Interview with Asavie’s Ralph Shaw: ‘We connect the internet of things’

23 Feb 2016100 Shares

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Asavie CEO Ralph Shaw. The Dublin-based tech company announced plans to create 106 jobs in its Dublin office over the next two-and-a-half years

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There is a common thread running through some of the homegrown internet of things players in Ireland – they were already building the internet of things before it became a thing. And Asavie, led by Ralph Shaw, is no exception.

Earlier today (23 February), we reported how at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona it emerged that Eir Business had selected a technology platform developed by Irish tech company Asavie to allow Irish businesses plug their machines into the internet of things (IoT).

The internet of things is a buzz phrase that has captured the imagination as more and more previously disconnected machines become part of a pulsating, living network.

While most eyes are on the more consumer end of the market, particularly in terms of what Nest, Google, Samsung, Apple and others plan to do with a range of connected home devices from thermostats to smart TVs, the less sexy but much more viable aspect is industrial.

This is where companies like Enniscorthy-based Taoglas and Dublin-based Asavie come in. Taoglas, for example, designs IoT wireless devices for some of the world’s biggest brands, while Asavie created the connectivity platform for getting machines to talk to other machines in a secure and controlled way.

Before M2M or machine-to-machine became a buzzword thanks to IoT, it was a jumble of technologies from telematics to wireless antennae and software. Companies like Asavie and Taoglas were working on these technologies before IoT became a thing.

But now the global value of the IoT sector is predicted to exceed £25bn a year (€34.2bn) by 2020, with an expectation that 25bn devices will be connected by 2025.

Connecting and securing the internet of things

For Asavie CEO Ralph Shaw, it isn’t that the technology is brand new, it is that the world is finally finding more and more applications for connected machines.

“We founded the business in 2004 to help telecoms operators connect machines to their infrastructure. Today we are connected to 20 operators and 20,000 businesses worldwide,” he explains to Siliconrepublic.com.

The privately-funded company has grown to 100 employees, has seven offices around the world and is headquartered in Dublin. Last year, Asavie filed revenues of $21m and has achieved growth rates of 100pc a year for the past four years.

In December, Asavie revealed plans to create 106 new jobs over the next two-and-a-half years.

“What we do is we make connectivity simple. The IoT world is all about connecting end points to backend systems. We take the pain points away. We connect the internet of things.

“We have built our own patented technology called PassBridge, which is patented in the US and Europe.”

Yesterday at Mobile World Congress, Asavie also revealed that its PassBridge technology underpins the INFINITE IoT industrial testbed announced last year by EMC and Vodafone as part of a €2m investment in Cork.

The testbed enables companies to road test their M2M and IoT projects across mobile cellular networks prior to scaling into production.

In the case of Eir, Asavie has built a platform that will enable all businesses of all sizes to embrace the IoT opportunity. Eir’s Asavie-built IoT Connect can be used by small and large companies from healthcare to transport and manufacturing to connect machines in the field to the internet and gather real-time intelligent data.

IoT Connect is designed to enable telecoms operators like Eir to deliver scalable and secure SIM-based M2M applications. This will see Eir’s cellular network be used by businesses to connect machines in the field via a self-care portal that firms can log into over a public cloud or through a VPN.

‘It’s strange hearing that something we’ve been working on for years is being described as new. For example, we find it funny when people ask us are we in the cloud. We’ve been in the cloud since 2005’
– RALPH SHAW, ASAVIE

“If you look at the internet of things, we have been in the M2M space for seven years and we view M2M as a subset of what IoT is all about. Our focus is on areas like smart cities, field force automation and the connected car, for example,” says Shaw.

“We have developed quite a broad portfolio in Europe and the US and we have seen quite a big uptick in business, particularly in terms of enterprise mobility management.

“It’s strange hearing that something we’ve been working on for years is being described as new. For example, we find it funny when people ask us are we in the cloud. We’ve been in the cloud since 2005.”

Shaw says that the EMC/Vodafone INFINITE IoT testbed is one of the first of its kind outside the US.

“We provide the on-demand connectivity to enable test partners to be up and running. We’re essentially the network for the IoT. The gateway IoT device would sit on a machine but we are essentially the over-the-top (OTT) service that connects the machine to the backend. Everything we do is a service and we can enable a business to put up to 1,000 or more devices or machines onto a network.

“While the domestic space is attractive in terms of the connected home. The real uptick for us is in areas like connected cars, field force automation, powering the smart cities and that’s where there are a lot of mission-critical applications that will require the resilience of a platform like PassBridge.”

A breakthrough moment for IoT

He explained the key to the IoT opportunity is scale and that’s where Asavie comes in. However, he emphasises control and security should be sacrosanct before people go crazy and try to build the internet of everything.

“Beyond the hype about IoT there is a bigger piece that needs to be addressed and that is connectivity and control,” he says.

Shaw points to Cisco’s recent acquisition of Jasper, which provides a software platform that manages all the SIMs embedded in IoT machines.

“What we provide is the other side of the coin, the ability to privately manage and set up an IoT network. What Eir can give businesses is a piece of the 3G and 4G network to privately manage themselves.”

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com just before Mobile World Congress kicked off this week, Shaw was preparing for a marathon of over 50 meetings.

“We are preparing for a world where billions of SIMs will be functioning independent of humans. The key is security and how can you get businesses up and running using services in a painless and secure fashion.

“IoT has a bright future, and at Asavie we intend to be busy and productive helping create environments where businesses can plug in and get switched on securely. We’re very excited.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com