This startup wants to lay the groundwork for future IoT startups

November 11, 2016

As the price of connected sensors continues to drop, companies are coming up with ever-more inventive ways to do things like embed them into kids’ clothes, use them to track pets and ensure hygiene compliance at healthcare facilities.

Regardless of what their devices actually measure, most companies working with connected sensors spend a big portion of their time addressing similar engineering challenges: making sure a device is functioning properly, handling data and ensuring that devices are protected from outside interference.

“There’s no toolset that gets you from having a sensor to starting to building cool applications quickly,” said Anansi co-founder Nikita Parikh. “We recognize that and are building a software tool suite that enables developers to get rid of the friction points in the early development process and go from sensor to server efficiently."

A computer science graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Parikh founded Anansi last year along with two fellow UIUC alumni.

Their original idea was to make a wearable device that would detect a user’s fight-or-flight responses and summon first responders automatically. But in building out the software suite that would power their solution, the co-founders got to thinking about how much time engineering teams at every wearable company spend just on getting the fundamentals in place.

“We hypothesized that others who want to get to development faster would also see value in our toolset,” said Parikh. “Now our focus is entirely on building out the tools for other people to build cool applications on top of our platform.”

That platform is a developing environment for connected devices paired with a cloud-based data analytics application. By automatically taking care of basic functions like managing drivers and capturing data, it lets developers focus on what they actually want to achieve with their devices and applications.

“The time spent building the tools to get you to the point of making sense of your data would be better spent actually making sense of your data,” said Parikh.

Another advantage of an end-to-end solution like Anansi's platform, said Parikh, is that it becomes easier to protect devices from external attacks like the ones that brought down a number of DNS servers across the country in October.

Based out of the University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the three-person team is currently in the process of securing an initial round of funding. Parikh said the startup is also looking for additional engineers and designers to finalize its minimum viable product, which the team hopes to start demoing next fall.

Anansi initially picked Chicago for its headquarters because of the opportunity to be part of the Polsky incubator. But after getting its start in the city, the company can’t imagine moving anywhere else.

“The reason we stayed is because of the incredible community that we found around us,” she said. “There are experts in various fields all over the city, and they’re more than happy to sit down and give you advice over a cup of coffee. I found that very helpful — it’s a support system that keeps you going.”

Image via Anansi.

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