At Kontakt.io, we recognize the need for an open and flexible platform as part of a scalable location technology solution. That is why we are opening to third-party Bluetooth low energy (Bluetooth LE) and other devices and launching the Kontakt.io Firmware Kit. Additionally, today we launched three new Bluetooth products!
The Problem: the location technology stack is fragmented, proprietary and solution siloed - increasing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is preventing growth for all parties involved.
Many in the IoT community would agree to the following statements:
IoT is a large and disruptive opportunity as it creates a new source of data for better predictions and decision making ultimately transforming strategy and business outcomes.
For indoor and proximity related use-cases, Bluetooth LE is emerging as the dominant technology outgrowing RFID, ZigBee, and proprietary protocols.
With growing Bluetooth LE adoption, demand for diverse beacon form factors, vendor agnostic gateway connectivity and use-case specific dashboards emerge.
However, even with Bluetooth LE, managing a multi-vendor solution is challenging. End-users care about functionality and business value. IT departments want scalability and low TCO.
To address this, Kontakt.io is further opening its platform to third-party devices after having successfully integrated with third-party gateways throughout the year 2018.
Moore’s law, AI and growing smartphone adoption are driving down complexity and costs of the location technology stack and are laying the ground for mass adoption. This hasn’t always been the case. Five years ago, the first generation of BLE beacons was used for proximity marketing. At the same time, RFID Tags were used in intralogistics, Zigbee powered thermostats for building automation and WIFI tags used in RTLS applications in healthcare.
Bluetooth LE Shift
Today, this landscape has been transformed, if not even disrupted, by the Bluetooth LE protocol and fueled by above-outlined technology trends. Due to its low-cost, low-power and vast ecosystem, today’s indoor-centric asset tracking applications run on Bluetooth LE. Building automation runs on Bluetooth LE. Connected temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors use Bluetooth LE. With the proliferation of Bluetooth LE, digitally transformed buildings will soon support dozens of IoT use-cases. With this insight, all parties are facing the same challenges that are limiting their growth:
The end-customer, wants to use location and sensor data to improve decision making. Improving customer experience (wayfinding, location based content), reducing OPEX and CAPEX investments (asset tracking), improving security and safety (visitor management, staff duress solutions such as portable panic buttons) and increasing compliance (cool chain monitoring) are among the most popular ROI drivers. The problem owner and application user are mostly business units for which IoT technology is a means to drive business outcomes.
The IT department needs to have a central overview of the venues, devices, applications and users that are leveraging their IT networks and need to be empowered to control security, access as well as onboarding of all devices - independent of the vendor! As of today, every point-based IoT solution is mainly focusing on the business value that IoT data delivers. While this is the right approach, the infrastructure and device management side of it is often neglected and managed poorly. IT departments are left with missing hardware interoperability and missing visibility and limited control over multiple point-based application platforms and the hardware connected to them. Hence, TCO of an IoT infrastructure grows exponentially with scale. While acceptable at a POC stage, this limits rollouts at enterprise scale. Despite efforts of NIST or ODF to create vendor agnostic connectivity standards, a management platform needed to manage an open IoT infrastructure for multiple devices, venues, applications, and user does not exist until to date.
The application provider aims to deliver the best possible wayfinding, asset tracking or panic button solution. To do that, they have to leverage hardware and its constraints. As part of their focus, experience, and resources, they often turn to respected hardware vendors or white-label a Chinese product which they have found on Alibaba. Assuming that the hardware does not have quality flaws, this approach is great to get started but becomes very challenging beyond 500 devices per end-customer and multiple end-customers at hand. This is due to two main reasons. First, the complexity of operations and delivering hardware, including the management of investments and working capital, becomes increasingly complex at scale. Second, when scaling up, application providers have to invest more and more resources into firmware and backend related development, support, and maintenance. This includes the development of new features to meet rollout requirements of the end-user.
The device vendors aim to sell more hardware at good margins. The easier solutions scale, the more hardware they will sell. All of the above challenges facing the application providers and end-customers slow down product sales and revenue. At the same time, vendors have to develop and adapt application proprietary firmware continuously which further slows product development cycles and contributes to increased COGS.
To give you a better idea of the magnitude of the challenges, take a look at the number of devices that will directly, or indirectly connect to the WLAN network using one of the most common device protocols.
Figure 1. Number of devices on WLAN network (Kontakt.io Estimation) Looking at beacons or Bluetooth LE based technologies alone shows that billions of devices will require network connectivity and consistent management over the next five years. So how to manage location applications with millions of devices consistently from the API to the firmware?
The Kontakt.io Firmware Kit turns any Bluetooth LE device into a Kontakt.io ecosystem ready device. Once ready, a unified device-to-API management and location and sensor stream layer provide seamless communication between the device and the user. Over the past 6 years, we have developed the industry's most robust and power efficient Bluetooth LE firmware and the most advanced beacon or IoT devicemanagement platform built for developers and IT professionals. Together, both enable secure and easy two-way communication between any device and the cloud while unifying sensor and location data from any device to any application. This firmware and management platform further empower a seamless creation of unique cloud-stored device IDs, frictionless device onboarding, and end-to-end security including rotating IDs. Moreover, it supports device fleet management, multi-tenant ownership rights of venues, devices and applications. All features and tools that are essential for enterprise IT departments approaching post-POC scale. Today, we are taking this part of Kontakt.io’s unique value proposition to the next level and allowing third party devices of all kinds to become part of our ecosystem.
The next 100 million
With more than 1 million BLE beacons and tags deployed, today’s announcement lays the groundwork for the next 100 million devices to come. Let’s get there together. We at Kontakt.io believe in a modular, open and interoperable IoT infrastructure – from the device layer to the use-case application. All that you need to get started is the Kontakt.io firmware ported to your device.