Michelle Burbick
Michelle Burbick is the Associate Editor and a blogger for No Jitter, UBM Tech's online community for news and analysis...
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Michelle Burbick | May 24, 2016 |


Twilio Dives into IoT, Signals the Future of Comms

Twilio Dives into IoT, Signals the Future of Comms Partners with T-Mobile to open up cellular network for developers to build on, opening the door to Internet of Things in communications.

Partners with T-Mobile to open up cellular network for developers to build on, opening the door to Internet of Things in communications.

Twilio's two-day Signal conference for developers in communications kicked off this morning in San Francisco, with keynoters taking the stage to talk about the company's next biggest moves in the world of communications.

Twilio labels Signal as the place where more than 2,000 developers "converge for a conversation about the future of communications. It's a conversation about how to build and scale your voice, video and messaging apps. It's a conversation about how bots, WebRTC, and IoT change the way the world communicates."

Here at No Jitter, we have conversations about the future of communications every day, and I imagine many of our readers do as well. So what's the future of communications as Twilio sees it? I talked to Manav Khurana, VP of Product Marketing at Twilio, ahead of the event to get a sneak-peak at the news it's releasing this week.


Twilio Goes Cellular

Getting into Internet of Things (IoT), Twilio has introduced something called Twilio Programmable Wireless, which gives developers and businesses a way to use APIs to build IoT solutions allowing connectivity to the cellular network. Through a partnership with T-Mobile, Twilio is extending its full stack of solutions by enabling it over cellular, Khurana told me.

Previously, developers had to use Wi-Fi or other short-range connectivity for IoT, which according to Twilio, inhibits adoption due to additional configuration needs and a lack of coverage.

With Programmable Wireless, enterprises could benefit from a higher level of control than was previously possible since they can now extend BYOD programs and policies to employee-owned devices. The Devices API allows enterprise IT to provision Twilio SIM cards from their applications, and remotely activate those SIM cards as well as control data usage and bandwidth limits. The Commands API provides enterprise IT with a way to view usage data at a granular level, as well as a way to preserve battery power through machine-to-machine connectivity in areas where there is no data coverage.

Programmable Wireless is available now for developer preview, and will be available on a broad scale in the fourth quarter of 2016. Pricing will be at $2 per SIM card per month, with data usage starting at 10 cents per megabyte across a pool of devices. For high-bandwidth cases, Twilio will use pooled metering, charging $25 for first gigabyte and $15 for each subsequent gigabyte.

Breaking it Down

To get a better sense of what Twilio's move into IoT means for the enterprise, I caught up with Mark Winther, Group VP for Telecom at IDC, and a great source for No Jitter on all things related to communications APIs. The way he sees it, this is a definitive statement from Twilio but really just a start of the process of bringing IoT into this developer community.

It will be interesting to see how other operators respond to this, Winther said, hypothesizing that one of the reasons Twilio might have chosen to partner with T-Mobile is that this carrier doesn't really have much stake in IoT today. In our conversation, Khurana did comment that Twilio liked T-Mobile's progressive nature, but that moving forward, it would be looking to expand its wireless solution to other carriers.

This move will mean even more when Twilio starts using other networks besides the macro cellular networks, Winther said, adding that unlicensed, low-power networks are often used for IoT and would be a natural next step for Twilio to leverage.

A Quick Add-On...

The other news of the day is the launch of the new Twilio Marketplace that houses pre-integrated partner technologies to enable the easy installation of add-ons. To start, there are 18 Twilio Add-ons aimed at helping developers enhance their Twilio applications. Examples of Add-on capabilities include the ability to analyze sentiment in text messages or transcribe speech to text for phone calls.

Because these Add-ons can be integrated in one click by using the Twilio API, rather than requiring a new API for each individual integration, Twilio's idea behind this marketplace is to help its community of more than 1 million developers do more with less code, Khurana said. Further, developers can submit their own Add-ons to Twilio to review, and then make available for purchase through Twilio's marketplace. Khurana explained that 75% of these Add-on profits will go directly to these partner developers, while 25% will go to Twilio, which is in line with how many application marketplaces are structured today.

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