Internet of Things startup snags deals with Sylvania, Whirlpool, Maytag

The founder of a Redwood City, Calif., company that supplies Internet of Things (IoT) software for brands like Whirlpool and Maytag says he doesn't differentiate between the industrial IoT and the consumer IoT -- it's more like one big IoT.

Arrayent supplies the embedded software that goes into products like washing machines and refrigerators, connecting to either a consumer-facing mobile application like those used to control the temperature in a refrigerator or, in other cases, an enterprise application where a service department is getting notifications that there's an error in the tumbler motor of a washing machine and it needs to send a service technician to fix it.

From Whirlpool to companies like Osram Sylvania, customers essentially are using the same Arrayent software as the backbone for their IoT platform and to launch connected products.

But Arrayent founder Shane Dyer doesn't use the term "industrial Internet of Things." In general, "we work with products that are very high volume," he told FierceWirelessTech. "We don't really differentiate between industrial and not." In many cases, there are hundreds of thousands of washing machines deployed in apartments in places like New York City. Is that an industrial application or a consumer application? "What we really look for is high-volume applications."

Arrayent doesn't compete all that directly with General Electric, which tends to be on big machines, like jet engines, that generate terabytes of information every day. They use different architectures, with Arrayent being very cost-conscious. "You can't add a lot of cost to a washing machine" or to a refrigerator, garage door opener or to a lock, and still have it be a viable product, he said.

The consumer-facing implementations also have to be incredibly simple to set up and use because homeowners generally are not IT professionals, and they don't want to hire one just to use their appliances. That's the kind of environment where Arrayent tends to work well, he said.

Besides connectivity, one big thing wireless operators have going for them is the valuable recurring billing relationship with their customers. It's difficult for a manufacturer to ask customers to pay an additional 50 cents or $1 every month to have their device connected. But mobile carriers already have that relationship with the customer and they can bring more of the smart home into the relationship. That's when "you get a really sticky customer," and once the smart home gear is well integrated with the phone and service plan, then it becomes more difficult for consumers to switch carriers. In addition, for manufacturers, "it becomes another possible channel for distribution," he said.

"I think there's some good opportunities" for the IoT manufacturers to work with wireless operators, especially if the carriers are more concerned about how the end user experience is affected rather than focusing on a particular network used to provide connectivity. "Overall, the customer doesn't care if it's Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or LTE, they just want the device to be connected and work," he said.

The thing that's both frustrating about IoT but also will determine the winners and losers is the fact there is so much divergence right now in terms of the technologies, between ZigBee, ZWave, Thread, Bluetooth and more. And companies, including, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), AT&T (NYSE: T), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Intel and others are lining up behind their own strategies.

"What I see is a bunch of giants lining up and I don't see a future where they're going to start jumping all together in one camp," Dyer said. "They have a lot of vested interest in their island succeeding, and so what I think is that just means convergence is going to be a very long and slow process," he said. "It's just not going to happen anytime soon."

One of Arrayent's big pushes is in the connected lighting space. It provides its framework to Sylvania for connected light bulbs, and "when you think about the scale of the number of light bulbs in the world, those are the kind of customers that really kind of push us and really take advantage of the scalability aspects of our platform."

Arrayent has established trust with some of the biggest brands in the world, and "we've been really doing this for quite a while." Being the platform provider for a brand like Whirlpool likely helped get the Sylvania business. "We've really helped the largest brands in the world make that transition from unconnected to connected," he said. For these big companies, "this is very new for them, they've never been a networking company before, but as soon as you start adding things like Wi-Fi into your product or Bluetooth …especially when you have a service that needs to be run 24/7, you're now essentially a service provider."

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