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HipScience Makes Sensors That “Play Nice” With Other IoT Tech

by Muriel Vega

With the rise in connected Internet of Things (IoT) technology, entrepreneur Laron Walker saw that companies would need help designing and engineering unique sensor solutions and other hardware that would fit their specific use cases. He was focused on what’s called “social sensors” — those that connect and speak to Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE technology.

In 2013, Walker founded HipScience to tackle the above need.

One area HipScience focused on early in their existence is the agricultural sector, for which they created several low-energy sensors that measure factors such as soil moisture, light, and climate.

The startup immediately saw a great demand on the industrial side for these sensors.

The Home Depot, for example, is currently working to combine HipScience’s soil moisture sensor with a proprietary prototype to scale it into a commercial product.

As they grew, Walker and his team worked with more industries and clients. But, he wanted to explore an opportunity to use their industry-leading sensor technology to benefit a cause he says he has always been passionate about: STEM education.

“I see an issue around the prevailing narrative around computing in school. Kids are only getting exposed to just robotics,” Walker says.

“With our sensors, they can also control the system, see cause and effect and real-life examples.”

He created another startup within HipScience, MantisEDU, to offer a line of Bluetooth sensors that can be used in math and science classes. The sensors work in tandem with the open Mantis platform and a curriculum kit.

“Instead of just having kids trying to imagine an abstract concept, they can watch these things happen in real-time,” says Walker.

There are four available options which teach children different concepts: a climate sensor (environmental and temperature data), a force motion sensor (motion and acceleration data), the Mantis SIP (soil moisture, pH readings and more), and the Sensor Wand.

Kids can see the current data from the sensors on an interactive, cloud-based dashboard and get SMS text messages with alerts.

The startup is undergoing a pilot program sponsored by the United Negro College Fund. This summer, they will be sponsoring two STEM camps at Atlanta Public Schools, bringing the children to work on agtech projects using the sensors on the Atlanta BeltLine.

These projects are sponsored by the IoT.ATL Agtech Challenge, for which HipScience was one of nine startups selected by a host of public and private stakeholders to test technology solutions to urban food challenges.

Their specific projects, in conjunction with another startup HATponics, will create a solar-powered, near-zero-input greenhouse inside a shipping container. The ultimate goal is to later duplicate this greenhouse in food desert areas around the city.

HipScience’s cloud-connected sensors will monitor and report on conditions inside the greenhouse.

Walker is close to closing a seed funding round for HipScience, and is continuing to work on drumming up interest from potential partners, clients and backer.

“That’s one of the reasons why we love being part of the Agtech Challenge, since they’re giving us a stage to showcase our work,” he says.

“Our priorities right now are penetrating the market, creating more partnerships, and scaling our operation,” says Walker.

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