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Microsoft Vet Ray Ozzie’s New Startup Boosts Cellular IoT With No Subscription

Blues Wireless wants to boost the Internet of Things with a module that connects devices to cellular networks — no monthly subscription required — which AT&T says will improve adoption rates for connected devices.

Former Microsoft executive Ray Ozzie's new startup wants to boost the Internet of Things with a module that connects devices to cellular networks — no monthly subscription required.

Blues Wireless, the name of Ozzie's startup, is working with AT&T on the company's Notecard product, a low-power module with prepaid cellular connectivity that will work with a broad range of commercial and industrial products, according to a Friday blog post by AT&T. The startup’s website calls Notecard a “simple, cost-effective embeddable cellular IoT solution for cloud-based monitoring and connected operations.”

[Related: 5 Biggest IoT Security Issues For Businesses In 2019]

“Notecard will be an immensely compelling solution for businesses looking to economically cloud-enable their products and to gain deep visibility into their operations. Integrating cellular can now be even easier than Wi-Fi. But what I’m most proud of is that it’s a simple experience that developers will love,” Ozzie, the serial entrepreneur behind Lotus Notes, said in a statement.

AT&T said Notecard will run on the carrier's LTE-M and NB-IoT networks, both of which are low-power, wide-area technologies meant to support large IoT deployments. AT&T's NB-IoT network is expected to launch within the next few months in the United States, according to a previous announcement.

"Our low-power wide-area networks over LTE are built for IoT, delivering better indoor coverage, longer battery life and other efficiencies. Notecard will make it easy and economical for our business customers to put IoT solutions to work,” John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, said in a statement.

In an interview with Axios, Ozzie said his company is currently running trials with AT&T and that he plans to make the modules work without a monthly subscription by selling them at a high enough price to cover the cost of the device and the cellular data.

He said devices with cellular connections will contend better than their Wi-Fi-connected counterparts because manufacturers will be able to connect the devices at the factory instead of relying on end users to complete the multi-step Wi-Fi setup — which AT&T said could improve low adoption rates.

"Notecard just works when embedded within a vendor’s products, with no user configuration required," the carrier said in its blog post.

Notecard will also come with encryption and the ability to connect to cloud providers without the need to “cross the public internet,” according to Axios.

AT&T said pricing and availability for Notecard will be provided in the coming months. Blues Wireless is currently accepting sign-ups for an early-access program from device developers, cloud service developers and other IoT stakeholders.

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