Matt Hatton, founder and CEO of Machina Research talks to Patrick Kuo, CEO of ThroughTek
MH: For readers who aren’t very familiar with ThroughTek, can you introduce us to your company?
PK: ThroughTek is a software company, providing turnkey IoT solution and cloud services with the Kalay Platform. Our extensive partnership with chipset vendors enables businesses to easily implement and rapidly deploy IoT ecosystems. We work mostly with enterprises, such as technology brands, device manufacturers, system integrators, and service providers to deliver managed services for multimedia and smart home application with integrated products.
MH: ThroughTek’s main product is Kalay which is an agent that simplifies connecting diverse devices. Can you explain to me a little about how it works?
PK: The challenges with building an IoT ecosystem is in integrating disparate elements. Specifically, I mean dealing with multiple protocols, brands, and data sources when attempting to control different devices. The Kalay Platform uniquely identifies devices to address discovery service within one platform, allowing device-to-device communication and the exchange of information. For enterprises that lack the experience and required resources, ThroughTek seamlessly integrates devices to one platform, significantly reducing both development time and time to market.
PK: It certainly has been a very productive year for us. Our Kalay Platform has grown to support a variety of devices, now with more than 180 SoCs (System on a Chip) integrations supported.
Security continues to lead in smart home applications, so delivery of multimedia content plays a large part in surveillance. We spent the last year enhancing the performance of our connection technology and streaming server, which largely differentiates us from other IoT platform services. Our streaming server now supports real-time two-way communication for the transmission of audio and images simultaneously. The Kalay Cloud offers video recording features, which are designed to work with new cloud storage options to enable video playback. Security cameras can be combined to work with sensors to automate the recording of anomalous events and send notification alerts as a complete solution for smart home security.
ThroughTek is also further developing the data collection and analytical framework of the Kalay Platform to define standards for data processing and machine learning. Through adaptive learning, we are able to capture and analyse data in realtime based on historical data to create values for predicting anomalous events or behaviours. Our goal is to provide an end-to-end solution to help enterprises connect devices and then manage and make the most out of their data through business intelligence.
MH: What are ThroughTek’s other areas of focus?
PK: A vast majority of companies will be using IoT in some way within the next few years, so it is up to cloud service providers to help enterprises create value from the connectivity opportunity. Previously, we focused on helping companies build connections for security cameras and home devices to enable to remote device management. We are currently improving our service offerings and expanding our partnerships to integrate third-party services to enrich applications for the delivery of IoT security, live broadcast and video analytics.
Furthermore, we are taking the next steps to convert traditional products into novel services for companies entering the IoT market. ThroughTek has been working with device makers to extend their application use. We have started to see an increase in demand for smart home devices that relate back to home security. Many doorphones are now wireless and require remote access to allow end users to communicate, monitor and control door entry. While lighting as an example works well when combined with motion sensors to improve levels of comfort for the home, it also adds a certain level of security when combined with wireless cameras. Robotics and telecare devices are another area we expect to make an impact in the near-future, used for the elderly and for child care to provide improved communication and interaction between end points.
MH: Until now, ThroughTek has focused a lot of attention on the surveillance segment. Which sectors do you think are particularly ripe for growth in 2016?
PK: Absolutely, the security and surveillance market was our main focus last year, but it will continue to grow across the globe, particularly as new applications create different types of demand. We are seeing the smart home market slowly mature, as telecoms and service providers are waking up and beginning to integrate security systems as part of their overall services. This has given us the opportunity to work on delivering increased manageability to devices and sensors for energy saving, security, and comfort for a more comprehensive smart home solution. End users can assign device groups, control lighting, room temperature, and more from their smart phones, wherever they happen to be.
For retail and the public sector, surveillance footage can be analysed with visualisations to extract information about people count, traffic behaviour and demographic breakdown. In the DIY and smart home market, there is a need for device integration of cameras with sensors for the automated detection of anomalous behaviour to issue alerts to users. This means allowing access to information and apps across all kinds of devices, from phones, camera devices, lighting, door phones, to smart TVs and sensors in homes and even for dashcams used in the car. With content providers, they are more interested in services that break down information about viewership, content type and viewer behaviour.
MH: The connected home is particularly your area of expertise. It has been relatively immature until now. What have been some of the challenges? In the next year or two, what will be the next big themes in IoT?
PK: The challenges we face are in unifying a variety of standalone products with different connectivity standards onto one platform and in enabling different application needs for each brand. As more companies start to adopt and implement IoT, we will start to see that interoperability is expected as a basic connectedproduct feature. The process alone will require time and effort for businesses across different verticals to work together to define product standards and services that will make a real impact on economy and society. The demand for connected-home devices hasn’t reached its full potential yet. People are demanding and willing to pay for smart security, but less so in other forms of smart devices. This may be because consumers have not found reasons to buy beyond being able to remotely control wireless devices. IoT companies are working hard to make sense of data to create value added services bundled with products to deliver automated intelligence in the background.
Companies will need to organise, prioritise and streamline data, to effectively collect and gather it, so that it provides helpful and relevant information to create smart solutions that resonate with customers. Through data generated from connected devices, we want to provide insights and present it properly to improve on user experiences and provide opportunities for enterprises to turn IoT into monetisable models. Such services will increase the motivation to purchase connected product offerings via recommendations on operational efficiencies that can be gained and energy savings. ThroughTek as an example has begun shifting its focus from enabling connected components to developing machine learning models and analytics to help enterprises manage and monetise IoT.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the ‘security of things’. Lack of security guarantees and the consumer’s fear of personal information being stolen through the use of connected devices could hinder growth. At ThroughTek, we continue to help enterprises deliver connected devices and services while including security features to ensure users’ privacy is protected. This can be done through authentication, access enforcement and encryption on devices to ensure that communication between home devices, the cloud and apps are protected.
MH: As we move into 2016, what significant changes do you see in the market?
PK: One of the hints at continual growth in IoT is that we are seeing an increase of interest in companies and investors among emerging markets – South East Asia, the Middle East and India. While these markets lack networking infrastructure, they are actually at a huge advantage as they are less tied down by the generations of infrastructure developments that larger cities have inherited. It may be difficult to tell how quickly IoT will spread across the globe: however, internet penetration will be a key indicator, along with interest among investors, as they tend to indicate government and industry commitments to implement network systems for broadband connectivity.
From a consumer-end perspective, the idea of selling standalone products will slowly become obsolete, which will transform business models to create new streams of revenue opportunities. We see this happening as traditional cable and telecom companies are expanding their offerings to include home security and automation systems. Ten years ago, customers could walk into a telecom service store to purchase a standalone device. Today, consumers arrive at telecom service stores and expect to purchase devices bundled with network and other service offerings. The product-centric experience of the past was defined by the hardware and the operating system. Nowadays, IoT has defined new ways via applications for a truly customer-centric experience.
MH: This interview is being conducted for the edition of IoT Now that coincides with Mobile World Congress. What are your expectations for the show?
PK: The smart home segment will still be a major theme at the show this year. As 2015 was the first time wearable devices had a major presence, we expect to see a variety of devices in 2016 again, but integrated with more complete solutions for smart home and connected car applications that service providers will be able to offer to the mass market.
Wireless connectivity is another a crucial step in the advancement of IoT. From a user perspective, 5G should enable faster, smarter services and higher data rates with lower transmission delays. This means an improved content viewing experience for users, as they will be able to download high-definition multimedia content within seconds. There will be more discussions about 5G standards and network infrastructure solutions, as well as standards for devices and wireless communications.
MH: Can you share some thoughts on what the mobile industry is doing to support IoT, in particular as it affects the areas on which ThroughTek focuses?
MK: As consumers begin to buy-in with IoT, we will start to see device manufacturers realise the need to work closer with software companies. Semiconductor companies will be required to provide comprehensive solutions — for instance, those that involve security, software, or systems integration services in addition to hardware. ThroughTek being an example, we have always and will continue to work closely with our chipset partners to ensure that embedded chips within devices will be able to support software applications and increase product innovation.
With the Internet of Things, real-time communications is key in real world networking environments. IoT growth will require comparably significant infrastructure development. Telecoms and service providers will need to improve network infrastructures in order to manage largescale data transportation, as more devices and sensors will be processing and handling data. The ability to operate efficiently and scale management of network infrastructure will be required to achieve the promise of the Internet of Things. Telecoms and service providers will also need to evaluate whether their pricing models will be competitive enough to scale and meet consumer needs.