IoT technologies have inserted more intelligence, and complexity, into the M2M conversation. While companies desire the improved data analytics the IoT brings, many are stopping short of adoption due to the complexity of integrating existing assets and M2M data networks into the IoT vision. B+B has been creating solutions to bring these existing assets into the IoT conversation, while also transitioning from a manufacturer of rugged connectivity technology to one of technology for connected intelligence.
The company is continuing its tradition of developing rugged, reliable network connectivity tools for remote or demanding environments, but it is ramping up the intelligence in that connectivity piece.
B+B’s latest technologies – its Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform and its intelligent cellular edge gateways – have led the company to this new position in the IoT industry and the decision to change its name to B+B SmartWorx.
Wireless Design and Development (WDD) sat down with Mike Fahrion, vice president of IoT Technologies for B+B SmartWorx to discuss the news strategies and roadmaps the company has put in place to be a leading force in the industrial IoT (IIoT) space.
Wireless Design and Development (WDD): Can you provide some background information on B+B Electronics’ transition into B+B SmartWorx, and what the new go-to market strategy is?
Mike Fahrion, Vice President of IoT Technologies, B+B: We kept asking ourselves: “Why are we not seeing more IIoT deployments?” The simple answer was complexity. An IIoT system can be complicated with sensors monitoring specific values that must be tied into multiple applications and serve multiple clients. The connections between field devices being measured up to the application level were also complex, and were merely physical without making the data easy to integrate into applications.
So, several years ago we focused our roadmap on technologies that could simplify the IIoT connectivity stack, apply intelligence to the edge of networks, and provide enriched semantic data up to the application layer so it’s understandable to IT applications. In order to become a competitive force, we also had to rethink our partner strategy as well.
With our new focus on embedding intelligence throughout the network connectivity stack, the old B+B Electronics image didn’t fit us anymore. So, we rebranded as B+B SmartWorx to align with the technology changes we had already made?
WDD: What sets B+B SmartWorx apart from its competitors?
Fahrion: Our strategy has been echoed in other suppliers, but I haven’t seen it echoed in other products. Our Wzzard intelligent sensing platform doesn’t really have a competitor. It’s a unique wireless sensor connectivity platform featuring edge decision-making and self-forming, self-healing wireless mesh technology. It’s being well received in its early stages.
Beyond intelligent sensing platforms, our technology roadmap includes intelligent gateways as well. These gateways will enable the vast array of legacy devices found in the industrial world to be integrated easily into IoT applications.
WDD: Who are B+B SmartWorx’s partners that help enable development of intelligent IoT applications for end customers?
Fahrion: Rather than trying to become a vertical service provider, which can turn partners into competitors, we decided to focus on our core connectivity competence and recognize that an ecosystem of partners, leveraging each other’s core expertise, brings the most value to the end user.
So we assembled a group of complementary providers, forming the Connected Intelligence Global Partner Ecosystem. B+B provides the network connectivity “technical glue” – the hardware and connectivity stack – of the ecosystem.
Initial partners include IoT technology providers such as Cumulocity, Davra Networks, ILS Technology, ParStream, PLAT.ONE, SeeControl, Skkynet, and ThingWorx, along with MVNO partners such as KORE and Mobius Networks, and a variety of international carriers. IBM is also a partner.
WDD: From an industry perspective, what sort of things keep you up at night?
Fahrion: With the amount of connected devices expected to explode in the upcoming years, I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for a new breed of an integration company – someone who really understands both the operations technology (OT) deployed in messy, demanding environments, and the information technology (IT) deployed indoors in enterprises. I have not seen too many people step into that role and there is a huge need for them.
There is a lot of friction and it’s threatening to slow down the adoption of IoT technologies.
An emerging network architecture called an overlay network may help bridge the gap between IT and OT. An overlay network grabs data from existing OT equipment, assets and networks, processes and delivers it up to the IT application layer without disrupting already established programming, processes, and people. That makes everyone happy!
For more information visit bb-smartworx.com.