This device opens the doors for more entrepreneurs to build their own IoT devices
The Internet of Things has been called one of the hottest sectors in 2015. Tech leaders Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz listed IoT in their January post of 16 things to watch for over the coming year, with General Partner Scott Weiss noting that “I’m fascinated by the power of adding multiple sensors to old things and then connecting them to the internet.”
The process of building an innovative IoT device can be a complicated mix of engineering, manufacturing, and programing, demanding a pool of resources that are not always available.
In hopes of democratizing the world of IoT development, the crew at Finland’s Thingsee have developed their first product, aptly named Thingsee One, aimed at allowing teams to design, test, and bring their products to market easier, cheaper, and faster than before.
Thingsee is a division of hardware design company Haltian that was founded in 2012. With many of their team coming from Nokia, they have a strong background in mobile and hardware that has put them in an advantageous position in the growing industry. Thingsee currently has seven employees including sales, leadership, operations, support, biz dev and marketing, making up almost a tenth of Haltian’s overall 80-person staff.
They launched their project last year on Kickstarter, raising $99,000 with eight days to spare and taking in $105,000 by December 2, 2014. Thingsee is now working in 65 countries with 600 paying clients, focusing on the the U.S. and European markets after they began selling in August on their web store.
Making IoT design open to the people
The idea for Thingsee came about at Haltian when they were building new products for their customers and saw a need in the market. It became apparent how many companies were hitting barriers in passing the first stages of designing their apps and device, having to start from scratch each time without the proper expertise and wasting valuable time and resources.
Developers can configure Thingsee with their own software to carry out a proof of concept using the web app visualization programing tool. Since the FCC and CE have already fully certified Thingsee as safe to use for customer interface, their reference cloud platform lets the users test out their products and move directly to market.
Developers can collaborate through the cloud platform, based on NuttX real-time operating system, which is open source.
Founder and CMO Ville Yllasjarvi met with Geektime at SLUSH in Helsinki earlier this month and explained how their device is changing the IoT landscape.
“Because our device is already certified, users can move straight from a pilot program to production, which is something nobody else is offering,” he says, adding that, “This opens up the market to many new players who have great ideas, saving them the investment in time and capital to test out their ideas.”
Looking to IoT for the future
Yllasjarvi says that after the introduction of their product into the ecosystem, they are expecting to see the first generation of devices built using Thingsee One come out in Q1 of 2016.
Their clients range from sports telemetry, asset management, workflow management, tracking applications, and many other fields that rely on this kind of technology. One very strong vertical for them is in education. Students are using the device to learn how to build and develop new products in class, hopefully inspiring the next generation of engineers.
He explains that there is an ongoing shift in the world of tech, with a greater emphasis being placed on IoT. Yllasjarvi believes that over the next five years, the number of developers working in the IoT field will grow exponentially up to 50-fold, with some estimates saying that up to 4.5 million developers globally by 2020.
“One of the big reasons is that many mobile developers aren’t making enough money in their field and they will look to the IoT sector as a viable alternative,” he tells Geektime. “The IoT market is much more predictable and has the potential to grow much faster.”
Yllasjarvi echoes the sentiment that Finland is a great place for him to grow his business, saying that, “We have a lot of support from the government and the ecosystem is very predictable.”
The role of Nokia in building Finland’s path to success
In many ways, the surge of IoT has grown out of the massive shift that occurred in the past decade at Nokia, the former flagship of Finnish business. While the downgrading of Nokia in the handset sector caused a blow to the jobs market, it also created opportunities.
“For a short period of time after Nokia began to change, many people were disappointed but it has started to show them a kind of diversity in the hundreds of startups that are being founded,” says Yllasjarvi, noting that his team members are 90% ex-Nokia employees.
“It is remarkable how after only a few years from the shift at Nokia, we’ve seen the birth of hundreds of new companies. Lots of foreign companies have come here and set up operations. Instead of one big company employing lots of people, there is increased diversity that is helping to rebuild the economy and make it stronger over the long run. It’s less vulnerable to changes and it brings new growth when the startups succeed and achieve their goal, bringing up the whole of Finland,” he asserts.
Speaking about SLUSH 2015, Yllasjarvi points to the growth of the convention as a sign that the situation is improving. There were 15,000 attendees interested in entrepreneurship, saying that, “Only a few years ago there were just a few thousand. The whole climate has changed.”
He is optimistic that Finland is on the right track to build a stronger ecosystem and has many of the elements already in place for this success.
“On top of the gaming area, I see the IoT sector moving forward. We have skills in connectivity, sensors, and of course software development. This is all building up to make way for a very strong sector,” he says.
“We need to integrate the skills that we have in responsible ways to take advantage of these resources. This will make it possible for greater growth in the future. There are a lot of people who have learned how to work in international business, which is very valuable in thinking how to tackle the global market. This is one of the legacies of Nokia in that from day one, people are already thinking about how to scale up. We have the experience in managing global production with the networks,” adding that he believes that, “A large part of the IoT development will be in mobile.”
How do they stack up?
Thingsee was perhaps one of the most interesting companies that I encountered during my expedition to SLUSH. While their device is not on its own a creation that will upend the industry, it is the foundation on which the future will be built.
There are considerable competitors out there like Raspberry Pi and Arduino that developers are also using. Big companies like Intel, Qualcomm, and others are starting to look at the developer market and could offer some stiff competition. That said, Thingsee gives users the advantage of using a market-ready platform, saving them time and money, which is something that others have not yet produced.
They have recognized that IoT is both one of the most exciting areas that has become possible in recent years, and yet is above the reach of many developers due to the need to manufacture and receive certification for devices. Unlike software or apps, these steps of building from scratch and testing can be costly for new entrepreneurs and with Thingsee, could become a much lower hurdle, hopefully leading to some truly exciting innovations.