CentralLite Makes Connection Count Through APIs

Wave after wave of IT has introduced a level of disruption unparalleled in history. But these challenges present enormous opportunities. At the center of everything? Connected devices and the Internet of things.

“Today, it’s possible to build smarter and better systems that deliver real benefits,” said John Calagaz, chief technology officer at CentralLite Systems, a Mobile, Ala., firm that manufactures and sells energy systems, lighting control systems, motion and thermostat sensors and other products in more than 50 countries.

The company, founded in 1997, sells products through third-party retailers such as Lowe’s and builds platforms for connected homes and businesses. Companies use these devices and platforms across a wide swath of industries, including hospitality, retail and health care. But CentralLite, which uses the ZigBee protocol for connected communications, faces a growing challenge, particularly in the hospitality business: creating a holistic framework that delivers the level of manageability and support required for real world application.

“We had to deliver system that really work and deliver value,” Calagaz said.

CentralLite recently turned to Apigee, a provider of API platforms, to build a required framework of end-to-end connectivity. The environment allows the company to link devices and data through the cloud and build out connectivity though mobile apps and other tools.

Moreover, the platform, which monitors device behavior and handles data analysis in the cloud, supports 24/7 capabilities that CentralLite requires. This allows the company to introduce advanced features for hotels and others, including remote check in, an ability to authenticate through a third-party app such as Hotels.com; door locks, thermostats and lighting controls that can be operated with a smartphone; and more advanced security controls. These systems allow individual hotels to adapt the platform and controls as necessary.

The API technology has also allowed CentralLite to introduce other advanced capabilities. For example, along the Gulf Coast, mandatory hurricane evacuations can result in manual door-to-door checks. The process is time consuming and potentially dangerous.

“Typically, people have to go in and manually check each condo,” Calagaz said.

However, using occupancy detection sensors it’s possible to narrow down a list of units that must be checked. Then, with digital lock systems, a management company can issue a temporarily PIN that authorities use to enter units in question.

“There’s no need to worry about keys,” said Sean Bryant, vice president of sales and marketing.

Calagaz said that APIs are a key to IoT systems working effectively and delivering value. Not only does the framework reduce the complications of connecting devices and systems intelligently, it delivers a way to customize interfaces and interactions. “There isn’t a need to force feed any particularly interface or approach,” he said. “The technology also provides a foundation for rapid development–and without the need for specialized embedded developers that write Assembly or C code. There’s a level of scalability that did not exist in the past.”

In the end, a robust API framework introduces a level of automation that wasn’t possible only a few years ago.

“It’s possible to put devices and data to work in new and innovative ways,” Calagaz said.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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