Silver Spring plans Wi-SUN expansion with new developer program

Silver Spring Networks (SSN) is hoping to boost the appeal of its IoT network offerings with the expansion of its developer program – adding new dev kits and software tools to boost both third-party and customer experiments. It’s a means of casting the net wider, with Silver Spring hoping to draw in new customers to its IoT network platform.

With over 26m live devices, SSN is in the business of deploying both public and private low-power mesh networks for utilities, smart cities, and increasingly industrial customers. Using Wi-SUN as the link between end-device and gateway, SSN also offers its Starfish platform as a way of providing devices with access to an open multi-tenant public network.

SSN’s Itai Dadon, Senior Director of Product Marketing, said that even though the company had been doing IoT tech for a decade, it was now seeing a noted increase in opportunities, as utilities and cities look to expand into new applications – hence the expanded developer program.

Dadon noted that there are too many uses for a network for SSN to do itself, and so the developer program allows other companies to use the network as a platform to run other applications on top of. Those businesses gain access to new markets, and in turn, SSN gets a more compelling sales pitch, thanks to the value-add of the wider ecosystem.

He added that the developer program itself isn’t a sales tool or means to make money directly from the developers. SSN needs to be able to provide the multi-function network that its customers increasingly expect, and the developers are a means of doing so.

To this end, the company has launched a new developer portal and kits for Arduino hardware and software, as well as a network simulation tool called Starfish Studio for testing how an application would perform on a live network. The applications can be delivered via SSN’s Starfish PaaS, and SSN is selling the Milli Shield Dev Kit for Arduino boards ($100), as well as the IoT Edge Router ($250), a Ubuntu-powered box that can support network-edge compute and analytics.

The new developer hardware is available in the US and Australia, with European and Asian launches planned for Q3. Dadon said that eventually, the ecosystem should develop into a marketplace for their IoT solutions. If SSN customers purchase those applications, which could range from smart parking and traffic monitoring to tasks like environmental monitoring, SSN gains by becoming more sticky as a network provider – making it harder to churn away from.

While the initial developer announcement doesn’t include company names, Dadon said that there would be some significant announcements soon. He added that existing utility and smart city customers were very keen in using the new tools, with cities in particular having a clear idea of the applications they would want to add. On top of this, Dadon said that sensor manufacturers and suppliers see the model as a new sales channel.

Dadon also noted that the IoT market is full of ridiculous claims, of best performance or industry firsts, but that customers are more interested in reliability and standards adherence – hence SSN’s use of Wi-SUN and IPv6, and the impetus behind its new ‘Know Your IoT Rights’ whitepaper.

The paper has a number of interesting points, and opens with the claim that the IoT will grow at a CAGR of 32.9% between 2015 and 2020 – reaching an installed base of 20.4bn units, adding $14.2tn to the world’s 20 largest economies – figures attributed to Gartner.

The paper then moves on to singing the praises of Wi-SUN, a standard based on the IEEE 802.15.4g specification that includes both a short-range (Home Area Network – HAN) and long-range (Field Area Network – FAN) version, before favorably (and fairly) comparing Wi-SUN to rival protocols LoRa and NB-IoT.

The ten things that a customer should demand from an IoT network provider are all pretty obvious, with the keys being open standards to avoid vendor lock-in, an ecosystem of companies and applications, service level agreements (SLAs), and a future-proof architecture. SSN also warns not to allow yourself to act as a guinea pig for experimentation.

Signing off, the paper says “the IoT choices you make early in the design process can determine whether an IoT experience is a success or a nightmare. Beware of proposals from vendors who stress short-term cost savings over long-term ROI, or who take a short-sighted and narrow view of what your IoT infrastructure will be capable of supporting. In other words, never settle for less than what you need today and want for the future.”