M2MAPPS: How does Axeda fit into the M2M ecosystem?
DALE CALDER: Ultimately Axeda is the platform that people will use to build their M2M applications. We listen to machines and provide a place in the cloud that data can go hang out, be analyzed and be distributed to other users or businesses. So we're a cloud-based platform that people use to build M2M solutions.
M2MAPPS: In some of your promotional materials, Axeda claims to make the world "Safer. Simpler. More Productive." How do your solutions deliver on these promises?
DALE CALDER: Most businesses I see as almost a "chain of ants." They operate with a bunch of hand-offs - kind of like a bucket brigade at a fire department. These hand-offs make business operations very inefficient - M2M helps streamline those processes.
Let's look at "more productive" first... If we can reduce the time impact human hand-offs create - whether by connecting directly to sources of information and automating responses and/or engaging people with things that need their attention rather than sifting through tons of information - by definition we can make them much more productive. Many of our customers have saved millions and millions of dollars by connecting to their products in the field - ultimately they are able to streamline their organizations around this connectivity.
When it comes to safety, M2M speaks more to specific application domains. We have a lot of customers that have used M2M technology to improve safety in their own operations, as well as improve the safety of their customers using their products.
One Axeda customer makes fire control panels and uses M2M technology to help put more timely information from the fire control panels into the hands of first responders. This real-time information let's the first responders immediately know where hot spots are and what's going on inside the building during the fire. It's obvious how that saves lives.
Information in that situation truly is about life and death.And in terms of simplification, M2M removes operational steps within a business through automation. Reducing human error inherently simplifies processes and business response to activity.
M2MAPPS: What are some of the challenges M2M developers face, and how does Axeda address those needs?
DALE CALDER: That is our "raison d'être". Ultimately, M2M is hard as nails. There are a lot of steps to the stack. You have things that need to be put into the device to enable communication. You have to do things over the air to enable the wireless communication.
You have to manage those endpoints. You have to be able to listen to things (it's a very high volume of information). You have to integrate with businesses and provide log-in management for users. There's a lot of complexity.
Underneath the Axeda cloud, we eliminate that complexity. It's really our job to provide "the Microsoft Windows of M2M" - where we can provide simple APIs provisionally hosted in a cloud-based solution that scales elastically.
You can listen to the millions of products you have in the field, through a very easy development environment that knows how to work with all the communication elements that are out there. That's really what our mission is: to simplify the whole exercise in managing connected products.
M2MAPPS: Are Axeda's solutions ideal for a certain size company, or can anyone come to you for M2M service solutions?
DALE CALDER: Our history is with the "biggest of the big." We did business with those guys first - people who had massive organizations and massive problems. What we have been able to do since we introduced the Axeda Platform last year is to make our technology available to all sizes of companies, including small start-ups.
Effectively, because the system is so consumable now and it already has proof of scale on the magnitude of mega-corps, we're able to really span the whole domain of organizational size, from two guys and a dog all the way up to a Fortune 5 company. Frankly, we have customers that fit all of those profiles.
But we find that the real differentiator of what Axeda is appropriate for is really down to domain of the problem. If you want to listen to products in the field and make those products part of an Internet or cloud-based solution, to either extend the value of those products or to better service them, we're the right platform for you.
M2MAPPS: In the current M2M landscape, have you more growth on the size of smaller start-ups lately or with big corporations? Or both?
DALE CALDER: It's a bit divided. Historically, we've seen more of our business with larger companies, but lately there's been a lot more activity with start-ups now than we've ever seen before. Right now it's probably a healthy mix of the mega-corps to mid-sized to start-up sized organizations. I wouldn't say one is dominating the scene versus the other. My opinion is that companies of all sizes and shapes are looking seriously at connectivity.
M2MAPPS: How does working with Axeda affect an M2M developers' time-to-market with his or her product?
DALE CALDER: Probably from 600 years to maybe a couple of weeks. I say that facetiously, but the process can really be drawn out.
It really depends on what your scale is. Scalability is the great problem. If you're creating an application that's going to listen to about 50 products in the field, then you can hack something together yourself. It'll take longer, but you can do it.
Whether you're worried about security vulnerability penetration; or about scaling to thousands, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands; or you're worried about high quantities of users; or you're worried about all of these things then you're dealing with something that would take a long, long time to build on your own ... and you can be pretty sure you'll screw it up the first time.
Ultimately, the way I look at it is that it's our job to take the complexity out of the M2M. Whether it's a low scale project that you could probably get out yourself in a year or so - or something at "uber" scale that would take years, we could probably get your low scale version out in a week and your "uber" scale out in a month and a half.
M2MAPPS: To what extent is security an issue in the connected device landscape?
DALE CALDER: Security is always, always, always one of the most important topics in M2M. It's all about security and scale. These things have to run fast with huge volumes of data. The devices talk all the time, they're chatty. It's a big, bad world out there and you don't want to go at it alone.
And Axeda doesn't rely on our own security analysis alone. We have our system audited for security on an annual basis to make sure we're up to industry standards. Security is very, very important. You don't want to risk your company's reputation on something that some bad guy concocts.
M2MAPPS: Some have said that we'll see 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Do you think we'll get there? What obstacles do you see getting in the way?
DALE CALDER: It is an attainable number. I think it's a cool number they put out-a nice little order of magnitude greater than cell phone numbers. There are obstacles, of course. For me, it's all about the cloud. That level of mass adoption requires the dynamics of use.
If something isn't being used by high-quantities of people, then you don't typically get runaway adoption rates at that level. Then that virtual cycle of use then drives technology innovation that drives more use.
M2M really differs from the cell phone world. I always tell people that you get that phone in someone's hand and they talk into a speaker and you have a solution. You're done. The solution is enabling someone to talk on the phone.
With M2M, enabling a machine to talk, it's completely useless unless you can listen to the machine and do something intelligent with what you heard, such as rapidly getting information to the customer or consumer or automating some business flow. So I think key to driving us to that 50 billion number is the emergence of the cloud and the emergence of cloud-based solutions - that is what will really make the consumption of M2M information easy.
M2MAPPS: What are some of the most interesting M2M applications you've seen?
DALE CALDER: We've seen so many: in hospitals, consumer products, across the board. One of the ones I like was from a customer of ours that makes traffic signs - the speed limit signs that you see designed to make people slow down.
These guys instrumented these signs and effectively transformed their company into a cloud-based services company. Instead of focusing on just the sign blinking and enabling people to slow down to traffic, they started building solutions out of these connected signs that targeted safety personnel in the municipality, allowing them to manage their traffic flow via Internet-connected signs.
They developed solutions and applications that reached a constituency that had never been targeted before, and they turned these signs into massive sensors that help give someone a real-time view of the traffic flow in their town. They also help the towns build better roads & infrastructure.
It's just the idea of taking a piece of information that had never been available before and turning into a whole new class of applications that helps people do their jobs better. That's really the power of M2M.
M2MAPPS: What excites you about the space?
DALE CALDER: One of the things I like about M2M is that it takes us in the [Star Trek] direction [of trillions of talking machines], but not in a "big brother" way. Like I said, today I still see most businesses as a big pile of ants, with lots of humans running around doing lots of manual things and operating inefficiently.
I always think that if you can listen to the source rather than have someone whisper into someone else's ear, who in turn whisper's into someone else's ear, and so on and so forth, then you really have a chance to change the way the world works. What really excites me about M2M is that I truly believe it's going to change the world. This universality of information flow is driving some interesting new dynamics, and we're excited to be a part of it.