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Facebook takes big step into IoT with developer friendly platform

William Payne
April 1, 2015

Internet giant Facebook took its first step into the Internet of Things world, releasing a software development kit (SDK) for its Parse platform. The launch means one of the biggest firms in technology has joined the likes of Cisco, Google and Microsoft in making Internet of Things a strategic priority. But the new Parse IoT SDK could accelerate significantly the adoption of IoT technologies, both in the home and in the enterprise.

Facebook's Parse provides a software development environment designed to eliminate much of the complexity of dealing with the backend infrastructure. The software development focus shifts to the connected device. As a result, the Parse environment makes it simpler and faster for many developers to create production ready device code.
Parse SDKs will be put onto the Arduino Yun microcontroller board, as well as other devices. An open source Embedded C version will be released that should work comfortably with embedded real time operating systems.

Facebook has already been working with a number of manufacturers who have created connected home devices with the kits. One is Chamberlain, a company that makes a connected garage door opener called MyQ. Another is a company called Roost that has created a wifi battery that can turn ordinary smoke detecters into connected smoke detectors.

Facebook bought Parse in 2013 for $85 million. Parse had developed an SDK for mobile phone developers that greatly simplified creating robust, infrastructure aware mobile apps, without having to engage in complex and distracting server-side programming. For example, Parse makes it simpler to create apps that incorporate large scale push notifications, or cloud-based device logging.

At the time, Facebook's director of engineering, Doug Purdey, explained the logic of acquiring Parse that mentions not only mobile phones but other devices too: "By making Parse a part of Facebook Platform, we want to enable developers to rapidly build apps that span mobile platforms and devices. Parse makes this possible by allowing developers to work with native objects that provide backend services for data storage, notifications, user management, and more. This removes the need to manage servers and a complex infrastructure, so you can simply focus on building great user experiences."

Parse has an obvious appeal to start-up device and IoT developers who want to get their technology to market faster and with less cost. But enterprise developers are also likely to find it an attractive platform as Parse makes integrating different devices and data sources easier.