Looking Beyond Mobile, Facebook Is Getting Into The Internet Of Things

Author

Aaron Tilley, Forbes Staff

March 26, 2015

At Facebook’s F8 developers conference today, the social network announced a software developer kit for building applications for internet-connected devices on its Parse platform.

Called Parse for IoT–or Internet of Things, the buzzy term for the expanding world of internet-connected devices–the development kit gives device device makers the ability to easily build apps. Facebook bought the app building platform startup Parse two year ago.

“At Parse, our passion is making developer experiences easier on any platform—including platforms that extend beyond mobile. Of these platforms, one of the most exciting new spaces is the Internet of Things,” Parse founder James Yu wrote in a blog post. ”We believe that connecting more hardware devices with the cloud has the potential to change the world for the better. We are already seeing devices that add tremendous value to people’s lives, from wearables that help you sleep better to insulin trackers that aid people living with diabetes.”

One of the first device partners on the platform announced today was Roost, a startup that’s making a lithium battery with a WiFi radio inside and will come with its own smartphone app–it’ll be shipping sometime in June. Installing one of Roost’s batteries into a smoke alarm sends alerts to the user’s smartphone if the alarm goes off, or it lets the user know if the smoke alarm’s battery is low. Roost has been working with Parse over the past year in developing the backend systems. Roost will be using Parse to handle all of its cloud, security, analytics and data tracking systems.

Roost won’t be integrating into the social network’s data stream–most people probably wouldn’t want an internet-connected battery broadcasting to the social network every time the battery is low–but all of the data coming off the devices coming out these days could prove useful to Facebook some day soon. Capturing the all the data around how you live brings a whole new level of information to Facebook–helping the company out with its core business: advertising. When Google bought connected home device maker Nest, many people suspected that the search giant was looking for more ways of collecting your personal data–but Nest insists that it’s keeps its data separate from Google’s advertising business for now.

“A couple of years from now, all of the devices connected to us and each other are going to be just one seamless flow of information,” said Roost CEO Roel Peeters. “Facebook is making a major play in positioning themselves as a central cloud backend for IoT. When Facebook makes a move like this, people shouldn’t underestimate what that means. They’re providing the infrastructure that enables developers in a simple and straightforward way to build on top of the Facebook platform–they’re just expanding their reach into a new developer community. Facebook is embracing a new category of devices that will be coming online over the next ten years.”

Chamberlain, which makes a connected garage door opener, was another partner announced today on Parse for IoT. The company will be using Parse for IoT to help out with its push notifications across many different types of phones, but bigger plans are in the works. “From our perspective, there’s an interesting opportunity that a social network can provide in terms of managing who we interact with,” said Cory Sorice, vice president of marketing for Chamberlain Connected Products and Ecommerce. “We’re not ready to unveil our thoughts on how that works. But if you look at how Apple and Google are looking to expand beyond the phone, Facebook can look at parts of IoT as an extension of Facebook in the same direction. Facebook is just another thing we connect to.”

All of the big tech companies are trying to figure out how they’ll fit into the emerging Internet of Things world. Some are developing new hardware products, others want to provide the backend ecosystem for how everything will be tied together, but none of them have been able to offer a very clear vision yet of what this world will look like. Samsung’s entire Consumer Electronics Show keynote was devoted to the topic of Internet of Things. “It’s not science fiction anymore. It’s science fact,” Samsung CEO Boo-Keun Yoon told the audience.

Updated to add comments from Chamberlain.

This article was written by Aaron Tilley from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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