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How UnaBiz is disrupting the IoT market in APAC (內附中文) – Computer Weekly

By 19 April, 2019 No Comments

 

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From offering low-cost connectivity to hardware design and integration services, the Singapore-based IoT technology supplier is causing a stir in the internet-of-things market.

Disrupting the status quo has been the name of the game for UnaBiz, an operator of the Sigfox low-power wide-area network (LP-WAN) that shook up the market for internet-of-things (IoT) connectivity two years ago by offering subscription charges of just under one US dollar per device per month.

The move raised eyebrows among industry watchers then, but that didn’t stop the startup from chasing its goal of lowering the barriers to IoT adoption. After building up a sizeable base of customers, including Engie, a French supplier of property and energy management services, UnaBiz is now setting its sights on the IoT hardware market.

“One of the issues with the IoT ecosystem is that hardware is still too expensive to be accepted by industry and users,” said Henri Bong, CEO of UnaBiz. “To achieve massive IoT adoption, we have to bring down prices.”

Bong, a French-born Chinese, found like-minded technology partners in Taiwan, such as Lite-On, and continues to work with them today. Many of them saw a need for cheaper IoT sensors at prices as low as $15, and went round the market asking for them. “That woke up the industry, which realised they can’t sell a tracker for $80 with an 80% margin any more,” said Bong.

Today, UnaBiz operates a 20-strong engineering outfit that includes mechanical, electronics and radio frequency engineers in Taiwan, a global semiconductor manufacturing hub. The engineers design sensors that measure air quality, among other things, for IoT technology suppliers that have the software smarts, but lack the hardware knowhow.

Besides having a cost advantage, Taiwanese engineers have also enabled UnaBiz to take prototypes to production in just under three months. This includes miniaturising components, which has not often been the case until recently.

“If you look at what the IoT has been like for the last two, three years, most of the sensors are housed in boxes with wires sticking out,” said Bong. “We are very happy that we managed to secure ISO 9001 certification at the end of last year for our processes and quality management, which is quite rare for a startup.”

UnaBiz’s advances in hardware design are the envy of telcos, especially those that are missing the hardware piece necessary to drive wider adoption of the IoT. “Many of them are working with local hardware partners or those in China that they’ve found to be slow and expensive,” said Bong.

Still, UnaBiz had to tread carefully in Taiwan, where it also runs a Sigfox network, to keep costs in check in order to stay competitive. It buys core components, such as transceivers and microcontrollers, in bulk from direct sources such as STMicroelectronics, and leaves it to electronic manufacturing service (EMS) suppliers commissioned to make the actual hardware to source for other components.

By providing its hardware designs, UnaBiz can also avoid the hefty fees that big EMS suppliers often charge for additional R&D work to make up for their lack of dedicated LP-WAN and IoT expertise, said Bong.

Not content with disrupting IoT connectivity and hardware, UnaBiz has started building up integration capabilities to make IoT hardware and software applications work well together.

“Integration is not as simple as connecting a tracker to a Sigfox network,” said Bong. “After you provision the service, you need to know how to get the data out, interpret it, and so on.”

But UnaBiz does not do it all alone. It works with systems integrators to offer integration services, which accounts for about half its revenues today. Connectivity contribute less than 10% to UnaBiz’s coffers, while hardware contributes 40%.

On potential partnerships with telcos, most of which are backing the use of narrowband IoT, Bong said UnaBiz is open to working with IoT teams in telcos that want to win bigger deals regardless of the underlying connectivity technology.

“The telcos are more open now because they’ve failed to build an ecosystem over the past few years,” said Bong. “They thought we were a little startup that would die within a year but now that we have KDDI and Engie backing us, they are finding a way to partner with us.”

Although UnaBiz is not yet profitable, that could change by the end of 2020 or even earlier if a major deal materialises, said Bong. The firm is currently gearing up for a Series B funding round, after raising more than $10m in Series A funding from Engie and KDDI in 2018.

看UnaBiz如何打破亞太地區物聯網市場

作者:陳維雄 Aaron Tan
譯者:鄒宏平
原文

從提供低價無線網路通訊到硬體設計及系統整合服務,這家新加坡的技術新創正在全球物聯網市場上掀起一定的轟動

顛覆市場現狀一直是優納比(UnaBiz)這家公司常常會做的事情。2年前在亞洲成立第一家SIGFOX 低功耗廣域(LPWAN)的電信網路營運商的優納比推出了震撼全亞洲物聯網(IoT)市場每月1元美金的通訊服務費用。

此舉讓產業觀察者都震驚不已,但卻讓這家新創繼續追逐其重要的使命:讓物聯網技術更普偏化。在建立龐大的客戶群之後,包括法國資產及能源服務供應公司ENGIE,優納比現在目標正指向物聯網硬體市場。

優納比執行長Henri Bong說:“目前全球物聯網生態體系最大問題之一就是硬體感測器還是維持在較高的價位,使得產業及用戶還無法完全接受。如果要真正達到巨量物聯網的普偏化,我們需要降低硬體市價“

法國華僑Henri Bong在台灣遇見與他志同道合的合作夥伴,像台灣的光寶科技,如今繼續與這些夥伴合作。他們都看到市場需要更便宜的物聯網感測器,甚至便宜到15元美金的單價,在全球市場高喊需要如此低廉的單價。“這樣的現象讓整個市場突然覺醒,大家也理解到不能夠繼續在市場上販售單價80元美金的GPS追縱器而從中抽取80%的利潤”,Henri Bong解釋。

如今,優納比選擇在全球半導體生產核心基地的台灣,經營一個20人的工程團隊,團隊包括機構設計,電子設計及通訊設計等工程師。此工程團隊有能力研發如空氣污染之類的感測器,主要目標客戶為擅長軟體開發而缺乏硬體背景的系統供應商。

除了提供一定的成本優勢,台灣的工程團隊讓優納比只需要三個月的時間就能從硬體雛形機開發到工業及產品。團隊也有辦法實現各種零件的微小化,突破物聯網硬體市場至今一直達不到的生產量及更細緻化產品。

“如果我們看最近兩三年的物聯網技術發展,大部分的感測器外觀都是(較粗糙)外部有一堆電線盒子”,Henri Bong提到。“我們很高興在去年年底拿到很少新創公司會拿到的ISO 9001品質管理認證的執照,讓我們的生產管理流程及品質管理得到鑑定。“
優納比的硬體設計優勢是讓很多電信商羨慕的,尤其目前最缺乏硬體部分就可以更廣泛的讓物聯網更普偏。“很多電信商比較習慣與【他們國家】當地的硬體合作方,或是在中國的合作方,可是兩者不是動作太慢就是太貴“, Henri Bong坦白。

今天,在競爭激烈的台灣市場上,優納比在營運SIGFOX網路的同時,也得確保將所有成本控制在一定的門檻下才能保有公司的競爭實力。公司所採購的核心零件,如通訊發射器及微型控制器,可以大量的從如ST Microelectronics大型供應商採購,搭配與提供電子生產服務(EMS)的服務商合作做採購或其他需要零件及硬體的生產及組裝。

當公司能夠完全掌握硬體設計時,優納比所提供的設計及代工能夠靈敏讓客戶避免花費大型EMS廠商會高價提供的技術研發服務 ,因為通常這類廠商缺乏專注於LPWAN及物聯網硬體研發的專業而需要更多資源才能勝任此類專案。

而如今,除了顛覆物聯網通訊費用及所需的硬體外,優納比也開始建立系統整合,讓各種物聯網的硬體及軟體應用能夠吻合及整合在同一個系統內。

“系統整合不只是簡單的將一顆追縱器連上一個SIGFOX網路。一旦提供第一個連網服務以後,還需要將數據傳出去,讓它有意義,甚至提供更多後續的步驟。”Henri Bong 解釋。

不過在這方面優納比不再是自己提供了。公司會與專業的系統整合商合作進而提供後續的整合服務,今天這類服務已經佔有其一半的盈利。而優納比的另外一半收益,其中10%是網路服務,40%為硬體占比。

針對是否與傳統電信商合作的可能性,雖然大部分的電信商都在推廣NB IoT的技術,Henri Bong表示優納比歡迎與有興趣拿下更大市場、更大專案的電信商合作,尤其沒有侷限是那種無線網路技術的案子。

“傳統電信商開始比較開放【與我們合作了】,前面幾年他們尚未成功建立完整的生態體系。“Henri Bong解釋到。“他們認為我們只是一家小小的新創公司,過幾年就會從市場消失,如今我們投資方有KDDI及ENGIE,他們也開始找到與我們合作的途徑了。”

雖然優納比目前還沒開始有正面盈收,Henri Bong表示在2020年以前或甚至更早就可能可以改變現狀,只要拿下較龐大的訂單。繼去年2018年成功的從ENGIE及KDDI募資到1千萬美金的A輪融資後,這家新創正在開始籌備其B輪的募資。

 

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