US startup Mode aims to handle the back end for IoT companies and developers

The company, whose co-founders worked at Google and Yahoo, just closed its first round of funding

There's no shortage of hype surrounding the Internet of Things, but technologies tailor-made for it are still few and far between. Enter Mode, a startup that on Monday announced a cloud platform designed specifically with the IoT in mind.

Created by former Google engineer Gaku Ueda and former Yahoo engineer Ethan Kan, Mode's namesake new cloud platform focuses on connecting mobile applications with hardware devices in real time. The platform provides a cloud API for devices, mobile clients and application servers, offering IoT developers a back-end infrastructure that's designed to span the entire development cycle, from prototyping to product launch.

Mode enters a highly competitive market as a small player among larger rivals, so it has a tough road ahead. The company has only four employees, and just closed its first round of funding, in which it secured $775,000 from Metamorphic Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers and several angel investors in Silicon Valley. The company will use the new funds from this initial round to start serving high-volume traffic on its platform.

However, the company has a strategy for approaching potential customers in its early days. It's targeting small IoT companies with its platform, which is currently available for use with any device or mobile operating system. Mode offers free prototyping on its platform as well as a flexible pricing structure for mass production.

"This is not like a cloud service where you just sign up and do everything yourself -- we'll work with you closely," said Ueda, the company's CEO. Down the road, Mode aims to begin targeting larger companies as well with a more fully featured offering.

Mode will be able to stand out because its platform is flexible and extensible as well as broad in scope, Ueda said.

By handling back-end services such as user and device management and secure real-time access control, the new platform aims to free IoT companies to focus on essential capabilities such as hardware manufacturing and the mobile user experience, according to Mode.

It is encouraging to see a company develop a platform designed to cover the core IoT requirements, according to analyst Vernon Turner, an IDC fellow for the Internet of Things market.

The IoT relies upon three key pieces, Turner noted: technology for mobile connectivity, a cloud infrastructure for scaling the massive number of sensors that need to be connected, and an analytics engine. By offering a central management platform, Mode is addressing a widespread need, he added.

Players such as IBM and Hitachi Data Systems have already tossed their proverbial hats into the IoT platform ring, but most of them address pieces of the platform rather than covering it end to end, Turner said. "For Mode to be successful, it will need to build out an ecosystem of partners" on both the IT and industrial ends, including contenders such as GE, Bosch, Schneider Electric and PTC, he said.

Given the potential range of sources from which IoT devices will come, another key factor will be interoperability with other cloud environments, he said.

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