to three days to add, said Meiri. However, he expects that once Neura has profiles for more than 300 services, then the burden of integration will fall on the partner wishing to join the platform as opposed to the Neura team.
As ideas go, I like the way Neura is thinking about the problem and can’t wait to see what the end results look like. Meiri was very clear that for now the rules engine is conditional as opposed to anticipatory, but in discussing how the platform could publish notifications, such as my step count or my location and turn that data coming from a connected device into an insight worth taking action over, I got a hint of how we might tie the connected world together.
If Neura can make that reality — or anyone else for that matter — it would be a huge step forward.