Iotera close to funding goal for free IoT network

With more than one week left in its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, Iotera--a startup aiming to build a nationwide machine-to-machine network for all manner of connected devices--has raised more than half of its $250,000 goal.

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Iotera says it has built the smallest GPS tracker in the world. (Image source: Iotera) 

Iotera--the "Iot" refers to the Internet of Things--says it has built the "smallest, longest-lasting GPS tracker in the world." That diminutive (43mm x 22mm x 11mm) device--called Iota--is key to the firm's plan for a new nationwide wireless network with no monthly fees.

The device also includes a temperature sensor and accelerometer, which is where things start to get interesting, because those functions broaden the use cases to situations such as pet monitoring (Is "Fido" getting uncomfortably warm inside your car even though it's a cool day?) and even home alarms (Has a window been opened? Has the mailbox door been opened and closed, meaning you got mail?).

Iotera cofounder Ben Wild explained to Wired that the M2M network transmissions are sent using the unlicensed 902-920 MHz band. Iotera wants people to help build a community network, which requires them to attach a small Iota Home Base on their residence's window. The device listens for any Iotas within range and forwards messages from them to the Iota cloud servers via the user's home Wi-Fi network. Those servers process the messages, sending status updates and alerts to companion devices such as a smartphone or a computer.

Each Home Base can forward messages it receives from the cloud to any Iota, enabling people to use an Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS or Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android app on their smart device to send configuration changes and on-demand location requests to a specific Iota via the cloud.

Iotera needs to convince people to share their home Internet service with other people and their Iota devices. "The Home Base uses less than 5 kbps of bandwidth to send data to our servers. For a 1Mbps uplink, that is less than 0.5 percent of your total bandwidth. This will not have a noticeable effect," the company said.

Naturally, the system works better as more Home Bases are deployed, because there will be massive coverage gaps if not enough people get on board with the plan. The company said it regularly sees at least one mile of coverage in its Home Base field tests, conducted in northern California. Transmissions from a Home Base installed on the rooftop of Iotera's three-story office building in Redwood City, Calif., can be heard four miles away, and tests of prototypes on a straight, open highway achieved eight miles of range.

Given such ranges, the firm contends only 10 Home Bases are needed to cover an entire city. However, having more Home Base deployments will improve Iota device battery life.

Because Iota does not come with a monthly use fee, Wild told Wired the service will be less expensive than subscription-based tracking services from companies like Tagg and Whistle. And Iotera's extensive range should make it preferable to Bluetooth-based offerings such as Tile, which is restricted to a range of about 150 feet.

The company expects to sell an Iota, Home Base and attachment accessories for $199. Each Iota will ship with a pet collar accessory and a key chain accessory as well as a Micro USB cable for charging.

According to its Kickstarter page, Iotera is aiming for FCC certification of its devices in September and mass production starting in November, in time for product shipments at the start of 2015.

For more:
- see this Iotera Kickstarter page
- see this Wired article

Related articles:
Iotera aims to use unlicensed spectrum for long-range tracking

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