Startup Spotlight: Hiber promises cheap, global IoT coverage
Dutch startup Hiber just started commercial trials of its low-cost, low-power, global Internet of Things network, designed to bring connectivity to remote and developing regions of the world, following the launch of two nano-satellites late last year.
Founded in 2016 under the name Magnitude Space by veteran satellite technicians and entrepreneurs Coen Janssen, Erik Wienk, Ernst Peter Hovinga, Laurens Groenendijk and Maarten Engelen, Hiber is the first spacefaring Dutch startup.
Its moonshot goal is to bring IoT connectivity to the 90% of the world not currently covered in order to help tackle climate change, grow crops more efficiently, manage natural resources better, and protect wild animals.
“For Hiber, IoT isn't smart homes linked to smart watches. It's bringing IoT to areas where there's never been affordable cellular access or wifi. Rural, remote and industrial IoT connectivity is where the real world-changing innovation will happen,” said the company in a statement. "Hiber’s mission is to bring easy, affordable access to IoT connectivity to everyone on our beautiful planet. No longer is it the privilege of the developed world but the whole world. Nano satellites make this happen by covering 100% of Earth’s surface. Rural, remote and industrial connectivity is a reality. Allowing IoT access from the widest oceans, coldest poles, darkest jungles, highest mountains, and busiest cities. Even your mom’s backyard.
Imagine being able to monitor remote fishing fleets, knowing the perfect time to sow crops, when an outback water supply was low, or where 1,000 isolated railcars are. And that’s just today’s solutions. Hiberband means previously unthought of ideas can easily become real. The possibilities are limitless."
Next year, the number of devices connected to the IoT is predicted to hit 30bn. The ability for connected sensors to gather and analyse data, communicating across an interconnected network is widely recognised as one of the most pivotal developments affecting the commercial and consumer spaces right now.
For Hiber, the applications of cheap, low-power IoT connectivity across the entire world are clear. With over 70 customers across the globe already signed up to commercial trials, some of the initial use cases will be:
Soil Moisture Monitoring - Monitoring soil moisture levels on farms helps farmers understand whether their crops need water. The sensors developed by Hiber partner Royal Eijkelkamp ensure that farmers make the right irrigation decisions, reducing water waste and increasing crop yields. Hiberband makes this solution globally available.
Beehive Monitoring - Bees have been facing the threat of extinction for more than fifteen years, and Hiberband’s technology will be instrumental in ensuring successful cultivation and preservation of bee colonies. Bee farmers can monitor the environment inside hives anywhere on the globe using sensors connected via Hiberband, ensuring that the conditions are optimal for bee survival and honey production.
Crop Monitoring / Post Harvest - Monitoring crops will help farmers across the world reduce food waste and spoiled crops. Centaur Analytics has developed an “Internet-of-Crops” platform that monitors the condition of harvests all the way from the farm to the consumer. Hiber enables Centaur to provide customers in the US and globally with updates on crop conditions no matter where they are in the world.
“Earth’s growing population combined with climate change is placing enormous stress on the world’s food supply chain. The lack of transparency in the chain is causing about one third of the crops in the world to be wasted before consumption. Together with Hiber, we are now able to effectively monitor crops after harvest globally - no matter the location,” said Sotiris Bantas, CEO at Centaur Analytics. “This means that Centaur and Hiber together combat food waste and promote sustainability, while at the same time providing new business opportunities for producers, traders, and CPG companies.”
Hiber launched its first two satellites from sites in Sriharikota, India and California, USA in November and December, 2018. It will be launching its third and fourth satellites in Q1 2020 also in Sriharikota, India.
The Talent War for Skilled Tech Workers
Post-pandemic, our biggest problem might be a lack of skilled tech talent. As companies move forward with their digital transformation plans, they aim to hire new staff and train their current employees. Out of 750 UK companies polled in a Studio Graphene digital report, 45% plan to hire new tech staff in the next 12 months and more than half (53%) intend to invest in training for their current workers.
Companies are realising that their survival now depends on a limited pool of qualified technology workers. Among the hardest-hit economies are those in Brazil, Indonesia, and Japan, but even the United States and the UK will experience the squeeze. “It’s pure supply and demand”, said Alan Guarino, a Korn Ferry vice-chairman. “Companies are paying more...but there’s still a shortage of high-skilled workers. Technology is the thread that runs across every aspect of business”.
Which Jobs Are In Demand?
According to a 2021 IT salary report by Robert Half Technology, the most in-demand tech jobs of the year include information security professionals, cloud architects, database administrators, systems analysts, and DevOps engineers, among others. But in those fields, it’s difficult to find hires with significant experience, multiple specialisations, and a high level of expertise. And multinationals such as Google, Apple, and IBM usually scoop them up.
Regardless of the exact role, companies need workers who can implement advanced security systems, target cloud and network vulnerabilities, document risk points and failures, and abide by new industry tech regulations. This will likely mean that companies start to take certifications like the ones pioneered by Google and Amazon, instead of insisting on four-year undergraduate degrees.
But even as coding boot camps and year-long certification programmes have ramped up to try to close the gap, smaller tech firms and startups struggle to compete with their bigger counterparts. Remote work doesn’t help matters. “Hire-from-anywhere policies will only heat up a tight candidate market”, said Ryan Sutton, a district president of technology staffing services at Robert Half. “Companies who were already having a hard time recruiting are no longer just working against local competitors, but potentially desirable companies across the country”.
How Can CIOs Solve the Crisis?
As governments try to do their part—Poland offers residency and potential citizenship to skilled tech workers, India offers broad IT, telecommunications, and cybersecurity programmes, and the Netherlands lets its foreign employees earn 30% tax-free income—company executives must take measures of their own.
Some CIOs have started looking to other countries to source expert talent. In the United States, where 80% of U.S. employers state that tech recruiting is a significant challenge, some firms are looking to Mexico, where 20% of college graduates have engineering degrees. As a result, tech companies such as Cisco and Intel have sourced labour from both the U.S. and Mexico.
To compete, here are some first steps:
- Invest in cybersecurity and cloud development training programmes
- Hire based on skills and expertise, not necessarily degrees
- Outsource to other countries with high percentages of skilled engineers and programmers
Overall, companies that broaden their search for talent and upskill their current employees will be best equipped for digital transformation. As Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, said: “Our research shows that, on the whole, UK businesses have adopted a long-term mindset [towards] technology and innovation”.