One of the challenges associated with building an IoT platform is figuring out how to differentiate yourself from the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of other platforms out there. Pycom, which makes several boards that connect to the internet, has decided that one way is to make it so easy that anyone can turn one of their products into exactly the type of connected device they need.
The means to do this comes in the form of a Pylife mobile app for phones that controls PyGo modules. Each module can be customized with different radios to perform different functions.
If you want a pet tracker, a PyGo device can become that. If you’d rather have a sleep tracker or a sensor that can tell you when your mailbox is open, then the PyGo devices can do that, too. Fred de Haro, CEO and co-founder of Pycom, says the idea was to create a platform that works regardless of the available networks and is easy to customize.
That means there are PyGos with GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa, and cellular on them, and those that will simply create a mesh network with other PyGo boards out in the world. The three-year-old company has been building developer-focused boards for a while now and currently has almost a quarter of million developers on the platform.
The new devices are designed for consumers, says de Haro. His thought is that the current boards are so easy to clip into a holder that it will allow users to easily configure them in an app. My thought is that I’ve seen something similar with the Mother IoT platform by the now-defunct French company Sense.
The Mother platform consisted of a home hub shaped like a bowling pin and a variety of “peanuts” that were color-coded sensors. The user would “tell” Mother what each peanut should do and the software would program it. Users could re-program their peanuts as their needs changed. I liked the simplicity of the idea, but it never really took off.
It was also launched before Amazon’s Alexa and the current wave of smart home interest. Maybe now is the time for the Pylife app and PyGo boards. However, with a roughly $150 suggested retail price, this is a pricey experiment. The project will launch Nov. 5 on Kickstarter, with lower pricing for early backers. Pycom has already built and fundraised for two other boards using the platform, so it is experienced.