Wiliot, an Internet of Things startup that’s developed low-cost Bluetooth sensors to better manage inventory and reduce waste across grocery, medicine, apparel and myriad other industries, has raised $200 million from SoftBank Vision Fund 2.
The hefty funding round will help Wiliot, co-headquartered in Israel and San Diego, ramp up the rollout of its next generation sensors and new “sensing as a service” business model, which could finally break through some economic barriers that have long held back the widespread promise of the Internet of Things.
“Wiliot is building intelligence into anything that we use on a daily basis,” said Steve Statler, senior vice president of marketing and business development. “So, we can go from the Internet of Expensive Things, which is really what IoT has been, to the Internet of Everyday Things, which is really what the intent of IoT was from the beginning.”
The company’s battery free sensor is the size of a postage stamp. It attaches to food packaging, vaccine vials, clothes, pill bottles and thousands of other products across the supply chain. The tags harvest power from surrounding Wi-Fi, cellular and Bluetooth radio signals.
The stickers sense temperature, fill level, motion, location changes, humidity and proximity in real time. That data is fed into a secure, private Wiliot cloud server, where algorithms help businesses make decisions through a subscription service.
Statler said the technology could change the way “things are made, distributed, sold, used, re-used and ultimately recycled.” The company says this transformation will provide consumers with increased convenience, fresher, safer food, less waste, lower medical costs and a lower environmental impact.
“If we can make less stuff but sell more of what we make, we waste less,” said Statler. “If you can give brands the ability to see the inventory of their product in real time in the retail channel, they can use smaller trucks to do fewer deliveries but get the right things on the right shelves so that you don’t run out of stock.”
Founded in 2017, Wiliot raised $70 million prior to the SoftBank investment. Its roots go back to three former top executives at Wilocity, a chipmaker that was acquired by Qualcomm for $300 million in 2014.
The company has roughly 75 employees worldwide, with about a dozen based in San Diego. While its research and development occurs in Israel, the company’s customer operations are based in San Diego, said Statler. It aims to double its local headcount by year end.
Since inception, Wiliot has been perfecting its Bluetooth sensor to make it small enough to stick to most products and cheap enough to treat as a disposable product. Hundreds of thousands have been deployed so far, said Statler. The new funding aims to push that into the millions and beyond.
“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,” said Tal Tamir, Wiliot’s chief executive, in a statement.
Besides SoftBank, Wiliot is financially backed by heavyweights across several industries, including PepsiCo and Verizon’s venture capital arm. Amazon Web Services and Samsung invested in the company early on, as did Qualcomm Ventures. Avery Dennison, one of the world’s largest suppliers of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, is an investor.
All participated in the latest funding round, as did other existing investors including 83North, Grove Ventures, Vintage Investment Partners, Maersk Growth, Norwest Venture Partners, NTT DOCOMO Ventures and M Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of pharmaceutical giant Merck.
As part of the latest round, Amit Lubovsky of SoftBank Investment Advisers will join Wiliot’s board of directors.
“By inventing the first hyper-scalable, self-powered computer that uses artificial intelligence to sense the world, Wiliot is positioned to bring together the digital and physical” said Yanni Pipilis, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “We are pleased to play a part in helping Wiliot dramatically scale the ever-expanding application of IoT globally.”