DevicePilot has had a busy few weeks, signing its first US customer and announcing Cohort, a new operational analytics system that expands on DevicePilot’s current IoT device visibility and management suite. Epitiro, the new signing, will be using DevicePilot’s toolbox to service its communications service provider (CSP), hospitality, and retail customers with user experience assurance, as Epitiro gets ready to scale to meet the IoT.
The Epitiro deal is a notable expansion for DevicePilot, a UK firm that has been in business since 2013 – hoping to snap up a wave of customers looking to connect, monitor, and manage their assets, as they embrace the promised benefits of IoT technologies.
DevicePilot CEO Pilgrim Beart said that the startup had starting winning commercial customers in 2017, with Switchee using the platform for energy management, Doordeck picking it for access control applications, and now Epitiro using the platform for connectivity monitoring.
“Whilst we’re a ‘horizontal’ technology that can be used by almost any IoT product, looking at our sales pipeline it’s interesting to note that almost all the companies have propositions which make the world a better place – better user experience, greater sustainability, reduced waste, increased safety. IoT really can have a positive impact and it’s great to see so much innovation in the space,” said Beart.
Epitiro uses a cloud-based management platform and network probes to service any company looking to deploy a public or private wireless network – covering WiFi, cellular (2G/3G/4G), and Ethernet. Epitiro says customers can get started from just a few hundred dollars, and in the coming years, will look to expand its reach to include all manner of IoT devices that are connected to those networks.
“Communications and connectivity are required everywhere to run our businesses and our lives” said Des Owens, Epitiro’s Chief Operating Officer. “From inside city buildings to remote farmlands, the developing IoT and converging wireless technologies require innovative performance management and service assurance. Together with DevicePilot our measurement systems, monitoring platform, benchmark and assurance data gives all stakeholders the performance data they need to manage their business.”
Smart building, utility, and smart city tech is the most likely to begin appearing on those networks, monitored by Epitiro’s Android devices, and using DevicePilot to help identify problems and then fix their root cause. Epitiro is pitching this at telcos, stadiums, hospitality venues, retailers, enterprise facilities, CSPs, and IT and SIs.
DevicePilot argues that it is time to start using the term Service Assurance in the IoT, an approach that the telecoms ecosystem is very familiar with – relying on those tools to maintain day-to-day operations.
Arguing that too many IoT devices don’t work properly, frustrating customer and damaging reputations in the process, DevicePilot is positioning its offering as a solution to that problem. Claiming that it is able to provide the “Holy Grail” five-nines (99.999%) reliability associated with the telco world’s definition of Service Assurance, DevicePilot says that many IoT deployments struggle to achieve just 90% uptime – a lowly one-nine.
In the telco world, Service Assurance governs an increasingly automated method of spotting and fixing problems before a customer notices. This can cover both hardware and software fixes, which might range from resetting a device located in the network somewhere (sometimes using a hardware switch to do so), or rerouting traffic in response to a bottleneck. The key is that the system is always running, checking to see if things are working as intended, and stepping in where needed.
According to DevicePilot, most of the initial cause of that one-nine performance is due to the immaturity of the technologies that are chained together to create the IoT deployment. However, the company says that even once the tech has matured, devices remain intrinsically much harder to keep working – because they are deployed in messy and uncontrolled real-world locations, not inside tightly controlled data centers or back offices.
So DevicePilot hopes to step in and offer Service Assurance tools for IoT deployments – as the ones used in the telco world won’t translate to the new paradigm. Aiming to make its tools available on all public cloud IoT platforms (the likes of AWS, Azure, IBM Bluemix, or PTC ThingWorx), a user can quickly teach the system what a ‘normal’ environment looks like – so that it can spot when things have gone wrong.
On top of this, the system will let users automate day-to-day functions, and points to SMS-based messages to reset devices, emails to users to instruct battery changes, or automatic provisioning and device upgrades.
Cohort Analysis, the new DevicePilot feature, is an expanded way of creating analytics views for the platform that lets you examine the performance of cohorts of devices and their histories in the context of an entire deployment. According to DevicePilot, that lets you ask questions like “which devices have the worst uptime,” and “have devices connected via Telefonica seen better reliability than devices connected via Vodafone, over the past six months,” or “which of my customers is experiencing the worst performance.”
In the announcement, CEO Pilgrim Beart notes that both SQL and time-series databases can’t handle these sorts of ‘stateful’ queries, and that DevicePilot can quickly process answers derived from terabytes of time-series data. Using a slider to move the filter through time, a grouping filter for result collation, and a scoping filter to pick the devices, DevicePilot says the interface is easy-to-use – and available through its API and UI, for integration into other systems.
This promises to let customers adapt their definitions over time (changing to reflect new ‘normals’), analyze differences and significances in the current statuses (offline now vs. offline for last week vs. offline but within parameters), and diagnose the root causes of failures.
This last part involves looking at different parameters within the deployment, such as connectivity type, model number, or firmware version, and looking for patterns that might be the main cause of a problem. Cohort promises to handle all of those functions, as well as measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you could incorporate into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for your customers – so that a realistic idea of ‘normal’ is known before the contract is signed.
Those KPIs can be measured to protect the service provider, from failing to meet impossible targets, but also measured to improve a product – spotting how customers actually use it, seeing if the promised benefits are being delivered and appreciated. DevicePilot says this is a powerful tool for CMOs and Product Managers too.
“We’re bringing Service Assurance to IoT” says Beart. “If a device fails with no monitoring, you’ll fix it only when your customer complains. That’s no way to run a business. Service Assurance monitors your devices continuously to deliver a consistently excellent customer experience.”