Industrial automation is not a new concept, but with the Internet of Things (IoT) invading the space, the conversation about what can be done on the shop floor is changing.
The success of IoT deployments is largely dependent on how well the industrial machines or tools are able to communicate to the connected devices. For many companies, smartphones and tablets are taking the place of expensive legacy devices.
Waygum recently raised $2 million to help connect smartphones to industrial machines with its end-to-end mobile platform for IoT.
"Our platform enables our industrial customers to both build and run mobile-enabled industrial apps," said Waygum CEO Sundar Krish.
A mobile-centric approach can be faster than a traditional approach to automation, Krish said, and is more convenient for employees. Users are already comfortable with the mobile experience, so it makes sense to adapt it to the standard hardware they are using.
There are three main components of the Waygum platform:
- Browser-based visual app development, which allows non-developers to build prototypes and iterate
- Mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) to build out the app infrastructure
- Mobile-to-machine, which is the aggregation of all integrations in one container
Many of the use cases for industrial IoT are in field services and manufacturing. For example, remote monitoring and push notifications can alert an employee when a crane is broken. Depending on the types of sensors, users might be able to diagnose the machine from the ground.
Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB) is one of the investors in Waygum. Greg Barats, CEO and president of HSB, said that one of the major values of the Waygum platform is its integration of data and functionality many different systems and pieces of equipment.
"It's a universal remote control for business and industry. Waygum's app has the potential to help HSB insurance clients predict and prevent equipment breakdown loss and optimize business performance and efficiency," Barats said.
Some Waygum customers are using geofencing for service operators, Krish said. This opens up operators to be able to monitor more machines at a time if they can get all the data centralized on their device.
"The moment they enter a specific factory location, all the machines in that factory [area] start sending them alerts or health status, based on their location," Krish said.
Jim Pettit, a managing partner at Navitas Capital who invested in Waygum, said the growth in connected objects in the manufacturing space is powering the rise of what is known as advanced manufacturing, which leads to an influx of applications to help companies leverage advanced manufacturing, which can make their processes safer and more efficient.
"Within this framework, we see Waygum as a key piece of the value chain with respect to mobile IoT and stitching together multiple M2M platforms in manufacturing," Pettit said.
Krish built Waygum's end-to-end solution as a response to some of the problems he saw in other mobile platforms when he was a software architect at Cisco, working on their mobile strategy. He wanted to build a product that wasn't too developer-focused and could help with the ideation process, not hold it back.
After competing in the "Cisco IoT Innovation Grand Challenge," Waygum took second place out of 850 companies. That caught the attention of Pettit and Navitas Capital who participated in the latest funding round alongside Tyco International.
Currently, Krish has five people working with him in the US, and an offshore development center in India.
Part of the company's plan for the capital is building out their partner integrations. They're helping partners add a mobile layer to their existing offerings and the funding will help further those relationships.
"We believe that this mobile layer is tough for many customers to build themselves," Pettit said.
Still, gaining traction in the industrial market won't be easy. Pettit said that the industrial sector is notorious for slow adoption and Waygum will need to build a "critical mass" of use cases with its partners to gain the attention of other customers.
The center stage in IoT is currently dominated by consumer products like wearables and connected home products, but Krish said he sees the industrial IoT space as a bigger opportunity.
"I think once it comes, it's going to hit with a much bigger impact," Krish said. "It will hit even normal people's lives much more than what the consumer IoT is hitting us right now."
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.