LogMeIn’s Xively: An Amazon Web Services for the Internet of Things?
A couple of years back, business software company LogMeIn bought a little startup called Pachube. This happens all the time, of course—a public company snapping up a small fry, hoping to bring some scrappier DNA or a promising product into the fold.
But this acquisition, more than many others, seemed to hint at an intriguing future.
Pachube, an early leader in the burgeoning “Internet of things” field, had developed online software that let tinkerers and hackers connect their electronic creations to the Internet.
LogMeIn, best known for its cloud-based remote access software, re-branded the service as Cosm last year, but it was still a “beta” test version. The future remained a little unclear.
Now, we can finally answer the nagging question of just what LogMeIn (NASDAQ: LOGM) wanted with that connected-devices startup. Today, the Boston-based company is unveiling Xively (rhymes with “lively”), another new name for the software service formerly known as Pachube.
And with it, LogMeIn hopes to build out its software business far beyond its current competition with companies like Box, Citrix, and Google for the inboxes and desktops of office workers around the world.
As a subsidiary of LogMeIn, Xively is using its parent company’s underlying cloud infrastructure to offer a connectivity hub for developers who want to build that “Internet of things” by connecting physical objects—temperature sensors, light switches, and much more—to the Internet.
If that sounds like a page out of the much-admired (and constantly cited) playbook for Amazon Web Services, then LogMeIn is starting to get its message across. “We’re going to do the same thing for the Internet of things,” says Chad Jones, a Xively vice president of strategy.
Time will tell if the new effort has the juice to make that lofty vision come into focus. But LogMeIn thinks it has some natural advantages.
It’s all part of a major trend that seems like it’s been on the cusp of happening for many years now. As Clive Thompson wrote in Wired, “Back in the ’90s, big companies built systems to do tricks like this, but they were expensive, hard to use, and vendor-specific. The hype eventually boiled away. The Internet of things turned out to be vaporware.”
That has changed, quite noticeably with some high-profile products aimed at the everyday home. A major one is the Nest thermostat, a slick-looking digital heating and cooling controller produced by some of the folks who cranked out the first iPods. It’s connected to the Web and spits out reports of how much energy is being used in a home, while using machine-learning software to adjust to the patterns of its owners.
Another example is the WeMo system, made by connectivity company Belkin, which allows consumers to link relatively cheap power outlets and motion sensors to Web applications, allowing users to turn on their appliances or lights from a smartphone, for instance.
Both of these items are widely available—Nest thermostats are sold at Lowe’s hardware stores, and WeMo setups are prominently displayed at Best Buy locations. So it’s pretty clear this stuff is moving out of the realm of nerdy hobbyists.
“The possibilities are endless for how the community can design new sensors and the meta apps that connect them in innovative and useful ways,” says Scott Miller, CEO of hardware manufacturing consultancy Dragon Innovation, which counts the the Pebble connected smartwatch among its clients.
That means there’s going to be some intense competition, especially on the typically lucrative software side of the equation. There are bigger players trying to get some communication standards in place, Cisco and IBM among them.
Meanwhile, a group of smaller companies jockeys for position as an online “platform” that handles the Internet-connection layer of programming, making it easier for product developers to bring their creations to life. … Next Page »