Reza Raji is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and inventor, best known for his early seminal work on IoT and for founding iControl Networks, an early pioneering company of IoT. He will be one of the panelists speaking on July 30 during the event The Hive organizes at PRIME on the Home of the Future
What is the genesis of iControl? How did this idea come to you and how did the product evolve?
Back in 2000, the pain point that I detected was that there was no solution for sensors and devices to communicate and to be connected to the Internet. That is what iControl was all about. It was a platform to connect these devices and allow them to be remotely controlled over the Internet – in a scalable way.
From the start, we wanted to go to market through channel partners, iControl was not a B-to-C company. So our solution was tailored for service providers from the get-go. It enabled device manufacturers to only focus on devices and sensors, and for service providers to brand and market the solution to customers without reinventing the wheel each time. We did not know at the beginning which service providers would be the best choice, so we talked to everyone including utilities, home builders, security companies, telcos, and MSOs. In time, we found our sweet spot with security companies, MSOs and telcos.
ADT was our first national partner. The MSOs and telcos followed soon after. It was the first mass-market platform for the IoT.
We hear a lot about IoT platforms, where does IControl position itself and how does it differ from the other ones available on the market?
From the beginning, iControl’s goal was to create a unifying platform that solved a real problem. The problem we addressed was mass-market home automation and security.
We came up with an umbrella software that leveraged third party hardware products (e.g. smart thermostats, cameras, door locks, door & motion sensors, etc.). And we designed this platform with service providers in mind.
This is a key differentiator for iControl. Rather than trying to create a new standard, we have created a platform that works with a variety of devices. Any manufacturer can join and create devices that work and interact with the iControl ecosystem. And any service provider can take advantage of that ecosystem and hit the ground running.
In your opinion, what is the future of the IoT platforms? Will there be a monopoly or several specialized players addressing different needs?
A lot of things are going on right now. One recent trend is that consumers can own several smart devices such as thermostats and door locks, and there is a separate app for each of them. This makes for some cool products but creates these islands of connectivity. There are also other solutions that try to tackle an ecosystem of devices but they are closed, expensive, difficult to install, or hard to use. There is simply not enough compelling value for a lot of products out there that merit mass-market adoption.
I think companies have to solve real issues and not just develop gadgets. Right now we are still in the discovery phase with a lot of companies developing a lot of concepts, apps, and devices. I think this is a great and necessary phase, but the dust will inevitably settle over time.
We will see more and more consolidation through acquisitions. But I also think we will see a shift in the market and in the consumers’ mindset. They will want devices and solutions that actually address bigger and more serious needs. Energy management and health monitoring are some obvious issues that I see big potential in.
Do you have any current projects you want to share with us?
I left iControl in late 2011 to found Juggle Labs along with a few of the other early iControl folks. We wanted to apply the benefits of SoLoMo (Social, Local and Mobile) to address real needs. We beta-tested our theories last year and will be launching an app based on those findings soon.
The common thread between my last two startups seems to be connectivity. With iControl, I was connecting people to things. Juggle Labs is about connecting people to people in a different, engaging and fun way! Stay tuned…