One of the smarter things that I think Delta Faucet did when it made an Alexa-connected faucet was to avoid building an app. When I was testing out the Alexa-enabled faucet a year ago, the folks at Delta said they avoided building an app because the goal of the faucet was to work with your voice or touch.
And frankly, I didn’t miss the app at all. Some of the features, such as the ability to track how many gallons I had used, weren’t something I’d visit a website for, but might occasionally check in an app. However, these were not features that really mattered, and they certainly weren’t worth the engineering time and effort. But in the future, companies like Delta might have an option other than forgoing an app. They could use Kraftful.
Kraftful is a startup founded this year by Yana Welinder and Nicky Leach. The company builds apps on behalf of big-name brands that might not have the in-house expertise, or interest, to handle the job. Welinder says she started the company in part because she saw a lot of bad apps for good hardware and realized that many companies have the experience building a physical product, but not necessarily apps.
Yet, most connected products need an app — or at least, most people seem to think their connected products need an app. Companies can build one themselves or hire a marketing or mobile app development firm to handle the job for them. But Welinder thinks Kraftful has a better option. Companies that use Kraftful get an app and analytics associated with the app, and the app gets continuously updated as OSes change or security vulnerabilities are found.
Welinder says several big-name consumer brands are already using Kraftful, although she can’t disclose their names. As a YCombinator company, Kraftful has some financial backing and will eventually seek a larger round of financing. Welinder hopes to ensure the business scales by trying to build frameworks for specific device types so it becomes easier and easier to build apps for lights or thermostats or even connected washing machines.
Like Foundries.io, a UK-based company building an OS for connected devices, Kraftful is trying to provide its expertise associated with the internet of things as a service to companies that aren’t familiar with building computing products. My question is whether or not such services make sense as standalone businesses or if they should be wrapped up as part of an overall services package.
What’s surprising to me is exactly how many components are part of a good IoT service. I spend most of my time thinking about the basics in the form of a cloud, connectivity, and the physical hardware that sits at the edge or in consumers’ hands. That physical hardware has a lot of elements, from the silicon, the firmware, security elements, operating systems, radios, and more. When IoT started becoming popular, we saw lots of established silicon companies and new platform companies begin delivering those hardware elements, and sometimes the cloud piece, as a service. Now we’re seeing more and more aspects of a connected product get broken apart and offered as a service.
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