When telephones let the entire human race talk to each other, phone companies became very big and very rich. When the Internet let millions of computers talk to each other, Internet companies became very big and very rich.
And now, all the human-made objects on earth — our cars, appliances, plumbing, even our clothes — are learning to talk to each other. The companies that build out this immense, global “Internet of Things”
will become some of the biggest and richest yet. And it’s just possible that one of these companies will be Boston’s LogMeIn Inc.
“I think the Internet of Things is the next driver of tech growth,” said LogMeIn president Bill Wagner, who takes over as chief executive next month, replacing the outgoing Michael Simon. “It’s a trillion-plus-dollar market opportunity.”
Just a sliver of that business could transform LogMeIn, which last year earned revenues of $222 million, into a multibillion-dollar global tech titan. All the company has to do is beat out the dozens of others vying for the same market, including giants like Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Amazon.com.
Founded in 2003, LogMeIn made its name with software to let people remotely control desktop computers over the Internet. If you’ve ever called computer tech support and let a technician reboot your computer from a thousand miles away, there’s a good chance he was using LogMeIn software.
The company delivers a bunch of Internet-based services, including file backup and online chatrooms. Then in 2011, LogMeIn acquired a London-based Internet of Things software startup called Pachube, since renamed Xively.
It’ll probably never become a household word, but Xively could someday be embedded into billions of smart devices in homes, factories, airports — pretty much anywhere. Xively is a set of software and network services that manages the data flow between gadgets.
“All these messages have to know where to go,” Wagner said. “Xively is basically the traffic cop, if you will, for data in a connected world.” It ensures that messages get to the slow cookers we want to turn off, while blocking access to criminals and vandals hoping to hack our water heaters or jumbo jets.
Xively, or something like it, will be an absolutely essential component of the Internet of Things, analysts say. Wagner says his company’s years of linking computers via the cloud gives it a headstart in this new market.
Frank Gillett, principal analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, said LogMeIn is competing in a crowded field with more than 100 players, many bigger and richer, and is a long shot at best to become an EMC-scale firm.
But Roger Kay, industry analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates of Wayland, said Xively has a fighting chance at becoming a major player in the Internet of Things.
“A company that’s already positioned in this market that’s going to be big, is probably going to get a piece of it,” Kay said. “It’s the right place to be.”