TecPal takes smart appliances global with Google Cloud
The internet of things is everywhere now. Almost everyone has at least one connected device at home, likely a virtual assistant and perhaps a smart programmable thermostat. Nearly all new televisions come preinstalled with streaming apps. Even electric vehicles send drivers communications when tire pressure is low or other problems come up.
Smart home appliances aren’t quite as common just yet, but the market is growing rapidly worldwide. And at TecPal, we are helping lead the way.
I’ve had the privilege to work around the world, in Hamburg, Bangkok, and Beijing, and I’ve been in the amazing city of Hong Kong for the past five years. It’s an ideal location for a startup like ours.
I collaborated with a friend from a previous job in mainland China to come up with the idea to start our new venture. He owns a factory that manufactures all kinds of small kitchen appliances and sells them mostly to European retailers. When more and more of his customers started asking about smart appliances, he called me because he knew about my background in IT.
That’s where our idea was born for a more specialized developer of software for smart appliances. Given my friend’s manufacturing expertise and my software experience, we were really more than halfway there before even getting started. That was just four years ago, and today we employ more than 50 people.
We started by adding smart technology to the products his factory produces but realized that what we’re doing could be so much bigger. Why produce smart technology for just a handful of clients when the global market is growing? So now we’re transitioning from creating a customized solution for his products to a software-as-a-service model that can be used in all kinds of smart appliances.
Rapid delivery of custom apps
At TecPal, we started with kitchen appliances, but our software also works in washing machines, ovens, vacuum cleaners, and more. We put everything together in an end-to-end service: hardware integration, cloud services and consumer-facing apps. And the IoT management platform can roll out updates, manage the devices, and ensure their security. Manufacturers and retailers don’t need to know about software development, embedded systems development, cloud development, or mobile development. We can handle that for them so they can stay focused on their core areas of expertise.
Today we have appliances that come preloaded with recipes that are optimized for the appliance so you don’t have to worry about the time, the temperature, and other details. Everything is preset.
We launched multiple IoT products with a major European retailer in 2021 that includes not only preloaded recipes but also user-generated content geared to specific appliances. The Monsieur Cuisine Smart is an advanced multi-cooker utilizing TecPal’s IoT solution. The mobile companion app allows users to control the appliances remotely. They can check the remaining cooking time or stop one of the many cooking programs like kneading, steaming, frying from the living room or from their office across town. The ability to embed content in an appliance is valuable, and so is the ability to control the appliance remotely, but we double down on value by offering both.
Winning with best-in-class IoT technology
Companies in Northeast Asia generally shop around for technology partners based mostly on price, but that’s not us. We chose Google Cloud for the quality of its technology, especially its IoT Core fully managed services. We’re using almost everything in Google Cloud IoT Core, but we’re particularly reliant on the environment for its highly secure two-way device connection and management. We set up some clusters in Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and are using that as the underlying virtualization architecture because it allows us to quickly and cost-effectively scale up and down to meet changing customer demands.
We also use Google Cloud Pub/Sub as our message broker to update app statuses automatically and reliably in our back end, for our ETL processes, and for our data pipeline. At the same time, Google Cloud Dataflow is key because it’s a fast, efficient way to funnel all data from different devices and events into BigQuery for data collection, storage, and analytics. BigQuery is a great choice for us because most developers are already familiar with it as a relational database that supports advanced data analytics. We can expand our use of BigQuery without worrying about dimensions, and our new developers can come up to speed quickly on it.
We only end up checking in with a Google Cloud support team once a month, if that. If we don’t find what we’re looking for in documentation, we can just drop them an email. Their response time is excellent.
Beyond the immediate technology advantages we’ve realized by standardizing on Google Cloud, we’re also finding that it helps us win business with big clients in Europe. Google Cloud is an environment that other big businesses know and trust.
We’re still just getting started
We’re already seeing double-digit growth in our market, up to about 25 percent annually. More importantly, there’s a lot of runway in front of us before our growth is expected to plateau.
The market for smart consumer appliances is increasing every day, and there’s a lot of room to reach new regions with new products. Most countertop food processors and slow cookers are still old-fashioned, for instance, but they probably won’t stay that way—especially now that two out of three homeowners say their next appliance purchase will be a smart one.
Together with Google Cloud, we are committed to meeting that demand and exceeding expectations as people embrace new at-home technologies that will make their everyday lives easier.
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