Making cloud-based infrastructure seem like child’s play

Making cloud-based infrastructure seem like child’s play

A cloud platform from an Irish start-up aims to be so simple to use that an eight-year-old can use it to connect a device to the internet in minutes, writes Ruth Doris.

Wia provides a cost-effective product for developers to turn sensor-based hardware into smart applications. Founder Conall Laverty says the platform is aimed at consumers for home and personal projects and small and medium-sized businesses.

Describing the platform as the “Stripe of the internet of Things” he said Wia aims to simplify the process of building systems.

“The old way of doing that was you’d have to go and build your own cloud infrastructure with lots of servers, databases and applications and spend months and months writing hundreds of thousands of lines of code trying to get something out there,” says Mr Laverty.

Wia removes all of that complexity so users can get up and get going in a few minutes, he said.

The team at Wia likes to think of the platform as “the place that enables people and things to talk to each other. And where developers start conversations with their devices with just a few lines of code and that enables them to see and hear all of the different things the device can do.”

Mr Laverty said it’s so simple to use that children of seven and eight years old can build things around the platform in a few minutes.

Giving the example of someone wanting to build a home-security system, he said “they’ll be able to take off-the-shelf components, build their own system and hook it up to our platform. And they send notifications automatically whenever that alarm is triggered.”

On the business side, Wia has a partnership with Sigfox, a “low power, low data network for the internet of things”.

Some of the companies Wia works with are in the area of asset tracking. One such company builds satellite tracking devices for rail wagons and connects them through the Wia platform. Wia captures the data and turns it into a useable application. “It turns these things from a piece of dumb hardware into a smart, intelligent application that is actually useful.”

Mr Laverty said Wia can help anyone build a system to simplify everyday tasks. “My mum was trying to figure out what we do. And now she gets it. She said to me ‘okay, you’re telling me you can build a device, connect it to your platform and then I can open and close the chicken coop remotely whenever I want.’ And I said ‘yes, that’s basically it’.”

Mr Laverty, who has been programming since he was eight, did a masters in computer games development and later joined Big Motive, building web searches, apps and games for companies including the BBC, Net-a-Porter, Channel 4, Samsung and Nokia.

Launched in Belfast in 2015, Wia moved to Dublin the following year, having secured a place on the National Digital Research Centre LaunchPad programme. Now based in Dogpatch Labs in the city, the company has a team of six, with an additional three new hires planned soon.

Earlier in 2017 Wia received €750,000 in seed funding from Waterford-based Suir Valley Ventures and extra funding from Enterprise Ireland. It now has developers in more than 85 companies using the platform. The model for businesses, according to Mr Laverty, is a “soft service” one which means users can sign up and get onto the platform without having to go through a sales team.

The platform is free to use for up to 10 devices, with a subscription of €59 per month for 250 devices. The pricing structure means anyone can build home and personal projects for free and small companies can get started without spending money that they don’t have trying to build prototypes, Mr Laverty said.

“It’s extremely cost-effective when you look at the costs that would be involved in hiring a bunch of developers, setting up all the servers, and having a team to maintain your back-end of infrastructure,” he said.

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