I have had the opportunity to visit the Baltic Region of Europe twice in the past. Composed of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Baltics have become a hotbed for technology development. Startups Printful and Bolt, who I’ve written about in the past, both found entrepreneurial successes in the region. Similarly, much of Skype’s coding occurred in Estonia. I learned a lot about the Baltics’ most disruptive tech companies at the TechChill event last year—if interested in more background, you can find that article here.
I recently had an opportunity to speak to three more up-and-coming Baltic companies that are leveraging cellular connectivity in novel ways: Kedeon, Strops Technology and Vendon. Today I would like to share my takeaways from those conversations. Additionally, I will preview another showcase that will occur this Fall in Riga, Latvia, for other connected companies (5G in particular).
Kedeon monitors environmental factors that can affect the quality and perishability of items during the last mile of delivery. A tiny sensor developed by the company can measure temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide, light and movement. I spoke with co-founder and COO Kristaps Mikasenoks about the applications of the Kedeon platform as it relates to the transportation of food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and mobile industrial equipment. The sensors leverage LTE-M and narrowband IoT connectivity to ensure long battery life. The platform's innovative use of blockchain recording and an intuitive dashboard also provides a high verification and real-time visibility level.
From my perspective, the timing of Kedeon’s technology is perfect, given the current need for monitoring the cold storage of Covid-19 vaccinations. The explosion of food delivery services during the pandemic also presents a unique opportunity for Kedeon to grow its install base significantly. Lending credence to this, the company claims it has closed twenty new clients recently. Furthermore, it has a strong pipeline in pharmaceutical, medical logistics and parcel delivery, among other areas.
I recently spoke with Normunds Stepans, Founder and CEO of Strops—a mobile closed-circuit television (CCTV) security camera platform originally designed to help municipalities fight illegal waste dumping. Most traditional CCTV systems are expensive, remain fixed to a particular location and require lengthy permitting. Strops aims to bring disruption to CCTV with its plug-and-play Nextcam, which promises to cut the average installation cost in half and the deployment time from months to days. Unlike traditional systems, Nextcam uses LTE and Wi-Fi and can be relocated to different locations as facility needs change. For power, the camera can connect to an existing electrical grid or operate on battery power (with support for stackable and swappable battery packs)
Many smart city projects involve video surveillance, and I believe the portability and cellular connectivity of the Strops camera makes it an ideal choice, especially in areas that are underserved by energy utility infrastructure. An added bonus of Nextcam is that it charges a backup battery when connected to electricity.
I also recently spoke with CEO Kristians Vebers of Vendon, an IoT and telemetry platform for vending machines that operates in over 75 countries. Vendon is not new to the vending game - it has been around for nearly a decade and serves some of the largest brands in the world, including Nestle and Starbucks. Vendon believes that a successful vending machine business must ensure machine uptime for customer accessibility, always be in stock and provide a product mix that reflects historical demand. Enter Vendon’s vBox device, which plugs into compatible vending machines, connects to the Vendon Cloud service and monitors for these factors in real-time. The device leverages AT&T’s IoT connectivity portfolio, including the AT&T Global SIM and AT&T Control Center, to provide secure cellular connectivity in over 200 countries.
Vendon's platform also includes route planning tools that make the process of replenishment cost-effective and straightforward. I believe it is a compelling platform that has the potential to revolutionize the vending machine market. Furthermore, AT&T’s wide reach could enable Vendon to scale geographically.
I continue to be impressed with the Baltic region's leverage of cellular connectivity to disrupt existing market segments. Kedeon, Strops and Vendon are just three examples, and there are many more. I expect that Latvia’s fourth annual 5G Techritory conference in late November (at which I will be presenting) will also introduce more innovators that leverage LTE and 5G connectivity. In general, Europe has lagged behind the rest of the world as far as next-generation cellular connectivity goes, due to intra-country regulations around spectrum allocations and other matters. However, the Baltics have overcome many of these challenges relative to its EU counterparts, especially when it comes to energy, transportation and telecommunications. I believe this is fueled in no small part by the cooperation fostered at events such as TechChill and 5G Techritory. I expect to see continued innovation and technology leadership in the region in the years to come.