While big companies are working hard to impose standards on the burgeoning Internet of things (IoT), little Octoblu is willing to be the translator between whatever protocols to connect every thing with every other thing.
Octoblu came out of stealth mode today with a focus on the industrial side of the IoT. Its core product is the Meshblu platform that, according to a statement, “can be used for the discovery, control and management of any API [application performance interface]-based software application, any hardware or appliance, or social media network.”
What Octoblu provides is a translator service for negotiating the many existing protocols or APIs and a data brokerage service that sends information back and forth between different devices or applications.
“We will have adapters that connect this [platform] into these various systems,” Geir Ramleth, Octoblu’s chief executive, said in an interview with VentureBeat. “They all talk to our central system that can either be on a public cloud or private cloud.”
That could be a tough go for a startup, with so many devices speaking their own proprietary languages for storing and sharing data. But with more connected devices becoming available to consumers and with more big companies wanting to see how they can improve operations and ultimately financial results with sensor-filled gadgets, a translator makes a lot of sense. No wonder companies like Google-owned Nest, LG, Qualcomm, and Samsung are standardizing around protocols and forming industry groups to discuss standards.
Here’s the way Octoblu would get involved in a real-world scenario: If you are a building energy conservation company, you have window sensors that monitor both light exposure and temperature exposure inside and outside of the building. That by itself doesn’t do anything. You have to tie that into other building automatization equipment, or even into a weather forecast that doesn’t understand the protocols for the sensors. Octoblu can send data across all these systems.
Octoblu’s beta users include energy, agriculture, industrial control systems, retail, and manufacturing businesses. However, the startup’s commercial product won’t be available until this fall.
In terms of competition, there are efforts to push for common and single protocols. “We don’t believe that’s the right way to do it, we think it will be heterogeneous environment for some time,” said Ramleth.
As for startups like device-focused startups like Jasper, which raised a $50 million round recently, they’re not quite the competition here.
“Jasper works through mobile operators for its platform, whereas Octoblu connects devices through an open communications network and API,” said Ramleth. “This is also another example of a difficulty in having devices and protocols talk to each other — for example, products/devices using Jasper through different mobile operators cannot talk to the same set of devices and applications as Octoblu. Jasper would look more like a potential partner to Octoblu.”
Octoblu delivers its service on public, private, and hybrid clouds. It uses a freemium business model. Basic connections and management of IoT devices is free, but more advanced service comes through a usage-based subscription model.
The company started at the beginning of this year and is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. It employs a dozen employees and contractors.