Ambient Awareness & The Promise of Native Experiences

In 2004, I started a group research project, as part of my MBA program, to evaluate the promise of an RFID-based information platform. My original premise was that sensor-based platforms would eventually become the next large-scale information utility, serving as a parallel information network to the traditional web.

While the pricing of active RFID sensors looked like it would inhibit the growth of that sub-segment, it seemed clear that passive sensors had an opportunity to achieve widespread deployment once large retailers like Wal-Mart got behind it.

As our research proceeded, it dawned on me that the largest active sensor network in the world wouldn’t be RFID-driven but more likely mobile device-driven, eventually cuminating in the internet of things. This spawned a whole series of thoughts that eventually coalesced into several investment theses.

The overarching theme was that sensor-rich mobile devices, coupled with high-order intelligent software, would be able to offer numerous obvious and non-obvious use cases to a wide variety of users.

The first thesis was that there would need to be an intelligent platform that captured all the ‘signals’ from sensors, assembled, parsed and routed instructions and information to the user to enable decision support and more.

The second was that data-fueled experiences underscored by spatio-temporal awareness would lead to a dramatic upheaval in our expectations for the utility and value of such sensor-rich devices. Redefining mobile experiences would be a massive shift and opportunity. Incorporating data and information generated by the internet of things could conceivably lead to a smarter planet.

It took a few years to find the right startup teams thinking along these lines.

In 2009, in support of the first thesis, I led an investment in Sense Networks. Sense Networks has developed technology to generate insights based on explicit and implicit sensor data generated in space and time.

In 2011, in support of the second, we led an investment in Dekko. The promise of Dekko was simple: the team believed the proliferation of intelligent mobile devices would require an intelligent interface between such devices and the real-world. In extending the online-to-offline-online construct, there would be a need for a real-world operating system, that could bring your digital world into the real world in a seamless and useful manner. This posed an incredibly difficult set of technical problems but offered an unbound set of opportunities in segments such as gaming, social networking, tourism, construction, e-health and security.

The Dekko team has worked quietly for several years in pursuit of this vision. It is an industry-leading all-world team made up of the best and brightest minds in 3D mapping, mobile UI/UX, augmented reality, cognition and awareness, optical tracking and micro-gestures, and HCI. We are super thrilled to have backed them.

In addition to being incredibly grateful to the team, we also owe a debt of gratitude to our co-investors, most of whom supported a game-changing vision pre-product, and have been stalwarts along the way as the team was grinding along in the shadows. Big thanks also go to Google for helping validate the vision with the launch of Google Glass. Dekko will offer the definitive OS for all mobile devices, including Google Glass.

Take a look.