An IoT PaaS allows developers to leverage online services and connected devices for their service flow
In a previous post I wrote about IoT solutions coming to us from mobile device and OS vendors. The world of IoT and specifically platforms that allow developers to build services that interact with connected things has more variety. As a result of my previous post I had an interesting chat with Veselin Pizurica who is the founder of waylay.io. An early stage startup that offers a PaaS for IoT services and puts a lot of focus on connecting between online services, connected things and decisions that can be made based on information collected from all of these.
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What is waylay.io all about?
Waylay is a rules engine for building smart connected devices services. Our PaaS platform connects devices, applications and online services to enable better real-time decisions and actions. Waylay notifies, automates, predicts and diagnoses, all from one platform. Developers love the modularity and flexibility of tuning data sources, logic and output channels to their specific needs. Early on we have recognized that the future of the programmable web will be about connecting of physical devices with the API economy. These two worlds will merge in one, and in our view, current platforms are not well suited to accomplish this. With our patent pending technology, we believe that we have figured out how to combine devices (real-time, push based events) with query-based platforms that are usually present in IT systems.
Can you give an example of online services you provide notifications from and how developers can use them?
The example in the image below shows how using our GUI interface it is possible to connect online services such as Twitter and Twilio along with Geo location from mobile devices and devices in the home such as alarm systems detectors and a NEST thermostat.
Who is the waylay.io cloud platform targeted at? Can you give an example of a scenario your platform can enable?
Waylay is a PaaS company for any OEM, integrator or vendor of smart connected device products. We see the application of IoT in 4 different categories:
- Alerts and notification (Updates on product status: alerts towards end-user, or supplier)
- Control and configuration (Configuration, Firmware upgrades)
- Operational efficiency and Customer services (Automation, Proactive Customer Care and proactive maintenance)
- Innovation (Do things differently, new business models, compound services)
We believe that our platform is well suited for 3 out of 4 categories listed above (we are not looking into control and configuration of end devices).
For home automation players, our PaaS platform is perfect, since it allows them to easily change their business model from connected device vendor to an IoT service provider. Most of our early leads come from players that use the KNX standard. Using waylay allows them to replace their aging platforms with something that enables them, in a fast and innovative way, to introduce new services.
We are also engaging with a few integrators; companies that try to improve operational efficiency and services of their existing customer base. They select our platform as it enables them to integrate existing IT/CRM platforms with new IoT systems in a easy way.
We are also working with companies in the proactive customer care domain where our platform can help improving the services they provide.
Finally, I would like to add that the beauty of a PaaS offer is that you discover developers come with use cases you never thought of yourself. For example, there is a company interested in making a solution for endurance race drivers. They are putting sensors in the engine and will notify drivers if they drive a car close to its limits.
Home automation is a target of the big device and OS vendors. What extra value does waylay.io bring compared to those solutions?
Unlike IFTTT we don’t offer a closed automation/cloud system, where it takes a lot of time before your device is visible in their channel. Every customer can add their channels both for sensors and actuators. Additionally, our logic is not based on one input/output, but it allows combination of multiple inputs and it also allows invocation of multiple alerts for various conditions. Every single functionality of waylay is exposed through REST API calls, making integration and extension of the platform really easy. So, I would say that the extra value we bring is not per say for big OS vendors, but rather for companies that would like to enter into the established ecosystems with their devices. If you have a solar panel, smart meter and NEST thermostat, with Waylay you can introduce a new device that would talk to all others. That is where we come into a picture. Waylay is a PaaS companies to based services on.
What technologies are used for waylay.io backend?
The core of our system is based on the inference engine that uses Bayesian belief propagation algorithm. Based on our decade long work with this technology, we have come up with a concept of A Cloud-Based Bayesian Smart Agent Architecture. That means that we have fully de-coupled sensors, rules and actuators, which enables great modularity and re-use of the system.
Using Bayesian engine also enables us to work with probabilistic reasoning, which we offer as a service only for large deployments. In basic PaaS offering, people are actually not aware of the fact that the engine underneath does some fancy calculations, as we made a great effort to simplify the modeling phase.
Finally, our front end is written in angular, but there is no client side logic in it, all that the application does is to invoke REST API calls towards the server that resides in the cloud.
For waylay.io to work you need to connect with different end user devices. Are you using standard protocols for this? Which protocols? Are you required for a lot of interoperability efforts to get this working?
Good question. We have our own data bridge which allows connecting devices using REST, WebSockets and MQTT. We may add other protocols such as CoAP in the future but, this is where we will stop with interop efforts. I personally don’t believe that we need to go further than that, and start modeling washing machines and refrigerators. I see folks who want to use semantic web and ontologies in that context, but personally I don’t think that this is a good idea. In waylay, once you get data in the platform, the meaning of the data is up to the person that defines a rule. Whether the temperature comes from thermostat or from the outside weather station is up to a user of the platform to interpret. Obviously, we make use of resource identifiers, but we don’t make any interpretation of the device prior to data getting into the platform.
WebRTC is something you personally got involved with. Do you see use cases where IoT and WebRTC can work in harmony or do you view them as completely disconnected?
I have asked myself this question already many times. The beauty of IoT has a lot to do with device-to-device communication. WebRTC, on the other hand, is about person-to-person communication from the browser (although there are other use cases mainly related to the data channel). So, is there a place where these two can meet? Probably no. But, let’s try to take a different approach to this question.
If I want to use the camera of my phone or a camera in my house and get notified when there is motion in the room or other events related to processing of the video, I can simply stream video from the camera to the server using WebRTC. That way, I can use WebRTC enabled device as a sensor, and do processing or manipulation of the video in the cloud. You may argue that there are already plenty of devices that can stream videos to the cloud, but again, the same argument is true for WebRTC vs. other older solutions.
Another example can be monitoring of an oil platform by IoT. In case there is an issue that requires immediate attention, the system can connect between remote experts and people on site automatically based on predefined algorithms. The connection between the people can be done using WebRTC. Something that would be embedded in the monitoring system and client applications.
In summary to this point. I mainly see how WebRTC can be used to perform functions that are driven by IoT, not as a technology to enable IoT communication between devices. The applicability of WebRTC depends on the specific use cases.
What’s next for waylay.io?
We have just got ourselves out of stealth mode and launched our PaaS. First feedback is really great, and we see quite good interest from various businesses. The bigger challenge for us will be to find the right channel partners for working in bigger integration projects, and to close a few big OEM deals. Out current plan is to go for a seed round around September this year, but before that, we want to make sure we have done our homework.