Most IoT platform businesses focus on providing the connectivity and data pipeline to a cloud service. Generally, they focus on features such as device management, device provisioning, basic security, data transfer, and maybe a container strategy. Some provide hardware in the form of pre-built boards full of silicon, while others start with a software development kit that customers can implement on the board of their choosing.
Mason, a Seattle startup formed in 2015, takes its IoT platform one step further by providing the entirety of the hardware, an operating system, and the route to the cloud. The company started building tablets and handheld devices that ran Android, but this week, it launched a wearable device for health monitoring or worker safety.
Mason’s wearable device can work as a watch or a sensor placed on a lanyard or other means of attachment. It can be used to track people via GPS, and it can gather biometric data including heart rate and temperature. The device also has a camera and runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100+ chip, which is used in a variety of smart watches.
What’s notable about the Mason wearable and other Mason hardware is that they run Mason OS, a software platform that lets customers run and manage IoT applications on the Mason hardware in an enterprise-friendly manner. This means a developer can build an application or take an existing application and run it on a consistent version of hardware across an entire enterprise.
Instead of relying on bespoke kiosks or employee-owned devices, a company seeking to gather data can deploy the Mason tablets, handhelds, or wearables and run their established apps on them without having to worry about the version of Android they are running or potential variations on hardware from different companies.
It’s a vision of the IoT that treats the sensors as pretty generic and the applications as key. The company leases the hardware to customers, charges a licensing fee for the OS, and offers additional services such as cellular connectivity if required.
Nancy Xiao, CEO of the company, is excited about the potential for bringing Mason’s platform to healthcare and logistics clients with the new wearable.
Mason was formed in 2015 and joined Y Combinator in 2016, releasing its first dev tool in 2017. It used that time to build out hardware to run the Mason OS to make it an easier sell to customers who wanted more data but didn’t have the expertise to build their own hardware and IoT infrastructure. It has raised about $25 million so far in venture funding.
In 2018, it leased its first devices to customers. Now it’s planning on growth with the wearable after having seen its recurring revenue increase by 67% in the last year and its sales increase by 79%. The company partners with several IoT companies, such as Twilio for connectivity, but it will also compete with big names such as Tuya and Ayla Networks, which provide less in terms of hardware and more in terms of back-end cloud services.
We’ll see which approach wins out.