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11 June, 2020

Making sense of flespi pricing

Estimates of diverse use case scenarios showing how different functionality affects the bottom line.

As you must have noticed by looking at our pricing, there are a lot of moving parts to it. This article will explore several flespi use case scenarios and how our pricing is applied to them. The intent is to help flespi customers efficiently assess the financial feasibility of flespi for various IoT/telematics projects based on the expected device volume. Taking into consideration that the per-device pricing model is common in the industry, I will attempt to convert the approximate total service cost into rough per device cost estimations.

For those of you, who are already comfortably navigating the costs of flespi components, but need a better understanding of specifics on how we come up with billable amounts, we suggest you review the following article.

flespi as a middleware to get normalized telematics device data

Basic and the most popular use case of flespi is passing device data through it so that the customer’s application that consumes the telematics data can do so via a straightforward API, as opposed to “listening” for binary data over TCP/UDP and subsequently applying parsing scripts. As you may already know, we constantly expand the selection of manufacturers and devices flespi supports to make our platform as universal as possible.

To enable this use case on the very basic level you have to create a channel, which is priced at $30/month. Channel is manufacturer specific. You only need one channel per manufacturer, whose devices you use. To be more specific, if you intend to use various device models, but they all from the same manufacturer, just one channel is required. Basic commercial $100/month plan gives you three channels, i.e., the ability to work with any number of devices models from three different manufacturers. 

If you use flespi at the channel level, your cost doesn’t correlate with the number of devices you connect. For example, having 1000 or 10000 physical devices sending data into flespi will not change your cost. Assuming that in both cases those devices are from up to 3 different manufacturers (included in the basic commercial package), your monthly flespi cost will be a flat $100/month.

Note: While not absolutely necessary in all cases, we strongly recommend creating devices, which greatly simplifies diagnostics when something with those devices inevitably goes wrong, as well as allows for OTA (over the air) device configuration capability for many devices we support.

So how much will it cost to use flespi this way if you start with 500 devices, then grow to one thousand, and subsequently to 10 thousand? First 1000 devices are included in the $100 basic commercial package. Each extra 100 devices will cost you only $1/month. Here is how math works on those volumes: 

Devices

Basic commercial flespi account

Extras needed?

Monthly cost per device

500

$100/month

No

$100 / 500 = $0.20/device

1000

$100/month

No

$100 / 1000 = $0.10/device

10000

$100/month

Yes, $1 per each extra 100 devices on top of initial 1000

($100 + (9000/100) * $1) / 10000 = $0.019 / device. Yes, that’s less than 2 US cents per device.

An important caveat here is storage. 1GB of storage is included in the basic commercial package. That is more than enough to get the data passed through flespi without an intent to store it in flespi. You need to make sure you actively manage messages TTL (time to live) and other settings to ensure storage use is within your expectations. 

This is effectively a base use case. Cost approximations detailed in sections below are incremental to the estimations provided above. 

Getting telematics data into common third-party platforms

You may have a need to get the data from your devices into third-party platforms and services that are not able to consume data from your devices directly. Examples of such services are Google IoT Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS. flespi can automatically transform your device data into the format recognized by these services and push it to them using the streams functionality.

Three streams are included in the basic commercial package. Each stream equates to one type of stream. In other words, you can have data from one thousand devices streaming into Amazon AWS. That will use only one stream. Going beyond three streams will cost you $10 per additional stream, no matter the number of devices.

Adding data storage

In the first scenario, we pointed to the need to actively monitor storage to keep it to a minimum to achieve the expected low per-device cost. However, there are good reasons for you to seriously consider flespi not as just a gateway solution, but also as a telematics storage solution. We urge you to review this article to appreciate the benefits of flespi’s HASD data storage technology. It may very well be that storing your data in flespi will be more economically viable than in your back-end, especially considering the reputational costs related to possible issues with availability, performance, and stability of your infrastructure.

The cost of a storage component is trickier to estimate as lots of different factors may influence the amount you may need. Based on the recent statistical data from flespi, average data stored per device is at around 100MB. This average reflects the length of storage of around six months and most closely corresponds to the user profile of an automobile tracker with no CAN bus data capturing capabilities. 12 months of storage with such a profile should get you to around 200MB per device. Note, that if you have an advanced auto tracker with lots of CAN bus parameters, you can expect to use up more storage. Alternatively, if you have a stationary tracker with the low frequency of reporting, the storage you need may be significantly less.

Each extra 1GB of storage costs $1. If we take 100MB storage per device on average, this would increase your per-device cost by roughly (100MB / 1GB) * $1 = $0.10. If we take the expected full-year storage, you are looking at $0.20 per device. Again, this is based on the assumptions stated in the previous paragraph.

MQTT usage 

MQTT is increasingly becoming a preferred protocol to enable communication for IoT devices. flespi was the first major platform provider to implement MQTT 5.0 support back in 2018.

Should you decide to actively utilize flespi’s MQTT capabilities, you should take into account the incremental cost of active MQTT sessions. The basic commercial flespi package includes 10 thousand sessions. Should you require more than that, we will charge you an extra $1/month per each additional block of 1000 active sessions.

Adding telematics data processing (flespi analytics)

This is possibly the least understood component of flespi, which has the potential to be the most impactful in helping you build and maintain a well-differentiated IoT/telematics application. The idea is simple — flespi can perform some initial data processing so that your application doesn’t have to. Examples include analyzing telematics device messages to determine trips, stops, parkings, calculating daily engine hours, etc. 

Each specific calculation (think of it as a mathematical formula you need to apply) has to be set up as a distinct flespi calculator. The basic commercial package includes 1000 calculators. Not many of our existing customers exceed this number. If you do, we will charge just an extra $1 for each additional block of 100 calculators. 

It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not enough to create a calculator to perform calculations. Remember, the calculator is simply a formula that you set up. To perform an actual calculation and produce a result you have to assign a device or devices to your calculators. Typically, that’s what drives the cost of using analytics — the number of devices assigned to calculators. You have 1000 devices assigned to calculators included in the basic commercial package, and we will charge an extra $1 for each additional block of 100 devices assigned. Keep in mind that if you assign one device to two calculators, that effectively equals to two devices being assigned to one calculator. Another hypothetical example on this note: if you have 10 devices and 10 calculators, and each device is assigned to all 10 calculators, you are effectively consuming 10*10 = 100 “devices assigned to calculator”.

Very rough and most conservative per device costing approach we can suggest here is to add $0.01 to a device cost for each calculator you plan to use in your implementation of flespi.

Also, keep in mind that the results of the calculations, if continuously stored in flespi, consume storage. How much storage? Again, that varies significantly, but our recent stats show that on average 570 KB is stored per one device assigned to one calculator.

Restrictions

All platform usage is subject to restrictions, which you need to review and understand.

Conclusion

To illustrate the outcome of the per-unit cost, let’s now imagine a comprehensive flespi use case with 10 000 devices from three manufacturers, that will take advantage of three streams, utilize 200MB/device data storage and 10 calculators assigned to each of the devices. 

Base cost from the first section above “flespi as a middleware”: $0.019/device

Three streams: + $0.00/device (included in base)

200MB/device storage: + $0.20/device

10 calculators assigned to each device: + $0.01 * 10 = + $0.10/device

-----------------------------

Total: $0.319/device monthly, or we can round it up to 32 US cents per device monthly. As you can see, even under a comprehensive scenario, which takes advantage of all advanced capabilities flespi has to offer, the per-device cost stands at a very compelling rate. 

Hopefully, you have found this article to be helpful in offering an approach to pricing your usage of flespi based on the number of devices you expect to work with. As always, we are available to help and answer any additional questions you may have via HelpBox — our preferred method of quick communication with our customers.