When open-source mobile gadget startup Bug Labs launched in 2007, it was hoping to first serve the gadget-hacker community — tinkerers and do-it-yourselfers who wanted to build their own mobile software and hardware. Instead, the company is finding surprising success in the enterprise, Bug Labs founder and CEO Peter Semmelhack tells us.
Semmelhack says “well over half” of the company’s sales are to corporations, up from about one-third of sales a year ago. These companies are looking at Bug Labs’ relatively inexpensive “Bug” kits as an alternative to custom-made mobile devices or more complex solutions involving sensors and laptops.
What’s the Bug? Think of it as a lego kit for mobile geeks: Mix-and-match pieces like LCD touchscreens, motion sensors, digital cameras, wi-fi, GPS, etc., all attached to a base unit. You can write any software you want for the gadgets — it’s basically a tiny computer — and because the hardware specs are open-source too, you can also design physical add-ons.
Companies are buying both Bug kits and services, Semmelhack says, including support services and help with software and custom hardware development.
And Bug is building more hardware itself — it’s currently testing a 3G modem module and will roll out new modules including an RFID reader, a larger LCD screen, and a sensor module to monitor stuff like temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, ambient light, etc.
Semmelhack also confirms that Apple is starting to show up more in the enterprise mobile market. Specifically, he’s seeing companies starting to use iPhones and iPod touch devices as an interface for other, less-graphically oriented services and devices, such as Bugs. For instance, a company might install a bunch of Bug devices with sensors, have them send information to a server, and use an iPhone as a mobile user interface.