Particle Raises $40 Million To Make IoT Easy, Connect The Next 15 Billion Devices, And Maybe Even Fix California’s Fires
IoT platform Particle has raised a $40 million series C round of venture capital to make the consumer and enterprise Internet of Things easy. So easy that one customer, Jacuzzi, brought a smart, connected hot tub from napkin drawing to market in less than six months.
“We offer a fully-integrated approach that allows companies to deliver an IoT product that is secure, deliverable, and reliable very quickly,” Particle CEO Zach Supalla told me. “We’ve been able to take a complex technology stack and simplify it … you don’t need deep technical expertise to build a product anymore.”
That means Particle offers everything companies need to build IoT initiatives and connect a smart product: hardware, software, and connectivity. That gets you real-time data, device management, wireless connectivity via cellular or mesh protocols, and all the building blocks you need for application enablement for your IoT ecosystem. Particle last raised money in summer 2017: a $20 million series B.
At the time, I commented that it was cleaning up the chaos of more than 450 separate IoT platforms. That mess, along with an increasing drive to IoT transformation and a growing build-it-inside mentality, has led to massive product flaws and insecurities which hackers have used to attack internet infrastructure – and breach consumer privacy. Now, Particle is focused on helping enterprises bring everything online, securely. Even the unsexy businesses that you might not think need to, such as supply chain. (IoT is not just about smart homes, although they tend to get all the press.)
“Over the last seven years we’ve seen a wide range of business embrace IoT, especially those driving innovation in traditional industries,” Supalla said in a statement. “More and more of our customers are in old-fashioned, even unglamorous, businesses like stormwater management, industrial equipment, shipping, or monitoring any number of compressors, pumps, and valves. These businesses are diverse, but the common thread is that they need to monitor and control mission-critical machines, and we see it as our mission to help bring their machines, vehicles, and devices into the 21st century.”
The goal is to increase efficiency and enhance workforce productivity. Sensor technology and smart objects, properly connected via cloud computing, has the potential to provide that. And Particle seems to be achieving that mission. At least from the numbers, it’s one of the IoT leaders, and has one of the most popular development solutions.
The company says it has almost 200,000 developers on its platform. More than 85 enterprise companies are customers, and Particle grew million-dollar customers 300% in 2019. All told, existing customers are gathering more than 22 billion sensor data points annually. All that data could soon help prevent the kind of forest fires – and power outages – that are currently ravaging California.
While 80 million U.S. homes now have smart power meters, Supalla told me, there aren’t nearly enough sensors on the entire transmission system. There’s good end-user data, but not enough information from between the power plant and the end user.
Better sensors and smarter technology that immediately detects downed wires could potentially switch off electricity locally, reducing sparking risk as well as the need to preemptively shut down power for entire neighborhoods. And a smarter grid with distributed power generation and storage that was more for sharing power between producer/consumers than sending it from centralized production facilities in only one direction – out to consumers – would also be more resilient to environmental factors.
Think of products like Tesla’s solar roof and PowerWall, for instance, with the ability to share power as desired and accept power when needed, in nearly every home. In addition, better management can reduce our need for power entirely.
“Particle has a role to play in helping reduce our reliance on the current energy economy … reducing consumption,” says Supalla. “And in addressing the challenges related to climate change more broadly … one customer, Opti, provides water management data so that cities can more intelligently user existing water resources.”
Another customer, Shifted Energy, uses solar power via “grid interactive water heaters’ to heat water during the day and keep it available for later use. Essentially, they’re storing energy in water like a battery, and reducing reliance on both the grid as well as power generation facilities.
According to the latest numbers from IoT Analytics, there are currently more than seven billion smart IoT devices on the planet, not including smartphones. That’s set to grow to 22 billion, including embedded systems, by the year 2025.
If we’re going to connect that additional 15 billion devices, we’re going to need smart, secure, and easy ways to do it. Particle thinks it is precisely that solution, and has raised $40 million to prove it. Investors in this round include Qualcomm and Energy Impact Partners, plus prior investors. It’s worth noting that the cybersecurity awareness piece is huge.
With 22 billion smart devices on the internet in just a few years, there’s clear potential for hackers to build the botnet to end all botnets. That means security needs to be paramount in IoT initiatives, smart objects, and the communication between them and cloud computing. Particle is secure, the company says, because it is a vertically-integrated stack with intense focus on avoiding hacks and leaks.
This article originally appeared on forbes.com To read the full article and see the images, click here.
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