ThingPark China Market will give Chinese IoT solution sellers access to both Chinese B2B customers and the global ThingPark Market audience.
ThingPark China, a leading LPWA IoT platform and solutions development provider, announced today the opening of an IoT Ecosystem Lab in Beijing enabling device makers, application providers and customers to connect, test and evaluate their IoT solutions with its localized ThingPark LoRaWAN SaaS platform.
ThingPark China is also opening its online Marketplace to IoT devices and solutions providers in China. ThingPark China Market will enable Chinese IoT devices and application sellers to accelerate the monetization of their IoT solutions with business customers in China, and also to benefit from the global audience and IoT sales opportunities enabled by Actility’s ThingPark Market.
Bing Liu, CEO of ThingPark China said:
“Our Ecosystem Lab and Marketplace will help accelerate the growth of LoRaWAN-based IoT in China by supporting the local ecosystem at every stage from developing and testing their products to distributing solutions to local customers and taking them to market worldwide. We’re bringing the tried and tested solutions from Actility and adapting them to the needs of the local market.”
Chinese device makers and application developers will be able to create a free account on the ThingPark China developer SaaS platform, hosted in China, giving them access to LoRaWAN connectivity and a suite of tools and APIs, including a self-test capability, to support the integration of their solution with ThingPark. A dedicated Ecosystem Lab facility in Beijing will provide a location with LoRaWAN coverage. Within the facility, developers will be able to use the self-testing tools for devices using the Chinese LoRaWAN frequency bands, and also prepare for international distribution by testing against European, APAC and US channel plans.
For customers who prefer to develop and test in their own location, ThingPark China will offer a Developer Kit and gateway pre-configured to connect remotely to the ThingPark China developer platform.
Along with support for developers to create their products, the opening of the ThingPark China Market will provide the opportunity for them to sell local-market IoT products to business customers in China with a user experience optimized for Chinese buyers, and also to sign up to the international ThingPark Market, through which they can sell IoT devices and solutions for any region to customers around the globe, who will be able to buy them in almost 30 different local currencies.
“Here at the LoRa Alliance All-Members Meeting, we can see how quickly the interest and commitment to LoRaWAN is growing in China,” says Bing Liu, “and we’d like to extend an invitation to any company that is interested in adopting, developing and marketing LoRaWAN products globally to join our ecosystem, make use of our lab facilities, developer kits or online tools and sign up for our Market to accelerate their progress in bringing their solution to this dynamic and fast-growing market.”
pureIntegration and Actility today announced that on the behalf of cable industry clients they have achieved commercial integration of a LoRaWAN™-based solution on the RDK-B software platform.
RDK-B is the cable industry’s Reference Design Kit, a software platform specifically for broadband services. The platform is used by several operators and is a core element for delivering services. As operators move to offer IoT and Smart City services, they are in need of enablers to integrate LPWAN solutions.
“We are excited to work with Actility and our cable clients to deliver innovative, new solutions,” says Chris Kocks, Director of pureIntegration’s IoT Practice. “Our joint efforts will accelerate high-density network deployments by the operators, enabling them to seize a market leadership role in IoT services. The LoRaWAN specification is one of several wireless technologies we are working with to deliver IoT and Smart City solutions.”
“Regional and global IoT solutions require hybrid wireless network options in many cases. The future will involve integrating low-power solutions on the same platform with low-latency high-data applications. It might also include coordination with 5G cellular or satellite networks depending upon the use case or best path for communication in a specific region of the world.”
Actility CEO Mike Mulica comments: “Collaborations like this clearly demonstrate how industrial IoT has now moved into a stage of widespread deployment to solve real problems and deliver concrete benefits. This high-density network solution will be a game changer for operators and connected communities, thanks to its dramatic reduction in the TCO of an IoT solution. We’re very excited to be working with pureIntegration to accelerate the deployment of seamless IoT networks that will let our customers focus on delivering business impact with solutions for end users.”
The solution will be demonstrated this week at the Mobile World Congress Americas conference in the Actility booth N.701.
China’s plans to create a modern day version of the ancient Silk Road are set to include an IoT network, according to Actility.
Yesterday, the low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) specialist announced that the Xi’an Beilin District Science and Technology Bureau and Shaanxi Radio and Television Network Group have signed an agreement with ThingPark China – a collaborative initiative between Foxconn and Actility to provide end-to-end IoT services to the Chinese market – to launch the network on the ‘New Silk Road’.
The initiative is part of President Xi’s $ 100 billion Belt and Road program, which aims to create a modern day version of the trade routes that made up the ancient Silk Road, to drive commerce, connectivity and cooperation between nations.
The Belt and Road program, which was first announced as the “Silk Road Economic Belt” in September 2013, has re-branded and expanded, and now aims to increase trade and stimulate growth across Asia. President Xi hopes to achieve this by building infrastructure that connects China to the rest of the world, meaning IoT connectivity will be an integral part of the initiative.
Start small, build investment
The first stage of this IoT network will be on a somewhat smaller scale, however. The companies hope to leverage some of the already present science and technology rich resources in the Beilin District of the country to launch a test network. The aim is to deploy Actility’s ThingPark platform to build a low-power network that spans the 23 square kilometers in the District, Xi’an, the historic starting point of the Silk Road.
The companies say the network will be tailored to meet the district’s business needs, but its immediate benefit will come from an environmental monitoring data platform. As the platform collects, uploads and analyzes environmental data within the administrative area, Actility suggests that this information will dramatically increase work efficiency and improve scientific decision-making in the region.
The companies also hope that by demonstrating the benefits of this industrial innovation platform, they will be able to encourage investment in the region and provide a compelling case for high tech enterprises to open-up in the city.
“China is a vital market for IoT, and with the launch of this network we’re looking forward to driving even more innovation and efficiency, and transforming more cities, workplaces and lives,” added Mike Mulica, CEO, Actility.
“The partnership with Xi’an Beilin District Science and Technology Bureau and Shaanxi Radio and Television Network Group enables us to bring our extensive expertise, gained from deploying LPWA networks all over the world, to the historic and culturally significant city of Xi’an, and support growth and development in the region.
“This network in Xi’an is the first step towards a global-scale cargo tracking and monitoring solution, which will make the New Silk road the standard-bearer of the coming revolution in world-wide trade, powered by the IoT.”
As Internet of Business noted in an interview with Mulica earlier this year, with projects in Sweden, the Middle East, Rwanda and New Zealand already announced in 2017, and a series D funding round closure of $ 75m, Actility is a company on the move. That the company is marching on into China is just another indication that Mulica truly means to take Actility “where our customers ask us to go.”
Earlier this month, Actility has announced the availability of a vehicle tracking solution for the US market.
Combining Abeeway Master Tracker hardware with Actility’s ThingPark™ IoT software platform and Cisco LPWAN gateways, the solution was demonstrated at Cisco Live in Las Vegas. Using an app on their smartphone or public screen to determine the arrival time of the next shuttle bus between their hotel and the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre, any of the almost 30,000 visitors to the event could avoid queuing in the Nevada heat for their ride.
“Tracking buses driving in unpredictable traffic to avoid waiting in line is a really simple, basic application of the power of our LPWA geolocation solution,” explains Actility CEO Mike Mulica, “and it demonstrates very clearly how easy it is to deploy that solution in the real world and deliver benefits to customers immediately. Of course, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.”
“We believe that geolocation is probably the killer app for the IoT globally. The US has been lagging behind the rest of the world in deploying LPWAN solutions, and we can see the American market is now beginning to accelerate rapidly, and we’re ready for that.”
“The same solution that’s tracking buses around the Strip is ready to transform other industries like vehicle fleet management or logistics. For example, we can find one specific car amongst the thousands in a leasing company’s parking lot, or track refrigeration units and vehicle chassis nationwide for a containerised cold-chain distribution company.”
“Cisco is constantly looking at consuming new technologies – Cisco on Cisco– as a way to optimize the services we offer to internal users, partners and customers,” says Cisco Distinguished Engineer Patrick Grossetête. “For the first time, a global LoRaWAN service was deployed at Cisco Live for Cisco and partners running demonstrations but also to pilot new services that may improve the 28000 participants’ user experience. For example, deployment of outdoor LoRaWAN gateways and trackers in shuttle buses, allowed real time monitoring to optimise the wait time in the Las Vegas hot weather. Such successful demonstrations raised the customers LoRaWAN awareness and led to many discussions on how applying asset-tracking to customers’ environment could improve their business.”
Abeeway Master Trackers, operating on the 915 Mhz ISM band frequency required for the US market were installed in many of the 150 shuttle buses that circulate in the area of the southern Strip in Las Vegas, carrying attendees from their hotels and the airport to the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre. Although the distance is only a few miles, traffic congestion and multiple stops make the arrival of the shuttles at any stop unpredictable, and the round trip can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Using the tracking application and mapping software, travellers could see the location and progress of each of the shuttles on its journey.
Actility is a Cisco Preferred Solution provider, and Cisco installed an LPWA network to cover the Cisco Live event and support a number of applications, of which shuttle bus tracking was only one. To provide outdoor coverage for the entire southern Strip area from Las Vegas Airport to the Caesar’s Palace Hotel, only three gateways were required, installed at the Mandalay Bay, Cosmopolitan and MGM Grand hotels.
Demonstrating the flexibility of LPWA geolocation, the trackers were programmed to send location data every minute when the vehicle was moving, but only once an hour if the bus was stationary and parked. The Abeeway Master Tracker is a self-contained industrial product with an internal battery giving a life in the field of up to several years, so tracking is not dependent on power from the vehicle being available. The tracker also uses Actility’s innovative “Low-Power GPS” technology specifically optimized for LoRaWAN, which allows fewer satellites to be used for a fix and reduces the GPS lock time to a few seconds. The power required for both signal acquisition and processing is reduced: this combination results in a remarkable increase in battery life, by an order of magnitude versus existing GPS location technology. Using this low-power GPS the shuttle bus trackers were able to achieve an overall location accuracy of around 2m throughout the 5-day duration of the trial deployment.
“We’re delighted to be working with Cisco in demonstrating the power of geolocation,” concludes Actility CEO Mike Mulica, “and we’re convinced this very successful trial is just the first step in an accelerating journey together to deploy solutions that will rapidly trigger the digital transformation of logistics, supply chain management and transportations services throughout the US.”
To hear more about the company’s direction of travel for the rest of the year and beyond, Internet of Business spoke to Actility CEO Mike Mulica, who took the reins at the company in May last year – the next step in a career that has so far seen him serve at Phone.com, Openwave, Syncronoss and Real Networks.
Internet of Business (IoB): Mike, can you start by telling us a bit more about the funding Actility just raised; for example, what are you planning to use the funds for, how will they help the business grow and what are the key goals you are aiming to achieve?
Mike Mulica: The capital raise [that] Actility completed in March was a ‘strategic’ round. It was our D Series round and, as such, is expected to bridge the company to profitability.
From an investor perspective, we selected investors that brought strategic value, not just capital, such as Idinvest Partners and Orange Digital Ventures. Our new partners, who are global, come from industries in which they are recognized leaders and have intensive plans for the IoT:
Bosch, based in Germany, serves the industrial world globally;
Cisco, based in the US, serves enterprises big and small globally;
Creadev, based in France, is the investment arm of Europe’s largest retail group;
Foxconn, based in Taiwan, is the world’s largest [electronics] manufacturing company;
Inmarsat, based in the UK, is the largest satellite connectivity supplier in the world.
The capital raised, in addition to our consortium of close partners, will help build our global footprint of industrial IoT solutions faster than we could have done on our own.
IoB: So can you give us some more detail about your growth and acquisition strategies?
Mulica: Our growth strategy is to provide the most reliable software-as-a-service platform to partners that serve enterprise and industrial markets. We take the ‘cradle to grave’ lifecycle of management point of view.
Our software design and our operating model are intended to facilitate massive entry into the IoT market, by existing vertical solution providers, as well as new entrants that are innovating vertical solutions in individual locations.
We are also going where our customers ask us to go. Many large-scale IoT projects are in the utility vertical. As such, we are investing heavily in our utility practice, to make sure we can be the source of the world’s best technology and serve that segment globally.
Similarly, location and tracking is a global segment that is very large and ripe for cost and service disruption. Simultaneously with our capital raise, we announced the acquisition of a location technology company Abeeway.
From a service standpoint, it’s hard to believe that there isn’t already ubiquitous tracking and sensor management on all the ships on the sea and planes in the air. Our partnership with satellite company Inmarsat will bridge that gap.
Actility is the low-cost, turnkey and accessible platform for anyone who wants to run an IoT network, build an IoT sensor or application business, or buy IoT solutions, globally.
IoB: Technologies and standards within the IoT market can be confusing for buyers. What do you see as the advantage of LPWAN over other technologies and, more specifically, the benefits of the LoRaWAN standard?
Mulica: The main advantage is that the LoRaWAN standard is very open. There are over 500 global companies collaborating on the evolution of the standard, as well as building businesses around their field of expertise. I think that number will be close to 1,000 by the end of the year. A market that allows this type of vibrant participation will innovate fast and drive costs hard.
The main advantages of the LPWAN platform are performance and cost for LPWA [low-power, wide area] solutions. The costs and manageability of low data rate IoT use cases are unmatched.
Having said this, Actility’s ThingPark software platform is radio-agnostic. While we are leaders in LPWAN deployments today, we also support LTE as a radio technology. At Mobile World Congress this year in Barcelona, we showed support for LPWAN, LTE-M and NB-IoT, all at the same time, from a single platform.
Our commitment is to provide the most cost-effective IoT platform to manage, monitor and monetize your IoT business, globally and in a radio-agnostic fashion.
IoB: Which would you say are the three IoT projects that Actility has been involved with that make you most proud?
Mulica: There are projects that make me proud every day here and that’s the fun part of the job. Some are really simple and just make basic stuff work better. Some projects have a big impact on the planet. Some are very interesting from an economic perspective.
On the simple side, the smart mouse trap that sends you a text when it catches a mouse is a small, low-cost idea that has a big impact on rodent control in cities.
Going up the importance ladder, we are connecting many thousands of Orange industrial battery back-up sites [which help keep the French telco’s network stable] to the French electric grid in a smart way. When the grid needs power, it can tap into those batteries and during low-consumption periods, the batteries are recharged. This balancing will be a very big area for IoT.
On the emotional front, we work on projects that are designed to protect endangered species around the world. I’ll avoid giving the details to protect the animals, but these are the parts of my day that make me proud to be at Actility.
IoB: And, on a more general level, what do you see as the most exciting developments in IoT at the present time?
Mulica: We are in a scale period at Actility and it’s hard to imagine being in a more global business. We are deeply engaged with some of the biggest companies in the world, making IoT happen in their respective markets. The learning that we are experiencing from our customers is incredible and I believe we are a unique source in this regard.
There are very few companies that can look across every continent simultaneously and have first-hand knowledge of how IoT services are being introduced and how they can perform. We bring that synthesized knowledge back to our customers every day. That’s exciting.
As an example, last week we announced Spark in New Zealand as a new customer. They have a tremendous portfolio of smart agriculture solutions. Recently, I was at Comcast in Philadelphia, they are also targeting the smart agriculture segment and Spark can be a source of solutions. Coincidentally, I just got off the phone with a Russian partner and the same is true there.
IoB: So as Actility CEO, Mike, what are you goals for the company for the remainder of 2017?
Mulica: Our goals for the year are quite simple: build quality products and make our customers successful. Actility is built on the notion that IoT will only be successful if the model of introducing, managing and monetizing a project is very automated and is low cost. Being turnkey and low-cost are critical factors.