Feb 22, 2019

Exclusive: Ray Ozzie wants to wirelessly connect the world

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals

Ray Ozzie, the man who created Lotus Notes and helped usher Microsoft into the cloud era has a new goal: helping devices in the home get smarter by hooking them up directly to the cellular airwaves. In an exclusive interview, Ozzie said his startup has started trials with AT&T on a module that securely connects all sorts of products, from appliances and alarms to vending machines and construction equipment.

Bottom line: There's no doubt that many more devices are going to be connected wirelessly in coming years and that not all device makers will want to handle connectivity themselves. Ozzie's startup is likely to be just one of many companies willing to take on that task.

The premise behind Ozzie's new company, Blues Wireless, is that everyone from appliance makers to logistics companies will want their products to have a secure wireless connection without the hassles or risks of doing it themselves.

"Customers ate trying to connect virtually everything that exists to the cloud," Ozzie told Axios. "It’s fairly a no-brainer as compared to a technology in search of a problem."

Current and forthcoming cellular networks will be able to compete favorably with Wi-Fi, Ozzie said, offering several benefits.

  • Unlike with Wi-Fi, devices can be set at the factory to connect wirelessly. Many Wi-Fi-equipped devices today never get connected because consumers either don't see enough benefit or get frustrated with the set-up process.
  • Everything is encrypted, with secure credentials stored on the device itself.
  • Using Notecard, devices can connect to cloud providers like Amazon's AWS or Microsoft’s Azure without ever having to cross the public internet, offering additional security benefits.

Yes, but: The problem is more than a technical one, Ozzie acknowledges: Cellular connections cost money, and efforts to connect devices in the past left customers to manage the data costs themselves.Blues Wireless hopes to take that hassle away by using a Kindle-like business model, selling the modules at enough of a profit to cover the cost of the device and the wireless data the devices will use. It isn't saying just how much it expects to charge.Also, Blues is still small, using mostly contractors and bankrolled by Ozzie.

History lesson: In the past, Ozzie's brainstorms have typically been directionally correct but ahead-of-their-time products looking to capitalize on shifts in the way people and computers interact. This time around, Ozzie says he's banking on making it easier for companies to get on board an inevitable hardware trend.

Go deeper

Cuomo says New York is "literally going day-to-day with our supplies"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday that New York is struggling to maintain medical supplies while combatting the novel coronavirus — operating "literally" on a "day-to-day" basis.

Why it matters: New York City has become an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, facing mass quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Cuomo said Saturday that New York reported 630 new deaths in 24 hours — an "all-time increase" that beat the previous day's record of 562 deaths.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 1,225,360 — Total deaths: 66,542 — Total recoveries: 252,615Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 312,249 — Total deaths: 8,503 — Total recoveries: 15,021Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. Surgeon general says this week will be "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August." Biden says DNC may have to hold virtual convention.
  5. States updates: The Louisiana governor warned that his state is set to run out of ventilators in four days. Illinois governor claims Trump doesn't understand the word "federal."
  6. Oil latest: Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Work update: Employees still going to work are often facing temperature checks, distanced work stations, protective devices and mass absences.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Illinois governor: "The president does not understand the word 'federal'"

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that President Trump's comments about the federal government's stockpile of medical equipment suggest he "does not understand the word 'federal.'"

Why it matters: White House adviser Jared Kushner argued at a press briefing last week that the "notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use."