During the three busy days at Mobile World Congress exhibition in San-Francisco, me (Aliaksei Shchurko) and Sergei Leuchanka, our Managing Director of Americas had a number of chats with GPS tracking hardware manufacturers — both already established long-term Gurtam partners and relatively new companies in the Wialon community.
As a result of our talks we spotted a few major issues common for many HW companies:
- Testing requires integration. To have their great new device used by customers a hardware manufacturer needs to sell it to a new telematics service provider that has developed a software platform. However, to make its devices available for testing they need to be integrated into this great software platform first. And the integration process can take months since nobody wants to bother with TCP/UDP connections, setup, and tuning packet listeners.
- Integration requires support. Most potential customers of the above hardware manufacturer will ask numerous questions during the integration process. Diagnosing and debugging issues remotely is quite a challenge because usually, these devices use a GSM network to connect to the server. Plus, the software developer should have a permanent static IP address to receive data, which is an additional complication. Nobody wants to deal with listeners — telematic service providers with their own platforms prefer focusing on customer features, business logic, and fancy GUI instead of developing low-level port listeners.
- Sales require quick feature implementation. If we talk about a cool hardware manufacturer with advanced devices supporting a great range of sensors, CAN bus, accelerometers, etc. — they usually develop a really complex communication protocol and at the very first stage of integration provide support of only basic features and parameters. This greatly delays the sales cycle of tracking devices (months, or even years away) and discourages prospects from early adoption of the newly created products.
But we’ve got a solution. As a developer, I know that integrating program to another program via REST API is much easier than integrating device to a program. This is exactly the way flespi gateway can help hardware manufacturers and telematics service providers to communicate with each other and speed up integration process from months to just a few days (weeks maximum). We are simply providing a clear and easy REST API which a platform can use to establish bidirectional communication with multiple devices — consume telemetry from them and push remote commands. Telemetry from devices is received in a unified JSON format — each piece of data falls into a special field in the message with a predetermined name and schema.
The concept is applicable not only for the new customers of a hardware manufacturer but also for the existing ones. It’s always a headache to release new devices or new firmware revisions that provide more features but change the protocol. Because each time a manufacturer introduces changes their customers need to integrate them. And integrating changes may be as problematic as integrating new device from scratch. With flespi any new feature needs to be supported only once — on flespi gateway side. Then the new parameter is available to all software platforms that use this protocol as a new JSON field. And a JSON field is quite easy to implement.
Similar scenario applies when existing customers need to replace the device with a newer model by the same manufacturer. They need to run separate listeners for both old and new device versions, which is usually a problem. In this case flespi gateway also comes in handy by providing the same API, parameters, and message format for old and new devices alike.
Our talks with hardware manufacturers led us to understanding that flespi gateway is a niche targeted product that can help speed up sales and decrease the cost of technical support. And it’s totally free for up to 10 000 devices per software platform until it is ready for commercial launch. Pricing is very straightforward and does not depend on the number of connected physical devices — only on the number of protocols (channels). More benefits are sitting under the hood but are outside the scope of this article (but will be covered in detail in the upcoming posts).
Try flespi in action right now and check the list of currently supported devices. Remember, the integration of new protocols or features inside flespi gateway is free of charge.