Back in 2013 an Austin, Texas company called WigWag launched a Kickstarter campaign for a hub and sensor that offered a fairly complex recipe-setting service for the time. I called it a “heap of fun” but said that the programming might be daunting for most people. Daunting or not, after building the product and figuring out the costs associated with supporting a consumer IoT service didn’t match up with its business needs, WigWag decided in 2016 to switch from building out a consumer business to offering an enterprise gateway.
I recently caught up with WigWag CMO Conrad Hametner, who discussed the shift and how the company hopes to differentiate itself in what is now a crowded market with everyone from startups like Samsara and Helium to giants like Dell and Harman.
WigWag’s new plan is to sell a more rugged and protocol-rich version of its original Relay as an IoT gateway device for small and medium businesses. The idea is to support even esoteric industrial protocols like BACnet (building management) and Modbus in addition to common wireless protocols like Zigbee and Wi-Fi. Thus, the gateway will link older systems to current products on the market.
A customer can operate multiple IoT gateways and relays as one distributed system, which might make this compelling for a property manager or a franchise. Not all gateway and software products can do that.
While all of this sounds like a viable architecture, there are many companies right now pursuing a similar vision and offering similar products. I’m struggling to understand what differentiates WigWag from the rest of the market. It plans to focus on smaller spaces, such as those with 50,000 square feet or less, and to sell to systems integrators since most businesses aren’t going to want to deal with modernizing their building systems on their own.
A few years after the original rush of activity around the internet of things, it’s clear that the market is shaking out. But the architectures and even business models are still solidifying, making it a dicey proposition to try to build something that will last. The questions about what will work remind me of the last big tech shift, when everyone spent years trying to figure out how to transition their business to the web.