Kii looks to open door into Europe

It has been a curious few months for Kii, a Japanese IoT platform provider with an interesting backstory.

In January, it announced that Cisco had made an undisclosed investment in the business, which it would plow into the development of its core offering, and funding international expansion.

One month later, the networking giant unveiled plans to acquire another IoT platform provider, Jasper Technologies, for an eye-watering $1.4bn. PAC caught up this week with Kii’s CEO, Masanari Arai to discuss what Cisco’s moves mean for his business.

But first, some history. Kii can trace its origins back to Arai’s days as a founding member for the Intellisync data synchronization business that was acquired by Nokia in 2006. When the mobile phone company’s problems started to mount, Arai led the buyout of the Japanese part of Intellisync, which was being used by NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank for device data synchronization.

This remains a part of the company’s business today, and its Kii Cloud proposition can be bracketed as part of the emerging mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) market, which helps mobile application developers to do rapid development and iteration for optimization of applications. There’s a good piece on some of the other runners and riders in this space here.

However, Kii is increasingly positioning its platform as an enabler for IoT initiatives. The company is working with connected device manufacturers and other vendors leading IoT projects in areas such as smart buildings, to provide them with what Arai calls a “Thing Interaction Framework.” This API-based platform integrates the data generated from different connected devices and provides a platform on which to run analytics and develop complementary apps.

So how does this work in practice? Arai said that Kii was recently selected by one of the largest building projects as the platform for all elements of its smart buildings initiative being deployed across a major new office expansion program. As part of the engagement, Kii Cloud will channel and process all the data generated by diverse smart devices.

Arai is sanguine about Cisco’s acquisition of Jasper, and told us that he actually sees a pretty good fit between the two businesses, based on Kii’s focus on the user experience and Jasper’s strength at the SIM level in driving interoperability between different operators.

The Cisco funding will support the company’s global expansion. The company currently has some 75 employees, with operations in the US and UK. The company recently announced plans to open an operation in Germany, where it will initially target opportunities in industrial IoT, smart cities and logistics. Kii’s platform can be delivered as a cloud service, but can also be run in the client’s own data centers, which is a model most likely to fly with prospects in the DACH region.

PAC has encountered a growing number of companies pushing an “out-of-the-box” IoT platform in Europe, ranging from big enterprise brands to small regional players. Kii’s relationship with Cisco gives it a major credibility boost, and should help it to open some doors into the systems integrator community. This is something it will need to do to support its ambitions around topics such as smart cities, buildings and ports - an area flagged up as particularly active according to Arai. We’ll follow Kii’s progress with interest.