Jasper: Connecting your beer, your car, and your Kindle

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Here's our interview with CEO Jahangir Mohammed.

When things glom onto the ever-growing Internet of Things, there needs to be some sort of digital connective tissue lets them chat with the rest of the world. This is the fabric that lets, say, a car company know that a customer's engine is failing out on the highway, or a beverage company that their vending machines need more bottled water or a parking meter that your credit card is valid.

We know the hardware companies, application makers, and carriers that transmit data over the Internet. But then there are the lesser known cloud software companies like Jasper trying to create the fiber in between. The company does important but decidedly unsexy work on the Internet of Things -- tasks like activating and deactivating devices on the network, sorting out billing between carriers and enterprises, and setting data, roaming, and billing policies for the devices.

After a $50 million investment in April, CEO Jahangir Mohammed promises the company will hit Wall Street -- "We will be a public company" -- but will not say when. I chatted with Mohammed a bit about Jasper to get a sense of a company filling in the gaps on the ever growing Internet of Things.

Caleb Garling: So give me Jasper's sales pitch.

If you have devices and you have applications, we provide everything in between for you to become a service provider. And we partner with carriers to do that.

CG: But a pitch to a car company or Heineken and Amazon is very different. How much different work do you have to do from customer to customer?

Early years we were doing a lot of customer specific work. But we decided that rather than build custom platforms, we should build an engine for different businesses.

This is why it took us so many years. [The company was founded in 2004.] Now we have 22 industries and over 1,000 deployments all using a single base of code. It has external levels of configuration much how like someone configures a SalesForce application for their unique sales team.

We are not just back office software.

CG: By way of example, how has Jasper been deployed with the Amazon Kindle?

When an Amazon Kindle is shipped and a user turns it on for the first time, it connects to the mobile network and there is programming in the SIM card of the Kindle that tells the mobile network to forward that to our cloud software. Our software looks at that device and says "Okay this is a good device. This is an Amazon device. So let me turn on the service for this Kindle." And we inform Amazon a new device has come up, it is live now and it is connected.

Now we monitor how much data that device is using on that mobile network and we allow for the mobile carrier to bill for that usage to Amazon. No matter which country the Kindle lands in, we control its access. We enable the right amount of data and right network to provide that data.

CG: Why doesn't Amazon build these meters and connections themselves?

Today, yes, they could. But it's extremely complex software to build. The devices and the mobile network is a highly dynamic environment. The device could be roaming. It could go in a no coverage area. The lifecycle of the device could change. And the speed can change. These are highly dynamic networks.

The second reason is more significant one. Most of these enterprises that deploy large volumes do business in many countries. And for them to go to each country and integrate with the mobile network in each country is brain damage. It's very complex. And each one is different. They don't want that complexity.

CG: What are some of those specific technical roadblocks Amazon would have to overcome every time?

If a device goes from Belgium to France, that would mean the roaming charges are different and it can go on different networks, and they need to charge different fees. And if the device didn't work and somebody calls the call center of the enterprise, the enterprise needs to know where the device is and the current state. These are all significant issues that they have to solve which we have already solved.

This is not companies' core competency: Connecting to mobile networks. Managing connectivity. Managing the service. Their core business tends to be applications. It really is a horizontal component. They get chips from Intel -- they don't build them themselves.

CG: What are the areas that customers say to you "This is the most important factor for you and the other vendors to differentiate on?"

Customers want more countries supported. For example, we do not have China yet [Mohammed declined to elaborate why]. The other area is more data speed in more places -- there, we are completely dependent on operator.

And a third area, some of these big companies, especially international ones, like to buy from a local provider. To buy from a Silicon Valley company is too drastic. But Jasper has partnered with operators around the world. Those local carriers sell to the local enterprise.

Some people just think you slap in a cellular modem and a SIM card and its connected and they think it's like WiFi. But it's so much more complicated. The authentication. The security. The data billing. How do you control who uses what services. What happens if someone calls and complains and you need visibility into what in the chain has broken?

Most customers don't have a full understanding of complex this is.

Correction: Due to a transcription error, this article originally misquoted Mohammed on the number of deployments Jasper currently has. The correct number is more than 1,000.

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