Is the IoT about software or hardware?
As always with tough questions like this, the answer is yes. Essentially, the hardware is cool (and necessary), but the software provides the value.
As the Internet of Things has grown slowly over the past decade, we’ve seen massive amounts of cool hardware: beacons, sensors, and smart devices connected to the Internet. Wiliot’s recently unveiled Pixel2 Bluetooth beacon, which is essentially a postage stamp-sized tri-core ARM computer that doesn’t need a battery and has multiple sensors for everything from motion to fill levels in through temperature, humidity and tamper detection, is at the high end of that scale: very cool hardware. And it’s hardware that could potentially take the IoT from billions of smart objects to trillions.
“It’s a computer the size of a postage stamp. There are no batteries. You don’t plug it in. It feeds itself by harvesting energy from radio waves,” Wiliot Vice President Steven Statler told me recently. on the TechFirst Podcast. “So IoT Pixel is a big step forward on what we see as a journey to transition from the expensive Internet of Things to the everyday Internet of Things, or the Internet of Trillions as we speak of it. , which is essentially a hundredfold increase in the number of things that are connected.
That’s good, but it’s not enough. It’s software that really delivers value, and that’s why the company also recently introduced a no-code automation platform, which not only collects data from potentially millions of smart devices in its chain supply chain, factory or stores, but also makes them usable, digestible and accessible in the enterprise platforms they use to run their business.
According to Wiliot CEO Tal Tamir, this will take the IoT beyond vision and sensing to infer and automate.
To do this, the company has released a set of “playbooks:” pre-built no-code integrations and apps to automate integration into communication platforms like Slack or enterprise systems platforms like Salesforce. The question is whether this is enough.
The IoT platform space is crowded with massive competitors, from Particle to IBM’s Watson IoT, Amazon’s AWS IoT solutions, SAP’s Leonardo, Microsoft’s Azure IoT Central, and many other players including Google and AT&T. They grew rapidly to 39% per year to achieve what a company aims to be $53 billion market in 2028.
It’s a tough space for an upstart like Wiliot, even one who raised almost $270 million in five rounds.
To level the playing field, Wiliot is giving away its innovative Pixel 2 hardware to smart beacon makers for free.
“We’re not going to charge our share of the production of the Pixel anymore…we’re basically licensing it to people who make smart beacons for free,” Statler told me. “We wondered how to accelerate adoption? And one of the things we can do is not charge the cost of smart beacons…we only charge for cloud connectivity and edge processing, so you can start unlocking the data, doing the detection and to achieve the scalability that allows you to have, for example, a hundred thousand tags on all the clothes in a store.
This is a very important step, because the Pixel IoT is a very important tag:
- 1 MHz 3-core ARM chip
- 1 KB of memory
- Powered by ambient radio waves
- Detects temperature and location (proximity and “coming soon” fill level)
- Range of 10 meters
- 128-bit encryption
- Size of a postage stamp embedded in an adhesive label
Wiliot does not publicly release the cost of this tag beyond saying it is “cheap” and “nearly free”. When I asked Statler about it, I got the impression that even though the goal was pennies per label, it was probably close to a dollar right now. The goal of releasing it for royalty-free production is to make this development cost almost zero.
That, coupled with a no-code development platform with a starter kit for testing at just $500, makes diving into the IoT waters very easy and very inexpensive.
And that would dramatically change the IoT.
Not only by making it more accessible initially and more affordable at scale, but also by associating it with popular concepts like the metaverse. Imagine knowing that your Louis Vuitton bag is authentic, where it came from and how it got to you, but also having an NFT of your bag for your virtual avatar as well as the actual bag for your real body.
“If you look at most ERP systems, they assume you have SKUs, but they’re not really built around the concept of every product having a digital twin,” Statler says. “But there are products from a whole range of really interesting startups and established companies that are built around managing that unique identity, so every Ralph Lauren sweater has an identification.”
Also, of course, the more prosaic but arguably most useful things like managing things like food traceability for recalls or customizing the shelf life of perishables because you know what temperatures they have been shipped, stored and displayed.
There’s a lot to do in the IoT before it becomes so ubiquitous and normal that we don’t even think about it. But something like this technology – and this platform – seems essential to make it happen.
To subscribe to TechFirstor get one transcription of our conversation.