Domotz Acquires Fing, Has Big Plans for IP Device Discovery and Small Data
In acquiring Fing, Domotz plans to create the most useful IP device-discovery database ever, with implications for home automation, remote network monitoring, IoT troubleshooting, insurance and more.
Julie Jacobson · May 17, 2016
Fing is an app that discovers IP devices on the network – about 1.5 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices last year through 6 million active users. Now the app developer has been acquired by London-based Domotz, a start-up that has big plans for the data. Think: home automation, remote network monitoring, cybersecurity, IoT troubleshooting and … the insurance business.
The insurance business? We’ll get to that.
For its part, Domotz makes software, the "Agent," that sits on the network and discovers IP devices, not unlike Fing. But Domotz goes the extra mile.
First, it has several mechanisms for discovering exactly what device is on the network – not just a Samsung TV, for example, but the specific model. As networking nerds know, some devices don’t expose a whole lot of information about themselves, but Domotz usually finds it.
In fact, Domotz continues to improve its device-discovery algorithms as more products are added to its growing database of monitored devices. Domotz can learn the unique IP signatures of connected products to help identify other devices that are otherwise unknown.
"It's not just finding the MAC address, but knowing what it is," says Domotz co-founder and CEO Domenico Crapanzano. "We're very device-centric. Others are network-centric."
Second, for some products, Domotz can and does suck additional data from the device or app so it can present, for example, Sonos ZP1 - living room. Many other products on the market can do this as well, so Domotz isn’t necessarily unique on this, but it’s all in the presentation.
Third, Domotz provides oodles of analytics about the network and everything attached to it. For example, it can track your Internet speeds over time so you can prove to your ISP that you’re not getting the speeds you paid for. It can log your Wi-Fi signal strength and network activity over time. Again, there are other products that do this.
Domotz Remote Tech Support App (preview)
Now, take all of these features and put them into a nice user interface, and you have Domotz.
Users can take their auto-discovered devices and rename them to something more specific or appropriate. They can group devices by room. If that room becomes sluggish, why? Did you just put a big honking mirror between there and the router? You might want to add an extra wireless access point.
Meanwhile, the user can be alerted to anything new that comes onto the network. Is there some hanky panky happening?
A whole new category of products emerged this year for monitoring unusual traffic on the network and alerting users to potential hacks. Cujo, Dojo Labs, BitCircle, Daplie, PFP, Luma and Keezel are a few of the newcomers that do this. Domotz can too. ("Network Intelligence" begins on page 64 of the Ultimate Guide to Home Automation at CES 2016).
Now, take this information and grant access to a third-party service provider, and they can make sense of it for consumers that are not network-savvy. Remote access for system diagnosis is a key element of the Domotz ecosystem.
Domotz provides a dashboard for home-technology providers to monitor their customers’ networks, diagnose problems and often fix them from afar.
Here again, Domotz is not the first and only company to provide this type of solution. In the home-integrator channel, for example, Ihiji has a six-year headstart. Krika is emerging as another promising competitor.
Domotz and Device Control
Domotz is not a home automation system, per se; however, the service can be used to turn devices on and off for control purposes or for product reboots.
Domotz is compatible with multiple IP-enabled power products – both inexpensive single-outlet switches like Belkin’s Wemo, as well as multi-outlet power-management devices from the likes of Panamax/BlueBolt, SnapAV/WattBox, APC, Digital Loggers and Ubiquiti.
Devices plugged into any of these power products can be monitored and rebooted remotely through the Domotz app.
What is more, the end devices are exposed individually in the Domotz app, no matter whose outlet they’re plugged into. So, for example, an Apple TV plugged into a Panamax BlueBolt power distribution unit (PDU) is just an Apple TV. Users need not click on BlueBolt, and then find the Apple TV on Port 5 in order to reboot it.
If you have another Apple TV plugged into a Belkin Wemo and yet another plugged into an Aten PDU, you can take all of these Apple TVs, label them with the appropriate room name, and view them all at a glance in the Domotz app.
In a similar vein, Domotz can expose individual Ethernet devices plugged into multiport routers and switches. In fact, Domotz can extract the names and certain other characteristics of these devices directly from the compatible network device itself.
Currently, Domotz works with Luxul networking gear for port-mapping, but Cisco and Netgear support are in the works.
Finally, Domotz soon will integrate with Control4 home automation systems to monitor the ZigBee mesh network and all of the devices connected to it. It’s the company’s first step into the whole-house monitoring and diagnostics business. Support for Z-Wave and generic ZigBee networks is also in the works.
Small Data, Big Picture
So here we have a product and platform that:
- Does a better job identifying IP devices than most other solutions, and learning from the unique IP signatures of connected devices.
- Exposes these devices in an intuitive interface that allows users to name, tag, sort, view and monitor them as they wish.
- Provides analytics regarding Internet speeds, network performance, network traffic, device activity and more, exposing that data in a simple interface.
- Alerts users to unusual activity on the network, such as offline devices and potential hacks.
- Integrates with a growing list of power-management products and Wi-Fi electrical outlets to monitor and remotely turn on/off the plugged-in devices.
- Plans to integrate with Control4 home automation systems such that the ZigBee mesh network, and each ZigBee device connected to it, can be monitored.
- Soon, Domotz will be monitoring all ZigBee and Z-Wave devices and activity as well.
- Enables remote access, most notably for tech-support providers to monitor and diagnose the network and connected devices.
- Provides a dashboard for professionals to monitor, manage and “fix” their clients’ networks remotely.
What Domotz was missing is volume. Fing has that volume.
"I need volumes," Crapanzano tells CE Pro. "The more data we have the smarter it gets."
Fling has 6 million active users and about 12 million all-time downloads. With this kind of market penetration, you can start to provide fairly accurate geographic data, such as areas where Internet service is slow or down. Wouldn't you like to know if your neighbors are enjoying better Internet service and Wi-Fi speeds than you are?
Go the extra mile with Domotz and you can also tell, for example, in which geographic area users are most engaged with their LG smart TVs.
View: Domotz Screen Shots
and Additional Details
"You can do predictive modeling," says Crapanzano, a Columbia business school graduate and former investment banker with Morgan Stanley and Jefferies International. "I can tell you that if someone buys this TV and an Xbox, they're likely to buy an Apple TV next."
Armed with that kind of information, DirecTV, Comcast/Xfinity or Geek Squad might do well to stock Apple TVs in their vans.
Speaking of those service organizations, wouldn't they all benefit from a diagnostics dashboard that provides insights into their clients' networks?
Today, techies from Geek Squad and other providers arrive blindly at the customer's property, with little information on the state of the home network and the devices connected to it. Some of those truck rolls could be avoided altogether with a remote diagnostics system. At the very least, techs could arrive with the proper parts to fix a given problem, or with the information required to train the client on the specific issues they're experiencing.
This type of service is being provided already in the home-technology integration channel through companies like Ihiji and SnapAV. But none of these firms has mass-market, big-data aspirations, at least not yet.
Crapanzano says Domotz already is working with big tech-service organizations but has not publicly announced any partners. Small partners, like home technology integrators, have been signing up in "large numbers," he adds. The minimum commitment to enjoy the dealer portal is a mere five active customers at $3 per household/network.
By the way, Fing is free, but the company did at one time offer a paid service called FingBox that incorporated some advanced features like Domotz now provides; however, the couple of guys behind Fing couldn't support it over time and it eventually faded away. Domotz, on the other hand, may be be only one year old, but it is 25 people strong and growing.
The lesson of FingBox, however, was that a significant number of users plunked down a few bucks for the service, suggesting a widespread willingness to pay for advanced network monitoring.
Implications for the Insurance Industry
The insurance industry is embracing home technology like never before. This movement will be the subject of a later story, but briefly, imagine the in-home equivalent of a "black box" for the car, which insurance companies are foisting on their customers to promote safe driving.
Likewise, some health- and life-insurance companies are asking customers to wear activity bands like Fitbit in exchange for discounts on their policies.
With homeowner's insurance, when taken to the extreme, a black box in the home can tell your provider if you're regularly arming your security system, if your smoke detector needs new batteries or if your home is being used full-time when you claimed it was just a vacation pad.
It can also tell when new devices are added to the home, like a $20,000 Sony TV: Would you like to buy supplemental insurance for that TV?
Inventory can be taken on electronic devices in the home, without having to take photos and maintain records on all of the goods. Insurance companies can provide better risk assessment based on specific products on the property and how they're used. Of course, they can also tell that your $20,000 TV was being used 12 hours per day for a year before it was stolen, meaning it wasn't worth a lot in the end.
Beyond risk mitigation, insurance companies can use Domotz's data for actionable service. For example, Domotz would capture the specific make and model of a door lock, so if it breaks, the insurance company can acquire the same lock and quickly dispatch a home-service provider to install it.
As Crapanzano says, "Innovation and insurance don't usually fall in the same sentence," but in this case the industry might be moving the needle on remote home networking monitoring.
This year, Domotz was one of 10 companites invited to participate in the Startup Boot Camp Insur-Tech, an accelerator program for new companies creating innovative technology for the worldwide insurance industry.
Prices and Purchasing
Domotz Agent runs on a variety of devices. The software can be downloaded for free to the user's own hardware, such as Rapberry Pi, Netgear ReadyNAS, QNAP or Synology drives. Domotz also offers Agent software pre-loaded into a Raspberry Pi ($69) or the company's own Domotz Box ($150, available around June 2016) for faster, sturdier performance and plug-and-play installation and updates.
A consumer-oriented app, similar to Fing, is available free of charge. The Domotz Pro app, with its richer feature set, is $2.99 per month, regardless of how many devices are on the network.
That's the same price for both consumers and pros, but pros who monitor at least five premises have access to special tools on the back end. For example, dealers can configure the customer-facing app to include the installer's email address and phone number. Pros also receive discounts on hardware.
More information on the Domotz dealer program is available here.
View: Domotz Screen Shots
and Additional Details
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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