Your fridge is running out of milk and bread but instead of facing an empty stomach when you get back home late in the evening, there will be food waiting for you in a Starship robot outside of your front door. Your fridge has already notified your online grocery store and the goods have been delivered outside of your front door (in the future by a drone to your Cleveron box?). This is how the story of the Internet of Things (IoT) is usually illustrated.
This is not a dream that is years away, it is already happening. There is an abundance of smart devices that just need to be connected to the internet in order to be able to communicate with each other. This is where 1oT comes in. Märt Kroodo (32), the founder and CEO of 1oT, and his team have been building that dream for the past 3 years.
’We just launched the 1oT eSIM card that enables our clients to swap between pre-negotiated telecom services “over-the-air”, without the need to physically change the SIM card,’ Märt explains. The first-ever consumer eSIM device was already launched back in 2015 – the Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch –, followed by the Google Pixel 2 smartphone.
’It is a matter of a year or two until eSIM becomes a standard solution. Tesla, Apple and other big conglomerates have launched eSIMs for their own use but this technology is not available for smaller market players,’ Märt points out. ’Telecoms themselves, however, are not interested in pushing eSIM technology to the market as they enjoy the lock-in situation the traditional SIM card technology is offering.’
1oT is carrying out this tedious task of gathering many telecom deals together and talking the telecoms into making the swapping between their networks possible. It took 1oT two years to persuade one big carrier (not to point any fingers) into signing a deal. ’In essence, we will operate as their sales team bringing them more traffic using the existing networks.’ They have 12 telecoms integrated with 1oT services so far, and have already made 3-4 of them very happy while being their top service resellers.
Switching off the City of Angels
Until now, 1oT’s main clients have mostly been the producers of smart devices such as light vehicles, tracking devices, smart city solution providers, and wind turbines. ’All of these above-mentioned device producers and service providers are our potential customers – if they do business globally and have to decide in the production cycle which SIM to use, 1oT will be a no brainer.’
The biggest target market for 1oT is currently electric scooter sharing, providing connectivity service to some of the four-letter US & European market players like Uber, Lime, Lyft, Bird and Bolt. Their platform enables these providers to control their SIM cards: they can see where SIMs are located, set up data limits, switch SIMs on & off and so on. One client could have hundreds of thousands of scooters, and that is a lot of SIM-cards to be in charge of and to track.
Sometimes there are setbacks and technology can fail. ’Once in Los Angeles the entire T-Mobile network switched off because all of the scooters in the city started system upgrading simultaneously,’ Märt recalls. This is where smart devices can still behave quite stupidly and there is a vast field of opportunities to make them smarter yet.
Besides the element of comfort – of not having to change the SIM-card – there is an obvious advantage of energy saving: for example, in the case of smart city solutions, the street lights do not have to be on all the time – if a car drives by, the light will automatically switch on and then off again. In the end, it will help to bring down the cost for the end user and make processes more efficient.
Plants as pets
Having obtained his MSc in Finance from the University of Portsmouth in the UK, Märt worked in stock analysis for Swedbank. After 3 years he got bored, although he remarks that ’only in Estonia can someone so young be allocated such responsibility’.
He moved on to Ernst&Young where his first client happened to be Click & Grow, an Estonian startup developing urban farming technology. They were in search of another investor, which Märt failed to find as a consultant, but decided to join the startup as a team member to finish his job. During his time at Click & Grow, they moved their headquarters to the US and joined Y Combinator, the startup accelerator that has helped push Dropbox and Airbnb to the market. Additionally, they switched production to China and raised another 2 million dollars for the company.
’I still think it’s an amazing product and it has a lot of potential as an urban farming device or as a modern pet,’ says Märt, summarising this period in his life. He learned a lot, both from building the product as well as the time spent at Y Combinator, which offered useful insight into how to make things work.
In hindsight, it was great to be in Silicon Valley as there are so many likeminded people around you but nothing will replace the small family-like Estonian startup ecosystem where everybody supports each other and will give you honest criticism. ’The feedback you get from your customers is the most valuable way to better the product. We are in constant learning-mode in 1oT and are keeping the mentality of students as part of our company culture.