2lemetry wants to help us talk to machines, and machines to talk to each other

By James Robinson , written on April 1, 2014

From The News Desk

Given its potential, the innovations so far seen in the "Internet of Things" been trifling, minor things. Shiny new versions of old machines are given connectivity and we’re handed a one-directional, remote control. For all the hype, all Nest really allows us to do is manipulate our thermostats in a more intelligent way than before. Handy, but not world changing.

2lemetry wants to get us past what is sees as the “silly stuff” with the Internet of Things right now. The company, in operation since late 2011, and with operations spread across Denver and San Francisco has marketed itself as both a platform and solutions company for this new sector, working to provide a backend for the vast amount of data that spins off from the new toys.

Over coffee in San Francisco, Kyle Roche, founder and CEO, and Kirk Crenshaw, CMO, explained that the platform part of the equation is simple: 2lemetry works closely with clients to connect up old machines, adapting legacy devices and old, homegrown protocols into information that the company API can understand, sparing clients the cost of completely upgrading whole firmware and hardware systems.

But machines have a lot to say. Roche explains that a typical machine gives out between 47 and 48,000 thousand "messages" a second. Within that noise, maybe 100 of those measures offer insight and five might be actionable, Roche explains.

The Internet of Things, even with new toys, is a big data puzzle that 2lemetry wants to help solve. “At the end of the day, someone needs to make these devices work when you have 12,000 things talking at the same time,” Crenshaw says. “I talk to a lot of young companies who’re planning to do it themselves. But they’ve got no good answer to how they’re going to connect it all.”

2lemetry wants to position itself as not just a portal, but an innovator too. The possibilities of what the ‘Internet of Things’ can do for us, past letting us operate our coffee pot from the next room, are massive: machines that can communicate to us and each other, with a more three-dimensional level of insight about the information that they’re drawing in.

For instance, device X, gets reading Y. But is Y normal? How does Y compare historically? How does it compare with a device from a rival company? What does it say about the person using that device? What context can be derived from this piece of information?

“With the current applications, all of the data can be just be siloed inside one app. There’s no need for scale, or benchmark data or aggregate statistics,” Roche says.

A standard example of 2lemetry’s work is something like this: working with a major car relocation company shipping vehicles across the country, 2lemetry helped them connect each car  on the move, allowing the owner to track their car as well as enabling the company to automatically monitor the health of the car and easily repair any mechanical issues that emerged along the way.

But Roche and Crenshaw also bubble with enthusiasm about some “next level” new projects. Using physical bluetooth beacons to communicate with people in real time who have a specific app on their phone, 2lemetry has been working with new Internet of Things systems to help adapt and change the real world for us in real time.

Roche talks about new airport information screens, that can recognize a smartphone application and briefly make your particular flight information big on a screen, automatically kicking it up to LED way-finding lights that can guide you to your gate. He mentions working on a new system for a major hotel chain, where the hotel will be able to recognize VIPs before they walk through the door, alert staff, communicate with a booking system to get the room ready, examine any prior behaviors or preferences so the hotel can know what the customer wants before they have to ask for it. It’s working with three stadiums in Denver to try and create TV screens that change physical display advertisements in line with the people in their physical proximity.

2lemetry's existence preceded the Internet of Things hype by well over two years. This year’s explosion has caught people up, but as Roche explains they’re still a bit ahead of themselves. “We’re solving problems at the moment that for a lot of people aren’t here yet,” he says.

The risk, longterm is that companies look to do this themselves. “We’re always fighting the concept of people wanting to fight the problem themselves,” Roche says. He has deliberately tried to position the company as a neutral party, a platform that companies can build from a partner to work with. 2lemetry comes up against few natural competitors, Roche says, but he anticipates they will always lose a lot of business to companies trying to do what they do in house.

That issue will come when the market has matured. 2lemetry is running as fast as it can to cash in on the upswing. “We talk to people who say they want this connected to that,” Crenshaw says. “But then they see what they can do and they come back and say they want all of their things connected.”

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]