Startup Octoblu Promises IoT Platform for Connecting Devices

Company executives say the platform will offer a heterogeneous way to connect and manage the billions of devices that will make up the IoT.

Internet of things

Octoblu is wading into the increasingly crowded space of vendors and consortiums looking to find the best ways to enable the expected tens of billions of devices that will make up the Internet of things to easily communicate with each other.

The startup emerged from stealth mode July 22, with executives announcing the company's upcoming platform for providing connections and managing communications across the burgeoning Internet of things (IoT).

The IoT entails the growing number of intelligent devices—from smartphones, tablets and laptops to industrial systems, appliances, cars, surveillance cameras and home systems—connecting with each other and swapping data, with businesses anticipating greater efficiencies and growing market opportunities and consumers eyeing the benefits of a more connected life.

Ensuring that all these devices, systems and sensors—Cisco Systems anticipates there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, with IDC analysts forecasting a $7.1 trillion market by then—can communicate despite the various protocols, APIs and languages on the market now will be important to the eventual success and reach of the IoT. It's why there is a growing list of vendors and industry groups working on the challenge.

Octoblu CEO Geir Ramleth, who co-founded the company with another former Bechtel official, Chris Matthieu, said Octoblu is creating a platform that can span across a range of devices and appliances, protocols and languages, applications and people. The challenge is enabling these connected systems to connect and communicate freely without putting limitations on that communication, Ramleth told eWEEK.

"How do you get this … world integrated without having a whole bunch of silos?" he asked. "Right now you have a lot of things happening, but it's happening in a bunch of proprietary silos."

There's no lack of companies looking to try. In the last seven months, a number of vendor-led consortiums have arisen looking to create a common IoT platform. Octoblu in June joined one of these groups, the AllSeen Alliance, which launched in late December 2013. AllSeen is looking to leverage the AllJoyn code, which comes out of an engineering effort at Qualcomm.

Earlier this month, Intel, Samsung, Dell, Broadcom and others started the Open Interconnect Consortium aimed at improving interoperability between connected devices, while a week later the Thread Group—which includes ARM, Samsung and Google's Nest business—launched to push Thread, an IP wireless networking protocol.

Ramleth said the consortiums will come up with their protocols and standards, but that the result will be multiple solutions that will still need sorting out. In addition, a key part of the IoT will be the ability for these new connected devices to talk with legacy systems, and "you can't connect the old world by having a new protocol."

Other companies like Apple (with HomeKit) and Google are developing their own ways for connecting devices, and there is a range of efforts in the market, from ZigBee and MQTT to Z-Wave and XMPP. The problem is that none of them have the same reach as HTTP or IP, which will limit them , he said.

Octoblu's platform will be based on Meshblu, a machine-to-machine messaging technology developed by Matthieu that had been called Skynet.IM. According to Ramleth, Meshblu can be used to connect devices that run on disparate protocols and can discover and manage applications, hardware appliance and device, and social media network.

Octoblu officials also are developing a security and rights manage architecture that will be used by the platform, he said. The company will launch its platform in the fall, Ramleth said.