Afero thinks it has the right solution to clear up the messy Internet of Things market.
The Los Altos-based startup sells almost everything a company needs to hook up a device to the internet. The startup provides a tiny Bluetooth module with its own custom firmware on top to improve security and eliminates the need to pair. It helps companies run the backend cloud services attached to the connected device. And then it provides development tools — called the Afero Profile Editor, or APE — for building the services on top of the internet-connected device.
The company announced on Wednesday it has raised a $20.3 million Series A round to help it build a business around this platform. The round was led by Samsung (specifically the Samsung Catalyst Fund), an enthusiastic cheerleader of the Internet of Things market. Other investors include Presidio Ventures, Sanshin Electronics Co. Ltd., SoftBank, Fenox Venture Capital, Assembly Fund and Robert Dobkin.
The company has an impressive cofounder: Joe Britt, a former high-up Google GOOGL -0.83%engineer on the Android team who also cofounded phone maker Danger with Andy Rubin, the creator of Android.
So far, Afero’s customers include three large Japanese companies: manufacturer Murata, healthcare IT provider Infocom and video game publisher Bandai Namco Studios. Bandai, for example, plans on building internet-connected toys using Afero’s platform.
Britt said Afero has been helping out a number of unidentified customers on building internet-connected sensors. Afero is working with an insurance company that wants to build moisture sensors to detect leaks. The Bluetooth-enabled moisture sensor would connect to Afero’s hub, which has both WiFi and LTE cellular connection.
The idea behind Afero is nothing new. There are an army of companies and services promising to help people make their devices internet connected. Britt says the big difference between Afero and the rest is its emphasis on security and that it provides the entire hardware and software stack needed to make anything internet connected.
Britt thinks back to his days on the web in the early 90s when there was no standard HTML protocol. Web developers had to possess significant technical expertise in order to work on the web. But once HTML came along, all of a sudden almost anybody could figure out how to publish on the web. “A high school kid could publish at the same level as a multi-billion dollar corporation,” Britt said. That opened the door to an explosion of activity on the web. Now, Britt argued, the world needs that for the Internet of Things.
“Other IoT platforms are still exposing substantial technical knowledge to their customers,” argued Britt. “Whereas with the tools we’ve created, it really boils down the concepts to high-level building blocks that customers can plug together.”