Some have asked me to research and consult on that subject. The research raised many questions about where the best opportunity lies for some of these companies. One company simply wanted me to validate the direction they had decided on. I gave them a look, but I never had a good feeling that the direction they were headed was going to be anything more than another bolt-on acquisition or two.
The new B&B
Then I saw this news from B&B Electronics, which has remade itself into an IoT play. Say good-bye to B&B and greet B+B SmartWorx.
The company says that its latest technologies, including the Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform for creating wireless sensor networks and SWARM cellular edge gateway devices, convinced the company to change its name and solidify its direction.
“IoT technologies have inserted more intelligence, and complexity, into the M2M conversation,” said Jerry O’Gorman, CEO of B+B SmartWorx. “While companies desire the improved data analytics the IoT brings, many are stopping short of adoption due to the complexity of integrating existing assets into the IoT vision. For several years B+B has been engineering solutions to bring existing equipment into the IoT conversation, and hence transitioning from connectivity technology to technology for connected intelligence, so the old B&B Electronics image didn’t fit us anymore.”
O’Gorman points to the 2012 acquisition of Czech Republic-based Conel and its industrial cellular gateways as the spark for the company’s intensive development to enable IoT solutions. “The Conel acquisition gave us an immediate pedigree within Europe, and our new technologies build upon this trusted base. With the integration process complete it seems right to combine our identity into a single brand, bringing together the best of what has been achieved in Europe and the US over the past decades, and signaling our strategic direction for the future.”
Intelligence in connectivity
The new focus on the intelligence in the connectivity piece has also led B+B to invest in software engineering expertise at all of its global locations, including a new team in Galway, Ireland. Historically, B+B averaged one or two software engineers for every hardware engineer; today it’s six or eight to one.
“The M2M and IoT world is changing rapidly, creating enormous opportunity but with that a risk of being left behind,” explained Glen Allmendinger, founder and president of Harbor Research. “Many companies are struggling with this. Some are attempting a complete change in business model; others have yet to embrace any clear strategy. B&B Electronics, now emerging as B+B SmartWorx, has not only embraced the new opportunity but they’ve also executed on it in a remarkably short period of time. Impressively, they’ve done it without putting their business model at risk or alienating other players in the ecosystem by turning partners into competitors.”
The company’s edge processing technology helps bridge the gap between IT and OT (operational technology). It aggregates data from existing equipment, translates disparate machine protocols into a language IT can understand, transforms that data into useful information and delivers it to applications ready for analysis, leading to actionable intelligence.
The architecture is service led with decoupled data methodologies, capabilities traditionally limited to the enterprise middleware level or above. B+B brings these principles into the edge, eliminating the current equivalence between an edge and a single physical device, and instead replacing it with a logical edge based upon multiple devices and distributed SWARM intelligence.
SWARM intelligence is the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural (like ants or bees) or artificial, that accomplishes a single goal even if no individual is in charge. Simple components accomplish sophisticated tasks by following simple rule sets and working in groups.
“Many SWARM principles are replicated in the IoT,” explained Tim Taberner, the global product manager for B+B’s advanced IoT cellular gateways. “However, for the IoT to realize its full potential in remote or demanding environments, edge devices must mature beyond simple data aggregation and filtering. They must begin to collaborate and make decisions on the intelligence gained from each other, without relying on upstream resources, to distribute intelligence and decision-making further to the edge. B+B SmartWorx is creating technology that tackles this challenge.”
The B+B SmartWorx IoT Edge Processing Architecture allows a collection of physical devices, each performing relatively simple tasks, to operate as a single SWARM system which is “almost infinitely” expandable, both with physical interfaces, and processing and memory resources.
Connected Intelligence Global Partner Ecosystem
The company also announced an ecosystem for the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape with its Connected Intelligence Global Partner Ecosystem.
Initial Connected Intelligence Ecosystem Partners include IoT technology providers such as Cumulocity, Davra Networks, ILS Technology, ParStream, PLAT.ONE, SeeControl, Skkynet, and ThingWorx, along with MVNO partners such as KORE and Mobius Networks, and a variety of international carriers.