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EVRYTHNG IoT platform: Making the physical digital easily, securely

The EVRYTHNG IoT platform is gaining traction with customers, helping digitize everyday objects and create actionable, real-time data.

When the four founders of the EVRYTHNG IoT platform started the company in January 2011, they realized that the IoT phenomena meant that every "thing" that could be digitized and connected would be in some shape or form. Therefore, it was inevitable that everything around us -- the physical objects in our lives from the beers we drink and the shoes we wear to the cities we live in and the homes where we reside -- would become digitally alive and connected and have some sort of data flowing to and from them, said EVRYTHNG co-founder and chief marketing officer Andy Hobsbawm.

And that meant that brands and businesses had to figure out how to use all the data streaming from those objects productively, as well as how to securely manage it in real time while keeping people's privacy in mind.

"It was a new kind of problem that we felt needed a new kind of solution," Hobsbawm said.

So that's exactly what the founders of the London-based company set out to do with the EVRYTHNG IoT platform, which connects consumer products to the web and manages real-time data to drive products and applications.

"It's basically a way of managing every physical thing in your organization -- the physical assets, the products you produce -- and capturing their identity digitally so that they can exist in the cloud on the web, and they can power applications and analytics that add value to your business," Hobsbawm said.

We're seeing some really great data come out of our cloud since we're doing this. I can tell you how many fish tanks we're controlling, how many routers we're controlling, how many curling irons we're controlling. This is all great info.
Gary Schultzdirector of business and product development, SDI Technologies

There are a number of benefits, including real-time monitoring of assets, that companies can get from a connected platform like that offered by EVRYTHNG, said Roeen Roashan, senior analyst at London-based IHS Markit.

"As you introduce connectivity to more products, there's a monitoring aspect to it that leads to this monitoring of analytics that we see," Roashan said. "The ultimate value is that the analytics engine that is performing these tasks will allow companies to make better business decisions in a seamless manner."

EVRYTHNG is a platform as a service running on Amazon Web Services. It enables active online identities for objects -- i.e., making products smart by connecting them to the web.

"You subscribe to us as an enterprise," Hobsbawm said. "We digitize literally billions of items that you have, we hold them as cloud web objects, and we drive applications and use cases."

Because the company turns every object into a "web object," customers have to somehow connect those items to the cloud. This is done using anything from embedded Wi-Fi chips that talk to the cloud to QR codes, NFC tags, RFID tags or printed electronic sensors that link via a smartphone or via a reader.

EVRYTHNG IoT platform use cases

There are three main use cases for the EVRYTHNG IoT platform. At the top level are connected devices.

"If you have any kind of object that you need to control with an app, you need to run them in different kinds of environments. They need to work with Amazon Echo, Apple HomeKit and Google Home, and they need to talk to Salesforce and Marketo, and get data from SAP. Whatever you want to do with these objects, we manage those devices with full connectivity," Hobsbawm said.

iHome, a division of Rahway, N.J.-based consumer electronics manufacturer SDI Technologies Inc., uses the EVRYTHNG IoT platform to power its iHome Control SmartPlug, the first in its iHome Control line of smart home products, said Gary Schultz, director of business and product development at SDI Technologies.

"We have such a good relationship with Apple that we were brought in early in the development of HomeKit to develop a line of HomeKit products," he said. "Obviously we're moving into IoT and we had to look at how we were going to deploy IoT. Clearly having a cloud partner was the first step; we selected EVRYTHNG as our cloud partner."

EVRYTHNG worked closely with iHome during its product development, integration and testing phases, enabling the company to meet its launch deadlines.

"We were only one of five partners with Apple globally to get [its] HomeKit [product] on the shelf the day of launch in June [2015]," Schultz said. "But we couldn't have done that without EVRYTHNG's help."

The product iHome launched with was its iSP5 SmartPlug, a product that when plugged into the wall controls household appliances such as lights, air conditioners, fans and space heaters remotely through the iHome Cloud or from HomeKit, using Apple's iCloud.

iHome offers a control app for iOS and Android, and the SmartPlug allows consumers to use Siri on their iPhones or iPads to command the plugs to turn on and off.

The EVRYTHNG IoT platform manages the identity of every SmartPlug, keeping real-time schedules for each, such as security policies, authorized users and status. Each plug contains an embedded Marvell chipset running an EVRYTHNG software agent that allows it to communicate with the platform. Security and privacy are protected via unique keys generated for each user, and each SmartPlug and every communication is encrypted using TLS.

"We're seeing some really great data come out of our cloud since we're doing this," Schultz said. "I can tell you how many fish tanks we're controlling, how many routers we're controlling, how many curling irons we're controlling. This is all great info."

The second use case for EVRYTHNG revolves around helping companies, such as consumer package goods or retail firms, track their products through the supply chain, as well as manage the supply chain data and analytics about those objects as they move through the supply chain. The EVRYTHNG smarter supply chain alerts customers when there are problems, tells them when stock needs replenishing and gives them full end-to-end traceability of all the products they manufacture.

The third use case is customer engagement. The EVRYTHNG IoT platform lets consumers digitally interact with a company's products. For example, after a consumer buys a connected product, say a shirt, he can scan the label that has been fitted with a QR code, NFC tag, RFID tag or electronic sensor and receive information about that shirt through a dedicated application.

"The consumer can get information on how the product was made, extra warranty information, fashion tips if it's a clothing product, get loyalty rewards and so on," Hobsbawm said.

All that information is stored in the EVRYTHNG system in a web object, so it's like a dynamic data profile that speaks web. This enables a manufacturer to run any kind of application or analytics against that because it's a collection of web data that maps against that unique item.

"Imagine that times a billion pairs of shoes and you start to see why this is an enterprise problem and solution," Hobsbawm said.

That's effectively what EVRYTHNG does -- it allows companies to digitize their products and then connect with consumers and connect with their supply chains to unlock all this data and this value. Schultz said iHome now has real-time product data from the field it can use to improve the SmartPlug in the future and improve customer support in real time. The company also has direct online engagement with its customers, enabling them to better understand and communicate with them.

"Before we had our own cloud, we sold a speaker and sometimes the customer would register it for warranty, but most of the time they didn't," he said. But now through its cloud and through its app, Schultz said iHome is able to have more persistent communication with its customers that it didn't enjoy in the past.

"We're able to align that data at an aggregate level to better understand what customers are doing with IoT and how they're using smart home in these early stages of its growth," Schultz said. "It's been really eye-opening for us in our management to be able to see how customers are finding unique ways to use something as simple as a smart plug."

EVRYTHNG platform
EVRYTHNG platform

EVRYTHNG: Hitting the right targets

What analyst Brian Partridge said he likes about EVRYTHNG is that the company is focused on making sense to the chief marketing officer at the product manufacturers that it targets, thus offering a somewhat broader take on IoT.

"It looks at every product as a potential media asset -- a way to bring a brand value by keeping a customer more engaged with a product," said Partridge, VP of research and consulting at 451 Research in Boston.

The EVRYTHNG IoT platform allows companies to do the same thing as many other IoT platforms: assign identities to assets, track the information coming back from those assets and integrate that information into other upstream systems, Partridge said, "but it's doing it in a very focused way and it's been able to get some serious traction with customers, which is maybe the most important thing from my perspective in assessing the overall health of these companies."

EVRYTHNG dashboard
EVRYTHNG dashboard

Perhaps more importantly, however, EVRYTHNG's keen customer relationship focus makes it a good target for acquisition by a larger company.

Partridge pointed to the recent deal between EVRYTHNG and Avery Dennison. Under the deal, EVRYTHNG's digital identities and Smart Products Platform will operate Avery Dennison's Janela Smart Products Platform. The goal is to enable the assignment of unique digital identities through a variety of label- and tag-scanning techniques for at least 10 billion products over the next three years.

"So you can think of companies like SAP, Salesforce and Oracle that could clearly get a return on investment in acquiring a company like EVRYTHNG," he said.

However, one of EVRYTHNG's weaknesses, Partridge said, is that its "current level of revenue and staffing are subscale given target size and critical nature of deployments. The EVRYTHNG team lacks deep institutional vertical industry expertise beyond retail and product OEMs, so it will need to partner more aggressively."

EVRYTHNG will also have to fight for very large deals with dominant enterprise software companies with similar capabilities and greater market reach, Partridge added.

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