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4 Industrial IoT Startups Taking Development To The Cloud

 

 

From where IT professionals sit, these are early days for industrial IoT. Still, the software, hardware, and network ecosystem required for delivering on the promise of IoT will eventually transform the way enterprises think about running everything. Here are four cloud-based industrial IoT startups worth knowing.

 

Who are the most promising internet of things (IoT) startups? Venture capitalists, sensing the opportunity, are looking for companies to invest in. Millions of dollars are available for technologies with a track record and a good idea. One particular area of interest for us here at InformationWeek is the activity around cloud-based industrial IoT platforms.

From where IT professionals sit, these are early days for industrial IoT. Still, the software, hardware, and network ecosystem required for delivering on the promise of IoT will eventually transform the way enterprises think about running everything.

Industrial operations, supply chain, commerce, and customer service are some of the enterprise environments expected to be dramatically transformed by IoT.

Ultimately, the ability of IT to effectively use industrial IoT technologies in the enterprise will depend to a great extent on the platform used to develop the software used to manage operations — and whether that platform lives on-premises or in the cloud.

Various analyst groups have produced estimates about future revenues tied to IoT — each one larger than the last. Machina Research upped the ante last week, predicting IoT would be a $3 trillion market by 2025.

Another development helping to drive market speculation was SoftBank’s purchase of ARM, a major supplier of low-power chips used in the iPhone and other smartphones, for $32 billion.

In a prepared statement announcing the deal, SoftBank’s CEO Mashayoshi Son said ARM was “an excellent strategic fit as we invest to capture the very significant opportunity provided by the Internet of Things.”

Here, we examine some of the emerging IoT companies aiming to create the cloud-based platforms they hope will serve as the basis for industrial and enterprise IoT deployments. We’ll make comparisons to C3 IoT, a Redwood City, Calif.-based startup, whose early traction with utilities provides an important indicator of where industrial IoT platform startups might focus their energies.

C3 IoT

C3 IoT, a small firm of 105 employees, generated revenues of $38 million in its last quarter — its first of the 2017 fiscal year. The company is analyzing the grids of 20 public utilities, helping them match generation to customer demand, and realizing other diverse benefits from that instrumentation.

Tom Siebel, the former Siebel Systems founder who is chairman and CEO of C3 IoT, said a utility armed with the new data can tell who on its distribution network is bypassing the meter and stealing electricity, a bit of intelligence that every utility wished it had.

 

Energy thefts occur more frequently than the average customer might think — an average of $10 per meter per utility — and that’s a loss that utilities would like to recover, Siebel said in an interview.

Siebel funded C3 Energy, its predecessor, by sending out an email on a Friday in December 2008. By the following Monday, he said, he had commitments for $20 million, and C3 was off and running.

He has added money from his own $1.9 billion software fortune to fund the company to this point, and told us the firm is now a “cash positive” business able to fund its own expansion. He said he expects it to be profitable within three years.

There are several other IoT startups working on cloud-based industrial IoT platforms to compete with Siebel’s firm, which is considered by most research firms to be a current leader in the industrial IoT market. Each of the companies featured here is producing a platform for developing software to collect

data and manage the many “things” that make up the internet of things. With the different approaches taken, one or more of these startups could become a challenger for C3 IoT, or a serious market contender in its own right.

Uptake.io

Uptake, based in Chicago, employs more than 300 software engineers, designers, and data scientists to provide custom IoT applications for its customers. Like C3 IoT, Uptake is focused on building a cross-industry platform with an emphasis on predictive analytics, and it has found an early customer in Caterpillar.

Harbor Research, in a July report, called Uptake “a threat down the road from a product development standpoint” to C3 IoT, and declared it “a key competitor to watch.”

Founded in 2014, Uptake got traction in the marketplace when Caterpillar became an investor, as well as a customer, in March 2015. Uptake has raised $45 million in less than two years. According to Harbor Research, Caterpillar “relies on the Uptake platform to provide its smart services offerings.”

Nevertheless, Harbor analysts Alex Gaser and Glen Allmendinger concluded: “At present, Uptake is significantly behind C3 IoT in terms of customers and scale of deployments.”

Forbes wasn’t as pessimistic when it named the “nearly unknown” Uptake as its hottest startup of 2015 in December, noting it was already valued at $1.1 billion.

As C3 IoT has done, Uptake is working directly with a customer-partner to improve its platform. In a March 5 press release announcing its minority stake in the startup, Caterpillar noted it “will collaborate with Uptake and the Cat dealer network in the coming months to roll out the latest predictive analytics and insights through web-based and mobile tools… ”

According to an article in ConstructionDive.com, a construction industry newsletter, Uptake could become the supplier of IoT software to “equipment manufacturers in the construction, aviation, mining and rail industries to create software as a service products that stream sensor-based performance and maintenance data to users.”

Blue Pillar

Indianapolis, Ind.-based Blue Pillar takes all the data on energy delivered to a large, complex facility — such as a modern hospital, an Army base, or telecommunications supplier — and loads it into its Aurora Platform for analysis.

Where C3 IoT is concentrating on the big picture of utility operations, Blue Pillar wants to focus on the smaller picture of “microgrid” operations within a company. It collects data at the utility supplier meter and puts sensors on all other sources of electricity generation, such as the emergency backup generators and their batteries, or a solar panel array on a building.

In an interview with InformationWeek, CEO Tom Willie said microgrids don’t really exist, because companies have only rudimentary means of collecting data on their primary energy usage equipment, such as heating, air conditioning, lighting, and emergency backup systems. The main source of such data today is “somebody walking around with a clipboard recording a few meter readings,” he said.

Blue Pillar collects data on power entering a facility from the utility grid and combines it with data from sensors placed on all sources of internal power generation. It then builds a local wireless network to collect the data and feeds it into a gateway.

The gateway switch relays the data to the Blue Pillar Aurora platform running on Microsoft’s Azure cloud, where it can be analyzed. The data can also be held on-site, as some large customers prefer, where it can be routed to an on-premises server with Aurora and its applications running locally.

Originally, Blue Pillar started as an automated system for tracking and checking on emergency backup diesels and their batteries and fuel supply in locations where such systems are mission critical-components, such as a telecommunications data center, an armed services facility, or a hospital.

“A backup diesel or natural gas generator is mostly idle. Utility outages are not that common,” Willie said. Consequently, facilities managers are rarely confident they can count on their backup equipment within the split second it will be needed in the case of a major power failure.

According to an article in Engineering.com, Blue Pillar automates the testing of such systems, monitors their fuel supply and battery power, and combines their output with any other sources of generation available on site, such as wind or solar.

For such sites to have energy resiliency, they also need to test their energy transfer switching, which substitutes one source of power for another. Blue Pillar’s application can provide such testing as well.

Blue Pillar’s customer base includes 200 hospitals and the US Army. It can expand its scope in the future to similar power management for a facility’s consumption — specifically identifying how much power each piece of equipment is using helping to spot where can savings be realized, Willie said in our interview.

However, the company does not have a timetable for doing so right now.

Blue Pillar has raised $27 million in venture funding from investors such as Claremont Creek Ventures, Arsenal Venture Partners, Allos Ventures, and OnPoint Technologies — the venture fund of the US Army.

Douglas Davis, senior VP and general manager of the Intel Internet of Things Group, recently joined the Blue Pillar board of directors.

Carriots

Carriots, founded in 2011 in Madrid, is a spinoff of the machine-to-machine division of Wairbut, a Spanish engineering consulting firm. While not much is known about Carriots in the US, it’s working with Cisco as a partner in Europe to build out a platform and network of connected devices with some similar goals to those of C3 IoT.

It also lists Microsoft Azure and the IBM Intelligent Operations Center for SmartCities as partners. Carriots has produced an IoT platform-as-a-service for developing IoT applications, and it’s hosted a platform for running them.

Market research firm Lux Research lists Carriots as a competitor to C3 IoT. It is privately held and has

 

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