R/GA, Techstars and the Rise of Connected Devices

The Lab attended a demo day for the R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator at SXSS 2014. Powered by Techstars, the program showcased nine exciting startups that have been incubated and mentored at R/GA’s NYC campus in recent months. The common thread between these startups, as the name implies, is that they are all connected devices, products that have both hardware and software components and are connected to the Internet (and thus, your life). Of the nine companies that presented three in particular were particularly relevant to marketers looking to reach audiences:


Simply put, Ringblingz is smart jewelry. It is a ring that can light up in up to 300 different colors and/or vibrate. It is meant to make the most important smartphone-based notifications simpler to see and interpret, in that you don’t even need to look at your phone. First you pair your ring with the mobile app. To set up a notification, you simply choose a color, a contact, and an app that will trigger the notification (e.g. Facebook, Snapchat et al.). As the founders put it, a device like this that traverses the worlds of fashion and tech creates “wearable social currency”. Brands could leverage Ringblingz capabilities to deepen engagement with consumers who are using their mobile app and may want to be notified about deals or events.


Similar to Ringblingz, Hammerhead’s product “Hammerhead 1” seeks to change the way technology visually communicates information in a subtler way. The Hammerhead unit, rather than convey social interactions, is meant to provide directions for bicyclists. You pair the device with the Hammerhead app, which is loaded with crowd-sourced bicycle routes. You then clip the device onto your bike and stow your phone. The app communicates with the Hammerhead device and indicates directions to turn using patterns of flashing lights. This replaces having to look down at GPS on your device screen. Thus this elegantly enhances navigation for those on bikes while increasing safety.


Based on BLE beacons that retailers can distribute around their stores, the Footmarks platforms can beef up both a retailer’s mobile app as well as those distributed to sales associates. In one scenario, someone who has a retailer’s mobile app and walks into the store can be welcomed and served a relevant offer. This might even take the form of a discount especially tailored for that customer based on their loyalty and purchase history. In another scenario, a sales associate with a tablet can be alerted that a particularly valuable customer has entered the store, and can review their purchase history, wish list and other relevant information. While many different companies are duking it out in the BLE (aka “iBeacon”) space, Footmarks aims to make their platform more adaptive and secure than their competitors.