At London Startup, Internet Of Things Meets Whiskey Bottles

Evrythng offers open standard and engine that will help manufacturers label objects so that they can communicate with people and other objects.
The two-year-old Evrythng already has won $1 million in funding from Atomico and other investors in the first round, with further VC investment being sought this year. And Hobsbawm, son of late radical Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, has proved he can spot a trend. He worked on Web technologies in the early 1990s with U.K. firm Online Magic and helped found one of the first digital marketing companies,, in New York. His co-founder, Niall Murphy, helped set up British Wi-Fi company The Cloud in 2003.

Hobsbawm claims his firm is engaged already with global brands to help them use the Evrythng Engine to track products in the supply chain, access invaluable interaction analytics and create dynamic marketing and post-sales service experiences for customers. "Imagine if your oven could tell you the cheapest place to get spare parts for it, how to find trusted local service help if it breaks down, or offer you sustainable end-of-life solutions such as posting to a local recycling bulletin board," he said enthusiastically.

For companies, the technology could be used to track the identity, location and status of products, allowing them to filter different types of interactions with, say, the smart tags on a product or packing case, by different user groups and social networks.

An early Evrythng customer is Diageo, the world's largest premium drinks company, which ran a campaign in Latin America where each consumer could attach a personalized film tribute to their father to a bottle of whisky. Both giver and receiver could socially share the digital content and opt in to ongoing CRM programs. As a result of the campaign, Hobsbawm claims, Diageo's ROI metrics were ahead of target.

In a testimonial on the Evrythng site, Diageo global VP for marketing innovation Venky Balakrishnan said, "Evrythng's technology is game-changing. We now have a profound strategic opportunity to transform our physical products into owned digital media, which can communicate personalized information and experiences to consumers, exactly when and where they want it."

Evrythng has garnered analyst praise as well, "This is way beyond product tracking," said William Fellows, principal analyst and VP of research for 451. "It's drawing down on Facebook's engineering model and a category called out as 'product relationship management' as anchor points to support its mission. IoT is the organizing principal for its activities, where social, cloud and mobile identities of everyday objects are connected."

To those who would compare his company's work to radio frequency identification tags, the technology that was supposed to do -- and failed at -- something similar not too long ago, Evrythng is not Son Of RFID, said Hobsbawm. "This is a huge shift from RFID, which doesn't work this way at all," he said. "With RFID the tags have to be read by an external reader. In the bigger world of the Internet of Things, there are a range of connectivity technologies -- active and passive tags, sensors, embed controllers, etc. And these technologies provide a constant feedback loop and allow two-way interaction. [That] means you can not only sense objects but also 'actuate' them -- make the physical objects do something different -- remotely and at any time."

He added, "Plus, now there's the social aspect that is a whole new layer on the Internet of Things. This link between objects and people -- think of cars they text us when they're low on power, or NFC-based travel cards we use to swipe our way around or keys which can rent bikes, and so on -- was not in the original RFID proposition at all."

RFID suffered "the lack of meaningful interoperability with other global network tools like the Web," said Hobsbawm. "But the biggest challenges were probably political rather than technical. Organizations, it turned out, didn't want to share their data because of competitive concerns. And the consumer campaigned against the technology because they felt that it was all about the supply chain and there was nothing in it for them other than loss of privacy.

"In contrast, now we see this massive shift towards what's called the 'consumerization of technology' as consumers lead the way in the adoption of the most remarkable and fascinating technologies - and other parts of the economy follow," he said.

If he's right, and technologies like Evrythng's prevail to connect every physical object and enable it to exchange information with people and other objects, "it's hard to think of a single industry that won't be affected," said Hobsbawm.

Attend Online Marketing Summit San Diego, Feb. 11-13,and transform your brand with three full days of digital marketing inspiration, practical learning and networking opportunities. Hear from top brands including Adobe, Eloqua, Intel, Shutterfly, Sony Electronics and more.

Editor's Choice
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author