Temboo API Platform Puts Industrial IoT In Reach of Devs

Temboo has partnered with device manufacturers to embed their Internet of Things (IoT) SDKs into new device lines, including the recently released ARTIK chips from Samsung, as well as Qualcomm’s new WiFi chips.
 

Temboo screenshot

“Really what we have done here, is we have built a special library sort of like an SDK Library for the ARTIK and it is now integrated into all existing chipsets,” says Vaughn Shinall, Head of Product Outreach at Temboo.

“Any dev or entity that gets ARTIK hardware to build products will already have Temboo access. These devices are Temboo ready,” confirms Shinall.

The idea is that developers would use what Temboo calls “choreos” to stitch together an application that is triggered from inputs registering on the IoT ARTIK device. Choreos are built out of APIs and act like microservices that perform one specific function that might be made available through an API. For example, one choreo can create a sleep log entry for a user’s Fitbit device. So while the Fitbit API enables a range of sleep and activity functions, the Temboo choreo pulls out just the one sleep task and enables access to this functionality.

“Basically, what you can do is go on to our site, test out any of these processes, and we will generate a code snippet that is production ready for the ARTIK platform and you can put this code on the device and have access to that process,” says Shinall.

This makes creating a range of IoT applications and solutions possible that target specific industry verticals or that can be rolled out by a developer and hardware team working within a specific company.

Sensors can be attached to the ARTIK pins to take readings and send an alert when certain conditions are met. This would then trigger events that may be stitched together using other Temboo API-enabled choreos.

Building IoT Solutions with Samsung ARTIK on the Temboo Platform

At the recent Samsung demo at IoT world where Temboo’s partnership with ARTIK was announced, Shinall said the team demonstrated a water tank application in under three minutes: sensors indicated when water reached below a certain threshold, and this in turn sent a message via a Nexmo API choreo to suggest refilling the tank, even enabling a single-digit confirmation response to be sent, again via Nexmo API, and once read, this could then be forwarded on to the water tank again, which could be activated to refill itself. Additional functionalities such as maintaining a stream of water-level readings using business intelligence APIs and Temboo’s new streaming feature could also be set up.

“So Temboo enables sophisticated IoT applications quite quickly. This is production-ready code,” says Shinall.

By splitting an API’s functionalities into microservices using the choreos format, code snippets can be kept short and reduce memory requirements and processing power on the device itself, while also enabling more complex server-side processing to be undertaken in the cloud. When it comes time to reprogram the application (such as changing Nexmo credentials in this case, or changing the text message displayed when the water tank threshold is reached), that too can be done in the cloud without requiring any recoding of the device hardware.

“This is where ideas can get really interesting, because you can use Temboo to build your own processes such as connecting to a private API, or connecting multiple chains of actions that live on our cloud. That is editable and only takes a few lines of code on the device itself. It is a real way to program devices quickly, extend devices, and reprogram them and make devices have more capabilities than they might otherwise have,” says Shinall.

Shinall believes utilities management, agriculture, energy management of buildings, smart boilers, and catering are some of the industry verticals most ready to implement IoT applications.

Temboo's IoT Business Model Challenge

Temboo is expecting two customer pathways to emerge for the new features: one is for developers working within companies to patch together their own enterprise-specific IoT solutions using the ARTIK chips and the Temboo platform. The other is for developers to build applications and product solutions that they then sell to companies in particular industry verticals.

But here is where IoT business models are difficult to design. Temboo’s approach to making developers pay for building solutions may deter developers from trying to create applications that they can then on-sell to industry. While there is a Maker Plan aimed at encouraging prototyping of new projects and while all pricing plans allow for an unlimited number of users, the subscription-based, transaction model of pricing (where levels of subscriptions are based on numbers of API calls made) still means that developers are penalized for generating more success by having IoT applications that start getting traction amongst industry customers. The more their applications get used, the more they pay in API call costs.

Pricing for any API-related business can be a difficult decision to make. Serial entrepreneur Adam Bird from Cronofy thought through a similar problem when planning the business model for their time-based API that creates a simple two-way integration for any calendar product. “We decided to go with a subscription model with unlimited transactions, partly because that more closely matches our customers’ business models but mainly because a transaction model inevitably penalizes success,” Bird told ProgrammableWeb, when asked about how they landed on their business model approach. “We don't want to get into situations where our customers are trying to find ways not to use our API or resenting their dependence on us. Transaction models make great spreadsheet fuel but, in my experience, introduce a negative tension to long-term relationships.”

An alternative could have been for Temboo to also offer a revenue-share model that encourages an ecosystem of new products to be built on the Temboo platform. To build industry market share, developers may need to create similar applications for other hardware devices and other IoT networks, in a similar way that mobile developers are needing to build for iOS, Windows Phone, and Android. So a revenue-share model might create more loyalty for the Temboo platform and be more appealing to developers, especially since Temboo’s partnership with Samsung may come with opportunities to access Samsung’s customer base.

On the downside for Temboo, a revenue-share model may be unappealing to potential investors who would need to see some compelling examples of profitable end use cases being generated from the IoT platform. That may be difficult at present, with SimilarWeb statistics indicating that, at best, Temboo is seeing average monthly visits of 160,000.

SimilarWeb statistics show Temboo receives an average of 160,000 monthly visitors

ABOVE: Developer engagement with Temboo as measured by website visits, according to SimilarWeb statistics.

“The way our pricing works at the moment is that the customers who build applications do so based on their usage. It is a SaaS model, so you pay for more processes. Then in terms of how those costs are passed on to the end user, that is up to them,” says Shinall.

It is unclear what the best approach to the business model should be, but the proliferation of IoT platforms and siloed nature of designing for much of the currently available IoT hardware means a business model that costs developers to build on the platform may be a deterrent.

Perhaps Temboo hosting an application showcase and developer marketplace on their website could help to create business success for developers building on their platform, which in turn could make decisions about a transaction pricing model moot in any case. But for now, fostering their ecosystem by promoting users is not on Temboo’s roadmap:

We have seen familiarity with Temboo being mentioned on more job applications. But at this time, we don’t have a certified developer program. What we do is provide top notch support to all businesses and developers who use Temboo currently and we grow their knowledge through that. Temboo certification is something we could look at down the road.

The potential of the Temboo platform to allow developers to enter smart cities, agriculture, logistics, retail, health care, building energy, and home automation markets is undoubtedly huge. Temboo’s recognized reputation for responsive tech support and quality documentation will help when developers are onboarding; however, in a cluttered IoT market where having a large developer base may be the key to growth, charging those developers to participate may be an impediment.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities.

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