Rob: Why Arduino?
George Wayne: Arduino is at once the most atomic of Maker engines and the simplest to use for getting an experiment up and running. This is why it and its ecosystem are the most subscribed to DIY/Maker technologies by learners, hobbyists and innovators. Arduino is, hands down, simplest in that it is not necessary to learn a complex operating system like linux or mbed and their associated ecosystems in order to do something really cool. Rather, the effort to take your ideas directly into the natural world can be accomplished by skipping almost all the software technology learning curve, thus reaching your design goal with the least amount of time and effort. As our product name implies, we wrap Arduino in a sleek body and add wheels! Now your project is getting somewhere!
Rob: What were the major hurdles for you until now?
George Wayne: Our hurdles have consisted mainly of those that arise from being in an area where outside capital is somewhat scarce. The venture capital community here in the Southeastern U.S. prefers mainly software only and pharmaceutical projects. Companies that create innovative technologies and products consisting of hardware, firmware and application software generally either move somewhere else or self-fund. We have opted for the latter which, while greatly preserving the equity of the founders, has lengthened our time to market.
Rob: Where do you see your product in a year from now?
George Wayne: One year from now, Chariot, our flagship web-of-things offering for Arduino, besides being a sub-$25 product, will be available in a number of miniaturized versions. We believe that it will be used in high-volume, even disposable, applications. For example, we see it embedded in very small packages and scattered amongst the rubble of a building collapsed by an earthquake, listening for signs of life. It may be scattered by drones in an area that has become polluted by spillage or leakage over time of a toxic substance for detecting “hot-spots.” Chariot delivers very smart, low-power, self-configuring, mesh-forming technology that will find myriad monitoring and control uses by stakeholders in diverse markets.
Rob: Why is open source so important?
George Wayne: First and foremost it is very beneficial to free markets. Duplication of effort and capital is minimized, allowing allocations favoring innovation and useful application. Open source also has clear benefits in the areas of quality, security, interoperability, and supportability, all of which accrue from the scale that the open source approach invariably leads to. In the Maker world, this means a novice can dive into a sophisticated project with the help of thousands who have worked on projects sharing commonalities.
Rob: Why is it so difficult to convince VC that patenting is not the only road to business success?
George Wayne: The VC community often assumes that startups function identically to the likes of globalization plays like Google and Apple. Those behemoths use their IP portfolios to barter amongst themselves and limit market entrance to would-be competitors of all sizes. Patent IP is an asset class for them, and VC's often seek to replicate this approach in their startup portfolios. For some businesses, especially process-driven ones, patenting often makes sense. For so-called “zero-to-one” tech businesses, trade secreting is often the weapon of choice for gaining near exclusivity in a market segment. This strategy can often be used to eclipse the behemoth players constrained by public accountability and the bureaucratic sluggishness in their allocation of personnel and capital relative to small or startup companies.
Rob: How do you see the difference between WOT and IoT?
George Wayne: The simplest answer may be the best. In the Internet-of-Things, sensors, leds, switches, servos, gpio's, etc., are often just given IPv6 address space without specification of the layers above the network. That's certainly not to say that there won't be standard layers in those spaces, just that they are left to the discretion of the designers. In the Web-of-Things, each 'thing' is given a web address, such as “coaps://myEnterprise .local/sensors/temp/bldg-2/room3a,” or “coaps://chariot.c3515.local/arduino/digital&pin=13&val=1,” Web addressability allows resources, regardless of how atomic, to be grouped after the fashion of their natural structure. This is the approach taken by the IETF (see RFC 7252 for more), which provides for RESTful semantics in this realm. Importantly, this approach embraces the ability to “observe” things by performing publish-subscribe processing patterns. It also meets the core requirements of service and resource discovery, critical to wide scale adoption.
Rob: To which question is your solution an answer?
George Wayne: Simply put, Chariot is the vehicle of choice for multi-Arduino web-of-things projects. We make the digital and analog resources of your Arduino motes wirelessly available to the web, giving each a unique identity that can be used to create sophisticated cooperating collections of the components needed by your experiment or application.