The network edge can have many meanings, but to the team at New York startup Veea, the edge is where end-user devices connect to the larger network. Whether that connectivity is through Ethernet, cellular, Wi-Fi or an Internet of Things (IoT) protocol, Veea wants to deliver it packaged with enough compute power to process data on-premises.
At least, that's the new goal of Veea's chairman Allen Salmasi, a 40-year veteran of the communications industry who helped develop the CDMA protocol and was once one of Qualcomm's biggest shareholders. Salmasi went on to found NextWave Telecom, which famously bid $4.7 billion for PCS spectrum in 1996, filed for bankruptcy when it could not pay, went all the way to the Supreme Court to win control of the spectrum in 2003, and then sold it to Verizon in 2005. Salmasi then started NextWave Wireless, which among other activities acquired firms like PacketVideo and IPWireless.
After selling NextWave Wireless' spectrum to AT&T in 2013, Salmasi and his son Michael started Max2, which launched an edge computing server called VeeaHub in 2018. Max2 changed its name to Veea later that year, and then purchased Virtuosys for its mobile edge computing platform, adding key software to its edge server hardware.
That hardware is a box roughly the size of a Wi-Fi router that can connect to on-premises devices via LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Zigbee, Ethernet, USB or legacy protocols like RS232. Later this year Veea plans to add 5G and 802.11ax to the mix. The company has three VeeaHub models: one for homes or small businesses, one for enterprise customers, and one for outdoor use. All can be managed with a smartphone app.
Since the VeeaHubs can use cellular for backhaul, the company is marketing them as solutions for pop-up networks as well as more permanent installations. They're sold as a service, starting at $20 per month per box. Veea's team believes customers will see the value as they realize that the VeeaHub can function as an LTE router, a public Wi-Fi access point, an IoT gateway and firewall, a Bluetooth receiver and beacon, and a Linux VPN server.
"It is an access point and a server," explained Kurt Michel, Veea's senior VP of marketing. The VeeaHub leverages multicore processors; some models use Cavium chips and some use Qualcomm. The hubs can be connected with a Wi-Fi mesh network to provide local compute capability, Michel said. He believes that as companies connect more and more devices to the Internet, they will find many good reasons – from security to bandwidth and latency – not to send all their data to the cloud.
"I don't see this as competitive with the data center; I see it as complementary," he said.
Michel said on-premises servers make sense for a number of emerging 5G use cases, particularly AI. He referenced Veea's new AdEdge software, which captures and analyzes images of people as they stop to look at digital advertising. "Unless you are actually doing processing locally to distinguish whether something is a face or not, you are going to be sending massive amounts of data up into the cloud … far more than you need to," Michel said.
Michel and his team envision applications migrating from the cloud to the VeeaHubs. "Because we are running containers we have software portability," Michel said. "You can migrate applications out to the device edge and run it on VeeaHubs." He said Veea's Linux-based platform supports the operation of containerized software as well as the company's own applications for retail, municipal and smart building verticals. Veea also has an application development kit to enable third parties to write software for its platform.
In order to get software developers on board, Veea will need to seed the market with its hardware, since the company's software and hardware are tightly integrated. With roughly 100 full-time employees, including salespeople around the world, Veea is marketing its all-in-one solution to network operators that want to extend connectivity and computing power into buildings, and to small business owners that want to create private networks.
— Martha DeGrasse, special to Light Reading. Follow her @mardegrasse