Investors and partners, talent spotters and industry professionals gathered at the Hub’s new home in London’s Goswell Road one evening in late September. The occasion was the latest in a series of events to highlight the work of development teams at the UK’s dedicated incubation centre for location-based technologies.
The risky business of farming, with its many uncertainties and high input costs, was the topic addressed by Angela Monteira and Fabio Pania, respectively CEO and CTO of Mothive (www.mothive,com). Although unable to attend in person, their pre-recorded video presentation outlined a solution based on a crop-specific sensor that is placed next to growing plants to gather environmental and soil data in real-time. The data is processed, using bespoke predictive models, to deliver actionable recommendations and alerts via a the Mothive Dashboard (pictured preceding page), SMS and email.The claimed result is a 20% plus boost in yields, reduced wastage, greater sustainability and, of course, higher profitability.
With £1.3 million of funding already secured for ongoing development and capitalisation, Mothive is currently piloting its solution on farms with high-value berry crops in the UK and Portugal. The business model hinges on charging users £100 per field sensor plus a monthly subscription of £5 per active sensor.In the berry farming sector alone, Mothive sees this model opening-up business worth £500 million annually across Europe.
Next up were Danielle Connor and Matthew Brown, who explained how a growing number of children fail to make the most of exploring the great outdoors and, hence, distanced from its wildlife and the threats they face. Thanks to seed funding from Geovation and The Environment Now Foundation, they have developed Pocket Pals (www.pocketpalsapp.com), a free-to-play smartphone app that encourages families with children to reconnect with the natural world.
Available since August from Google Play and Apple Store, the educational tool utilises GPS for location-finding, and Augmented Reality to spawn a library of animals to be encountered on nature trails, in nature reserves, and other managed wildlife environments. Connor and Brown are now concentrating on adding to the library of animals, further developing the app’s nature reserve features, and tailoring Pocket Pals to meet the needs of a subscription-based clientele.
Ben Scott-Robinson, Sam Watson James and Joe Allnutt, co-founders of the Small Robot Company (www.smallrobotcompany.com) were next to the rostrum. Their ingenious approach to stagnating yields and revenues from arable land has been to develop a small, autonomously-guided tractor - dubbed Tom, Dick and Harry (prototype pictured above right) - that performs multiple functions, from continuous, real-time crop monitoring (Tom) to weeding and spraying (Dick) to planting (Harry). A companion Farming as a Service application (FaaS), called Wilma, converts Tom’s incoming data stream into fieldwork instructions for Dick and Harry.
Early adopters are a score of cereal farmers who have prepaid to access the prototype online service. A further 150 have expressed interest in adopting the service when it is fully operational, and when the Small Robot Company says it will deliver a healthy wheat crop for a subscription fee of £400 a year.
We are all now familiar with the way drones can perform structural surveys in a fraction of the time taken using traditional methods. Yet much of the captured data takes time to process and is largely underutilised. To address this shortcoming, Pae Natwilai, founder and CEO of TRIK (www.gettrik.com) has developed an automated, enterprise-level SaaS solution that converts photographs of assets into 3D models and uses machine learning to detect and track changes and predict failures as an aid to preventative maintenance.
The drone-derived digital twin system, developed over the past three years with £600,000 of funding, half of it from the Department for Transport, is currently in trial with AIG, Network Rail and Murphy; has drawn interest from the likes of Thales; and is now ready for scaling-up, for which TRIK is seeking a further investment of up to £2.5 million.
The participation of Her Majesty’s Land Registry (HMLR) over the past year as a full Hub sponsor has seen a growing number of land and property-related projects being pursued at the lab, four of which made their debut at this latest event.
While the number of people moving into flatshares in the private rented sector continues to soar, so do the number of scams by rogue landlords, dodgy agents and fake advertisers - all cashing-in on Britain’s housing crisis. For those seeking suitable accommodation, it can result in a stressful search process, high failure rates, and unnecessary expenditure.
To make the process less painful, Jenny Pater, founder of Fruumi (www.fruumi.com)explained how the Fruumi platform, currently in BETA test (pictured below), has been evolved to meet the needs of ‘generation rent’ by providing a safe online environment in which individuals can connect with suitable roommates and/or find their ideal flatshares.
Having been selected to join the Geovation Hub Accelerator Programme earlier this year, Fruumi has most recently signed a corporate partnership deal with the Habitat for Humanity charity to support self-build projects.
Even those looking to sell bricks and mortar can encounter a lack of transparency – and sometimes honesty – in the way potential buyers are introduced. With no consistent, market-wide mechanism for documenting, evidencing and sharing a buyer’s position (e.g. their mortgage status), disappointment and missed opportunities abound. To these and other pitfalls such as hidden fees, tackle the problem, a team led by Adam Philips, founder and CEO of Hipla (www.hipla.co.uk), has been building a suite of tools for estate agents that scores a buyer’s position, helps with basic property maths, and is available for sharing within the agency. Hipla’s ‘Home Buyer’s Passport’ will also help home buyers improve their position.
Over the past year, Hipla has piloted a prototype passport (pictured above), deployed an integrated lead-handling platform, and is working towards the release of a redesigned passport by the close of this year. Partnerships have been established with several independent estate agents and discussions are ongoing with larger agencies and regional networks.
With housing in such scarce supply, one option in cities is to boost the surface area for accommodation by a third or more by making use of suitable rooftop spaces … a prospect that could add £51 billon of development value in London alone. Yet realising it is a slow and expensive process … one compounded by a paucity of data on suitable rooftops.
It is against this backdrop that Damian Kysely and Brandon Bell, co-founders of Skyscape (www.skyscape.global) set to work to implement a web-based marketplace platform for unused rooftop spaces. Now being trialled in London using a monthly subscription and transaction fee-based business model, the AI-driven analytics platform processes geospatial and property data to continually reassess rooftop potential and match demand with supply.
As well as targeting the residential airspace market, Skyscape is in discussion with two modular housing providers to tackle the housing shortage; has been approached by national and local government bodies to help deliver more housing stock and, even more ambitiously, plans to acquire rooftop spaces of its own. Not least, interest has been shown by NASA and a variety of companies that have an eye on the emerging aerial mobility market. The omens look promising as the business begins a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme funding round.
One team to have just closed a £400,000 funding round is Thirdfort (www.thirdfort.com) whose founders, Jack Bidgood and Olly Thornton-Berry, were on hand to describe their development of a solution to tackle conveyancing fraud. It’s a timely move, given that property lawyers are struggling under a growing mountain of paperwork just as their income from fees is declining. Perhaps inevitably, fraud involving the processing of client money has grown twenty-fold over the last three years.
The Thirdfort solution combines three cutting-edge technologies (instant escrow, shareable digital ID verification, and open banking) to perform Know Your Client and Anti-Money Laundering checks digitally and to share the results. The onboarding process is five times faster than hitherto, with the instant escrow technology giving property lawyers the flexibility to outsource the handling of client funds with reduced admin and risk.
In developing the system, Thirdfort researched the needs of 12 firms of estate agents, 100 property lawyers and eight of the UK’s ten biggest mortgage lenders. As we went to press, Thirdfort was readying to pilot the system with a major estate agent and plans a further pilot with global law firm Mishcon de Reya by the end of this year.
All credit to Ordnance Survey and HMLR, as well as Hub collaborators IBM, Dorsey, OGC, Springwise, KPMG, Nominet. Trend Watching, Dstl and Innovate UK for furthering the work of this national assert. And last, but by no means least, thanks to Hub Manager Alex Wrottesley and his team, whose guidance and support to 72 technology start-ups over the past three years has been instrumental in raising £19 million in investment and creating 200 new jobs.