Neura, A Privacy-Focused Platform For The Internet Of Things, Raises $11M Series A

Neura, a platform that helps users personalize connected devices while guarding their data, will promote its new software development kit after raising a $11 million Series A. The round was led by AXA Strategic Partners and Pitango Venture Capital, with participation from Liberty Israel Venture Fund and Lenovo Group.

Neura, which can currently be integrated with more than 55 devices and software channels, just held a beta program with “tens of thousands of users,” and expects that number to increase significantly after launching its SDK. Co-founder and chief executive officer Gilad Meiri says Neura will use its new funding to promote the SDK, strike partnerships with tech companies, and hire more employees.

Many tech companies are busy figuring out how to make Internet-connected devices work together by “talking” to one another. For example, smart locks on front doors are triggered when a fitness tracker senses its wearer has fallen asleep or coffee makers start brewing when a smartphone alarm goes off in the morning.

Neura enables functions like these, but the Sunnyvale, California-based startup’s founders say they are more interested in figuring out how human beings interact with the Internet of Things. The company’s technology analyzes user behavior patterns over time and then personalizes apps and devices for each person.

Since the user behavior patterns Neura generates can include some sensitive data, including someone’s working hours, health information, and even who they live with, the company pledges to give users control over their profiles by letting them pick what data is shared with each service.

The GSM Association predicts that there will be 24 billion connected devices by 2020. Several platforms, like SmartThings and Wink, have been developed to help users wrangle their connected fitness trackers, thermostats, appliances, and entertainment systems with a single dashboard. Neura’s focus on privacy may help give it a competitive edge as consumers become increasingly wary of how companies collect and use their personal information. Meiri claims Neura can not only help protect user privacy, but also reduce liability for tech companies.

Making Connected Devices More Convenient Without Sacrificing Privacy

Software and devices are connected into Neura’s platform with its API and can be controlled by users through its standalone app. The company’s technology analyzes how each person uses his or her connected devices or software. That information is then used to create personalized functions.

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Before functions are set into action, however, users have to review and give permission for each one.

Neura “would not tell the lock where the user is at other times, how long they have slept for, or share additional data,” says Meiri. “Nor—and here’s where the liability part comes into play—will the lock need to analyze the user’s movement and sleep patterns throughout the day just to get that one event.”

The company’s founder have a personal reason for wanting to make sure connected devices are both useful and private. Before Neura launched, co-founder and chief technology officer Triinu Magi’s diabetes was misdiagnosed and she was prescribed medication that didn’t work. Conventional glucometers and tests didn’t give Magi enough information to figure out what was happening and she finally had to cross-reference blood sugar readings with information in her fitness and food diaries to help doctors figure out what was going on.

“She needed to utilize her skills as a data scientist to analyze that information simply because there was no product such as Neura,” says Meiri. “Every device produced its own data channel, without the ability to combine them into insights.”

Meiri adds that tech companies often see data as monetization opportunity instead of helping the people they gathered it from. In turn, users are too willing to cede control of their personal information so they can use services like Google Maps or Facebook.

Once people realize how much privacy they have lost, however, it often results in a backlash. Neura says giving consumers more transparency over how their data is used can help companies avoid that pitfall.

“When it comes to the Internet of Things, nothing has been decided,” says Meiri. “There’s still a chance to change the web paradigms, if only because the stakes are much higher—not just search history and friends lists, but also biometrics and full mapping of our physical graph.”