One parameter that the tags can measure is temperature. The tags communicate wirelessly, feeding their data into cloud software also produced by Wiliot.
The vision is to give a person an idea of whether the food or medicine in front of them is safe or spoiled, or to offer some sort of history of the piece of clothing in their hands.
Wiliot marketing materials assert that the technology could reshape supply chains, allowing automatic replenishment of many items. Imagine “the Netflix of groceries,” said Steve Statler, the San Diego-based senior vice president of marketing for the company.
Wiliot tags were used to monitor the temperature of one of the new vaccines that helped control the outbreak of COVID-19, Statler said.
A single Wiliot tag is called a Pixel. Wiliot bills its overall offering as Sensing as a Service — a twist on the more common meaning of SaaS, which is Software as a Service.
New Hires, New Channels
SoftBank led the latest, $200 million funding round, announced on July 27. Among those returning to make further investments were two Southern California companies, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and Avery Dennison Corp. (NYSE: AVY), as well as several other businesses and venture capital firms.
Wiliot said it plans to use the funding to hire more employees and to scale its channels for the upcoming launch of its next-generation Version 2 tags.
The company has its headquarters in Israel. San Diego serves as its U.S. hub for business development as well as for certain engineering projects such as “edge engineering.” San Diego is a good source of tech talent and a short flight from other tech hubs, Statler said.
The business has 75 employees, with a dozen of them in San Diego. Statler said Wiliot may double its local workforce to 24.
SoftBank’s investment in Wiliot is part of its SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Amit Lubovsky, investor for SoftBank Investment Advisers, will join Wiliot’s board of directors as part of the deal.
Returning investors were 83North, Amazon Web Services Inc., Avery Dennison, Grove Ventures, M Ventures, the corporate VC of Merck, Maersk Growth, Norwest Venture Partners, NTT DOCOMO Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures LLC, Samsung Venture Investment Corp., Vintage Investment Partners and Verizon Ventures.
Previous investors include PepsiCo (Nasdaq: PEP).
“Wiliot has created a vision of the future of AI-enabled IoT, and we are delighted that SoftBank is supporting us in making this future a reality,” said Tal Tamir, Wiliot’s CEO. “IoT [Internet of Things] is a vision created around things and our mission at Wiliot is to use cutting edge hardware, AI-based sensing and an innovative business model to implement a safer and more transparent world, a world in which all the things around us help consumers use them better and suppliers avoid waste.”
Software and Tags
Wiliot’s business model will be to sell the use of its cloud software. “We charge for sensing services,” Statler said. The tags and the software cannot be used independently.
The software employs artificial intelligence, or AI.
Early Wiliot tags cost less than $1 to make, the executive said, and by now the cost has dropped to the range of 20 cents to 35 cents.
“I think you can expect Moore’s Law to apply, not just to the cost” but also to the technology’s performance, said Statler. (Moore’s Law describes the increased capability of computers as time passes.)
The computer in the Wiliot tag gets its power by harvesting radio frequency energy from its surroundings. Its central processing unit is described as programmable ARM Cortex M0+ 32-bit processing unit operating at 1 megahertz. The machine has up to 1 kilobyte of non-volatile memory for program, identity and security material.
Wiliot-enabled products and packaging can sense temperature, fill level, motion, location changes, humidity and proximity, according to the company.
Logistics companies have used the system, though Statler declined to name customers.
“Look carefully at a supermarket rolling cage” used to restock shelves, Statler said. “You’ll find [Wiliot] stickers.”
More details about the Version 2 tags will be available when the tags debut later this year. In the planning stages is a Version 3 tag, which is projected to cost between 5 cents and 10 cents.
CEO: Tal Tamir
HEADQUARTERS: Caesarea, Israel, with U.S. operations in Scripps Ranch
BUSINESS: Technology company specializing in the Internet of Things (IoT)
FUNDING: $270 million, including the recent Series C round of $200 million
EMPLOYEES: 12 in San Diego, 75 total
NOTABLE: Wiliot’s three founders are former Qualcomm Inc. employees