Particle, a maker of an IoT platform and developer boards, will now provide cellular connectivity for the first 100 devices a developer uses for free. It also has introduced its own SIM card that works with its proprietary tools that easily brings a cellular-connected device online and attach it to the Particle Cloud.
The company shared the news at its Spectra developer conference Wednesday, and it’s part of a trend in companies trying to entice developers of new products and product engineers at established companies to build their devices into their IoT products. This makes a ton of sense, given that a small successful deal can turn into big revenue if the end device finds large market adoption.
The free data that comes with the first 100 devices is limited to 100,000 data operations per month instead of a specified data per thousand or million bytes consumption model. This is a pretty significant change for how companies charge for wireless broadband access but could lead developers to feel more comfortable experimenting.
It can be hard to understand what a new feature might cost in bandwidth, but developers generally have a clear idea of how many times they need to call for data. Zach Supalla, CEO of Particle, says the company does have limits in place to prevent abuse of the policy, such as trying to send large amounts of video. These boards also contain microcontrollers with small, constrained computers, so their ability to consume a lot of data is limited.
Particle also introduced its EtherSIM, which provides connectivity around the world without developers having to think about the details. Particle works with the carriers so companies building the IoT products don’t have to. Particle has branded all the wrangling it does to create this developer-friendly network EtherLink and the subsequent SIM that connects to the network the EtherSIM.
Particle has emerged as one of the primary IoT platform companies still in existence after a mad rush of them in 2013 and 2014. It competes with Twilio most directly and with companies such as Ayla and Tuya, which don’t provide the boards themselves but do provide more cloud infrastructure and app support.
Even this far into the development of IoT, companies are still struggling to build connected devices at scale. Supalla says that his customer mix has shifted from more consumer to more enterprise-oriented products in the last few years. He also says that that pandemic didn’t affect the business other than shifting the mix of customers.
For example, one of Particle’s customers is Jacuzzi, which has seen a boost in sales from people stuck at home deciding to buy a hot tub. He’s also not as worried about the chip shortage caused by the pandemic, believing that many of the long-lead times quoted by suppliers are conservative and that chips will be more available sooner than the quoted times. “It feels like uncertainty, not a shortage, he says. However, he’s not sitting idly by and waiting. Particle is making some small changes to components on its boards to design out hard-to-find elements.