Connections. That is the topic that most interests me currently. Therefore the name of my new Website–The Manufacturing Connection. Devices in the plant or factory are connected by ever-expanding means to each other, to the control system and to the operations management layer.
We’ve been talking about the Internet of Things (or M2M, or Industrial Internet, or Pervasive Internet) for a long time. What we need is more of the binding that brings stuff together. Recently I talked with David Friedman, one of the founders and the CEO of Ayla Networks, a company that just emerged from stealth mode with a couple of announcements. I think that what they are doing is significant to manufacturing and production (and a lot more, as well).
Friedman pointed to the backgrounds and experiences of the founders, “We know what it takes to do the software to bind the IoT together,” he told me. “We also worked with hardware leaders, software preloaded in chips that people need to do this. It’s a technology and business model of service as a component to get rid of the monthly fees.”
The company announced a round of financing and a significan first customer.
Platform and financing
In the first news, Ayla formally unveiled the Ayla Platform, which allows manufacturers and service providers to transform thermostats, appliances, lighting and other everyday products into interactive connected devices quickly, easily and economically. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company also announced that it has raised $5.4 million in Series A financing led by investors Voyager Capital and Crosslink Capital.
“We are at the beginning of a major evolutionary step for the Internet,” said Friedman. “We have built a platform that eliminates the hurdles involved in building great connected devices and bringing them to market. We have also created a business model with key partnerships to deliver on this vision.”
The company’s platform seeks to simplify and accelerate product development for manufacturers while enhancing usability from the consumer’s perspective, leading to greater overall satisfaction and lower costs for everyone. The efficiency by which the company can provide its service also minimizes the cost of connectivity so that consumers can start to enjoy great connected products without high ongoing monthly service fees.
The Ayla Platform consists of three distinct components, each working seamlessly together to provide a rich, secure, and highly flexible path for manufacturers to rapidly deliver Internet-connected products to market. These components include production-class Ayla-enabled Wi-Fi modules and IP gateways, Ayla’s cloud service for managing devices on behalf of manufacturers and consumers, and Ayla application libraries.
Ayla has created these components to work together so manufacturers do not have to write any networking, security, or connectivity protocols in their devices. Similarly, Ayla customers do not have to write any code to use the cloud service: a powerful UI is used to configure “virtual devices,” and the platform takes care of the rest.
Ayla has forged an ecosystem that includes world-class elements from leading companies such as Broadcom Corporation, STMicroelectronics, and Amazon Web Services. Ayla’s technology supports a wide variety of standards and platforms, including Android, iOS, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Linux and others.
With Ayla’s technology, devices are available at all times, yet minimize the amount of bandwidth and energy required they consume. Hardware solutions and application interfaces can be configured for specific devices but also leverage common design elements to save money and reduce integration challenges. Smooth surfaces and ‘clean’ industrial designs will emerge as smart phones and apps replace buttons and switches to control appliances.
The founders of Ayla Networks all have deep expertise building solutions, technologies, and companies serving the Internet of Things. Adrian Caceres, Ayla’s head of engineering and another co-founder, previously worked at Amazon’s Lab126, where he was technical lead for the networking capabilities of the Amazon Kindle. Philip Chang, GM of Greater China previously helped establish a presence for ZeroG Wireless in China, and has been founder and executive at several early networking companies. Thomas Lee, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University who has helped create companies such as Matrix Semiconductor, is also a founder.
The next news is that it is collaborating with SINA to bring a new generation of connected devices and interactivity to consumers in China.
With more than 500 million registered users worldwide, SINA is the most recognized Internet brand name among Chinese communities globally. SINA’s digital media network also includes Sina.com (web portal) Weibo.com (social networking) and Sina.cn (mobile.)
The first device to come out of the collaboration is the SINA Wi-Fi Weather Station which provides SINA customers with targeted, up-to-date weather information and forecasts for their home, office or any other place of interest where one of the devices is located. The key is the cloud: SINA’s personal weather stations feed location-specific information about temperature and precipitation to a cloud-based service that SINA customers can access through smart phones and other devices. Ayla’s cloud platform for the Internet of Things provides the technology and foundation to seamlessly and securely link the weather station to SINA’s services.
Once things can be easily connected to rich cloud-based services, the possibilities for what comes next are almost limitless. Appliances, lighting, thermostats and a broad array of other consumer electronics can all communicate together and through the cloud to provide a social network for things. Formerly mundane devices will offer a rich new way for users to interact with them.