“Buddy Platform” – Hosting and Managing “IoT” Device Data

By Jane Clabby, Clabby Analytics

Given the increasing use of sensors to collect information, expect to see accelerated growth of “Internet of Things” (IoT) sensory device Big Data in 2015. But also recognize that very few companies have strategies in place to help them manage, control and gain insight from that data. Further, many businesses that generate device data are not necessarily technology-oriented. In many cases, they are manufacturing companies (such as automotive or aviation companies) that have built technology into their products to control a given device but are unprepared to manage big data, let alone glean value from that data.

Also, be aware that businesses which can collect and analyze this sensory telemetry data will have a distinct competitive advantage over those that fail to do so because they are able to develop new insights and/or better predict and manage equipment failures. Accordingly, businesses that can capture information from sensors and use it to their strategic and competitive advantage should pay close attention to the evolving market for IoT management and analytics tools.

One of Clabby Analytics’ goals for the coming year is to profile smaller companies that offer interesting technologies that are ahead of the curve. Buddy Platform, Inc. (Buddy) is a great example, with the recently launched Buddy Platform, a comprehensive IoT platform that enables companies to easily capture, store and make use of telemetry data gathered from their connected devices. Seattle-based Buddy has received funding from a number of venture capital firms, including Microsoft Ventures.

Background

Wikipedia defines IoT as “the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure.” Of Gartner’s top ten technology trends for 2015, IoT is #2, while #4 is advanced pervasive and invisible analytics. In a, “Worldwide and Regional Internet of Things 2014-2020 Forecast” study, IDC predicted that the global IoT market will hit $7.1 trillion by 2020. Finally, McKinsey Global Institute predicts that IoT will contribute up to US$6.2 trillion annually to the global economy by 2025. This research suggests that IoT will have implications for both individuals and businesses across a range of industries and applications.

In a recent article in WIRED, Dr. W. Charlton Adams, Jr., presented a concept dubbed “the connected person” which he described as “the human being who is making use of the applications and services that are enabled by the devices — the things — and their unprecedented integration provided in the IoT.” Adams went on to describe an application in healthcare in which sensors at home or in the body will collect and transfer patient data to healthcare providers for monitoring and analysis and for “telemedicine”- particularly useful in rural areas where hospitals and doctors are not immediately accessible.

In manufacturing, IoT can collect data from automobiles that can be used for trouble shooting and to service vehicles, to make real-time adjustments for road and weather conditions, and to gather data that can be analyzed to better understand how vehicles are being used. These same principles can be applied to manufacturing companies in other industries. Similarly, “smart” buildings can collect data from interconnected devices to improve operational efficiency, lower costs, and improve the living experience for building occupants.

With the accelerating growth in IoT, businesses will grapple with issues of security, accessibility, integration and how to gain insight from all that data. In a recent study conducted by CIO magazine, Microsoft and Readify, 45% of respondents said connecting IoT devices to existing systems was their biggest issue. This is a clear indication that many businesses are just starting to think about how they can harness value from device data.

The Buddy Platform – A Closer Look

Buddy works by hosting a series of regionally sandboxed, global BuddyAPI endpoints to which devices can send raw unstructured or structured telemetry data. By adding just a few lines of code (HTTP calls) to a device’s firmware, data is collected with no agents and no additional specialized firmware. Data is transferred to a secure storage infrastructure, BuddyVault, where the data is managed, and can be queried and viewed by the customer with BuddyView.

Buddy’s platform consists of three major components:

  1. BuddyAPI, a JSON REST API that allows developers to securely transmit connected device data to Buddy;
  2. BuddyVault, a secure data storage service; and,
  3. BuddyView, which enables developers to visualize their device data, send it to third-party business intelligence tools or access it via custom applications using an API

Major features:

  • Filters incoming raw data to discard any irrelevant information;
  • Data collected can be randomized to be statistically relevant but not specifically related to a particular individual and/or personal data can be filtered out;
  • Any instance of Buddy can be run in any data center or public/private cloud;
  • Customers can decide what data to collect and how often to collect it and set up automated queries;
  • Data collection can be changed on-the-fly For example, if an automotive manufacturer is receiving reports of faulty brakes, they can collect and examine exclusively brake data; and,
  • Different feeds of data can be routed to different departments such as sales or customer service.

Through a partnership with Microsoft, Buddy can store data in 5 locations (Microsoft Azure data centers) throughout the world- North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. This is important since many international companies have strict privacy regulations that require data to be stored locally in order to comply with data sovereignty rules. For example, European Union laws require that data be hosted and stored in Europe. Customers can also use other worldwide public cloud service providers (Amazon Web Services, or IBM SoftLayer, for example) and store data in their in-country datacenters. In fact, Buddy can be layered on top of virtually any IaaS infrastructure. Data can also be stored on-premise on any storage or server platform.

Buddy-based data is easily integrated into popular business intelligence tools or can be integrated with other applications (Salesforce, Splunk, Zendesk, Tableau and SAP, for example), or raw APIs can be plugged into any customer or machine-to-machine (M2M) scenario. Buddy uses standard technologies including REST service over HTTPS, which means any device with Internet connectivity can use Buddy. There are no agents, no heavy runtime to install, and the platform offers access managed, queried subsets of the data, which are available via completely customized JSON APIs. In addition to its REST API, Buddy offers SDKs for iOS, Android, JavaScript, and .NET.

Buddy queries can answer a range of questions, including:

  • How is this device being used? Is it performing according to specifications?
  • What error codes is my device reporting, and how will those errors affect customers?
  • How many of my devices are being used?
  • When are they used and how often?
  • Where are they? Are they on or off?
  • How are my devices communicating with one another? If not, what’s not working?
  • How are my devices performing with connected ecosystems like smart homes or industrial infrastructure?

The Buddy Platform is currently available, and the company already has customers in industries such as aviation, automotive (connected cars), retail, connected home, consumer electronics and embedded silicon. For most of Buddy’s customers, the first step is using BuddyView to provide a graphical display of how devices are performing in real-time. A next step is to integrate the platform into the businesses’ customer service. These customers are analyzing performance and usage data to build better products and improve the effectiveness of those already in consumer’s hands. Let’s look at a couple examples:

  1. Automobile manufacturing: Buddy hosts the telemetry stream data and provides separate feeds to internal teams and partners; and,
  2. Manufacturer of networked home audio products: Buddy helps them understand usage and improves customer support.

Pricing is straightforward. For incoming device data, Buddy customers are charged a monthly access fee per TB of storage consumed. For data being integrated into other tools, Buddy is sold on a “per-seat” basis. On-premises Buddy customers are charged a set-up fee and a monthly maintenance fee.

The Buddy Difference

Buddy executives believe there are several features that differentiate their solutions from other competitive products including Xively, ThingWorx, TempoIQ and others:

  • Buddy is lightweight and easily implemented. With only a few lines of code added to device firmware, Buddy is collecting any or all data coming from the device, with virtually no overhead and no agents;
  • Data can be output to virtually any tool for further analysis;
  • Customers can choose where to store data – private/public cloud or on-premise – Buddy data centers located worldwide to comply with international privacy regulations; and,
  • Customizable queries filter for relevant data- personal sensitive information can be excluded.

Summary Observations

Virtually every publication that we open these days features articles about the Internet of Things. IoT can certainly be considered a disruptive technology that will change the way companies will perform customer service and support, as well as how they collect and use information to provide new features and innovative products. Analysis of device data will also enable businesses in a wide range of industries to improve efficiencies and cut costs. Many companies are at the forefront of the “big data” curve – just starting to collect and analyze data that can reveal customer trends and support “one-to-one” marketing campaigns that can be used to predict equipment failures, and so on.

The Buddy platform provides an easy straightforward way for manufacturing, retail, healthcare and companies in other industries to take the first step into IoT. With just a few lines of code, device data can be collected stored, displayed and queried, providing valuable insight. The Buddy platform can be hosted anywhere, and Buddy has data centers worldwide to support local data requirements. Further, Buddy is easily integrated with other applications. By leveraging their existing partnership with Microsoft, as well as forging relationships with other BI vendors, and public cloud providers like Amazon and IBM SoftLayer, Buddy can gain both “mind share” and market share in an environment that is poised for rapid growth over the coming years.

 

 

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