CentraLite to Build IoT Kits With Jilia API Platform

CentraLite Systems has released a Kickstarter campaign to fill a gap it sees in the Internet of Things API landscape. The campaign includes an add-on board that enables IoT devices to speak to a single API on its Jilia platform.

For the past 10 years, CentraLite has been focused on smart devices, particularly thermostats, sensors, lighting and door locks. In April, the device maker became one of the first customers of Apigee Link, an API-driven IoT platform aimed at helping device makers build out IoT ecosystems.

Using an IoT platform to connect its products not just to the Web, but to its devices as well, has allowed CentraLite to envision a whole new horizon of opportunities. Already, the company has expanded to focus much more on the hospitality and commercial sectors beyond its former home automation remit, but it has seen that one of the major gaps in how Internet of Things devices are being rolled out is the lack of horizontal integration. Devices tend to integrate vertically, using sensors and cloud architecture to connect from the device to the cloud to a browser-based or mobile application interface that allows management, control and some automation of the device remotely.

CentraLite sees a gap in the market around enabling devices to communicate directly with each other and wants to assist enterprises in looking for new IoT-based workflows that combine both device-to-cloud integration and device-to-device communication.

To fill this gap, the company has launched a Kickstarter project to build the Jilia IoT Development Kit. The kit is an add-on board for Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone with cloud services, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios.

“We want enough backers to build these devices,” says CentraLite CEO Jimmy Busby. “This is different to anything else available because it is bringing all of those ZigBee, Z-Wave and other protocols into one API management tool.”

The hardware component of the kit is the add-on board, but from there, CentraLite has created the Jilia API platform, which enables API communication with devices.

Jilia Kickstarter board

“What we want to focus on is giving developers the ability to communicate with these devices,” says CentraLite CTO John Calagaz. “So instead of needing the developer to have the knowledge around ZigBee, there is an API for that. If you want to set the level of a smart lamp, for example, it is only one API for the ZigBee light, and the same API for a Z-Wave light.”

Calagaz and Busby see two major impediments to the uptake of IoT in the enterprise: the lack of connectivity between devices, and the lack of skills knowledge in Raspberry Pi, ZigBee, and other protocols and hardware among developer communities. The Kickstarter campaign directly addresses both of these shortcomings.

“Our hope that is that the kits will be taken up to the enterprise level,” says Busby. “A lot of enterprises have the 80/20 rule, where devs are given 20% of their time to work on projects they may find interesting. We are hoping that a developer at a fast food company might see this kit and be thinking, ‘Wow, I could get all of our thermostats online. It doesn’t even have to have a front end.' Those are the types of things that we expect to gain from the developer community looking at this.”

The strategy may be a good fit for enterprise. A Red Hat survey released today notes that enterprises are choosing a more measured, deliberate path toward the Internet of Things, with only 12% of 565 enterprise respondents saying they are rolling out an IoT solution. In the main, it appears that businesses do not want to commit to a specific technology at present. So being able to use an add-on board and test the operational improvements and process efficiencies that may be leveraged from connected devices using something like the Jilia platform may be a good entry point for prototyping and enterprise IoT discovery.

Calagaz says that hardware device makers typically are not thinking about scalability or security on the cloud level when they create smart devices. That was definitely in evidence at the recent O’Reilly Solid conference, where hardware makers were more focused on building user-tested prototypes and then manufacturing and selling their initial 1,000 or 10,000 units. APIs were not often on their road map at this stage. Busby sees the Kickstarter campaign as allowing those sorts of hardware makers to have it all: “We want those customers to quickly build their prototype and not have their entire team working to build their cloud infrastructure. They can utilize us even if it is not our device.”

Calagaz adds:

We have the ability to very quickly write drives in a markup-type language. We are more interested in device types and optional attributes of that device so it can be easily integrated into the platform. We expect devs to be writing in any Web-based access language, from C all the way up to Node.js or Python. Any language that can consume HTTPS requests and consume WebSockets can program against the Jilia API platform.

Sean Bryant, VP of sales and marketing at CentraLite, describes the Jilia API platform: "We have a free version for the Kickstarter community, and then different levels of access depending on the devices and connected hubs required, with an enterprise version also available."

Taking a similar approach to what Adam Bird, CEO of Cronofy, explained to ProgrammableWeb recently in regard to Cronofy's business model, CentraLite is also ensuring that it is not penalizing customers who are making API calls by charging by the transaction. “We asked, how can we connect the total number of devices without limiting customers on API calls? That’s one of the things we noticed as a manufacturer. It really limits your expansion into IoT if you are paying by the API call,” says Bryant.

CentraLite sees hospitality, small and medium business, and property management companies as the three verticals most prepared for taking up its new development kit and the Jilia API platform.

The Kickstarter campaign is under way, with products expected to be shipped in October, along with the launch of the Jilia platform.

Be sure to read the next Internet of Things article: Apple Yanks Nest From Stores in Favor of Fussy HomeKit


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