In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast Logan Maxwell, Director of Solutions Engineering and Technical Sales at WISER Systems, Inc., joins us to talk about his experience implementing RTLS solutions. Logan speaks to some of the challenges that come with implementing new RTLS systems, as well as the new applications and use cases that are enabled by those implementations. Logan also shares his thoughts on user data collection and the risks and opportunities that come with that, as well as, on a higher level, what he thinks of the disconnect between what IoT promises and where we are in terms of current, real-world applications.
Logan Maxwell received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from NC State University in 2013. After attempting to start his own business right out of college, he joined WISER Systems as the first employee. After hiring great people to fill complementary roles, Logan now directs technical pre-sales. Working for WISER Systems has allowed him to visit, study, and guide installation of the WISER system in incredibly varied manufacturing processes, from contact lens solution to 20-ton excavators.
Interested in connecting with Logan? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About WISER Systems, Inc.: WISER Systems, Inc. provides real-time location and tracking for nearly any environment.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(00:54) Intro to Logan Maxwell
(01:29) Intro to WISER Systems
(02:25) WISER Systems Use Cases
(03:30) What is RTLS?
(07:45) New RTLS applications?
(11:22) What is work in progress tracking?
(12:55) Have you seen any adoption trends across these other industries?
(15:33) As we continue to collect more and more user data worldwide, what opportunities does that open up? What risks?
(18:25) Can you speak to the current disconnect between real-world IoT use cases and projects and the marketing hype we’ve seen surrounding the space for the past several years?
(21:25) When looking to implement IoT, what challenges do you see companies the most concerned with?
(25:04) What are the greatest challenges around implementing an RTLS solution?
– [Ryan] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network. Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT for All Podcast on the IoT for All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon, one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite Podcast platform or join our newsletter at IoT fraud.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. But before we get started, does your business waste hours searching for assets like equipment or vehicles and pay full-time employees just to manually enter location and status data? You can get real-time location and status updates for assets, indoors, and outdoors at the lowest cost possible. With leverages end to end IoT solutions. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com that’s iotchangeseverything.com. So, without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Logan to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Logan] Absolutely happy to be here.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great to have you. Let’s start off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself to our audience to anything that you think is relevant from your background, experience and kind of how you ended up at WISER Systems?
– [Logan] Sure. So, I was one of the first employees here at WISER. So, that’s exciting to kind of see us grow from that stage, literally working in a closet to where we are now, which is I’m still small, but a lot larger than that. Technical background, I do have an engineering degree, but in WISER I typically do kind of pre-sales, technical sales, project management, that sort of thing.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So, tell me a little bit more and tell our audience a bit more about WISER systems, kind of what you all do, the role in IoT that you all play and just kind of your overall offering to the market.
– [Logan] Sure. I’ll try to strip out some of the details here to keep it succinct, but we’ve been around a while. We were actually formed way back, you know, 10, 11 years ago at this point. And that was just based off of some research grant ideas to do real-time location technologies. So, the early days were just developing different kinds of technology. If you failed ideas, a few successful ideas, and then came up with an ultra wide band approach, wrap some patents around that and were able to raise some initial funds. And then from there about the past two to three years, we’ve actually had products that we can sell into the marketplace.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So, let me ask you if there are any, before we kind of get into some of these more high level questions I wanted to ask, if you could share any potential use cases or deployments that you have going on that would kind of connect this all full circle to kind of give some real life examples to our audience.
– [Logan] Sure, so, we are under NDA with most of our clients but I can kind of give some general overview. So, to back it up a few steps, WISER, we provide a real-time location sensor systems. So, you can kind of think of it like GPS, but it can be used indoors and in strange metallic environments in manufacturing. So, one of my favorites to say is that there is now a WISER tag on every bus in Columbus, Ohio. So, if you happen to be in Columbus, Ohio, there is a WISER tag around you somewhere because it’s on all the buses. So, that’s been fun that partner kind of scaling out on the transit side. So, that’s a fun one to point at.
– [Ryan] Very cool, so, let’s talk about RTLS for a little bit here. So, real-time location systems, it’s a very popular thing in the IoT space. There probably is a subset of our audience who’s unfamiliar with it or has heard RTLS, but is unsure exactly what it is. You can go into detail for a bit, just kind of explain what RTLS is and the technologies that really play a role in that and at the same time, maybe connect that to kind of work in progress tracking and kind of how those relate.
– [Logan] Sure, yeah, so, real-time location systems is kind of a subsection, like a niche section of what you could think of it as like barcoding or RFID or just like traditional locating and asset management processes. So, you’ve probably seen it or not noticed, but like you you’re going through a store and then they have the little, the tags embedded in a product that you can’t just walk out the door, right? There’s those big readers on the way out the door and that’ll beep, right? So, that’s what we’d call like a passive RFID. And so you’ve seen it at a couple places, like Best Buy and that sort of thing, but that’s actually also used an industry to track assets and projects and products as they move to manufacturing as well. So, starting with that as the basis of like, okay, that’s location technologies and RFID, RTLS is specific it’s like real time location. And that is now taking that gate based approach and thinking of it like the, you know, the Marauders Map from Harry Potter or, you know, some kind of video game, you know, if you grew up playing video games, like, you know, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, and you’re kind of looking down at the map of everybody moving, and so you have that real time in motion of blips moving on a map, which is, you would think that technology is already prevalent and has been already done, but it’s actually a pretty tough nut to crack. So, we’re just now seeing, not just WISER other, other companies as well, getting into that space and doing it well, does that help explain to some degree? Yeah. Yeah.
– [Ryan] I think, I think so. Can you talk a little bit more about just the general technologies behind it and then just some examples in other industries that you’ve seen RTLS kind of deployed and how it works?
– [Logan] Sure. So, there’s a few different technologies that you can utilize for RTLS. One of the most true traditional methods was just trying to convert a traditional wifi routers to do it because they’re prevalent already in infrastructure, right? So, most organizations are office spaces and environments will have these wifi routers. And so trying to triangulate position based off of wifi signaling, you can also use, Bluetooth is pretty common. That’s probably the most common at this point is using Bluetooth, Bluetooth just wasn’t necessarily originally developed for that purpose, but later Bluetooth has done a pretty good job at trying to determine relative positions. We have tried everything and really have settled on what we call, is called ultra wide band. We have kind of a special blend of it that we call our RRLT, EWB, but, you know, without getting too techie, basically ultra wide band is it type of signal that’s really predominantly built for just this. It’s built for location in the sense that it’s a wide array of a bunch of frequencies chirping at a very fast click. And so even if you’re in a very reflective, metallic environment, the sensors can still pick up the true signal and locate it well in space and time. So, you, any person listening might have actually been in an industry or somewhere where RTLS has already happening, especially with these wifi systems, but they were really only now seeing the first full fledged RTLS systems being put into play with Bluetooth and ultra wide band in particular.
– [Ryan] Gotcha. Okay, very cool. We’ve been kind of exposed to a lot of different RTLS use cases and examples, and I think it’s becoming very prominent in the IoT space, where do you kind of see it going over, let’s say the next 12 to 18 months, do you see any kind of new developments or any new potential applications of RTLS in certain industries that you’re kind of forward-looking into or kind of, guess will come out of all this?
– [Logan] Yeah, well, I think, you know, looking back, I mean the whole, the COVID situation has really sparked a lot of interest in RTLS in terms of, you know, being able to enforce social distancing and seeing how folks move through a space and making sure that you can abide by all the regulations that are required to maintain a site, your people safe. And a lot of that has been mostly Bluetooth because it’s around, it’s easier to get. And a lot of times all that’s needed is proximity spaces, proximity alerts, you know, so moving into the 12 to 18 months, you know, I think you’re gonna see a lot of based on that initial rekindling, some visitor badging people are gonna say, “Hey, this is possible, right?” COVID, we started seeing this seep in with COVID, hey, there’s going to, some pilots got started. This is a solvable problem to some degree. So, we’re going to start saying, “Hey, how can we do visitor access badges, visitor passes, contractor movement, that sort of thing with security facilities.
– [Ryan] Yeah I’m a very, like some of the conversations we’ve had lately on the show is talking about just kind of how COVID’s been influencing things, too, and making workplaces more safe. Do you kind of see that as the appropriate application as we kind of build these new use cases because of the pandemic?
– [Logan] It certainly sparked some interest. I mean, with, you know, speaking from our company specifically, our real value sell, I guess, was like, “Hey, once this infrastructure is in place, you don’t necessarily have to keep this on people.” You know, you can take the tags once everybody’s moving around and shift it onto pallets or, you know, any type of your work process machinery that you’re manufacturing and gain a lot of analytics and insight from that. So, you know, it definitely brought to bear, “Hey, we need to do this.” We need to find a technology that can triangulate and find position indoors, but it really didn’t stick as much because they’re like, “Hey, once this is over, what are we gonna do with this?” So, we’re just trying to combat that so to speak, you know, because once it’s over, hey, you know, do we still need to get alerts when somebody within two meters of somebody else? Probably not. You know?
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m very curious to kind of see what kind of use cases, because we’ve seen a lot of different use cases move to the top of the kind of priority list for companies because of the pandemic, you know, this is obviously was unforeseen from a lot of organizations out there. So, I’d be curious how tight or how some of these deployments are used now. And then like you were saying kind of into the future, will they still be necessary? But I definitely think it’s been kind of turning people’s thought process around a little bit and starting to think about something maybe they weren’t necessarily prepared for so that their organization is able to kind of combat anything like this. That may happen again one day, hopefully not, but it could.
– [Logan] Right? Yeah. Well, fingers crossed.
– [Ryan] Yeah, exactly. So, let me, some of the other use cases you mentioned were associated with work in progress tracking, how does that differ or is that pretty much the same thing as RTLS?
– [Logan] Yeah, so it don’t have to have RTLS to track your work in progress. I guess, in a sense of what, how WISERs fit into the modern IoT ecosystem has been, we create these sensors that gives you really nice coordinate location and timestamps of where the tags are in your facility. And traditionally in a lot of these manufacturing environments, they have a work order, it gets scanned initially, and then it gets scanned at every station, you know, so, hey, and basically what folks have been doing is they’ve been taking a WISER tag, putting it on the asset at the very beginning, and then as it moves through the facility, they don’t actually have to scan it every station.
– [Ryan] I hear you, so, it’s automatically kind of registering when it enters a new zone or new state.
– [Logan] Yeah, exactly. You got it. Right. So, it’s, you know, you can do work in progress tracking without RTLS, but RTLS really simplifies the process. I mean, really, honestly, it just kind of automates the whole thing. And so we’ve, seen that being picked up in a lot of these heavier industries that are working around metal, and it’s just harder to get any sort of RFID and Bluetooth system to work. So, we’ve found ourselves getting a lot of traction there.
– [Ryan] Very cool, and one of the other use cases let’s see on here, I have a list of a couple, so aerospace, automotive, heavy machinery, yard management, with using the WISER locator. Where are you kind of seeing the biggest trend in adoption on this side of things?
– [Logan] Yeah, so, you know, we talked about the work of process and that’s really a lot of times manufacturing, heavy industrial machinery, as we mentioned, but there’s been actually a few different kind of what I didn’t expect, as I mentioned, I kind of been working here from really the inception and did not expect to get the initial ROI in these categories. And one of them is the yard management category, where you have these big indoor and outdoor, but you know, half and half yards of either trucks or transit, you know, you’ve got buses and trains, and, you know, it’s like basically, the systems that we’ve installed have been, say, trucks, for instance. We have two distribution centers, the drivers drive up to the security gate and then the WISER tag is on the truck. It gets registered by the WISER mesh. The driver gets a cell phone notification of exactly where to go while he is at the security gate. He pulls into the very specific space. And, you know, you would think that GPS could handle a lot of that, but it doesn’t have the kind of per second update rate that WISER RTLS would have, and it doesn’t have the accuracy to quite get you exactly to the dock bay. So, we’re tracking these trucks in right to their space, say, hey, go to space 22. and then we can say, hey to this second, when they got to space 22, and then we also have, because we’re giving those timestamps, we have dwell time. How long did it take for that to be full, and for these, this is a large retail client and these distribution centers, all of that is very good metrics for them to trim down their processes. So, that’s one side of the yard management. The other side of yard management, as I was mentioning before that has been really fun, is every city bus in Columbus, for instance, right? So, as these buses kind of move into a yard, basically a sign tells them where exactly to park, so that they can stack appropriately. Right. So that they don’t have to pull out 14 buses ahead of the last bus so it can go get washed, or go get maintenance, you know, that sort of thing. And then, you know, prioritizing. So, they’re all in the right order to pull out in the morning. It’s not necessarily where I envisioned our technology being used right out of the box. But if there’s certainly a demand for it, which is exciting.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, yeah, it’s very exciting. So, let’s move out a little bit away from just specifically talking about RTLS here and talk about some little high-level conversation pieces that I think will be interesting. So, obviously with the connection of more user data worldwide is a very exciting thing to just think about. There’s a lot of benefits, but at the same time, there’s a lot of risks. And there’s some things that potentially could be concerning to people, and I’d love to get your take on kind of how the connection of more user data worldwide is not only exciting, but also potentially concerning, and at the same time, what are the major benefits and risks associated with it?
– [Logan] Yeah, that’s a big topic. So, you know, we’ve actually, have been installed at a site where we are tracking people and, you know, they weren’t very excited about that, initially. And so, having some firsthand experience about that sort of location data being associated to on a per person basis and the work environment, obviously, may be different from a personal environment, but I can see there is going to be some backlash. As to your point, there certainly could be some positive aspects of it. Like, you know, if you think about like Minority Report, you walk into a giant box store, you know, let’s just say I’m walking into Home Depot or something and they can say, hey, you know, hello, Logan Maxwell. We know it’s you because you’re wearing a WISER tag and and where do you want to go? And I can say, hey, I need this, this and this. And then boom, they can tell me step by step direction, right?
– [Logan] And this might be, we can talk about this later, but eventually wanting the phone to be the WISER tag is something that WISER’s targeting in particular as UWB becomes more prevalent in phones. But suffice to say the WISER tag would either be on me or my phone, which would be better? And then my phone can say, Hey, go to aisle 22, 36 and 48 in that order with your cart, get all your things. I never have to have another human interaction. That is exciting to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing too many home projects during quarantine, but you know, that part is very cool, like tying that data to me and my purchase history, but on that same token, knowing everything I’ve purchased, knowing everywhere I’ve been in all of those stores, if conglomerated above the store level. So, say Home Depot, Walmart, and everybody starts sharing that information, then you can start creating a very intense, personal history of every single person. And I feel that although that could also be used for good, in the sense of targeting very specific marketing to people for products that they want and need, that could also be abused as we’ve already seen, I think, to try to, you know, micro target some advertising to get people, to buy unnecessary things.
– [Ryan] Right, right. That’s great. And then one other question I had for you was around kind of the real world application of IoT and comparing that to kind of the marketing hype around IoT. So, obviously IoT has kind of transformed from as an acronym from M to M and, you know, we it’s, it’s obviously been around for a while, but once you attach something like a buzz word to IoT, obviously the expectations of connected devices and the kind of projection just went through the roof over the last number of years, kind of looking into the future. So, I wanted to kind of ask you more about kind of the marketing hype around IoT and its actual performance, like the disconnect between, you know, these buzzwords that they sometimes kind of draw to themselves and the actual practicality of completing real-world IoT projects and kind of how those relate and also conflict.
– [Logan] Yeah. I mean, I think you nailed it. It’s just kind of separating catchy kind of trending market phrases versus like, hey, what have you actually deployed that’s got an ROI? And a lot of this is coming from trade shows too, in particular, like everybody’s kind of talking their latest good, which is really just kind of a cobbled together prototype, you know, it’s like, you’re gonna hesitate to find them. Maybe this is a bad example, but CES is rife with this is just like, okay, cool. You kind of cobbled together a cool hypothetical prototype of some sort of IoT deployment, but it would be a lot more invigorating to me to see somebody say, hey, this is a real use case. We deployed these sensors. This is the amount of cash we saved. It’s sometimes harder to quantify and it’s sometimes hard to break NDAs as it is with WISER, but, you know, seeing those being deployed. So, in a general sense does seem to be a disconnect between industry 4.0, we’re probably up to 5.0 at this point, right? You know, industry, industry X.0, you know, IoT and just using those to wrap these these deployments and just say, hey, yeah, this is a IoT deployment, but really what it is is, you know, you have a pilot and that’s great. Or you started down that road. And then what you ended up doing was just beefing up your existing barcode. And that’s fine too, but that’s not really an IoT deployment. Something gets out in that category. So, there’s definitely a, sometimes a disconnect between the two that isn’t to say that isn’t to say that there aren’t some great examples of people being able to pull some things off. But it’s been interesting to kind of try to Wade through the marketing hype, in particular, with WISER coming in on the RTLS angle, it’s like, hey, we’ve got a real-time location system and everybody’s like, oh, I’ve heard that one before.
– [Ryan] Well, it is interesting to see just the application of the different technologies that make up an IoT solution to fit to different use cases and learning how, you know, certain use cases you can kind of buy off the shelf, customize and deploy while other ones are very custom. And I think it’s IoT is a much more difficult than people think to deploy. I mean, obviously smaller scale. Yeah, you can do it, but trying to do deal with some of these enterprise applications that are larger scale and really, you know, have a strict ROI that a company is looking for in order to justify it, it really relies on a partner ecosystem to be sophisticated. The technologies to be sophisticated. And just there to be a really general understanding of not just the use case, which is usually probably the trickiest part for an IoT solutions company or systems integrator, whoever’s building the solution to understand because they don’t live in that industry, but, you know, if they’re able to really grasp with all the different technologies that are available, it’s usually possible to make a solution that fits kind of the characteristics of the solution at a affordable cost. So, from your perspective, what have you kind of seen as like the biggest challenges in IoT adoption from your guys’ angle when you talk to companies and engage with them? What are their concerns?
– [Logan] I mean, yeah. I think you were, just talking about it to some degree is that it’s like, okay, you’ve got this, you got the problem. The problem has already been figured out. And they honestly typically are going to have some sort of, you know, cost analysis based on that problem already. Right? Okay. That’s the first challenge done. We figured out there’s this issue. Now we have to solve it with IoT, we think. So now it comes down to cobbling together, a bunch of disparate sensors and groups and partners to create a solution or trying to find something turn key. And those are two different paths and both can work if you’re going the turn key route, typically it’s with a larger organization that has a big old dashboard suite and a whole bunch of partners, and sometimes it can be quoted as turnkey. It’s not quite, you know, there’s always going to be some, some development, but really the big question is, who’s tying all of this data together, right? And where is the data going? And so what we find, and again, just speaking from personal WISER experience, it’s hey, we can, we can dump you all this coordinate data and timestamp data. Like we can tell you very accurately, you know, not to boast, but you know, very accurately where all your tags are in your facility, but that isn’t really useful to you. You need to know when work order 33 hits polishing, and then just tell Steve to get down there with the polishing kit. You know, you don’t care that tag, you know, X is at Y location. So, it’s, how are you getting that data tied in? And some companies that we’ve been working with have actually been very forward-thinking in allocating resources towards these internal groups, they have, you know, new product and IoT kind of groups that are built to kind of build those bridges and build a middleware and connecting tissue between these sensors. And that’s been really exciting to see. So, it’s honestly been where if you can get to an organization that has one of those groups, you’re like, hey okay, like this, you’ll be able to pull some sensors off the shelf and kind of make this happen, but that’s a big challenge for folks that don’t have that, right?
– [Ryan] Totally agree. Totally agree. So, as we’re kind of discussing, or kind of alluding to some challenges I wanted to, if we bring it back to the RTLS discussion, when you talk to customers and engage with potential organizations, what suspicions or questions they have about RTLS in general, like, do they have concerns that it won’t function in the environment that the company has created and, you know, kind of perfected over the years or where are the biggest kind of concerns lie on the RTLS side of things? Is a good question to kind of wrap up with.
– [Logan] Sure. Yeah. I think you, again, alluded to it. I mean, it’s certainly needed to know that it’s going to work in their environment, traditional RFID and Bluetooth. It does not perform exceptionally well in these, you know, cluttered manufacturing, metallic environments, just inherent to the technologies. So, they need to know it works there which we typically pre COVID and now that COVID’s wrapping up are able to actually come onsite with a small kit, set it up in the environment and get over that hurdle. The second hurdle is typically, you know, scalability, right? So, they’re like, well, cool. We saw you come in here with, you know, a few antennas and set it up real quick and show us it working, That’s awesome, but we wanna do the whole plant. It’s like, okay. You know, so that’s typically the second question. And fortunately, I’m able to say at this point, which I would not have been able to say three years ago is we have scaled. So, I’m very much more confident in selling these folks. Hey yeah, absolutely. You know, we can put you up hundreds of antennas, thousands of tags, we got you, as we now fortunately have done it, but that’s typically the next hurdle. And then that final hurdle is, you know, what are you gonna do with the data, which we kind of already talked about, specific to RTLS, it really is. Can you get me the accuracy and can you get it to the scale that I need to get to, rethe typical big ones.
– [Ryan] Gotcha. Okay. I appreciate kind of these insights, you know, we don’t get to cover, we haven’t really had any, at least too many experts on the RTLS side come on here, but like I mentioned earlier, it’s a very popular topic in the IoT space. You know, anytime you get into real time, anything obviously that’s a big value on the IoT side, and then you know, anytime we can better understand the location of assets or kind of people, anything that’s moving around, they seem to be the most, at least early adopted solutions. And I’m curious to see kind of how that continues to pick up as technology continues to improve hardware, continues to improve tags, improve, et cetera. And I think what you all are doing is you know, a great fit for the industry. And it’s fantastic that you guys are having a lot of success. It seems like obviously, you know, obviously last year was tough for a lot of companies on the COVID side, but it seems like WISER systems is doing great. So congrats on all that. And I really appreciate your time being here today.
– [Logan] Yeah absolutely. We’re excited to be here and excited to see how things shape with the market.
– [Ryan] Yeah, to wrap up here. Would you mind just kind of, I guess two things, one, are there any kind of news or exciting things happening on the WISER systems front in the next six months or so that our audience should be to look out for? And then on top of that, if anybody has questions, wants to engage a little bit more, what’s the best way to do that?
– [Logan] Yeah, absolutely, so we’re looking forward to trade shows coming back. So, not too many, if you know, if you’re a current client, obviously we’re working on new features and releases for your software packages. So, that’ll be exciting. I have one of those very soon. We are gonna be at some trade shows virtually later in the year. Some manufacturing, manufacturing, technology shows, but then absolutely, when things start kicking up in person, we’re looking forward to maybe being at CES next year, for instance, it’s going to be a big one for us coming up in 2020, and then obviously to get in touch with us, visit our website. We do have a form that you fill out. That’ll get you directly in touch with somebody here at WISER. You obviously feel free to call as well. Although with COVID our office phones are all forwarding to our home phones these days, but yeah, just feel free to reach out, get in touch. We’ve got white papers on the website as well. That’s wisersystems.com
– [Ryan] Awesome. Well, I appreciate it. I appreciate the time. A lot of good insights shared here today. I think our audience will get a lot of value out of it, but yeah, and you know, this is a great, great introduction to kind of the company through IoT for All. And you know, we look forward to hopefully building a relationship with you all so that our audience can learn more about RTLS, learn more about what you have going on, you know, solutions deployments out there because I think the industry could benefit a ton from it. So again, thank you so much for your time and appreciate it.
– [Logan] Yeah, absolutely happy to be here. Appreciate the opportunity.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. All right, everyone, thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All Podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did, please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our Podcasts on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a [email protected] and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a featured guest, other than that, thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next time.