Spend a few minutes browsing the tech side of Kickstarter and you’ll quickly find a common theme — tons of products that are connected to the internet and to each other, all promising to make your life easier. Key finders, smart water meters, internet enabled security cameras that know you from Adam, and even smart high chairs. Yes, the Internet of Things is here, and here to stay; but, most of the companies you see won’t be around for long because they are engaged in a grueling hardware war — one that takes no prisoners and is practically kamikazi with its urgency.
Hardware wars are messy, expensive, and a perfect situation on which to capitalize. An oft repeated quote serves to illustrate that point: “Those that got rich in the gold rush were the ones making the shovels.” A luminous examle of this strategy was observed from Microsoft in the 90’s personal computing revolution: instead of competing in the hardware arena, they focused on dominating the software that the drove the hardware. By creating an operating system that would make hardware makers’ products useful out of the box, Microsoft quickened the commoditization of hardware as many contenders entered the market.
Similar events are unfolding in the the Internet of Things space — both established and startup hardware vendors are beginning to address opportunities in the smart device space from WiFi lights to shades, sprinklers, thermostats, and door locks you can control with your phone, smartwatch, TV, and so on. The explosion of smart devices is made possible in part because of the availability of 3D printing and CAD modeling which has led to a sharp reduction of design & prototyping costs. This is further encouraged by the national emphasis on STEM education and startup companies. Despite the perks of the times in which we live, manufacturing and distribution still represent the bulk of the risk, money, and time, especially to early stage companies. To compete, hardware makers have to spend a lot of time figuring out the hard problems — and they can’t afford mistakes.
Problem is, designing top-notch hardware and figuring out logistics of manufacturing and distribution isn’t even half the battle — there’s the firmware that runs the device, the software that communicates with it, the cloud that facilitates connectivity, and the app that in the end controls the device, hopefully with an intuitive interface that’s ~100% reliable. Each of these are daunting challenges, and many teams succumb to these challenges: many die outright, many release products that are inferior in one or another aspect and experience a slow death as they are outpaced in the market. Those that are lucky enough to attract substantial resources to continue are often burdened by the momentum of poor early user reviews and are faced with expensive and time-consuming redesign decisions downstream. Additionally, many of these vendors exclusively rely on hardware revenue to survive, so partnerships between device makers is careful and political, so they don’t cannabilize their margins with competing products.
We provide a rock-solid backbone in the form of our intelligent cloud that has the capability of connecting the limitless and varied market of devices. We build tools that enable developers to focus on what they’re best at — making great hardware.
The IoT thrives on connectivity the same way digging for gold thrives on shovels. Connectivity is the tool of the future, and those that serve to increase the communication and actionability between these disparate devices will be of extreme value. That means open platforms, hardware agnosticism, and an emphasis on technologies that reduce time to market for smart device innovators.