Light Reading

IoT Startup Banking on WiFi Connectivity

Jason Meyers
8/26/2014
50%
50%

Internet of Things (IoT) startup Electric Imp is betting that the established and already well-connected world of WiFi will be the ticket to fast and economical expansion of the IoT ecosystem, both in the home and in industrial environments.

Electric Imp Inc. has built what it calls an end-to-end IoT connectivity platform, consisting of a component featuring a WiFi radio that embeds its Imp operating system into devices and provides a secure connection to the Imp Cloud. The Imp Cloud, the company says, acts as a central hub that provides connected devices with more security and control.

"You can run an application between the device and the cloud, and since there's a real-time connection to the cloud, you have all the computing power of the cloud in your device," says Bryan Kennedy, VP Strategic Development for Electric Imp. "Everything in the device is operating on a virtual machine in cloud, so you have complete and constant visibility to what's going on in the device."

The embedded WiFi radio in the Electric Imp component is a distinctive part of the strategy, Kennedy says. Relying on WiFi for connectivity moves devices out of the traditional M2M model of needing cellular connectivity, he says, and Electric Imp's WiFi-based approach is one-tenth the cost of a 3G/4G solution -- and addresses security implications that other networking standards can't.

Besides which, Kennedy adds, "working with the carriers reminds me of the old Soviet Union."

"WiFi has become so ubiquitous, and cost is dropping like a rock," he says. "More importantly, WiFi has been around long enough that security is rock solid, where Bluetooth is Swiss cheese. It's easy for us to change our radios out, but that market is so huge, so cost-effective and so secure, we're going to stay running in it for quite a while."

As for the whirr of activity in new IoT standards group formation, Kennedy said he believes it will take years for that to coalesce, and that protocols like Z-Wave and ZigBee are "doomed" and will quickly become the stuff of legacy. (See Raco Aims to Eliminate Need for IoT Standards, AllSeen Attracts More IoT Hopefuls and Thread Group Spins New IoT Networking Protocol.)


Get the latest on the evolution of connected things by visiting Light Reading's dedicated IoT content channel.


Electric Imp recently landed $15 million in Series B funding from new investors Foxconn Technology Group, PTI Ventures and Rampart Capital, and returning investor Redpoint Ventures . Company co-founder and CEO Hugo Fiennes, who was involved early on in the development of the Nest thermostat ultimately acquired by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), was also a returning investor. The new funding adds to the $8 million Series A investment the company closed in 2012.

The company started out in the home automation space, but is now looking toward products that have longer lives and into industrial manufacturing.

"Home automation has fast time to market, but limited shelf life and margin-sensitive products," he says. "White goods and appliances -- fridges, washing machines, pool pumps -- are much more expensive, and they tend to have five to 10 year asset lives. Once you connect you are guaranteed a service contract."

Getting embedded into those kinds of products also provides the company with a natural outgrowth into products for commercial and industrial settings, he says.

"When we knock off the business unit that does AC in the home, we have a reference in the same company and we're already a vendor," he says. "Then it becomes a much easier for them to implement our technology into their commercial and industrial product lines."

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, Light Reading

(10)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/27/2014 | 6:01:56 PM
Re: Is it safe?
@Liz G,

That's cool. My ISP hasn't even sniffed that type of functionality yet. They probably reserve those luxuries for the business class paying customers :(
Liz Greenberg
50%
50%
Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/27/2014 | 1:11:11 AM
Re: Is it safe?
@pcharles09 my internet provider Sonic.net provides a Cisco client for us to use.  I use it on my laptop and I am trying to use it on my phone- still working the configuration issues. A huge benefit when traveling overseas, is that my IP is a US domestic address which means I can access Netflix, banking etc. easily and safely.
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/27/2014 | 12:28:09 AM
Re: Is it safe?
@Liz G,

Is it a corporate tunnel or something you use personally? If yes to the latter, which one do you use?
thebulk
50%
50%
thebulk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2014 | 10:56:13 PM
Re: Security!
Sounds like they are taking security seriously, but still unproven in the IoT space. We will have to wait and see.
jasonmeyers
50%
50%
jasonmeyers,
User Rank: Blogger
8/26/2014 | 8:27:24 PM
Security!
I asked Electric Imp to weigh in on these security concerns. The following response is from Tom Sarris, the company's communications manager: "We understand the concerns about Internet security, as well as security within the IoT space as a whole. The Electric Imp platform is aimed at removing the challenges and roadblocks designers face when creating new connected devices. We believe security is a requirement and not an afterthought. Security has been considered at every level of the Electric Imp platform from the chips in the hardware to the cloud services. The imp hardware supports WiFi networks with WPA and WPA 2 Personal security and uses TLS/SSL encryption for all communication between the device and server. To help further ensure security during the setup process, our platform features a patent pending optical setup configuration called BlinkUp, which allows network credentials to be passed to a device without broadcasting them over the air."
Liz Greenberg
50%
50%
Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2014 | 5:24:18 PM
Re: Is it safe?
All I know is that I run a VPN whenever I can if I have to use public WiFi...I think that swiss cheese applies to most wireless technologies.  If these guys have some way to lock it down great but ubiquity will be important or it is still swiss cheese.
jabailo
50%
50%
jabailo,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2014 | 1:25:13 PM
Re: WiFi security
This model sounds like an expansion of the Chromecast topology.   

Chromecast is a Wifi connected device that runs video in two ways.   Triggered by an app but streamed directly from the Google Cloud.  Or in a roundabout way, where you stream it normally to a PC and then send it back up the Wifi to Chromecast.

In any case, I've read that some Chromecasts have been hijacked since they broadcast themselves using Wifi!  


Chromecast Hack Lets You Rickroll Your Neighbor's TV


Dan Petro built a "Rickmote Controller" that can hijack a Chromecast, and play an endless loop of Rick Astley's "Never Going to Give You Up."
thebulk
50%
50%
thebulk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2014 | 12:45:30 PM
Re: Is it safe?
WiFi is a great technology for connecting devices, but security is a fundamental issue with WiFi so I would be very concerned. 
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2014 | 10:48:46 AM
Is it safe?
I know there's security built into this approach, but is WiFi really to be trusted with IoT apps?
SReedy
50%
50%
SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
8/26/2014 | 10:36:55 AM
WiFi security
Do they have proprietary security software? He kept saying how secure WiFi is, but I don't think that's a given or a well-accepted fact. A lot of people still have qualms with using it for security reasons.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Ericsson's Hyperscale Datacenter System (HDS) 8000, featuring Intel's Rack Scale Architecture, caused a stir when it was announced at MWC 2015. For more on this revolutionary product, join me on Thursday, April 30 at 12:00 p.m. EST for a Super Webinar event, A New Hardware Paradigm for the Telco Data Center.
LRTV Documentaries
Cox Eyes Cloud-Based Home Networks

4|27|15   |   05:30   |   (0) comments


Cox's Jeff Finkelstein explains how moving services to the cloud will let cable deliver services faster and eliminate constant hardware replacements.
LRTV Documentaries
CableLabs' Clarke Updates Cable Virtualization

4|23|15   |   05:41   |   (1) comment


Former BT exec now leading CableLabs' NFV and SDN efforts explains key role of open source and updates efforts to virtualize the home network.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. II

4|23|15   |   08:19   |   (1) comment


In the second installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about cultural change, network slicing and technology advances.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. I

4|23|15   |   09:27   |   (3) comments


In the first installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about the incredible transformation underway in the communications networking industry.
LRTV Documentaries
LTE Paves the Way for the 5G Revolution

4|20|15   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


Håkan Andersson, head of 5G product strategy of the Radio Business Unit at Ericsson, discusses the role of LTE, the US and other industry verticals in building a true 5G ecosystem.
LRTV Documentaries
The 3GPP's Road to 5G Standardization

4|17|15   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


Satoshi Nagata, chairman of the 3GPP's TSG-RAN group and a manager at NTT Docomo, explains the standardization process for 5G, as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu CTO Makes the Case for a New 5G Air Interface

4|16|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Michael Peeters, CTO of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, explains why 5G will require a new air interface to meet its diverse performance targets.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu + Nokia: The New Uber-Vendor

4|15|15   |   2:42   |   (4) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown discusses the technological and competitive opportunities and challenges if a merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia comes to pass.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Data Center Power Play

4|15|15   |   6:22   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed industry-leading energy efficiency capabilities for its indoor and outdoor data center solutions, explains Dr. Fang Liangzhou, vice president of Huawei's Network Energy product Line.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Routers, Switches Get the Green Mark

4|15|15   |   2:02   |   (0) comments


TUV Rheinland's Frank Dudley explains how Huawei's routers and switches have been successfully tested by energy efficiency experts and have gained Green Mark Certification.
LRTV Documentaries
A Finn, a Frenchman & a Guy From New Jersey Walk Into a Merger...

4|15|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


Stop us if you've heard this one before... Light Reading CEO Founder & CEO Steve Saunders weighs in on the technical and cultural implications of a Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent merger.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accounting for Better Solutions

4|10|15   |   02:31   |   (1) comment


Murad Yousuf, CTO at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Finance (Dept. of Zakat & Income Tax), talks about the benefits of deploying router technology from Huawei.
Upcoming Live Events
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
In its latest survey covering network operators' plans and strategies for ICT transformation, Heavy Reading asked telecom operators worldwide to identify the most important goals and objectives for their ICT transformation initiatives. Heavy Reading also asked operators about the importance of a "digital first" strategy, which enables customers to complete an interaction across different digital channels, such as web and mobile self-service and social media.
Hot Topics
Comcast Formally Ends Its Bid for TWC
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/24/2015
Comcast Reportedly Dropping $45B TWC Bid
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 4/23/2015
Google's WiFi-First Mobile Service 'Fi' Is Here
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/22/2015
Amazon Earnings: What to Watch For
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 4/23/2015
Adtran Is Developing White Box GPON Tech
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 4/24/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Many leading communications companies can claim to have undergone significant periods of reinvention during their histories, but none have been through more major ...
Data Center Interconnect, or DCI, is one of the hottest sectors in telecom currently. Since coming back to Light Reading last year, prodigal-son style, I've ...
Cats with Phones
Learning Curve Click Here
Pierre could never remember how to use Excel.
Latest Comment