Why IoT Veteran Libelium Is Debuting Consultancy Services
Zaragoza, Spain–headquartered Libelium is part of the first wave of IoT-focused companies. Founded in 2006, the company initially referred to itself as a distributed wireless communications firm. While the phrase “Internet of Things” would not reach buzzword status until roughly 2013, Libelium exemplified the philosophy of providing sensing anywhere, anytime. Its early products include the Waspmote sensor and the Meshlium IoT gateway.
Now, the company’s focus is evolving toward system integration, in a move that reflects many hardware companies’ transition from hardware to software to services. “It’s really a very natural move for us,” said Alicia Asín, Libelium chief executive officer and co-founder. The company’s customer base is moving away from launching small proofs of concept toward more-extensive deployments.
The greater complexity of its customers’ projects increases the potential for chaos. In one case, a partner tried to deploy Libelium technology and had trouble getting the system to work correctly. “We sent one of our engineers, and it started working in 15 minutes,” Asín recalled.
The experience was something of a wake-up call. The simple act of sending an engineer to diagnose the problem enabled it to keep an account. And because the company’s engineers helped develop Libelium products in the first place, they have expertise a traditional system integrator lacks.
The experience made Asín wonder how many times such a scenario was happening, where a customer struggles to deploy a product and gives up out of exasperation rather than investigate the root cause of a given product-related problem. Even traditional system integrators are hesitant to admit when user error is the reason a technology they’ve configured is not working correctly. “Of course, the system integrator is not going to say: ‘I couldn’t make it work,’” Asín said. They are more likely to blame the technology.
Getting Closer to the End User
Libelium decided to start offering an IoT-based setup service as well as support afterward. The service could help ensure its customers’ projects go beyond the proof-of-concept phase.
After working in the IoT market for 13 years, the company accumulated expertise in a variety of domains. In addition to designing connected sensing hardware, it also has experience working with communication protocols and integrating radio communications and sensing capabilities into an array of hardware types.
“If you go into verticals like, especially, industrial IoT, you always need a high level of customization in the project. And now we are open to that,” Asín said.
Refining Its Mission
Last year, Libelium’s strategy emphasized its potential to enable an array of IoT use cases. With customers in more than 120 countries in domains ranging from measuring pollution to parking to firefighting, the company’s marketing focused on its technology offerings. “In January or so, I edited our mission to remove any words relating to ‘device’ or ‘sensor platform,’ and we changed [the overall message] to: ‘Making the IoT possible,’” Asín said.
The shift means the company will bolster its software offerings, including middleware developed in collaboration with third-party device makers. “Sometimes, we will offer advice for the whole project and provide a portion of the sensors required and advise who else to buy from. We are not the biggest experts in every single domain,” Asín said.
The company has also reframed its previously focused technical service offerings with ongoing broader customer support. “It’s a totally different dimension,” Asín said. Whereas in the past, such service intended to help ensure customers’ technology is working correctly, now, the focus is on helping the customer move an IoT project to the next phase of deployment.
The company is also building its offerings in terms of software and device management. While in the past, it offered a dedicated gateway to send data to the cloud, it now offers what it terms “Cloud Bridge” to do the job. “With the increase of connectivity options, like cellular, LoRa and Sigfox, you don’t need to pass through a gateway anymore,” Asín said. “You can automatically seed your data into Amazon or Azure or whatever,” she added. “You go directly to the cloud.” Libelium also helps clients normalize the data before it is sent to cloud platforms.
Next year, the company will open up its Cloud Bridge to work with IoT devices from other third-party device makers. In addition, it will continue to integrate its offerings to further help its customers scale their IoT projects. The strategy “reflects the state of the market where companies are saying: ‘I am sick of experimenting with the IoT. I need a technology partner,’” Asín said. She said the company’s customers are increasingly asking for help. “Customers are approaching us and saying: ‘I need you to guide me through the whole IoT process. I don’t want to deal with XYZ suppliers. If you have partners, that’s great, but don’t introduce me to them. Just work with them and be the contractor for everything,’” she said. “And that’s the game forcing us to system integrator role.”