Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Electric Imp service streamlines cellular connectivity

Steve Rogerson
June 5, 2018

IoT connectivity firm Electric Imp has announced its ImpCellular service that streamlines and simplifies the effort companies typically endure when implementing cellular connectivity for their IoT devices.
More than 1.5 million connected devices have been built with the California company’s IoT connectivity platform, which has been used by Eaton, Pitney Bowes and more than 100 other companies. The platform is purpose-built for IoT with fully integrated hardware, OS, security, APIs and cloud services to decrease the cost and time-to-market of connected products while increasing security, scalability and flexibility.
Unlike other cellular IoT technologies on the market, ImpCellular leverages Electric Imp’s platform architecture to simplify the process of developing, shipping and maintaining cellular connected devices. Users are never exposed to SIMs, activation, complex price plans or carrier requirements; connectivity is said to be as easy as applying power.
“We developed ImpCellular specifically to solve the complex, time-consuming and costly development process involved in most cellular IoT projects,” said Hugo Fiennes, CEO and co-founder of Electric Imp. “With the addition of cellular connectivity, our customers have another compelling option to easily, rapidly and cost-effectively achieve zero-install secure connectivity for their IoT applications. The complete connectivity package is combined with our standard edge-to-cloud security and lifecycle management services to help customers maximise the potential of real-time connectivity without the traditional complexities of deploying connected devices at scale.”
Building on the firm’s heritage in wifi and Ethernet connected devices, hybrid operation modes are also supported, allowing devices to use opportunistically and securely lower cost networks when available. For example, telematics applications can send high volumes of buffered sensor data over wifi when a lorry is at a loading bay, but only send location data and alerts over cellular when moving. Cellular backup can also be used to improve the reliability of stationary applications, such as smart vending machines.
One early user of ImpCellular is Operant Solar, which developed a mesh networked monitoring system for solar panel installations that initially used Imp005-powered wifi backhaul.
“The changes required to move our product to cellular literally took us one afternoon,” said Rod Sugiyama, Operant Solar’s COO. “The Electric Imp platform allows us to provide resilient, trouble-free internet connectivity for photovoltaic inverters at a very attractive cost point.”
The initial product is the high end ImpC001, which offers LTE cat one and 3G operation combined with local processing and a range of application IO. Models are available for the USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Following towards the end of the year will be the ImpC002, a cost and power optimised variant with a global Cat-M and NB-IoT radio.
“The Electric Imp cellular product is essential to our portfolio of options for customer connectivity,” said Regan Ryan, CTO of energy monitoring and control specialist GoodMeasure. “It gives our customers the freedom to pick wifi, Ethernet or LTE to suit their particular requirements. The energy industry is changing rapidly to meet new challenges and the Electric Imp cloud’s ability to work reliably and consistently across these communications media is just the advantage we need.”
Caleb Peterson, a product development engineer with Liberty Pumps, added: “One of the most exciting parts of the Electric Imp platform is the portability of the firmware between different hardware devices. We were able to move our code from a wifi device to the cellular device in just a few hours.”
And Dima Tokar, co-founder and head of research with MachNation, said: “Cellular connectivity is difficult to get right. To stand up their cellular-based IoT, companies have to work with multiple vendors while investing a lot of time and resources. Electric Imp provides a novel and compelling approach for addressing critical requirements and pain points of cellular connectivity. This can help companies overcome the complexity of cellular and accelerate their time to market.”
Pricing for Electric Imp’s cellular connectivity is based on the number of devices connected each month, with cellular data allowances automatically pooled across the user’s account and with no charges for devices that do not connect. In the USA, devices use T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon networks transparently.
Electric Imp, founded in 2011, is located in Los Altos, California, and Cambridge, England.