There are now around 20 billion connected devices worldwide: just under three for every human being on earth. To say 2018 is the “year of IoT” is a bit like claiming Donald Trump’s presidential run is gathering pace: the horse hasn’t just bolted – it has streaked off into the sunset, dragging the barnyard behind it.
With this flood of connected gadgetry comes a great need for interoperability: for devices to speak to each other. Enter Bernhard Hüssy. The Swiss entrepreneur founded Nomos System, a software engine that can control connected devices across multiple protocols or standards, in 2010, when a proliferation in proprietary platforms was complexifying like never before.
At that time – especially in his home country – hardware was king. Hüssy, a former entertainment systems installer and consultant, found his software-based plans “dismissed,” he tells Red Herring in a deliberate, Zürcher tone. “For a long time I felt it close to suicidal to start a software company with international ambitions out of Switzerland, because we’re not a country known for software.
“The systems integrators, the electricians and the professionals…they all looked at me and said, ‘What, you’re from Switzerland and you try to sell software in a hardware-dominated industry?’” he adds.
But Hüssy knew otherwise. His idea was first formed six years previous, in 2004, when Apple launched its iTunes Music service in the European Union. Friends and family used it right away “because it was so much more convenient,” he says. “For me it was a breaking point.”
As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Monogamy will take care of itself provided the parties are free enough.” No longer was the world about proprietary touch panels and remotes, Hüssy reckoned: it was about software that could control other software, whatever their provenance. “The future belonged to software,” he says. “And connectivity.”
Few today would doubt that to be true. According to Forbes the global IoT market will grow from $157bn in 2016, to $457bn in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.5%. Heavy industry like manufacturing, transportation, logistics and utilities will lead the way. Each employs a dense network of devices and systems that needs connecting.
Nomos is there to do so. Its solution, which elevates software and hardware to a single communication layer, is adaptable and easily controllable. It is also light, at 613KB, and is compatible with over 36,000 protocols: an “IoT solution for everyone,” as the company describes itself.
“I connect computers and lonely machines together,” says Hüssy, whose understated demeanor underpins an ambition to grow his company organically, rather than search for angels and their millions. Retaining an increase in revenue is a “very beautiful thing,” he adds: “It makes people more trustful who have dedicated a part of their lives to us.”
It’s a very Swiss way to do business. The European state has become renowned for its high levels of innovation in recent years, led by multinational corporations like Google, which has its largest research and development center outside of the US in Hüssy’s hometown of Zürich. Switzerland has ranked first on the Global Innovation Index eight of the last nine years. Its universities are world-beaters.
Now startups like Nomos System are picking up on the multinationals’ momentum. At first Hüssy’s recruitment process was “very fast, and we felt overwhelmed all the time,” he says. Nowadays Nomos can select from a conveyor belt of tech talent, similar to its peers in Silicon Valley. “We just have one difference,” he jokes: “We pay our taxes here!”
Hüssy sees Zürich as on par with better publicized European tech hubs like London, Tel Aviv, Berlin or Moscow. But its entrepreneurs aren’t as effusive as their continental counterparts. He says, “We’re not so much rockstars. (We must) do a good job and talk about it. It’s as simple as that.”
Hüssy and his firm have followed that mantra and it is paying dividends. Today Nomos has delivered over 21,000 systems, which work fully offline, worldwide. November last year it was honored at the Swiss ICT Awards, alongside Experience Management firm Advertima, in the central Swiss city of Lucerne.
That has energized Hüssy to scale Nomos into verticals like residential, aviation and other IoT-reliant enterprise industries that will need his solution more and more in the near future. Despite his admission that the IoT world is in “something of a bubble,” the increase in the use of cloud systems will ensure companies need Nomos to get their constituent parts talking.
“We see ourselves as a universal interpreter,” he adds, with philosophical brio. “We don’t care what kind of religion or political mindset is going to bring you forward. We’re the bridge: a gate to connection. We see ourselves not as developers but as protocol craftsmen. We want to bring a gate to multiple crafts.”
Given the way Hüssy has steadily grown his solution into a software mainstay, it could be said he is already a major IoT gatekeeper.