1NCE again: IoT enabler connects to third-party developer tools

After many years of being mired in stasis–evolving technologically, but not much advancing as a global market–IoT may have turned a corner in the last year or so. The international IoT connectivity and software provider 1NCE has done its part to try to get the market going, last year launching operating system software to help users connect devices and collect data from them, and more recently unveiling a program for third-party developer plug-ins to help these clients manage and continue to mature their IoT environments.

1NCE Plugins was announced last month at CES 2024, almost a year to the day after the Germany-based company launched the 1NCE OS (“OS” then stood for “operating system,” but now stands for “open system,” a move calculated to reflect how 1NCE sees its role in the global IoT community, and what the market needs to focus on to foster ongoing growth.)

The launch of 1NCE OS and the debut of the firm’s software strategy came six years into the company’s campaign to rapidly grow IoT connectivity around the world by partnering with an array of service providers and offering customers flat-fee subscription plans ($10 per device SIM for 10 years, including 500 MB data and 250 SMS messages between connected devices). Plugins now represents a second phase of that software strategy, according to 1NCE COO Ivo Rook.

“We strategically advanced into software by giving our customers free tools to build better connected products,” Rook told Fierce Electronics. “Phase 1 was the initial features on energy savings, device authentication and device location. We expanded it into an operating system to simplify the management of data. This again was met with overwhelming positivity from customers. It validated our planned timeline for Phase 2 exactly one year later. With 22 million endpoints under management, external software providers see a chance to enhance our platform with best-in-class tools.”

That is what Plugins delivers in the form of third-party developer tools and applications. Initial Plugins offerings include:

  • Firmware Over-the-Air Management (FOTA), in partnership with OTA software company Mender: Now that IoT users are deploying more IoT-connected devices, the need is growing for ongoing security management and device health maintenance. FOTA can be used to release new functionality to devices, fix bugs, and support regular maintenance. Ince said Mender’s update infrastructure minimizes the risk of bricking from issues with limited bandwidth, unstable connectivity or power loss, including optimization using delta updates to reduce bandwidth usage by 90%.

  • Data Visualization, offered in partnership with Datacake. This company can provide 1NCE customers with access to dashboards that allow device data to be visualized for enhanced planning, prototyping and deployment. The low-code dashboards are optimized for mobile viewing and can be accessed through the 1NCE platform within minutes of setup.

  • Integration with Microsoft Azure and other cloud providers, supported through Tartabit: 1NCE already has a partnership with AWS, and this move expands the ability for customers to seamlessly integrate their IoT data with Microsoft Azure and other leading cloud service providers. Tartabit’s IoT Bridge delivers a reliable and scalable process for transferring data from resource-constrained, battery-powered devices to the cloud, 1NCE said.

Rook added that 1NCE carefully chose its initial Plugins partners, as it did not want to bury its customers in an overwhelming pile of options. “There are hundreds of tools to choose from, mostly provided by expensive SaaS players,” he said. “We didn’t want to offer up 50 or 100 Plugins and see some of them barely used. We simply analyzed what functionality our customers use and want most. That’s how we selected data visualization, firmware over-the-air, and Azure integration as the first Plugins. So far, we’ve been thrilled to have Datacake, Mender and Tartabit on the platform.”

With the addition of third-party tools to an offering that already has many partners supporting coverage in 165 countries, Rook said 1NCE is fulfilling a role as an “invisible partner” underpinning the global IoT ecosystem, “a bit like a utility company.” 

He added, “Partners need to have great services to be in our ecosystem, but also accept the same commitments we make to our customers. Price transparency. No contracts with big minimum commitments or hidden fees. Easy self-service options without the need to talk to salespeople. No monetizing customer data.”

All of these aspects are designed to limit churn and engender stickiness, though Rook really does not like the latter term to describe what 1NCE is up to. “I do not believe in stickiness, which means customers stay because they can’t leave,” he said. “That’s a horrible thought when you think about it. I do believe in customer loyalty — this means customers stay because they do not want to go. And may I point out that we have zero churn, so I guess we are on the right track.”