Stream Technologies (News - Alert) is a privately owned company, headquartered in Canary Wharf, London, with regional offices in San Jose, Singapore and Vancouver, as well as an M2M Tech Lab and in-house technical developer, support and infrastructure design team based in Glasgow, Scotland. The company is a leading innovator in the IoT space, operating as a specialist cellular and satellite MVNO, but is also fast gaining recognition for IoT-X, its platform as a service for wireless carriers and operators of low power radio, cellular, and satellite services. IoT-X is a connectivity enablement management and billing platform designed from the ground up for the M2M and IoT sectors.
M2M Evolution magazine recently spoke with Nigel Chadwick (News - Alert), CEO of Stream Technologies, to learn more.
Tell us about how and when Stream came about.
The company was founded by two entrepreneurs back at the turn of the millennium, who to this day remain the major shareholders, and continue to drive the company forward from strategic and operational perspectives, pursuing a global strategy in M2M and IoT.
How has the company moved forward since then? And what are your plans for growth from here on out?
Ask around with those in the know and you will quickly find that Stream's technical capability is very highly respected. Through continuous technical innovations and M2M sector firsts since its start up, Stream has evolved a unique and compelling set of services, underpinned by superlative technical expertise and experience born through 14 years of delivering M2M and IoT wireless services worldwide. I believe Stream is now poised to undergo exponential growth over the next 24 months and beyond.
The IoT market is in hyper-growth mode, with larger enterprise customers seeking global deployments. MNOs and satellite operators are increasingly pushing to take a slice of the market, and entrants such as Google (via the Nest acquisition), PTC, Cisco (News - Alert), and many others too, all now seek to play in the IoT space. New companies currently in stealth mode will also help drive expansion of the sector. Stream's IoT-X platform and our backhaul infrastructure is brilliantly poised to become the glue, if you like, of the wireless connectivity layer required by pretty much every organization playing in the IoT space.
Many companies sell IoT platforms. What makes your unique?
There are many platforms either already in the IoT sector, or in stealth and beta modes awaiting full release. The $112 million sale of ThingWorx to PTC, followed by their purchase of Axeda (News - Alert) for $270 million, highlights the value of the platform play.
Unfortunately, there has been little recognition of the significant difference in platforms. I tend to generally categorise platforms into three types: device management, application layer, and wireless (e.g., cellular) connectivity enablement/management – although how many categories exist is, in my opinion, much less important than the rarity of the last category.
The number of available wireless connectivity enablement platforms out there when one takes a close look is extremely limited. This is somewhat ironic, given that wireless connectivity is so pervasive. I do think that there has been a widespread misguided belief that cellular connectivity is a commodity – that any single mobile network operator can service the entire needs of all its IoT customers. However, this, I feel, is now beginning to change as IoT enterprise clients and many MNOs themselves realize that enterprise clients demand a choice of cellular services both regionally and internationally, coupled with a single connectivity enablement, management and billing platform, integrated with a single private APN and resilient backhaul infrastructure. All this, as well as having the ability to offer customers options of low power radio network and satellite services alongside 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE on a global basis, adds up to a very valuable proposition.
This integrated infrastructure, designed from the ground up for IoT and M2M, together with global and regional diversity in choice of network services, supported on our IoT-X platform is what sets Stream apart in the IoT space. Furthermore, our platform adopts an off-network virtual state of a network approach, meaning it can be integrated into MNO infrastructures within weeks via APIs, at very minimal cost and zero technical investment by the MNO. This virtual state of network approach truly sets Stream apart from all other players in the platform space and is resulting in MNOs looking to adopt the platform for their own use to manage IoT connections in their own country, as well as to enable collaboration with other network operators regionally or worldwide. It is particularly appealing to smaller MNOs around the world and those operators without any IoT/M2M enablement platform/capability, or other operators seeking a platform layer that can provide a single viewpoint across multiple platforms that might already be in use by different MNOs.
In addition, we have been evolving and innovating the IOTx platform for over 9 years, automating all new features and updates, which has created the industry’s most proven, flexible and robust platform. With over 500 enterprise customers and growing, Stream has the deep experience to be the connectivity platform of choice for IoT.
What does the overlay concept mean for MNOs? How can Stream stand alone, or act as a unification platform, meaning IoT-X can manage not only Stream connections, but other connectivity platforms such as Jasper, Kore, Vodafone, Wyless (News - Alert), etc.?
This is an incredibly important feature: The ability to provide a single viewpoint and management layer across multiple platforms alongside operators, which currently have no platform capability in IoT/M2M and wish to compete effectively and efficiently in this fast growth sector.
Our IoT-X platform effectively presents a virtual state off-network via basic APIs, so it is a technically non-intrusive approach to MNO network infrastructure. If Stream's backhaul infrastructure is also replicated with the host MNO (the platform can be taken independently of replicated backhaul infrastructure), then a whole additional set of functionality can also be provided on top of fundamental SIM management and billing.
A private APN approach, together with other technologies we have evolved, combine to provide an outstanding feature set, all designed for IoT and M2M. This includes giving the MNO the ability to monitor data usage, to set limits and alerts, as well as pre-pay, which we believe will become increasingly prevalent within the sector as IoT wireless-enabled devices permeate the consumer market.
So, Stream's IoT-X platform can either stand alone as a connectivity platform for use by an MNO, it can overlay multiple platforms across a number of operators which seek to collaborate across on a regional or global basis, or it can be utilized by different wireless operator types to provide diversity of choice (i.e., cellular, satellite), all managed via a single virtual platform. As far as our own use of the platform is concerned, we will not use it to compete with our MNO customers who adopt the IoT-X platform, but will adopt a collaborative approach to optimize the services to the end customer.
When it comes to IP networking, what is Stream’s competitive differentiator?
Stream's expertise in IP networking has been founded on 14 years of experience at designing backhaul infrastructures for IoT – a private Internet for Things, if you like. We seek to ensure, as far as possible within the realms of current available technologies, that data will get to where it needs to be and when it is meant to be there, without compromise.
By adopting a holistic approach to treatment of IP-related data trafficking… we have evolved a wireless media-agnostic set of technologies ideal for providing monitoring, measuring, managing and monetizing IP-related data communications from any endpoint. We refer to these as the four M’s.
This gets pretty powerful in terms of the end-to-end data transiting from connected things within the Internet of Things. IoT-X is the only platform that enables the four M's across LPRN, cellular and satellite. Irrespective of wireless transit type or carrier, it facilitates also new types of what we call drop-in networks – private wireless networks for IoT and M2M, whereby an LPRN enables localized endpoint devices to send and receive data anywhere in the world via 3G/4G/LTE or satellite gateways. Drop-in networks [allow for] fully managed data transit paths from source to destination, which can either be temporary network infrastructures or permanent. This enables rapid networking capability of smart cities or elements thereof, for example. Or it may create a network infrastructure for use in emergencies, in areas where a cellular signal isn't available or is patchy, or where a temporary event or situation requires a short-term, private wireless Internet for things to be set up.
What beyond technology is a Stream differentiator?
Given that Stream has been focused exclusively on providing the highest quality wireless network services to the IoT space since 2000, we have created a company with substantial technical expertise, born from experience across multiple wireless technologies. This has resulted in quality enterprise customers worldwide, some of the largest brand names around, looking to Stream for not only services but honest, experience-based advice.
Everything we do technically is quality driven – relentlessly so. For example, our super resilient backhaul infrastructure is built to an N+1 standard and ran with 99.9999 percent uptime last year, while the packet loss mitigation technology we integrate ensures network optimization, resulting in superior data transit speeds and signal attachment. These innovations, design philosophies, and technical support services all combine for an exceptional customer experience in terms of enabling IoT deployment. Furthermore, because we do everything in-house, we can adopt a very flexible approach when engaging with network operators that seek adoption of our IoT-X platform.
The fact [that] we are privately owned, and without external investment, means we are free to be technically innovative around the future development of IoT-X, the pricing structures relating to capex and opex around IoT-X, as well as other services; and to engage with like-minded and dynamic technically innovative companies globally, with which we can collaborate to add value to our proposition. A lot of this is about integration of services and removing what I call friction across all aspects of the business model. These attributes seem to be attractive to organizations, which seek collaboration at a technical and commercial level. They appeal to customers which include enterprise clients seeking services direct, as well as MNOs which will benefit from IoT-X and the global connectivity, the platform can open up to their own end customers.
In recent years, as commercial rollouts have gathered pace and have started to internationalize, it has become very clear that even the smallest of issues with network quality become unmanageable when scaling of deployment of devices happens. This is magnified further when deployment extends regionally and globally.
Our experience has taught us that backhaul infrastructure and platform design absolutely need to keep scalability and resilience the top priorities. We have effectively re-invested profits over many years, innovating, developing, and building what we have today. Customers recognize this; they want to deal with a single company with the requisite expertise and experience. High growth IoT customers don't want to deal with multiple platforms, billing systems, or technical teams across different geographies – it’s just too much friction and risk. IoT-X certainly seems to be creating customers that are sticky, long term, and which have a loyalty – they understand the value we help drive within their organizations. Our IoT-X platform lets enterprise end customers focus on their core business by taking care of their IoT wireless network services in the most efficient and effective way. MNOs are now fast recognizing this too, in particular tier 2 and 3s or the smaller ones around the world as the Stream platform enables them for the first time to effectively begin servicing their home country IoT sector to the highest quality at an optimal price point.
Edited by Maurice Nagle