With $100M and an 8-year head start, Prodea tackles the internet of things

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There are plenty of startups launching products aimed at connecting devices, but the Ansaris, a team of two brothers and one of their wives, have been working on the challenge of connecting different devices for the last eight years. The Ansaris built a telecoms startup that sold for $1.2 billion in 2000 and then later funded the Ansari XPrize for space exploration in 2004.

They also built Prodea Systems, a company that now has seven service provider customers using its Residential Operating System to connect disparate devices and services in the home into a unified offering that ISPs or big consumer brands can manage and sell. I spoke at length with Prodea CTO Amir Ansari on the Internet of Things podcast this week, so click here to learn more. With a former astronaut as one of the founders, the software has the singular advantage of having been used on the International Space Station, allowing co-founder Anousheh Ansari to remotely control devices back on earth.

The short version is the company, based in Richardson, Texas has raised $100 million from the founders’ as well as Mubadala, a $55 billion sovereign wealth fund established in 2002 as a public joint stock company by the government of Abu Dhabi. Prodea aims to pull together a software product that can ignore the different protocols existing in the consumer connected device world today (Ansari believes it’s a problem that won’t ever be solved) and let a service provider create services built on any array of connected devices or existing entertainment platforms that are currently available.

Devices will communicate with the Residential OS via an SDK to a physical device or an API in the cloud depending on the service and how the device shares information. In the podcast, Ansari walks me through an example, where my fitness tracker might communicate my steps to a service while my connected fridge communicates what product I’m getting ready to eat to that same service. Given those pieces of information, that health and wellness service might send an alert via my speakers to put away the cheesecake unless I take more steps.

That’s a common vision, and the devil is in the details. Ansari says the service is open, although the operators who are deploying it can choose what devices they want to support. So far it has signed up seven customers, all outside of the U.S. Those customers include Smart Village/MultiChoice (a multi-service provider operating across Africa); Azerfon, (a quad-play service provider in Azerbaijan); StarNet (a triple-play service provider in Russia); Terra (a fixed and wireless service provider in Italy); Sterlite (a large communications infrastructure provider in India); and MyHD (a satellite pay-TV provider operating across the Middle East and North Africa).

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