Interview with Dominik Obermaier, HiveMQ »Only if I make things differently, I will be successful«

Dominik Obermaier is CTO of HiveMQ.
Dominik Obermaier is CTO of HiveMQ.

In IoT, millions of devices are networked together. A secure and reliable connection is essential for this. In an interiew with Elektronik, Dominik Obermaier explains how such a connection is achieved.

When and where did the idea for founding HiveMQ come up?

Dominik Obermaier: Christian Götz and I got to know each other during our studies at HAW Landshut, where the idea for HiveMQ was born. At that time I was already working on software development projects. My luck was to meet Arlen Nipper, CTO and President of Eurotec in the USA. He invented and introduced the MQTT protocol together with Andy Stanford-Clark from IBM in 1999.

At the same time we had won a project in Italy where we automatically recorded the number of people on trains – the data was to be transmitted via the Internet. It was then that companies started to implement use cases for the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communication. Analysts predicted a massive connectivity potential in IoT, so we asked ourselves how this could work, because it wouldn't work with the »Internet of People«, the technology is completely different.

So you decided to use the MQTT protocol?

Obermaier: We immediately thought of MQTT as networking technology – then the standard was also disclosed under a royalty-free license. This allowed us to use the technology for our project in Italy. In the next step we had the idea for a complete product based on the MQTT standard. Initially, we concentrated solely on the project business, but from 2013 on we continued to develop our own product – the HiveMQ MQTT Broker, which enables the fast, efficient and reliable transfer of data to and from networked IoT devices.

»With one action we can connect up to 10 million devices «


What does the product look like?

Obermaier: HiveMQ is a server software that is capable of networking millions of IoT devices using MQTT. Our customers install HiveMQ on-premise or in a cloud. IoT devices or cars then exchange data bidirectionally via our MQTT Broker. This sounds trivial at first, but it is very complex and the foundation for the Internet of Things. Wherever I look, I see our software – our customers include many car manufacturers. HiveMQ is also used for Industry 4.0, or in the transportation sector, for example to track and control drones that deliver medical test samples.


Why do OEMs rely on HiveMQ instead of competing products?

Obermaier: There are of course other manufacturers. In Germany, however, there were hardly any developers for MQTT. In 2014, we were the only ones in Germany besides Software AG to work on standardizing the MQTT protocol. In the meantime it has become an ISO standard and has spread in the industry accordingly. Together with companies like IBM, Software AG and Cisco, we have worked on the standardization of MQTT – we are the smallest company. In this way we have made a name for ourselves in the DACH region, increased attention and were able to win important customers for us.

In addition, our product has some unique selling points. With HiveMQ, up to 10 million devices can be networked simultaneously. In addition, we recognized early, that security is a key factor in networking, so we invested in security features and concepts. Another advantage of our product is flexibility. For example, we had a plug-in interface for our software very early on. This is important for ensuring security but also for mapping customer-specific use cases and is one of the reasons why we have won major customers. However, it is important to have the courage to invest and follow the path consistently.