One of the biggest challenges facing the makers of connected devices is figuring out how to pay for a product that they sell once, but which has an ongoing cost. Every connected device requires cloud infrastructure, developers to continue updating apps, security updates and customer support.
So a device that sells for a one-time cost of $200 might end up costing the manufacturer $3 per year to support. That may not seem like much, but if the company sells 10 million of those devices, then suddenly they have a $30 million ongoing cost for the lifetime of that device.
So what’s a connected device company to do? While it can’t eliminate all of those costs, it can turn to vendors who are looking at that ongoing cost as an opportunity. Yonomi, a Boulder, Colorado-based startup, thinks it has part of the answer.
Yonomi makes a consumer-facing software app that detects the connected devices in your home and suggests automations that make them work better together. Now it’s adding a cloud architecture for makers of connected devices that will let a thermostat or lock maker build their own smart products in a more flexible way.
Yonomi calls it Thin Cloud and there are two elements that it has tweaked. The first is that it sells a license to the code, so a buyer of Yonomi’s Thin cloud gets the software in a one-time deal (there are subscriptions available for support and management). This addresses concerns about buying into an IoT cloud platform and realizing that your device is then locked into a single vendor.
The second tweak Yonomi made is in the architecture. It designed its cloud platform to take advantage of what many call “serverless” compute. These are services such as AWS Lambda or Google Cloud Functions. Technically this type of computing still occurs on servers, but the difference is in how it’s used.
A typical AWS computing instance spins up and runs all the time, ready to do the bidding of your program. With serverless computing, the instance only spins up when the program says it needs to complete a task and then it spins back down. This can save costs for something like a sensor that only wakes up when motion happens.
When the motion sensor is triggered, the sensor sends the message, the Lambda instance wakes up to trigger something, and then disappears. This is much cheaper than keeping a computing instance running just in case the motion sensor sends something.
That’s somewhat of a long explanation, but this is a trend that is going to be important for many IoT use cases. There are drawbacks for now. For example, depending on AWS Lambda, which has the most well-documented set of tools today, means you are tied fairly deeply to other AWS services. However, Joss Scholten, CTO and co-founder at of Yonomi, says that he’s confident that Yonomi can move its Thin Cloud offering to other clouds in the near future if clients want that.
Yonomi’s Thin Cloud has been in beta for several months and has several customers. The only one it can disclose is the parent company of Schlage locks. Rob Martens, who is a futurist at Schlage, says the product changes the economics of supporting a connected product and helps make it more predictable.
Schlage is so impressed that it put an undisclosed amount of money into Yonomi several months after it signed on as a customer. Martens joined the board.