Willing the IoT Forward: Wiliot Enters New Stage of Growth

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By Tancred Taylor | 2Q 2022 | IN-6509

In which Wiliot releases its second-generation asset tag and sets out on its quest for scale.

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New Year, New Wiliot

NEWS


Since the start of the year, Wiliot has been entering its second phase of growth, setting the stage with two major announcements. The first came in January 2022, with the release of Wiliot’s ‘Starter Kit’, consisting of their signature battery-free ‘Pixel’ tags and a small ‘Bridge’ device, which is required to energize the tags and read the information received from the tag. The information would usually then be transmitted to a gateway, which can be a dedicated gateway, an Access Point (AP), or a smartphone, depending on what the required setup is; but in the case of the Starter Kit, it is likely to be simply the user’s smartphone.

The second major announcement came in March 2022, with the release of Wiliot’s upgraded tags (V2 Pixel) and software platform, Universal Automation Platform (UAP). The new tags, previously released to small numbers of customers for trials, are now available for all customers to purchase. The touted benefits of the new tags include double the transmission and charging range, and a faster data transmission rate (up to five times faster than the Version 1.0). The faster data transmission rate is important because of the way Pixel tags transmit signals; since the energy source is not guaranteed to be continuous, the signal is broken into ten pieces, and each piece is read and reconstructed within the Wiliot cloud. A faster data transmission speed increases the chance of all pieces being read, improving data quality and reducing leakage. The UAP is also an important development since it expands Wiliot’s software from being cloud-only to also running on the device edge. While this is still an early version, the UAP will make devices more selective about what data to send, providing a first level of filtering for the data and removing some of the work burden from Wiliot’s cloud.

Dreams of Being Both Mainstream and Edgy

IMPACT


So far, Wiliot has been focusing on a small number of large companies, mostly engaged in trials or limited deployments. The release of the starter kit and the second-generation tag signal a shift in strategy: Wiliot has passed the stage of technology trials, completed Proof of Concepts (PoC) with customers, and is now moving to scale. The starter kit enables customers to trial the technology on their own, increasing the exposure of the company. Instead of taking the technology directly to customers for each and every use-case and application, Wiliot’s tags and software platform are at the stage where they can take a more hands-off approach, waiting for customers to come to them and enabling these customers to use Wiliot’s customizable platform to build their own applications. This clearly signals a shift in strategy, from a deliberately small initial customer base to a much broader audience.

While the abilities of the tag are important, Wiliot doesn’t actually make any money off this part of the solution as hardware designs are provided for free to hardware manufacturers (using the same machinery used for making Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags), who then independently sell the tags to customers (at a price around US$0.10, comparable to RFID). Wiliot itself monetizes the software element whenever one of these tags is activated. Pricing for the platform is low and varies based on the value created by the required activity. Customers wanting product identity alone for traceability purposes are charged around US$0.10 per year and per tag, while additional activities such as condition sensing (e.g., temperature, humidity, etc.) or analytical insights into asset movements are charged incrementally higher, often in the realm of an additional US$0.15 per year. The cloud and software platform is therefore Wiliot’s powerhouse as it carries out sensing (no physical sensors are required on the device), enables customers to build out their own workflows and applications, and provides data analytics functions based on the ingested data. The latest upgrade to this came last year in Wiliot’s release of Sensing-as-a-Service (SaaS). Wiliot’s UAP for the device edge is basic but is a natural extension of its cloud capabilities and, importantly, will create the foundation for more intelligent tags such that Wiliot will continue to be able to push the performance metrics of the tag in coming years.

Wiliot has so far been strong in its ability to provide a digital ID for a product to facilitate asset traceability, supported by its work with GS1 standards used globally for many traceability initiatives. In the past, however, the company has suffered from comparison to RFID due to the need for gateway-type infrastructure and due to performance metrics which were similar to the incumbent RFIDs. These upgrades to the hardware platform help it to break away from that comparison, since the increased range and power harvesting capabilities of the tag result in fewer infrastructure requirements. Increasingly, the tag is becoming more comparable with mainstream Bluetooth battery-powered tags which are already frequently used in asset visibility applications, but the current offering will be available at a fraction of the cost. The upgrade to the hardware platform means that Wiliot can move beyond its initial ability to provide a digital ID of a product, and actually enable Real-Time Track and Trace (RTTT) through already-existing Wide Access Network (WAN) infrastructure. No asset visibility vendors currently have an offering for RTTT and traceability in a single offering. Some have started offering these through partnerships or through acquisitions, but Wiliot’s tag and software is an important step to bridging the current gap between RTTT and traceability, creating far greater Return on Investment (ROI) opportunities from connected assets.

Inflexion Point

RECOMMENDATIONS


Wiliot is at an important point in its growth, moving from technology PoCs and limited deployments with large customers to the opportunity for massive numbers of connected products. To achieve this, the company must:

  • Continue to build out its Sensing-as-a-Service cloud, where the value of the solution is generated. This includes the ability to assign metadata to tags (currently, tags can be associated with an asset, but the data must be enriched with metadata in the customer cloud), among other features.
  • Continue to evolve its hardware platform, in particular focusing on less reliance on a Bridge to energize the tag and on longer tag range to keep creeping closer to the current performance of battery-powered Bluetooth tags, which have already proven their use. While Bridges are low-cost, Wiliot will only be able to achieve scale by enabling software development kits allowing standard gateways, APs, and smartphones to become tag-energizers.
  • Target the right applications initially. While Wiliot’s opening of the floodgates to a broader audience will generate more inbound interest, Wiliot should also strategically target important growth areas. Two areas where ABI Research anticipates great growth are in Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) tracking and food supply chain Track & Trace. Wiliot should not only pursue opportunities in these, but also focus their attention on dashboards, insights, and analytics specific to those application areas. This is where current asset visibility leaders excel.
  • Build out partner networks. Wiliot can provide an important middle-layer software platform for asset visibility by collecting, aggregating, and providing some analytics on inbound data. However, both to reach scale and to generate value, they must work with hardware providers (such as WAN tracker manufacturers and gateway/AP manufacturers); with data aggregators (such as telematics aggregation platforms like FourKites, or analytics providers like TransVoyant); and with enterprise systems, which will be the final repository of all enterprise data.

The technology is proven to work, which has been the advantage of Wiliot’s deliberately educational limited-release strategy with major companies so far. The next steps are all about go-to-market strategy, which will put to the test Wiliot’s business model and its ability to scale.

 

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