Industrial connectivity manufacturer B&B Electronics morphs into global IoT/M2M firm B+B SmartWorx
January 20, 2015 – Networking expert B&B Electronics, today emerges after a major re-branding and re-positioning as B+B SmartWorx, writes Jeremy Cowan. While continuing the tradition of developing mission-critical network connectivity technology for remote or demanding environments, B+B SmartWorx aims to increase the intelligence in that connectivity piece, embedding intelligence throughout the network connectivity stack, from edge device to network backbone.
B+B’s latest technologies have led the company to this new position in the Internet of Things (IoT) and to the decision to change its name, 34 years after its launch. Those technologies – the Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform for creating wireless sensor networks (WSNs) where customer applications and logic reside at the network edge, and its SWARM intelligence-based cellular edge gateway devices – combine to form the B+B SmartWorx IoT Edge Processing Architecture. (Also see: B&B Electronics introduces its Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform.)
Engineered for environments where existing equipment and networks are too valuable to ignore or replace, B+B’s edge processing architecture adds new layers of functionality, efficiency, productivity and scalability to existing machine-to-machine (M2M) data networks, allowing integrators and value-added resellers (VARs) to evolve their customers’ existing networks into more autonomous and decisive IoT systems.
“IoT technologies have inserted more intelligence, and complexity, into the M2M conversation,” said Jerry O’Gorman, CEO of B+B SmartWorx. “While companies desire the improved data analytics the IoT brings, many are stopping short of adoption due to the complexity of integrating existing assets into the IoT vision. For several years B+B has been engineering solutions to bring existing equipment into the IoT conversation, and hence transitioning from connectivity technology to technology for connected intelligence, so the old B&B Electronics image didn’t fit us anymore.”
O’Gorman points to the 2012 acquisition of Czech Republic-based Conel and its industrial cellular gateways as the spark for the company’s intensive development to enable IoT solutions. “The Conel acquisition gave us an immediate pedigree within Europe, and our new technologies build upon this trusted base. With the integration process complete it seems right to combine our identity into a single brand, bringing together the best of what has been achieved in Europe and the US over the past decades, and signalling our strategic direction for the future.” (Also see: KORE and B&B Electronics partner to enable rapid, network-ready M2M solution for industrial monitoring.)
The new focus on the intelligence in the connectivity piece has also led B+B to invest in software engineering expertise at all of its global locations, including a new team in Galway, Ireland. Historically, B+B averaged one or two software engineers for every hardware engineer; today it is said to be six or eight to one.
“The M2M and IoT world is changing rapidly, creating enormous opportunity but with that a risk of being left behind,” explained Glen Allmendinger, founder and president of Harbor Research. “Many companies are struggling with this. Some are attempting a complete change in business model; others have yet to embrace any clear strategy. B&B Electronics, now emerging as B+B SmartWorx, has not only embraced the new opportunity but they’ve also executed on it in a remarkably short period of time. Impressively, they’ve done it without putting their business model at risk or alienating other players in the ecosystem by turning partners into competitors.”
B+B’s Wzzard and cellular gateways form B+B SmartWorx IoT Edge Processing Architecture
The company’s edge processing technology helps bridge the gap between IT and OT (operational technology). It aggregates data from existing equipment, translates disparate machine protocols into a language IT can understand, transforms that data into useful information and delivers it to applications ready for analysis, leading to actionable intelligence.
The architecture is service led with decoupled data methodologies, capabilities traditionally limited to the enterprise middleware level or above. B+B brings these principles into the edge, eliminating the current equivalence between an edge and a single physical device, and instead replacing it with a logical edge based upon multiple devices and distributed SWARM intelligenceTM.
SWARM intelligence is the collective behavior of decentralised, self-organised systems, natural (like ants or bees) or artificial, that accomplishes a single goal even if no individual is in charge. Simple components accomplish sophisticated tasks by following simple rule sets and working in groups.
“Many SWARM principles are replicated in the IoT,” explained Tim Taberner, the global product manager for B+B’s advanced IoT cellular gateways. “However, for the IoT to realise its full potential in remote or demanding environments, edge devices must mature beyond simple data aggregation and filtering. They must begin to collaborate and make decisions on the intelligence gained from each other, without relying on upstream resources, to distribute intelligence and decision-making further to the edge. B+B SmartWorx is creating technology that tackles this challenge.”
The B+B SmartWorx IoT Edge Processing Architecture allows a collection of physical devices, each performing relatively simple tasks, to operate as a single SWARM system which is almost infinitely expandable, both with physical interfaces, and processing and memory resources. SWARM increases the user’s return on investment (ROI) over the lifetime of an installation, and makes it easy and cost-effective to develop, deploy, manage and maintain highly-scalable edge device networking solutions.
Also today, B+B SmartWorx announced an ecosystem of partners it is working with to enable development of intelligent, end-to-end IoT applications. Further details will follow shortly.