As the internet of things starts to take off, manufacturers of these connected everyday devices would probably rather focus on designing cool products and apps, rather than working on the nuts-and-bolts backend stuff. That’s why a bunch of platforms are emerging to take care of that aspect, such as Xively, Carriots and Ayla Networks.
Ayla’s co-founders boast an impressive heritage. David Friedman (CEO) and Phillip Chang (GM Greater China) came out of a firm called ZeroG Wireless, which made embedded Wi-Fi chips; Tom Lee is a longstanding electrical engineering professor at Stanford; and Adrian Cacares (VP Engineering) helped develop the Kindle wireless software while at Amazon.
Friedman told me that, after the sale of ZeroG to Microchip Technology in 2010, he and his co-founders realized “the world didn’t need a new chip, but what all the manufacturers needed was the software to make it happen.” As mobile devices continued to proliferate, there were all these consumers with touchscreens in their pockets – a great opportunity for manufacturers of new devices that could be managed through those interfaces.
So Ayla (named after the first letters of the co-founders children’s names) now provides those manufacturers with either the tools and source code they need to build connected products, with Ayla taking care of the infrastructure, or with a complete turnkey package.
At our Mobilize 2013 Product Showcase in a couple weeks’ time, Ayla will be showing off its “iBox” – a riskily-named prototyping unit intended to help manufacturers perform early tests on their ideas for connected products and services. The iBox includes a connectivity module from Apple supplier USI, which in turn uses a Broadcom Wi-Fi chip (Broadcom and Ayla have partnered for a while now) and an STMicro microcontroller with an accelerometer, gyroscope and other sensors built in.
“It’s a great project to show how you can connect sensors and make it come alive on a nice iPhone app,” Friedman said. “Each one shows a different area the internet of things can move into, like lighting. Another is a thermostat HVAC-type thing – there’s a fan on the iBox as well.”
The purpose of the iBox is ultimately to help manufacturers capture and show initial data in real-time. For example, they can set accelerometer thresholds through the app, so if the iBox then suffers a big enough fall then that will trigger an alert on the phone. Or they can just move the thing around and get some insight into the kind of x/y coordinate data that it churns out.
“Our partners use it to demonstrate,” Friedman said. “Our customers are doing all sorts of crazy stuff – all home controls and appliances and HVAC, and eventually wearables. It shows all the pieces.”