Our Investment in Velocity

How much can one learn from a mobile phone’s motion sensors, the accelerometer and gyroscope? That’s the question Velocity founder Brett Bond asked himself in 2015. The answer, it turns out, is a whole lot. It’s relatively easy to tell the difference between someone walking and running. Apple’s Core Motion gives developers this functionality out of the box. But with more data, you can tell if someone is running with the phone in their hand or in their pocket. You can tell if someone is driving a car or in the passenger seat (hint: if picking up the phone is highly correlated with deceleration and acceleration at stops, it’s probably the driver). In fact, using just accelerometer and gyroscope data, one can identify thousands of different movements or even can discern between the gait of different individuals.

There are a couple of others taking advantage of the incredible sensitivity and fidelity of today’s motion sensors. Notably UnifyID has demonstrated gait-based security and several workout apps can distinguish between a squat and a pushup. By contrast, Brett and the team at Velocity have set out to create something comprehensive: a complete catalogue of what they call the Human Motion Genome, as well as a toolkit that allows developers to take advantage of it.

One of the early applications of the technology is in mobile advertising. The company can, using data from these sensors, rate a consumer’s receptiveness to seeing an ad. If the phone is on a table, the score is low, meaning the ad probably won’t even be seen. If the phone is in someone’s hand while they’re lying on the couch, it scores higher. The company has already tested this with several large advertisers and Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and can show a 2–4x lift when targeting ads to people high on the receptivity scale.

There are very innovative technologies that find an early market in advertising. We believe Velocity has applications in many industries ­– insurance, health, automotive, and beyond. What we love about the ad-tech use case, aside from the obvious value to advertisers, is that it enables the company to collect sensor data at enormous scale. Put a different way, the company is getting paid handsomely to collect a dataset that is broad, unique, and difficult to replicate. Velocity enables developers to strengthen their own app experiences with this data.

The team at Velocity have worked together for years and have shipped numerous products at Brett’s last company, Concrete Interactive. They are up to the ambitious task they’ve taken on. They are partnering with numerous companies in the advertising space to extend their reach. We are proud to be investors in the company as they continue to crack the Human Motion Genome. We’re excited to see all the ways that understanding human motion will be used to create more personalized experiences.