Wi-Fi-enabled smart plugs and outlets that let users control home electronics from their smartphones, and fully connected electronic water heaters are among the ideas from 10 startups that have been chosen to participate in the first Microsoft Ventures Accelerator program focusing on home automation.
The program, which will be held August through December on Microsoft’s Redmond campus, is geared toward helping “a new generation of companies create smarter and safer homes,” Steven Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of developer experience and evangelism, said in a blog post.
Home automation is a growing market, and the ideas behind it — everything in the home being connected to the Internet; devices embedded all around us that can sense what we need and respond to it — are part of what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella means when he talks about a world in which “ambient intelligence” and “ubiquitous computing” are prevalent.
According to the blog post, the 10 startups, chosen from 400 applicants, are:
* Chai Energy, which helps users understand their energy usage and figure out ways to save energy
* Heatworks, which develops fully electronic tankless water heaters
* Neura, which connects intelligent devices and helps them adapt to how people use their devices
* Reemo, a wrist-worn device that uses gestures to control supported home-automation systems and some conventional appliances
* Plum, which develops Wi-Fi enabled lightpads, smart plugs and outlets that let users control electronics from wall switches or smartphones
* Red Balloon Security, which develops host-based defenses for embedded devices
* Scanalytics, which develops sensors for understanding people’s behavior in physical spaces and tools to manage devices in physical environments
* Sentri, an HD camera with built-in sensors that track a home’s vital stats and trends, allowing users to track temperature, humidity, air quality, weather and more.
* Wallflowr, which is developing technology that can help reduce risks of accidental fires caused by ranges, stoves and ovens
The home-automation Accelerator is being held in partnership with American Family Insurance. Microsoft is providing space for the Accelerator, along with mentorship and networking opportunities. American Family Insurance is offering a minimum, optional $25,000 equity investment in each startup accepted into the program. Mentors and advisers include folks from Madrona Venture Group, Ignition Partners and Starbucks, among others.
Microsoft Ventures, the overarching umbrella under which the company groups its efforts aimed at fostering tech startups, includes the Accelerator program, in which select startups are chosen for a 3- to 6-month immersive experience; the BizSpark program, which provides tools, technology and mentorship to startups in communities worldwide; and the Seed Fund, which provides investments to early-stage companies. Microsoft formed the umbrella group in June 2013, though some of its programs predate the naming of the Ventures group.