Soracom’s Mission: The Democratisation of IoT
Parag Mittal, Chief Commercial Officer, SORACOM
“Our focus is the democratisation of IoT. For me, the measure of success would be that Soracom is recognised not just for excellent commercial performance, but also for the work it has done to support the industry.”
Interview by Abraham Joseph, Editorial Director, IoT Insights
What is the origin of Soracom?
Soracom was founded in Japan in 2015 by three experts in telecommunications and cloud technologies, our CEO, Ken Tamagawa, our CTO Kenta Yasukawa and our COO Daichi Funato. We launched our service in Japan on 30 September 2015. From the onset, our objective was to develop a communications network that was optimised for IoT, with the performance and scalability to serve all customer groups. One year after launch, we had over 4000 clients. Today we have over 5000 clients.
Which specific gap did Soracom aim to exploit?
We noticed that a lot of companies wishing to deploy IoT solutions were not able to get the services they wanted. In terms of the connectivity component, in many instances devices were deployed with public IP addresses and data was carried over the public Internet. This is still the case for most installations today. We recognised that this was a major problem, especially with respect to security. This was the genesis of the idea to build an IoT-focused core network. Then, instead of focusing on selling connectivity in the traditional way, we decided to bring the core network to the cloud since all enterprises were already in the cloud.
Who owns Soracom?
Soracom is privately owned. Our investors include World Innovation Lab, Infinity Venture Partners (IVP), Pavilion Capital, Mitsui, and Mirai Creation Fund.
In which Markets does Soracom Operate?
Today, most of our customers are in Japan. In November 2016, we expanded to the US. We a small team based in Palo Alto. Currently, we are focusing on European expansion. Our launch event for Europe will be held at 4YFN at Mobile World Congress on 27th February 2017.
What are your plans for Europe?
Our initial focus will be to raise awareness. We plan to do the same ground work we did in Japan to build the Soracom brand. We plan to start our work with the developer community in different countries. We’ll also be working with technology start-ups as well as small, medium and large enterprises.
Can you elaborate on how you plan to engage with the developer community?
Our aim is to build a single developer community across Europe. Of course, we can’t do this by ourselves. We are looking to engage with passionate developers and customers to build this ecosystem. In Japan, we already have thousands of people in our user group. This is of great benefit to us, but also to our developers and end users.
Our key message to developers is that they don’t need to struggle anymore because Soracom is here and we have the offering that they’ve been looking for to enable them to deliver their solutions and services on time.
How would you describe this offering?
We designed and built our core networking software in such a way that we can transfer data securely between devices and the cloud. In essence, we are able to offer each customer their own private network and a comprehensive array of management tools. We call this the “Democratisation of IoT”. However, IoT is very much a team sport. Since our focus is connectivity solutions, we are looking to partner with others that provide other IoT components and wish to take a similar approach to serving all customers in the IoT market.
What exactly comprises this private network that you offer?
Essentially it is a software running on the cloud. Specifically on Amazon Web Services. Using this architecture we are able to build and deploy networks on a pay-as-you-go basis, in real time, depending on customer needs and to scale them very rapidly.
Presumably signals still go over copper wires, fibre and satellites. Who are your partners for this physical connectivity?
Yes, we make use of public telecom infrastructure. However, our customers’ data is routed via our core network and packet gateways, rather than over the public Internet. We operate as an MVNO in a number of countries and have roaming agreements that enable us to provide global coverage. We have the flexibility to switch between different operators in different countries and regions to achieve best price, best quality and best coverage.
Does this mean that you will be competing with mobile network operators, many of whom have their own IoT service offerings?
Given our focus, I expect that competition will be minimal. In fact, I expect that we will be collaborating rather than competing. We see operators as potential channel partners. Our partnership with KDDI illustrates this. In December 2016 KDDI launched the KDDI IoT Connect Air service, which is powered by Soracom. Additionally, KDDI is partnering with Soracom to deliver a global telematics platform for Toyota.
How easy is it for a customer to switch between operators in a country?
We have technology that enables devices to switch between operators on the fly. This is particularly important for customers for whom service availability is a high priority. We are building additional services to ensure we have the right levels of availability, quality and security to address evolving customer needs.
Is it practical to serve everyone when you enter a new market?
Yes. Our technology has been designed, developed and deployed to support this. However, in practice, when we announce entry into a given market, we will have been working with customers in that market already. In the case of Europe, we will be presenting live demonstrations of use cases along with some of our customers and partners at 4YFN (Mobile World Congress) and CeBIT. Generally, the highest priority for us when we enter a market is the democratisation component. This means launching in such a way that we can support the developer ecosystem while also offering a full range of service to start-ups, SMEs and large enterprises.
How many of your customers are offering commercial services today?
It’s difficult to quote a precise number, but despite IoT projects typically requiring extensive testing we have seen over 30% quarterly growth in few hundred accounts.
You mentioned the partnership with KDDI and Toyota. Can you name some of some of your other customers?
We have customers and partners from many different verticals. Kakaxi partners with Soracom to provide sensing equipment for farms. Personal mobility device manufacturer Whill Inc. uses Soracom for remote monitoring and management of their personal mobility devices. Safecast use the Soracom network to collect and map radiation data. Enerbrain connects buildings to cloud intelligence for energy optimisation, Omniflow delivers smart energy platforms for urban and rural areas. We have hundreds of exciting use cases across our customer base.
What are Soracom’s USPs?
We have three major differentiators. They are:
- A fully pay-as-you-go model, with no minimum commitment or contract. Our customers do not need to commit to a number of SIM cards or a specific volume of data.
- Security. Some businesses are willing to compromise on this but we are not. We can deliver device and network security on a pay-as-you-go basis for everyone across all customer segments and all industry verticals.
- Time to market. We offer APIs to our core network. Establishing a VPN connection takes minutes rather than months as is usually the case with other service providers. One of our European customers that had previously spent two months trying to get an VPN from a traditional service provider discovered that with Soracom they could have this in minutes.
What is the cost for a small developer wishing to connect 5-10 end points?
For small projects, a developer can buy Soracom SIM cards directly from Amazon’s European sites. Five SIM cards cost around $25.00 (US). For active SIMs, there is a monthly charge per SIM card of around $1.80 and data rates starting from 8 cents per megabyte for low consumption use cases.
For high volume and high consumption customers, prices drop automatically. So, what we bring is affordability on day one to get projects moving quickly and economies of scale as volume increases. The great thing is that all our services are available for smaller volumes on a low-cost pay-as-you-go basis. It is important to stress that we are not just offering a SIM card and connectivity but also a range of network services, including the highest levels of IoT security, at very competitive rates.
You raise around $30 million in the last round. Is this enough to support your current development and expansion plans?
Yes, the amount we raised is enough to support not only our US and Europe expansion but also expansion into a number of additional markets and our current technology roadmap. Our business model and our technology are designed such that we can scale elastically.
Which additional markets do you plan to enter?
We plan to serve the Middle East, Africa, South America and other parts of Asia from Japan, US and Europe. We are exploring strategic partnerships with potential operator partners in some of countries in these regions.
What additional technologies/services can we expect from Soracom over the next two years?
We will continue to enhance our range of connectivity solutions based on customer pain points. Additionally, since our core network is agnostic to the underlying access technology and we are committed to building a truly connected world, you can expect to see us offering not only cellular connectivity, but a fully integrated approach to all types of IoT networks, including low power wide area networks and satellites.
What are your ambitions for the business?
I am focused on the overall commercial success of Soracom. This means ensuring that our top priorities are correct and that we build processes that make it easy to understand the needs of customers. We believe listening to and understanding our customers is essential if we wish to be a market leader. I’d like to see Soracom become the default choice for connectivity solutions. Then, acknowledging and identifying the reasons organisations choose alternative solutions would enable us to improve. For me, the measure of success would be that Soracom is recognised not just for excellent commercial performance, but also for the work it has done to support the industry.”
How do you see the IoT market developing over the next several years?
Sticking to our competence area, connectivity solutions, among the changes I see happening are innovations in technology and business models that will lower deployment costs and allow deployments to scale more rapidly. Currently the industry faces many problems relating to commercialisation of hardware. Prices of devices have not fallen to the extent that they could have. Part of the reason relates to patents and royalties and this results in significant costs before services are fully deployed.
If you could distil your knowledge of the industry and offer advice to a specific segment of the ecosystem, which segment would you choose and what advice would you offer?
I’d choose the developer and technology start-up segments. The advice I’d offer is to pay a lot less attention to arguments about different technologies and instead focus on the specific needs of your customer and your application. For example, instead of trying to find the ideal device with the widest range of connectivity options, focus instead on the bill of materials and ways to bring down the cost of devices so that you can deploy and scale solutions rapidly.
Secondly, regarding backhaul, I’d advise that cellular is by far the best and most secure technology available currently. This is because most use cases occur where people live and work, and those areas are predominantly covered by cellular.
Finally, I’d say develop both the businesses and its underlying products and services with the future in mind. The nature of the IoT industry is such that any solution deployed today is likely to require frequent modifications, so use modular approaches that maximise future flexibility.
© IOT Insights 2017
Alcatel-Lucent Acquires Mformation for IOT Security and Device Management
17 September 2015 – Alcatel-Lucent today announced the acquisition of Mformation, a leading provider of mobile and ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) security and device management solutions for mobile operators, service providers and enterprises. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Mformation, headquartered in Woodbridge, NJ, will be incorporated into Alcatel-Lucent’s IP Platforms organization, providing service providers and enterprises with a secure, scalable, application-independent IoT security and control platform for use across multiple industries including automotive, healthcare, utilities, manufacturing and the digital home.
Additionally, Mformation’s products will extend and enhance the capabilities of Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Customer Experience Management (CEM) solution to provide service providers with an integrated device management solution across home, mobile and enterprise networks. These end-to-end capabilities can address the increasing importance of the effective management and security for the 70 billion devices expected to connect to the Internet by 2020, and will simplify the management of converged networks expected to grow exponentially with the implementation of 5G.
Security concerns are on the rise as networks become increasingly virtualized, wireless devices become mainstay components of complex machines pervasive in every aspect of life, and unmanned connected devices become increasingly pervasive. The combination of Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive portfolio and Mformation together will allow network operators to manage endpoints and gateways, establishing an end-to-end IoT “chain of trust” built on industry best practices for authentication and data and network security.
“As connected devices become an ever increasing part of our social and economic fabric, we need to ensure that these devices, and the networks they navigate, are secure, reliable and efficient,” said Bhaskar Gorti, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s IP Platforms (left). “Mformation’s cloud-enabled IoT platform will enable our customers to rapidly deploy IoT services that can be trusted and managed efficiently,”
“Our portfolio and our customer base are highly complementary to Alcatel-Lucent’s Internet of Things aspirations,” said Dr. Rakesh Kushwaha, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Mformation (above right). “We look forward to leveraging our mobile and IoT security capabilities to enable customers to fully exploit the benefits of a connected world.”
Alcatel-Lucent is the leading IP networking, ultra-broadband access and cloud technology specialist. We are dedicated to making global communications more innovative, sustainable and accessible for people, businesses and governments worldwide. Our mission is to invent and deliver trusted networks to help our customers unleash their value. Every success has its network.
Founded in 1999, Mformation is a pioneer and leader in mobility management solutions with more than 20 service provider customers around the world and managing more than 500 million devices.
Mformation provides service providers with a secure, scalable, application-independent IoT control platform that provides control and security across multiple industries including automotive, healthcare, utilities, manufacturing and the digital home.
Mformation provides service providers with deep technical expertise in device management standards and innovation in IoT protocol adaptation for connected devices.
INSIDE Secure Launches World’s Smallest Security Solution for Internet of Things (IoT) Devices
3 August 2015 – INSIDE Secure, a leader in embedded security solutions for mobile and connected devices, today announced the availability of MatrixSSL Tiny, the world’s smallest Transport Layer Security (TLS) software implementation, to allow companies to secure IoT devices with stringent memory requirements. MatrixSSL Tiny has been deployed on IoT devices with less than 10 kilobytes of flash and 600 bytes of RAM. Moreover, with MatrixSSL Tiny, device manufacturers can reduce their overall design costs by retrofitting a secure connection to existing hardware as well as reduce bill of materials (BOM) costs.
“INSIDE Secure continues to be on the leading edge of meeting market requirements to secure the most critical applications, networks and devices,” said Martin Bergenwall, Executive Vice President of the Mobile Security Business Division, INSIDE Secure (above). “As the recent cyberattack on a Jeep® Cherokee communicated by wired.com shows, security for IoT devices is critical.”
First released in 2004, MatrixSSL is a secure Transport Layer Security (TLS) solution delivered in portable C source code. MatrixSSL Tiny is designed to secure small IoT devices with extremely limited memory that use remote connections, yet demand robust security to prevent eavesdropping and tampering on network traffic. MatrixSSL Tiny performs real time operations, zeroing the memory when finished.
“For a secure Internet of Things, it will be essential that the full range of connected devices with embedded intelligence – even down to the smallest sensor – has effective communications security embedded in it,” said Robin Duke-Woolley, CEO of specialist IoT analyst firm Beecham Research. “For devices using small micro-processors, there may be very limited memory and processing capability, yet even these require sufficiently sophisticated security features to cater to the increasingly threatening landscape. This is an exciting development from Inside Secure to help enable this demanding need. It helps to open up the growth potential of the IoT market.”
To learn more about MatrixSSL Tiny please visit: http://www.insidesecure.com/Products-Technologies/Protocol-Security-Toolkits/MatrixSSL-Tiny-Edition
About INSIDE Secure
INSIDE Secure (Euronext Paris FR0010291245 – INSD) provides comprehensive embedded security solutions. World-leading companies rely on INSIDE Secure’s mobile security and secure transaction offerings to protect critical assets including connected devices, content, services, identity and transactions. Unmatched security expertise combined with a comprehensive range of IP, semiconductors, software and associated services gives INSIDE Secure customers a single source for advanced solutions and superior investment protection.
Source: INSIDE Secure
Wind River Delivers Real-Time Virtualisation for IoT Device Development
28 July 2015 – Wind River®, a global leader in delivering software for the Internet of Things (IoT), has announced a major update to its real-time virtualisation offering that allows customers to further reduce cost and innovate connected devices. The update includes storage virtualisation capabilities, enhanced security capabilities, and expanded processor support.
Virtualisation Profile for VxWorks® is based on Wind River virtualisation technology and extends the scalability capabilities of VxWorks by integrating a real-time embedded, Type 1 hypervisor into the core of the real-time operating system (RTOS). Through embedded virtualisation, it allows VxWorks customers to consolidate multiple disparate workloads on a single processor. Critical in today's era of IoT, it helps to address the need for robust, safer and more secure partitioning across all market segments.
“Virtualisation is a key attribute in GE’s global vision for industrial control systems in the era of the Industrial Internet. It allows the GE businesses to combine their real-time control logic, HMI, security, and cloud connectivity into a single platform,” said Wes Skeffington, principal engineer at GE. “Wind River’s virtualisation offering provides the right attributes like scalability, storage virtualisation, real-time behavior, virtual machine isolation, and security capabilities to realize this vision.”
Updates to Virtualization Profile for VxWorks include the following:
- Storage virtualisation through VirtIO allows devices to share a single storage controller, even a single disk, such as a Serial ATA device between multiple virtual machines (VMs), thereby dramatically reducing cost and complexity for consolidated systems. The run-time configuration, combined with support for the VirtIO device virtualisation framework makes the virtualisation profile a flexible and highly customizable virtualisation layer for embedded devices.
- Enhanced security capabilities include seamless integration with the Security Profile for VxWorks. These capabilities help customers to guard security from power-on all the way through VM load and beyond with secure boot, secure load, and data encryption during transmission and after shutdown.
- Expanded processor support includes support for Intel® Atom and Celeron architectures, providing even greater choices for customers to build product lines that scale from low end controllers to major gateways and high performance compute and display stations.
“Embedded virtualization allows customers to meet the challenges of the IoT era; it enables a future-proof architecture that can adapt and evolve to meet changing market requirements, customer needs, and technology advancements,” said Dinyar Dastoor, vice president and general manager of operating system platforms at Wind River (above). “With these latest virtualisation and security capability enhancements, Wind River has further strengthened VxWorks as the leading RTOS for IoT where connectivity, scalability and the ability to develop safer and more secure environments are paramount.”
The Virtualisation Profile for VxWorks is an integral part of the Intel Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series, a production-ready, virtualisation software stack used for running an assortment of industrial and IoT workloads on a single platform.
More information about Virtualisation Profile for VxWorks is available at http://tinyurl.com/VxWorksVirtualization. And to learn more about how Wind River is addressing the opportunities and challenges of IoT, visit http://tinyurl.com/WindHelix.
About Wind River
Wind River, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), is a global leader in delivering software for the Internet of Things. The company has been pioneering computing inside embedded devices since 1981, and its technology is found in more than 2 billion products. Wind River offers a comprehensive portfolio of solutions for addressing the system-level challenges and opportunities of IoT that is backed by world-class global professional services, award-winning customer support, and a broad partner ecosystem. Wind River delivers the software and expertise that enables the innovation and deployment of safe, secure, and reliable intelligent systems. To learn more, please visit www.windriver.com.
Source: Wind River
Icon Labs Launches Security Management System
28 July 2015 — Icon Labs, a leading provider of embedded networking and security technology, today announced the release of its Floodgate Security Manager (FSM ), a security management software suite specifically designed to protect IoT and embedded devices against cyber-attack. FSM can be operated as either an on premise or a cloud-based security manager.
The Floodgate Security Manager provides device status monitoring, security policy management, command audit logging, and security event logging and reporting for devices running Icon Labs’ Floodgate Agent or other lightweight IoT management protocols such as COAP and MQTT.
Floodgate Security Manager provides comprehensive reporting and auditing capabilities to help achieve EDSA Certification, ISA/IEC 62443 Compliance, and/or compliance with the NIST Cybersecurity framework.
“The current approach to security management for IoT devices is to repurpose legacy security management systems. While this solution works for some IoT gateways and other large IoT devices, it does not scale to the smallest IoT devices, especially small battery powered edge devices and sensor solutions,” says Alan Grau, President and Cofounder of Icon Labs (above). “Floodgate Security Manager is designed to provide the management services required by all IOT devices, including small, battery powered and mobile devices without the overhead and complexity of traditional enterprise security management systems.”
“With the IoT growing dramatically, it’s only a matter of time before hackers turn more attention toward embedded systems with limited onboard security resources,” said Steve Hoffenberg, a Director at industry analyst firm VDC Research. “New security technologies are needed not only to protect IoT device functionality and data, but also to protect conventional IT and the cloud assets to which the embedded systems are connected.”
Icon Labs products provide embedded security for IoT and Machine to Machine (M2M) solutions such as aerospace, military and space probes, industrial and medical control devices, medical systems, and consumer electronics products. The Floodgate Security Framework provides a “defense in depth” solution that protects control units and endpoint devices from cyber threats, aids in compliance with regulatory mandates and guidelines, and gathers and reports command, event and device status information for audit requirements.
About Icon Laboratories, Inc.
Icon Labs, a 2014 Gartner “Cool Vendor” and 2015 Gartner “Select Vendor”, is a leading provider of embedded software for device security, device protection and networking management, including the award winning Floodgate Defender. Founded in 1992, Icon Labs is headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, please visit www.iconlabs.com.
Source: Icon Labs