Apigee aims to unify IoT with APIs

Apigee Link is cloud and device software to bridge devices and the Internet

Internet of Things devices aren't terribly useful without apps and services. Apigee says it can help glue these elements together using APIs.

Makers of connected gadgets like lightbulbs, thermostats and motion detectors know how to build objects that can talk to each other across a room, often through a hub that can corral different types of devices together. But there are a lot more layers of software and communication between that and the Internet, where the rubber really hits the road in terms of making IoT useful.

That's where Apigee thinks it can fit in. The company specializes in APIs (application programming interfaces), the intermediaries between devices, apps and services from different providers. It already works with many vendors and carriers, including SAP and AT&T, to help them give outside developers access to their back-end platforms. On Tuesday it introduced Apigee Link, a software product specifically for IoT.

Apigee Link is based on Zetta, an open-source IoT platform that Apigee launched last year. Like a Linux distributor, the company provides the underlying technology free through Zetta but sells enterprise support and cloud services to customers that don't want to do all the work themselves. As a result, it's not necessary for the whole IoT industry to buy into proprietary Apigee technology to ensure many different products and applications can work together, according to Brian Mulloy, the company's IoT research head.

The first customer using Apigee Link is CentraLite, which makes home automation products for brands including Lowe's and Comcast. CentraLite builds hardware with the ZigBee protocol for short-range, low-power networking, and uses open-source ZigBee drivers. It turns to Apigee for APIs to connect with the Internet through protocols like WebSockets, Mulloy said.

Apigee Link doesn't directly address the standards battle between groups like the AllSeen Alliance and the Open Interconnect Consortium over how to make a house full of tiny low-power devices find each other and form networks. Instead, it's focused on the Internet side of IoT. Apigee Link software runs mostly in the cloud, as well as on the larger, more powerful hub devices at the center of local networks. It also includes libraries for iOS and Android for creating mobile apps that talk to IoT devices.

It may also have a role to play in enterprise. There's a huge need for mechanisms to connect products that are built on industry-specific standards to the Internet world and its common standards, said James Brehm, an IoT industry analyst at James Brehm & Associates.

"The greatest problem that most companies are going to have is that there still are all these standards out there," Brehm said. In industries like construction, both hardware and applications often are built to work with those standards. The problem comes when users want to make use of the data coming from IoT devices and don't have a common way to work with it. Apigee Link could help to solve that problem, he said.

Apigee Link also taps into the company's API management system, Apigee Edge, and its predictive analytics platform, Apigee Insights. It's available now for select customers and will be widely available later this year, the company said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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