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As IoT Becomes a Real Time Sport One Company Turns the Network Inside Out

By Cynthia S. Artin
December 05, 2018

The real value in the IoT and Industrial IoT (IIoT) is not being created by simple applications that occasionally ping devices for basic information; while understanding the health of those connected devices is useful, applications that not only poll devices but help control those devices are driving greater cost savings and more innovation.

2018 may be remembered as the end of the beginning of the “original IoT” and the beginning of the end of small Proof-of-Concept deployments giving way to massive, distributed implementations intensified by the advancement of data processing in huge volumes, at the edge of the network, in edge data centers, and in any variety of clouds.

Go big or go home is shaping up to be a rallying cry for 2019, and as we race towards the beginning of the new year, with tremendous strides having been made this year in solving for compute, security, embedded software and hardware combinations and clearer regulation, we’re on the threshold of real, real time IoT solutions.

There is no more enthusiastic real time IoT enthusiast than the colorful Simon Jones, a visionary marketeer and chief story telling officer at PubNub, an IoT device control company with a global footprint and challenger network, supporting real time updates (including geotracking and alerts) to connect devices globally.

PubNub is a fast growing, impressively backed company rolling out enabling technologies within the IoT space that help make everything from connected devices and cars to industrial applications and manufacturing processes more intelligent.

Jones, a Silicon Valley veteran with two decades' experience in building, marketing, and selling disruptive B2B products, found a good home at PubNub after serving as chief evangelist and head of marketing for Cedexis, an Internet traffic management company which was acquired by Citrix earlier this year. Prior to Cedexis, he successfully built and unleashed the value of companies like Ooyala (acquired by Telstra), Plimus (acquired by Great Hill Partners), and Hyperion (acquired by Oracle).

A quick-witted graduate of Oxford University, when Jones is not in the valley, he lives in Burlingame with his wife and three kids, coaching baseball when he’s not working on challenging the status quo, now in the IoT / IIoT space.

Jones sees a continued explosion of growth in 2019, based on general observation of the industry and a stronger collective will to drive forward with more mature standards, open source communities and practical approaches, but also on what PubNub has itself experienced in terms of mass deployments and growth of traffic over their unique network.

“I was attracted to PubNub given that this company is solving for problems enterprises may not realize they have,” Jones said. “The bigger implementations get, the more complicated they get – with more end points, more data, and realization of additional value that can be layered in as the world wakes up to the true potential of connected products, including smart cars.” 

Jones’ “pattern recognition” after meeting with customers, partners and prospects working with PubNub includes three big problems:

“First, real time applications have to connect a broad array of devices across a lot of networks, with a variety of protocols,” Jones said. “We have 75 APIs, multiple SDKs, and a developer platform, not just a transmission network, which makes it possible to manage all the moving parts. This has been profoundly valuable to our ecosystem and the end-customers we and our ecosystem serve.”

Once the first phase of a project is designed, Jones explained the second big problem: “Now that you’ve gotten connected, how can you share data intelligently? What is your publish/subscribe model? As your audience extends in distance, how will you maintain fast connections – this is not easy to do on a traditional network.”

Jones called these first two problems the genesis of PubNub, including the hard work involved in building a cloud-based, more virtualized platform and network eliminating the need to “get more boxes, load balancers, traffic management technologies, and so forth. Think about how hard it is to get social TV to work, for example,” Jones said. “Companies hit a wall at 25K users; when it comes to online gaming, the challenges get even harder. Jones sees PubNub’s Data Stream Network as a much simpler way for companies to roll out digital services, whether connected things or people. “The secret to PubNub’s success has been the investment in thousands of servers around the world, geolocations with 15 large PoPs, plus a low-level orchestration layer that runs on bare metal enabling synchronization in real time.  When a message is published on our network, that messages goes out automatically to all servers in the world and can be picked up and delivered locally in under one quarter of a second.”

Jones believes their Data Stream Network is the future of SLAs: “We actually do deliver a Five9’s level of confidence, and that is what the IoT industry needs to deliver the assurances and value to large enterprises, which becomes deeply important to initiatives like smart buildings, cities and regions – smart homes, cars and energy grids.”

The third big problem Jones said needed to be solved? Ease of coding. “If networking is an element in the design of a product or system, developers must be able to code to it,” Jones said, pointing out that PubNub’s network architecture includes serverless computing. “This programmatic flexibility is no longer just an option, it is a necessity as everything becomes increasingly connected. Developers need to be able to send messages to third part applications, for example, to traverse the network and run against an Amazon or IBM translation engine, automatically supporting multiple languages,” Jones said, offering up real time online gaming across the planet as one example of what PubNub supports today.

He calls the capability “Connect – Deliver – Control” but is more interested in the outcomes than the technical aspects. “Self-translating chats can change the world,” Jones said, “allowing connected products to scale, with people and devices co-existing in creative new ways. One of my favorite examples is the Happiest Baby IoT crib, which picks up on the movement and noise of baby, which starts rocking the cradle for example, allowing new parents much-needed rest.”

“As much as I admire all the software and hardware engineering and networking that goes into what we do here, nothing makes me happier than to see the most useful, often simple remote applications being brought to market – for example a bug bomb that can be initiated through a smartphone app, after the family leaves the home. The bug bomb kills the cockroaches with no threats to humans.”

Jones is also inspired by many successful large scale and growing implementations, like the network they support for Peleton. “Peleton has changed he landscape for bikes and fitness, providing not just physical exercise but connections with other people, with experts, and with leader boards, with encouraging high fives, and personalization for each rider. Our infrastructure has to work for Peleton’s value to be fully manifest, to support future innovation and keep them on top.”

Jones also takes great glee in sharing the experience of a PubNub customer who invented a game that goes with pay-per-view streaming sports league games. “Our customer created an interactive mobile bat and ball game, which was so compelling it got people to sit through a four-hour match they may have otherwise bailed out of. Engaging with the community made it so much more fun, that for one event, over ten million players streamed over two billion messages. Two billion! We helped these entrepreneurs morph TV-watching into interactive play, and that drove up ad revenues and value.”

Jones says that without delivering a developer platform along with a “transmission network” none of this would work. “Using our SDKs and APIs along with our delivery mechanism makes it possible for developers to innovate, including mid-stream manipulations in gaming, for example, creating immersive, interactive experiences, and distinctive chat features that can all be optimized over a global data stream network.”

One little known fact Jones loved to share? “PubNub sends and receives twice as many messages a day as Snapchat, Twitter and other social messaging platforms combined. We’ve been doing it in production for over six years.”

We’ll be catching up again soon with Jones, including capturing and sharing what are sure to be the most colorful IoT predictions for 2019. In the meantime, you can also check out this feature on The Blockchain Domain about PubNub’s vision for interactive gaming and how blockchain can play a role in making it easier, more automatic, more secure and more intuitive to exchange assets as part of real time mobile and online game play.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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