Indoor positioning startup Iiwari raises €1,5m seed funding led by Voima Ventures


Iiwari, a Finnish based indoor positioning technology company has raised 1,5m€ seed funding in order to accelerate commercialization of its indoor positioning tech solutions. The round is led by the deep tech fund Voima Ventures and US & UK based strategic angel investors.

Iiwari’s commercial offering is based on Ultra Wide Band (UWB) technology research conducted by the team at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland ltd. The company has purchased the key licenses from VTT in order to operate globally and become the global category leader in indoor positioning solutions.

Indoor positioning market is growing globally across multiple verticals from retail to smart offices and hospitals. Until now different application and service providers have struggled with expensive, inaccurate and unreliable positioning infrastructure technologies. Iiwari’s UWB positioning technology provides higher accuracy and substantial cost efficiency than competing solutions (including WiFi and Bluetooth). Furthermore, the company has developed the technology to track unlimited number of items simultaneously giving a strong competitive edge compared to other UWB solutions available. Cost efficiency and accuracy which Iiwari is able to provide to its customers furthermore open up new use cases and application areas for positioning data that can be utilized in various industries.

We reached out to Ville Kolehmainen, the Founder and CEO of Iiwari, and to Inka Mero, Founder and Managing Partner of Voima Ventures to learn more.

Ville, how did the idea for Iiwari start? 

How long have you got?! I could write a book about starting Iiwari =). In short, ten years ago I began searching for an indoor location positioning system to enable advertising at the customer point of decision in retail stores. At around the same time I embarked on this search I met a new neighbor in Vuokatti where I at the time lived. My new neighbor, Jukka Kämäräinen who worked as a researcher at VTT, shared that he was researching UWB tech to use its 3D positioning capabilities in industrial applications. A couple of years on Jukka had made enough progress that he shared he felt one day it may work for my still unsolved retail opportunity. I said, “If that happens – call me!’. He did call – but not for another few years! By then I had traveled the world and tried every possible indoor positioning system on earth,  Wi-fi, BLE, Magnetics, Light, IR, Sound – none met use case needs. We then decided to set up a test at a local retail store and the results were truly amazing.  Can you believe that after ten years and 100,000’s of thousands of kilometers of travel across the world the answer was on my doorstep? I had learned so much in these travels that I knew VTT research results were game changing for retail, and soon we realized the opportunity was way bigger than retail. The current super dynamic world class team including me decided to spin the work out of VTT and form Iiwari. With Jukka as CTO, The team has delivered a highly accurate, scalable and affordable indoor position system in under 18 months that is ready to take on the world.  

Tell us more about the technology you purchased the licenses for and how you are implementing it? 

The base technology that we use for indoor positioning  is called UWB (Ultra Wide Band). UWB uses radio signals that can measure the precise distance between objects that enable highly accurate asset locating regardless of the walls, machinery, shelves or even bodies the radio signals need to travel through. The team has developed, originally in the VTT and subsequently within Iiwari , a set of secret sauce that enables Iiwari to exploit the UWB capabilities in a way that is more accurate, more scalable and lower cost than any company has been able to achieve. We are implementing in multiple verticals to track both assets and people. One of the use cases is my original goals of being able to advertise to customers at the point of decision in retail!

How does Indoor Positioning as a Service work in practice? Could you give a case example or two?

We offer the Iiwari solution as a service. Our focus is on the UWB enabled location system technology. We go to market in partnership with solution companies who bring vertical focus and applications to our technology to deliver unique location positioning based value. 

We have high expectations for our global partnership with Iiwari for Tieto’s Empathic Building ecosystem offering . The Iiwari ultra-wideband based positioning technology has its foundation in years of development, and we believe it can revolutionize solutions that need accurate and scalable indoor positioning . It will be an excellent addition to our social distancing solution enabling a safe return to the office“, says Tomi Teikko, Head of Tieto Empathic Building

Right now we have partners with platforms in health care, mining, retail, hospitality, and security. The playing field for our technology is so large that one of our key challenges is staying focused. After all these years of looking for location positioning technology for a single vertical use it is amazing to have so much opportunity. For example we can message a grocery shopper in real time that an item is on a special sale and then guide them to that product. Or in a hospital we can track a bed that needs to be sanitized from its original location, to the pre-sanitization red zone, to the post-sanitation and reavailable green zone. The key factor in both of these use cases is that the market demand for the value has existed for a long time but now it is economically viable.

We have already done pilots in retail stores with shopping cart positioning thru 2019 and have already commercial deals on it at domestic and Nordic markets and roll-outs will start in August. At retail the use cases are to enable analytics; foot traffic, dwell times, enhancing the effectiveness of click & collect processes, and increase the average size of shopping basket based on location based advertising. 

Similar deployments start in healthcare in Norway and the mining sector in Chile. In healthcare to optimize the workflow, asset tracking, patient safety, social distancing etc. At an underground mining site the security/safety of the employees. We deliver all these vertical cases with our partners.

Which markets are you aiming to enter first?

Our initial focus is on domestic and Nordic projects with retail, offices, mining, healthcare, amusements and traditional industries like sawmills, paper mills, chemical factories etc. We also have executed a large number of successful tests in the Nordics thru VTT research and we are now ready to scale these tests with our commercial product family. We are also fortunate through our past experience and tremendously experienced board members, to have great opportunities to build the business globally with the most accurate, scalable and affordable indoor positioning enabler in the market with infinite opportunities in a huge number of verticals globally. 

Inka, could you tell us a little bit about your views on the deal and the indoor positioning market?

We are extremely excited to start the growth journey with Iiwari. Their unique technology can solve the existing bottlenecks to enable secure people and asset tracking in a scalable and cost efficient manner while spinning new services for people and businesses.

I have been throughout the past 10 years investing into various startups in this domain, both in the infrastructure as well as platform technology domain. Indoor positioning market is massive, as analysts expect the market to reach over usd 17 Billion by 2025. So the market is finally becoming more mature and creating wider opportunities for growth. Iiwari’s unique angle is the low cost infrastructure, UWB -based precision and unlimited capacity for tag -based positioning. This kind of technology is a spot on for various mission critical vertical applications, like physical asset tracking and security. 

Indoor positioning market is fragmented geographically and vertically, and there are hundreds of use cases and customer needs – hence also multiple positioning technology providers and solutions are needed and will co-exist. Scaling customer deployments and the business depends heavily on local value adding services and integration partners, hence the go-to-market model for Iiwari is strongly relying on and working with various partners.