"The internet of things is not about things. It's about becoming connected."
This is the mantra of Jahangir Mohammed, the founder of the world's leading IoT platform, Jasper.
With the cost of computing power and internet connectivity falling fast, networked intelligence is turning up just about everywhere these days:
- the moisture sensor on an apple tree,
- an assembly line full of industrial robots,
- the watch on your wrist,
- the engine of the vehicle you drive home every night
- the vending machines in the local shopping centre
What is Jasper?
Founded in 2004, Jasper partners with over 120 mobile operator networks across the globe to serve IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) companies. across a wide range industries.
In ten years, Jahangir Mohammed had built the brain for much of the IoT network.
"We don't make the device" - that generates the data flowing through the Internet of Things.
"We don't make the application" - that collects data for the customer.
"And we don't make the network" - that transports the data.
"But we make the last part, the software.The function of the software is to pull the other three pieces together."
Jasper idea grows from 4-year old boy "on a leash"
"One day I was coming back from a fishing trip to Lake Tahoe and I saw this mother strolling with her son on a leash. A 4-year-old boy. He's on a leash. It was a brutal scene. Obviously, the mom was paranoid about the kid. I thought 'Why not put a little device on his shoe so the mother knows where the kid is if he gets lost? So that was the idea."
The child tracker didn't fly - Mohammed tried and failed to sell the idea to Nike, which was still a decade away from announcing the Nike+ sensor- but his entrepreneurial spirit had been unleashed.
It wasn't long before Jahangir Mohammed started his first company, Kineto, which was one of the first to allow people to transfer calls back and forth between the cellular and Wi-Fi systems.
Mohammed was ousted from Kineto a year later when investors decided the company needed a more experienced CEO. Plotting his next move he was ready to indulge his passion for connectivity and everywhere he looked he saw possibility.
"I'm seeing the traffic lights, the Coke machines, the cash registers, the kid [on the leash], and just wondering, why aren't all these things connected?" he recalls.
Jasper says its mission is to deliver effortless, fail-proof connections for things - even when those things move from one country or hemisphere to another.
Birth of the Jasper SIM
The company's first and defining challenge was to create a global, redundant system ensuring those connections.
The result was a "global SIM," a carrier-agnostic SIM card technology that allows companies using Jasper to pull down a signal almost anywhere on earth, moving from one carrier to another on the basis of reliability, coverage, and price.
The challenge of Carrier versus Customer
The second challenge was to engage with the carriers. For more than ten years, Jahangir Mohammed has been focused on building a global footprint of carrier partners. It's the reason that Jasper is not a household name - they focused on selling their product to the service providers.
Today, Jasper works with 27 mobile groups representing more than 100 carriers--and that set of relationships represents its most powerful intellectual property.
Jasper gets paid by the carriers but works closely with their customers, managing not only the internet connections of their "things," wherever they may be, but also performing core services such as making sure the things are working properly, turning them on or off, updating software, and tracking data use.
For example, when a GM car offers up a menu of music from Pandora, or an engine-service alert via OnStar, or a video streamed from Netflix, it is Jasper that makes sure each connection is working and secure, and tracks and bills for every megabit of data flowing through that connection.
Jasper as a Global Leader
Jasper now boasts a competitive advantage that seems all but insurmountable. They have more than 2,700 customers including global giants Amazon, GE, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and nearly every auto manufacturer.
"We built a patchwork quilt around the world. In ten years, we've gone from being unable to get a four-by-four-foot booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to being a keynote speaker."
Jasper's software platform, is accessible for customers via a simple dashboard called Control Center. The dashboard allows each company to monitor its entire universe of devices remotely, whether that means the backup systems for Starbucks' cash registers or the network of gunshot-detection monitors operated by ShotSpotter.
Cisco buyout will further enhance growth
In February 2016, Cisco acquired Jasper, for US$1.4 billion, and rebranded the company Cisco Jasper.
"There really are no other serious competitors in the market. I think they're getting to a size where a much larger player in the market is going to have to make a buy decision soon--they may become too expensive if they did go public."
"Jasper is quickly becoming a global standard. There are millions and millions of connections that are achievable, that can be torn up, torn down, built up quickly and effectively, because of Jasper." What's more, Jasper gets a cut "on every machine-to-machine connection it maintains. What they do is very, very important."
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