In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, ThingLogix CTO Rob Rastovich joins us to talk no- and low-code IoT and how they will affect the IoT landscape as a whole. Rob shares some of the use cases that benefit most from these kinds of solutions and how we’re likely to see them affect the IoT business models of the future.
Rob Rastovich has been actively involved in technology for nearly 30 years, from building a top 10 e-commerce site in a time when e-commerce was still in its infancy to establishing what is now known as Amazon’s AWS IoT. As CTO of ThingLogix, Rob is the chief architect behind the company’s groundbreaking IoT platform that eliminates the need for code. Rob is probably the only CTO that also runs a working cattle ranch in central Oregon, but he is equally comfortable developing cloud applications as he is feeding cattle.
Interested in connecting with Rob? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About ThingLogix: Founded in 2014, ThingLogix focuses on helping companies adopt emerging technologies to change their businesses, their customers’ lives and the world. ThingLogix provides a low-code/no-code AI and IoT platform to accelerate software development by a factor of 50 or more, reduces cost, risk and delivers future-proof applications.
This episode of the IoT For All Podcast is brought to you by Soracom.
Check them out at soracom.io
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(00:54) Intro to Rob Rastovich
(04:59) Intro to ThingLogix
(07:49) How will low-code/no-code solutions affect IoT as a whole?
(10:56) What use cases can you share?
(16:02) What does the future of AIoT look like?
(19:11) How are business models changing in IoT?
(25:29) How should companies approach the technology side of IoT as they begin to plan their solutions?
(30:39) News from ThingLogix
– [Narrator] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] 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 IoTforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. This IoT For All podcast is brought to you by our partners at Soracom, the global IoT connectivity platform that makes it easy to take all of your network or even blend networks and connect devices to the cloud over any internet connection from cellular to wifi. With over three million connections and 20,000 users worldwide, Soracom delivers affordable, reliable, technically advanced connectivity. It helps accelerate speed to market for developers, startups, and enterprise teams. Visit Soracom.io to see how Soracom can help you succeed in IoT at any scale. Soracom, you create, we connect. That’s Soracom.io, S-O-R-A-C-O-M dot io. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All podcast. Welcome, Rob, to the IoT For All show. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Rob] Thanks Ryan, for having me, appreciate it.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. So let’s start off by giving a quick introduction about yourself. You can talk about anything relevant experience, background, all that good stuff, and we’ll go from there.
– [Rob] So I am Rob Rastovich, I’m the CTO of ThingLogix. We are IoT company, and I also happened to live on a cattle ranch in Central Oregon, we have 200 acres and about 350 head of cows. I started in IT back in the dotcom boom days, put up my first website in the early nineties and kind of got the bug of programming and technology then, started doing enterprise applications. I’m a traditional Java programmer and doing building web applications for various customers. In 2006, 2007, I went to San Francisco and saw a salesforce.com demo where they right clicked and deployed code to the cloud. And I started drinking the cloud Kool-Aid back then. Did salesforce.com development for about 10 years there. And then I got the IoT bug in about 2010 or 11. I think we decided that we were going to kind of branch off and leave, leave the Salesforce world and see if we can’t build some ingestion software. So we started a company in Denver called Telemetry, and the objective was to build a, basically an IoT broker and MQTT broker that could ingest large amounts of data. Our goal was actually to sell it to Salesforce, because we figured that IoT was the emergent technology and everybody would be in it and we wanted to be first to market on there. And so we were building the tech out and ultimately, Amazon got ahold of us and said, what are you guys doing down there? And long story short, we ended up selling that company to Amazon. And what is today known as AWS IoT was the technology that Telemetry built back in the day.
– [Ryan] Wow, that’s pretty cool.
– [Rob] Yeah, it was great. And then, so ThingLogix was born out of that. So after the acquisition, Amazon, they essentially wanted the technology. They didn’t want the customers, and I didn’t really want to move to Seattle because there’s no place to put cows in the middle of Seattle. So a couple of the other partners and I spin up ThingLogix to essentially provide professional services and to service our customers on the technology that we just sold to Amazon. Since we were the only ones in the world that knew how to use it at the time. So, and that’s how ThingLogix got started.
– [Ryan] Wow, that’s awesome story. I’ve heard a couple similar stories, not in the technology space. Well it’s technology space, but more in the education space, similar things like that, where a company builds a piece of software. People ended up leaving the company to go Start a firm to help the customers of those, of that software of the kind of the users of them. So very similar story, not necessarily were they involved in the acquisition, but just the fact that they built a company to help support the technology that they were initially had experience with since they were the only ones who really understood it. That’s really cool.
– [Rob] Yeah. Yeah. And it’s always, for startups, it’s always tricky, right. You know, you want to focus on the core technology, but I mean, if no one’s using it, then what makes you make think your core technology is any good, but then you still have to service all those customers. And so it’s always a balancing act. Are you a product company how do you manage customers and whatnot? So, yeah, it’s very common model.
– [Ryan] So tell us a little bit more about ThingLogix and kind of, you gave us the story of how it was started, but where is it now, and kind of, what’s the focus kind of the role it plays in IoT and that kind of thing?
– [Rob] Yeah. So we obviously coming out of a delivery and really kind of my DNA in Salesforce development influenced it a lot as well. I mean, I always imagine Mark Benioff and Parker Harris sitting around going, you know what, I got an idea, why don’t we, everybody needs a CRM, why don’t we just give them, and everybody’s gonna have to create a database. And in that database, they’re gonna put an account and they’re going to create a table called contact, and there’s gonna be first name and last name and email address and phone number. Why don’t we just give every, why don’t we give everybody that? And you know, get them started and give them all the stuff that they need, and then let them customize it from there on out, because they’ll have have 80% of what they need. And let them decide what that unique 20% is for their business. So really the same approach was for IoT solutions, ThingLogix, and that same thinking kind of drove us at ThingLogix, like everybody needed the same thing. When we went into an IoT project, you needed over the air, be able to manage your devices to update firmware. You need it, asset management, you needed a workflow system. And most importantly, you needed a place to put code. You know, I mean, in the old days, even in Salesforce, or if you’re doing traditional web applications there’s a server over here that you write some code and you put it on there and you hit a request and that response comes back and you can query a database, but there’s a place to put the code, in IoT world, it’s really difficult to like, alright, you can’t put all that code necessarily at the edge. You can’t necessarily put it on the server because you need to have the ability to ingest thousands and thousands and millions of devices. So it’s not a central place. So really ThingLogix, our name actually came out of our ability to create this framework and this, to put logic to your things, to actually where do you do that? And what’s the best practices around doing that. So we actually ended up developing a product, we call it Foundry, and Foundry is essentially think of what Salesforce is to CRM Foundry is to IoT. It comes, it’s a complete serverless solution that comes with all your asset management and frameworks to develop code and all that kind of stuff. So that when you’re going into do an IoT solution, you’re not starting from ground zero.
– [Ryan] Right. That makes a ton of sense. So talk a little bit more about this kind of low code, no code approach that you all. have kind of taken on to make available to the market. I mean, you kind of told the story behind it, which is great. But how does eliminating that need or code really play a role in IoT? Like, what are you seeing it solve over time? You know, what does it really enable and who are you aiming, aiming it at? Is there a kind of a target audience that you’re focused on?
– [Rob] So you had the Genesis for that really is speed of delivery, right? So the idea of low-code, or no-code means that you have a foundation and that the things that you are gonna need in, in your implementation probably have already been built, right. You know, there’s no need to keep reinventing the wheel every time, let’s take that function we have. And instead of either making me go into the code and do it, just give me the ability to say yes, I want to convert latitude and longitude to a physical address, right. Don’t make me go out and cut, make the API calls and do all that stuff. Just that’s what we do. So the ability is really to take all this reusable code and put it into a framework where you can now pick and choose. I have a device, it’s chirping data. Okay, great. And that device is tripping data. I need the ability to put a condition response in there. If temperature is greater than a hundred from my temperature sensor, then take an action, do something else. And that ability to kind of put those if, and, else, then building blocks together without having to get down to the code level is really what the low code no code is about.
– [Peggy] Gotcha. Go ahead.
– And then speed of delivery. Being able to get a product out quickly. So as an example, when COVID hit and we realized that okay, everybody’s locked down and now we’re gonna have to, eventually they’re gonna have to go back to work. And the requirements and the legislation was changing daily, you’re supposed to take their temperature. You’re not supposed to take their temperature. How are you gonna take a temperature? How do you get a thousand people back into a school? So we were able to spin up a vertical solution around health check assessments automated temperature taking in kiosks around that in literally like three weeks, versus what would take three months to get going. And right now speed to market is really the key in anything, right? By the time, if it’s taking you six months to run an IT project, everything’s changed, it used to be, it took a year, it was a long time now, it’s getting more and more compact. So low code, quick development and speed to market is really our mantras in what we’re trying to do.
– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. And could you expand a little bit more on kind of the use cases that you guys have been involved in? I think that’s always an interesting conversation so that our audience out there, that’s kind of looking to better understand IoT and figure out what could your offering help them do? Not just like functionality wise, speed to market and so forth, but like what kind of verticals or industries do you have a focus in, if any at all, and just talk about some, maybe real life deployments, so people can really understand kind of the potential and power of this.
– [Rob] Yeah, sure. Happy to kind of run through some of our more exciting customers. So one of our customers is the USGS, the United States Geological Service. They are using our technology to monitor and manage river flows. So they had a need to be able to, like deploying water measuring equipment into the field was often difficult. And it’s a rugged environment, so it wouldn’t last very long. So we ended up putting cameras in these, like the Colorado River and some of these larger rivers and developing algorithms to determine how much water is flowing down there. So, I mean, it helps with flood prevention, irrigation downstream, just management of the lifecycle of water. So they use that. They use it for collecting all that data, and then being able to provide river flow information downstream. They also monitor and manage patterns of snow geese and ducks. We just started a new one where we’re managing volcano activity and ground movements and those kinds of things. So that’s kind of the the top thing, and then we have solar panels in Africa, and there we have a company in Africa that sells, they have a small solar panel that comes with a refrigerator, say it comes with a refrigerator and a TV and an extra couple of outlets, and they sell it at a very low price point. So managing those, doing predictive maintenance on those, and really being able to provide connectivity to places that don’t necessarily have it, that’s another use case. And then we have very simple things, smart home technology. Obviously we had a series of rental properties, a company that does rental properties hooking up all the rental properties to give a value add to people interested in renting their stuff. So it comes with monitoring your standard temperature and door locks, water, and fire, and all that other stuff. And then I actually use it in agriculture too. So I mentioned, I live on a cattle ranch, I actually sell beef to consumers. And we actually use our technology as to do our cold chain to make sure that our product is always cold to alert consumers when their product’s going to arrive and those kinds of things. And we’re actually building smart corrals now to help with management of the livestock, because typically the animal that goes to market today is the slowest one, right? Wherever you can catch and put in the pen is the one as opposed to the one that needs to be able to go. And so we’re putting together a system of corrals so that as the cow walks by with an RFID tag, a series of gates can open and close so that they can get separated out. And it’s less stress on the animal. It’s safer for the cowboy. It’s all the way around. And then we even use a ironically enough we call it the, we talk about the internet of things, but it’s really the internet of everything, we actually are using our technology. The United Way uses it to track care for indigence across multiple agencies. It was an initiative started and funded by Cisco in the Silicon Valley. They wanted a thousand people out of poverty was the initial project. And the goal was they had all these different agencies where you had an agency that was providing homeless shelter one that provided food, and one that provided job training or something like that, but there was no coordination of care about that. So we actually enabled these agencies to chirp as if they were a device. They’d send data as if about patients who have opted into the system and collect it into a central place and so they can manage care. So the internet of things is really the internet of everything. And we kind of run the gamut on what we’re trying to connect.
– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. So let’s move out a little broader sense and have a discussion around kind of the AI and IoT, which now seems to be called AIoT. From your stance, how do you see kind of AI and IoT playing a role together, kind of, what does that enable, where do you see the future of that going?
– [Rob] So I always, I have a, we talk about the life cycle of an IoT or a project that we do, right? So the first thing is people say, you have a temperature sensor or a water sensor, and they say, I want you to connect my device. Okay. So we put some firmware on there. We connect it to a cellular network or wifi, and all of a sudden it can send a message and we show them and look, show them a little dashboard and look, here’s the messages coming up, temperature 76, temperature 76, temperature 76, oh, that’s great, that’s wonderful. Can you put it on a graph is the next requirement. Oh my gosh, yes. And you can see the beautiful graph and they go, man, God, that’s so cool. Look at that, it’s the graph. And then they go, well, can you have it texted me when it gets, if the temperature goes above a hundred? Yeah, we send it in and we create a little thing and in away it goes, and they get a text message. And if temperature gets above a hundred and they go, we want to connect 10,000 of these things. And then they say, then they have what I call the oh no moment. I use a different word, but like, oh no. How are we gonna manage all of this? And how are we going to like, first thing, stop the text messages. ‘Cause I don’t want to get them, turn the graph off because I can’t watch all 10,000 of these temperature sensors. And they say, can you make the things smart enough to do what I need it to do? So if it’s a water sensor, for example, instead of texting me or showing me a graph that says, I need the water, there’s water in the basement, turn the pump off, turn the valve off, connect the sensor to the valve, connect the valve to the house, connect the house to the city, connect the city to my car. And all of that requires intelligence. And I think in this, the idea of AIoT to me, is the logical conclusion of where I think we, where I always thought IoT was in the beginning, but IoT in the beginning was everything was IoT. If I were a firmware company, I was IoT. If I was a data analytics company, I was IoT. If I was, but now being able to take logic, not just code, put it inline of these devices, give them some intelligence and then add into that, the ability for these devices to learn, to get smarter for that cycle to keep going. That really is, I think the promise of what IoT always was. And I think we’re just now starting to actually see those implications and you know, what the business and how the business models are changing to accommodate them.
– [Ryan] So speaking of business models, how are you kind of seeing the business models change in IoT? What are some successful models you’re seeing in IoT? And then one question I wanted to have you expand on from there is a lot of our listeners are probably unsure of the business models that could really apply to IoT from their side of things. And so what should they need to understand and how to determine kind of which business model is right for them going forward?
– [Rob] That’s a great question. And I think it’s hard. I think it’s hard to wrap your mind around. And I think corporate America, the enterprise is still struggling with how to do this, but for me t’s thinking about it in terms of the subscription economy, right? And the best example I have is, I had a guy come to me and he says, he wanted to upgrade, he’s a pool supply, or pool maintenance business, where they manage pools and jacuzzis and those kinds of things. And he came with the idea, he’s like, I want to expand my business. I want to upgrade and get, make it easier for my customers. So his ideas were around, I want to improve my website so it’s easier to use, maybe where I have a mobile app that they can schedule their stuff. I want customers to be able to buy product online. And you have this list of stuff that said, this is where I think I can, this is how I’m going to improve my business. And I said, and my thought and our consult to him was let’s think about that in terms of a connected business. Yes, you are, even if you increase your, I mean, improve your website. And even if you can do all those kinds of things, you’re still a reactive type of business. What if we changed that around into a more connected type of business model? So in other words, instead of doing that, let’s take a connected pool pump, right? Let’s take a pool pump where we can now install these pumps inside of your customers and provide them, you provide the data coming, they provide the data coming back to you. Now, chemicals are ordered when they’re needed. They show up, you don’t have your customer go do it. Maybe they’re included as part of a subscription base. Now maintenance is scheduled before the thing breaks, not reaction after it breaks, your customer and the relationship between you and that customer is now more tightly coupled than it ever was before. And the fact that the loyalty that they’re gonna have, and the ability for them to retain that customer is gonna go forward. But it’s a very different model than it’s a higher subscription. It’s a higher monthly subscription. We’ve even seen a company like TTI Floor Care of Hoover vacuum cleaners. And they’re actually considering now cleaning as a subscription, a connected vacuum cleaner, the number one problem with vacuum cleaners is nobody changes the filter and they don’t know what a filter is supposed to be in the vacuum cleaner. And so they’re looking at ways to say, all right, let’s give the vacuum cleaner as a subscription. And we’ll send you the filter when when we need it. And you get to refresh your vacuum cleaner every couple of years, because you know, that technology changes and those kinds of subscription-based proactive business models, I think is where we’re definitely headed.
– [Ryan] What do you think about kind of currently a lot of the business model discussion, and this is more from the customer side of things is on a per device, per month charge basis, or initially there’s a lot essentially upfront costs for time and materials to develop certain solutions. Companies oftentimes eat the costs in order to get through pilots into scale. But you know, a lot of the way of doing things is the price depends on how many devices you have in the field, and the total cost associated with that. And it kind of scales obviously over time. What are your thoughts there as that relates to the subscription side that you’re talking about?
– [Rob] Absolutely. I mean, those types of models would not have been, are not feasible without the connectivity, right? So I mean, think about when you talk about consumption, people always say, there’s a connected washing machine now. But why do you want have a connected washing machine? People say, well, well look at the epidemic. But what if you did washing on a consumption basis? What if you only had to pay for the laundry that you did as opposed to doing it, that type of consumption isn’t possible if it’s not connected and you can’t control it. I guess the question now becomes how much we talk about the moral and ethical ability you need to have to make sure that the company that’s also providing that service has making sure, ’cause you are really connecting you and that company together, much more closely than we ever have had in terms of business. So I think those, I think the per device and consumption are definitely growing. I mean, you see that happening obviously in the IT world we’ve been adopting that for years now. We all decided like, okay, well, let’s get rid of our servers. Let’s get rid of all the upfront costs and we’ll just rent what we need when we need it and we’ll pay for what we need as we go, so it’s all kind of headed that way. So I think the last mile, or some of these more consumer facing products that are going to head in that same direction.
– [Ryan] Yeah. I totally agree. I think it also is quite use case and industry specific. If you’re talking more enterprise, I think it’s a little bit different of an approach than I think the consumer side for sure. So, yeah, that’s fantastic insight. One of the last question I wanted to ask you here before we wrap up is when companies kind of start their IoT journey and they’re trying to assess the technology that is needed to successfully deploy their solution. How do you kind of advise that?
– Like how do you, how should companies be assessing their technology needs when it comes to starting that journey? And a lot of times it comes from a place of just ignorance because there’s a lot to learn about IoT, but in working with companies like ThingLogix, I’m sure there comes a level of kind of advisory with those engagements to make sure that they’re picking the right stuff to achieve their goals, but just kind of starting that journey and thinking about it. How should companies kind of approach the technology aspect of it when they’re kind of starting the conversations with companies like yours?
– [Rob] I think that has changed over the years. Like originally, when we first started doing IoT, which we were calling MDM back then, right, we always said we were in the basement of the enterprise. We were down with the engineers, the guys with the Arduinos, they were soldering things together and seeing if we could make something you know, connect and send a hello world. And so as we were down there, it was kind of a bottoms up approach. So engineering would come up with something and say, all right, look at what I can do. And it didn’t get up to the business level. But I think now what we have started to see is the opposite. I think it is now to the point where in the C-suites you’re seeing all right, I don’t exactly understand how all this stuff gets connected, but I do see opportunity. I do see that there are new UIs and there are new channels that we have to get to that are only possible through more of an event based system. So as an example, lots of Alexa, Google Home, all those UIs are very event based, request and response doesn’t work so well with them anymore. So they are now asking, okay. And we did the first or the second, Capitol One I think was the first, we did the second bank.
– [Ryan] Emirates, yeah.
– [Rob] Emirates MDB in Dubai was our first customer where we actually created the Alexa skills for them to, so you can do your banking by voice. You can check your balances deposit, move money, do all that kind of stuff. And that was only possible because of an event based system, like an IoT, we treated just like an IoT project. So I think what we’re trying to do when people come to us is help them understand this digital transformation that’s happening in the world. I believe, I think five years from now, if you and I have another conversation, we’re going to talk about remember we used to, when we wanted to do something, we’d have to open the computer and type www and we’d have to go and we’d click all this stuff, and that’s how we ordered stuff. And we’ll go, yeah, I remember that. You know, so I think that this interaction that we have with companies is gonna move away from the browser, is going to move away from the computer. We’ve already seen it move away from brick and mortar. And so it’s going to be moving more into a digital voice activated IoT connected type of an environment. And that’s what we really try to do from a strategy point of view is help companies understand, all right, how does your business model need to change? Just like the jacuzzi guy, you got to stop thinking about how we used to do business and how business can be conducted now.
– [Ryan] Right. That’s fantastic. It makes a lot of sense. I really appreciate kinda all these insights and kind of the angle from which you’re coming at it. I think it’s fascinating. Your experiences is very interesting in how it relates to kind of what you have built that ThingLogix. And it’s been great to kind of hear what you had to say and kind of how you’re approaching this industry, which is relatively unique, I think in some cases, especially with your offerings to the market. So for our audience out there who may be interested in learning a little bit more or wants to kind of connect to follow up in this conversation. Maybe it sounds like a fit for something they’re looking to do. What’s the best way to reach out?
– Yeah. I mean, reach out via email, it’s Rob@ThingLogix.com. You can also go to our website you see there. I would also say, I would love to have everybody be able to have a say, send me an MQTT message, but they probably not able to do that yet, right? So no, reach out. I would love to obviously have these conversations. It’s a area that we are obviously very passionate about, would like to help out whenever we can.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Last question. So anything new kind of on the horizon coming out of ThingLogix that our audience should pay attention to or be on the lookout for?
– [Rob] So a couple of things that we got coming out, so, we have a product called WorkWatch that’s coming out. That is out, that just launched to help returned back to work, mainly around the stuff that we were talking about, you know, health check, sanitizing facilities, connecting your facility to make sure that it’s being properly cleaned and recorded. And even you could go as far as temperature checks when people are coming back in, doing that with a lot of schools. And then the next thing we’re coming out with is Chirply, even though I said email me, I believe that email is about to die. And I think email should die. In my opinion. Text messaging is obviously the mode of communication for any millennial. And it’s definitely moving to the standard of how companies talk to things, but it’s also how devices talk to things and how we can talk to devices. So imagine being able one day send a text message to your house or send a text message to things. And so we’re coming out with a messaging managing platform around SMS, and not just peer to peer, but company to customer and thing to thing and all that stuff. So look for that in the next few weeks.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, Rob, this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time. You know, I don’t get the opportunity to always talk to, you know, CTOs who are as experienced as you are. You know, the AWS IoT stuff I think is very fascinating ’cause I have experience with that, and I never knew that, or meeting somebody who was involved kind of in the creation of that before it got to AWS is awesome to hear. So thanks again for taking the time and we’ll make sure we get this out to our audience. And give it, send it over your way with all the good links and ways to contact so that anybody listening has any interest in kind of learning more can do so.
– [Rob] I really appreciate you taking the time to have us on thank you, Ryan.
– [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 podcast 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 note at ryanatiotforall.com 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.