By now it is normal that technology helps us humans to perform activities. The Internet of Things connects physical and virtual objects and lets them work together. Our Startup of the Week uses IoT not necessarily for smart homes and voice assistants, but for the development of data-based services. CEO Axel Schüßler of IoT connctd told us more about this in an interview.
Hello Axel! Thank you for taking the time today. What do you offer at IoT connctd?
We designed and implemented the open and scalable Service Creation IoT platform to simplify the development of data-based services. We offer service providers and manufacturers the flexible and universal system.
In doing so we pursue 3 overriding goals. For example, supporting the creativity of customers in service development and the use of data from networked devices. They no longer have to deal with technical features and specifications.
The second goal is to support agile developments. First simulate, then test and pilot, then scale. The platform supports each of these steps.
The third goal is to let the platform grow with customer requirements. Furthermore, we want to support digital trnasformation in an efficient way. We guarantee high quality and availability at the same time.
A very exciting topic. Can you tell us more about your technology?
The Internet has been functioning for years through interfaces and the various combinations to generate services and products. We bring this model into the physical world. Internet services and everyday things merge. For this purpose we have developed the cloud-based Service Creation IoT platform with a range of functionalities. Independent of specific infrastructures, “things” are described in a particularly “Internet-suitable” way. For us, this means Things concept and is derived from and compatible with the “Web of Things” the Internet standardization group W3C. We give these things a physical or logical structure. For us this means UNIT concept and supports any form of digital twins.
Data wants to be read out or things want to be controlled. Everyone offers APIs for this. But if these APIs are not well designed, the developer will have a hard time. That’s why we offer a very innovative GRAPH-API in addition to the classic REST-API. It is a really cool tool for developers who can use our platform like a Google search engine for the Internet of Things! We strictly decouple the user data from the IoT data, because only our customers should create this link. IoT connctd is not a “data copy company”. All interactions are encrypted and access is only possible via secure authentication!
Are the services always run in the cloud?
Of course we are a cloud company, but this does not mean that everything is always and everywhere in the cloud. We offer the possibility to run services combined in the cloud and locally. This means that data acquisition, data processing can also be done in the EDGE device – i.e. locally. The service developer then decides which services or data are used in the cloud. For us this is quite natural and the question of cloud or “on premise” does not arise here at all. It is a clear “both and”.
Our platform grows in minutes with the requirements of our customers. Hosting takes place in Germany and the EU. But we can also get close to international markets on all continents with our customers. Together with our infrastructure partners, we thus ensure very fast platform interactions.
What sets you apart from other competitors?
We offer software to manufacturers to use our IoT platform as an IoT backend while maintaining full control over the devices or keeping them in place during their life cycle (via remote access and device management).
For service developers we offer a very flexible working environment and the already mentioned GRAPH-API. What is that? A simple and familiar example explains it quite well.
As an operator of parking garages I want to offer a service to assign the exact parking space. For this purpose, I have digitally recorded my car parks and my parking decks and the individual parking spaces, some with sensors, others with cameras. Some car parks also have charging infrastructure for electric cars. It is the developer’s goal to develop the query in such a way that it can be performed efficiently and quickly.
So it would be silly if I had to query every parking space individually. So our platform works like a search engine: “Give me the nearest free parking space with charging station” + “Set the usage indicator to reserved” + “Start the timer when the sensor detects the car as parked”. All these combined queries are not feasible in classic API logic and thus lead to many individual queries. With our API there are basically 3 combined and filtering queries. The whole thing is really efficient!
I see. What is the business model behind the services?
Initially, we built the Service-Creation IoT platform for service developers. Therefore we offer free access for testing and a fair pay-per-use model for commercial use.
However, we also know that not all of our partners have IoT skills or service creation experience, but they do deal with customer requirements or operational process problems. Therefore we offer a range of project-based support from IoT coaching to full-stack co-development, which we partly implement with a partner network.
As an additional model, we are currently preparing to enable the owners of the data to pass on this data to authorised users and receive a data fee for this. The role of connctd here is to orchestrate a data marketplace without being the owner of the data itself and to ensure a very simple process for the diverse provision and use of data. There is much talk of Open-Data: We believe that there should also be a coordinated marketplace for data of various kinds where the players can interact commercially.
Which industries are you addressing with your solution?
From the very beginning, our orientation was to provide a universal service creation IoT platform so that any kind of device manufacturer can represent their innovative products on the Internet and service developers (energy providers, telcos, banks, insurance companies, facility managers, media houses/publishers, health care providers, logistics companies, etc.) can safely concentrate on their line of business and applications.
Our know-how lies in IoT and cloud services. The areas of application are thus multifaceted and start with Smart Home/Building, go on to Smart City and extend to mobility, logistics, transport and production. Our high-performance IoT platform supports service offerings worldwide, whereas we have so far concentrated on the European market for projects.
How far is your platform with its services in terms of development?
Our offer is “ready to use”. Yet we still work on it constantly, of course. We have a number of additional platform functionalities in preparation to provide even more comprehensive support for service developers and manufacturers. The main focus is on tools for data analytics.
Today our platform is already in use in various industries. We also report regularly on this on our website.
We are aware of the situation – especially in the energy industry – that first-time contact with IoT requires special procedures. For this reason, we also focused on the Service Creation Process at E-World 2020 in Essen. In this way we show how much our partners and customers can concentrate on WHAT and how little they have to worry about HOW. At the E-world we also showed examples of how our solutions suit more secure data sharing perfectly. The data could be shared with third party developers, who should not be granted direct access to their own, e.g. LoRaWAN infrastructure. In addition to that we demonstrated how easily e.g. energy-related services can be based on different systems.