Background:IoT challenges faced by a hardware startup
WHILL is a personal mobility device with a stylish design and intuitive ride feel and controls. It’s a new form of transport that everyone will want to use.
Connecting the WHILL to the Internet was an idea we had had for some time, as it would allow a range of new uses. However, we come from backgrounds in hardware like cameras and mobile phones, so telecommunications and the cloud were a bit unfamiliar to us. Also, given the battery constraints of the device, we knew there would be some challenges to offering Internet connectivity.
Business hurdles:a flexible approach to system configuration enables faster development speed
When developing new features, we build demo products and prototypes we can loan to users and refine the development while testing out actual equipment. Previously, whenever we changed the structure of our back-end systems, we would have to visit prototype users in person and tweak the settings manually in the devices. Since this ecosystem didn’t cater for making changes on the fly, it was taking us a long time to get to a stage where we could have a full-scale user test.
How it works
Why SORACOM was chosen:embedding small-scale communications in the product and letting the cloud do the heavy lifting
We currently use SORACOM Air and SORACOM Beam in our demo units and in the prototypes for WHILL beta test, which launched in February of 2016.
We use SORACOM Air to manage devices and start/ stop SIM data communication. In the future, we imagine the possibility of programmatically controlling communications via the API during manufacturing and shipping process.
Making most of WHILL’s functionality as a mobility device requires that we minimize communication load on it. SORACOM Beam converts UDP and TCP to HTTPS in the cloud, which we use for routing purposes. SORACOM handles the secure transfer of data for us in the cloud. The connection is converted to HTTPS on the cloud and sent to our server, allowing us to securely transfer data using a small packet size. Thanks to this feature, we’ve been able to drastically cut down on development time and keep battery consumption down. By changing routing settings, when content changes, we can easily change the server-side setup and toggle the connection in the cloud.
We also make use of the IMSI IDs of the SIMs and the timestamp feature. We realized that sending the machine’s serial number was a waste of data. To that end, we identify devices by the internal IMSI ID on each SIM, which we then check against the serial number on the cloud in SORACOM.
Future plans:what connectivity will allow the WHILL to do
We want to power WHILL up to meet the needs of users. We want to be able to upload GPS coordinates and battery state levels from WHILL and work with the data to offer services for users safety. We have high hopes that this new form of connectivity will let WHILL bring new, exciting, and convenient experiences to riders.
Muneaki Fukuoka, CTO
Genki Omori, software engineer