In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Pelion CTO Mikko Saarnilaava joins us to talk IoT development, implementation, and IoT pilot best practices. Sharing his more than 20 years in the industry, Mikko gives his thoughts on where the industry is going and how the use cases for IoT have evolved and grown, as well as some of his thoughts on how companies can get the most value out of their IoT pilot programs, from selecting development partners to launching an MVP.

Mikko is currently CTO of Pelion (an Arm company) – delivering on a vision with connected devices and where life and devices thrive together. Prior to this, he was a Fellow at the Arm IoT business unit.

Interested in connecting with Mikko? Reach out to him on Linkedin!

About Pelion: Pelion was originally founded as an incubation unit within Arm, the world’s leading designer of key technologies at the heart of computing. Now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Arm, Pelion is forging its own path in the IoT revolution, building upon a solid foundation of connectivity and device expertise and a 500-enterprise strong customer base. With a unique combination of global IoT connectivity and device management from a single vendor, Pelion breaks down barriers to IoT adoption for anyone looking to transform their industry.

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(01:03) Introduction to Mikko Saarnilaava

(03:04) Intro to Pelion

(08:06) Pelion’s Use Cases

(11:11) What kind of pitfalls have you seen in the IoT development process?

(14:17) When choosing a partner, what should future IoT adopters be thinking about?

(17:21) Why are pilot programs so important to the IoT journey?

(19:25) What are some of the easiest things to overlook during the pilot stage? 

(21:52) How are AI and IoT (AIoT) being used together? What are some of the challenges of implementing AI in IoT solutions?


– [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 to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. 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 Leverege’s end-to-end IoT solutions. To learn more, go to, that’s So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All podcast. Welcome Mikko to the IoT For All show. How are things going this week?

– [Mikko] Thanks, Ryan. Things are going really well. Thanks for asking. And it’s the summertime even in Finland at the time so

– [Ryan] Yeah.

– [Mikko] Couldn’t complain really.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, it’s great to have you. I’m very excited about this conversation. I think it’d be great to have our audience learn a little bit more about you to start this off. So if you want to jump in, give a quick introduction, talk about your background experience, how you ended up where you are right now, and then we’ll go from there.

– [Mikko] Sure. So I’m currently serving as CTO of Pelion, which is an Arm company. I basically started my career about 20 plus years ago, doing some research assistant stuff in the local university. And we founded our startup company of our own with a few of my colleagues, which was called Cincy Note. We were working initially on some IoT slash embedded device development kit type of things, then pivoted into IoT software very, very early on and did some pretty groundbreaking mesh networking technology and products as well. And then we got acquired by Arm in 2013, and I’ve been with Arm ever since first being a director of engineering at the IoT business unit then serving quite a bit of different technical roles in the IoT business unit. And later what was called ISG IoT services group as Arm, and then ended up being an Arm fellow. And since November last year, I’ve been the CTO of a Pelion, which is an Arm company concentrating on IoT solutions. And though we can probably talk a little bit later on the details of what our solutions and products are, but that’s what I’m doing at the moment.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. Yeah, let’s get into that now. Let’s talk more about kind of the solutions and the offering you all have to the market, but just start off by just saying what does the company do, what’s your role in IoT, that kind of thing.

– [Mikko] Right. That’s that’s actually a really good question. So I need to probably start off by elaborating a little bit that Arm didn’t only acquire Cincy Note, our startup, to be their IoT play.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Mikko] Arm also acquired multiple other companies like Sansa technologies from Israel, Stream Technologies from Glasgow, a couple of smaller companies, one from Austin called Wigwag. And Arm put all these things together and really that has evolved into being what Pelion is today, which is basically we are providing I could say a complete, fairly uniquely complete solutions for IoT and in the sense that we provide connectivity, IoT connectivity services, which is mainly based on the technology and products from the Stream Technologies acquisition. And then on top of that, we provide a comprehensive edge gateway and IoT device management capabilities in our product. So we’re kind of a one-stop house for all the company companies planning on embarking on digital transformation and wanting to let’s say modernize their even sometimes legacy products to bring them to 2021. So that’s really what we are doing. It’s a fairly comprehensive solution for IoT.

– [Ryan] For sure. Yeah, sounds like it. So when you all kind of look at the landscape of the market and view the competition out there, how does your approach kind of differ from what’s out in the market or the way other companies are going about building, deploying, and adopting IoT? Talk to me a little more about that.

– [Mikko] Okay. I think there’s a couple of fundamental differences. If I saw from the device management side the key difference I would say is that we have, being part of Arm, we have a history of working with really resource constrained devices. So the IoT devices for us, they’re not just some, let’s say high-end devices that don’t have to worry about the resources on the devices and costing a thousand dollars a piece or anything like that. But we come from the world that pretty much any device has to be IoT capable, which means it can’t be a $10 consumer electronics device or even almost of a disposable device. So even though it’s not the Seville was the good, best idea to think about disposable devices, but at least from the cost perspective, it’s a reality we have to sometimes live with.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] So we have a unique technology and approach that for us pretty much everything has to be an IoT capable device. We are not limited that we only do let’s say Linux gateways, or we only do some high-end, absolutely cost and resource on constraint devices.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] We cater for everything. Then on the other side, if we think about the conductivity management side, our approach has always been that we will make the connectivity easy for customers.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Mikko] It’s surprisingly hard if you don’t know what you’re doing and it’s something we do cost efficiently and easy for the customer.

– [Ryan] Gotcha.

– [Mikko] And then building on top of all of this, we are providing secure lifecycle device management for all devices.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Mikko] Because this one of the things that gets overlooked a lot and oftentimes that, okay, we can do a really quick and dirty hack and come up with a kind of IoT device, but what’s gonna happen in 12 or 18 months when we find out that, okay, we were not able to migrate that device into some other backend platform or we’re not able to update them securely or what not.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Mikko] So we are bringing kind of a completely new level of security life cycle management for these devices.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. So, and one of the good ways to kind of bring this full circle for our audience is to talk about use cases, any use cases you may be comfortable sharing. If you don’t wanna mention company names, that’s totally fine, but are there any kind of more exciting or prominent use cases that you’d be interested in kind of just giving our audience some insights into, to kind of show how the offering has come to life to provide value in the market?

– [Mikko] I can take, I’m not sure, me being a technologist.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Mikko] I can find something interesting in pretty much every single possible use case. So I’m probably not the best judge of that, but I can try to give a couple examples. I mean

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Mikko] I remember one really old use case where we were working on approach, it was actually, it slightly predates even Arm.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Mikko] And we had a partner who was doing tracking of I believed they were reindeer in the,

– [Ryan] Wow.

– [Mikko] Far up in the north. So that that’s a little bit exotic use case,

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Mikko] And back then, it was funny how IoT or I think that might’ve been so early that everybody was still talking about M to M machine to machine communications and whatnot

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Mikko] But then all the use cases were a little bit exotic and kind of esoteric. But now IoT is, just during the last, let’s say four or five years, IoT has really come to mainstream

– [Ryan] Yes.

– [Mikko] And we are seeing use cases well, from the kind of a more well-known like smart metering and outdoor lighting control and streetlight control systems

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] To systems where we have partners and customers, they are tracking the state of trash bins in real-time

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Mikko] Do they need to send a truck to empty them. And they are basically doing that to optimize the routes of the trucks and reducing unnecessary carbon emissions from the trucks and everything like that. Going to consumer electronics in various places, one could argue that mobile phone is an IoT device, but it’s a little bit of a boring IoT case to be perfectly honest.

– [Ryan] Yeah. For sure.

– [Mikko] But then there’s a bunch of activity that we are seeing in this kind of, well, I’m really what I’m seeing is that all the what’s called clean tech or

– [Ryan] Yeah, sure.

– [Mikko] or environmental stuff. That’s really hot at the moment, we’re seeing a lot of different use cases and

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] And uses there. That’s probably the kind of our biggest thing that I’m seeing happening right now.

– [Mikko] Fantastic. Let’s transition a bit into kind of talking about deploying IoT solutions. So a lot of our listeners listen to our podcast to better understand how to deploy solutions, how to adopt solutions, what are the best practices, advice that companies have to ensure the best chance of success when they’re going down their IoT journey. So the first question I wanted to ask you in this kind of section is what advice do you have for anyone who’s kind of embarking upon their own digital transformation journey? How do they get started? What are some of the pitfalls that you’ve seen that you were working with with you all, or companies like yours could help them avoid, that kind of thing.

– [Mikko] Right. That’s a really good question. Couple of the worst assumptions or let’s say emissions that we’re seeing sometimes is that people make the assumption that they can fix security at some later stage. So

– [Ryan] That’s very good. That’s very, very true.

– [Mikko] Yeah, basically just, they assume that, okay, let’s just get a working prototype or a proof of concept on the table and let’s figure out the security at some later stage. That’s, I would say almost a grave mistake.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Mikko] And it’s surprisingly often when people think that, okay, we can just stamp onto security at some, you know, next week, next month, next year, next product evolution. That’s a bad one. Second one is that they assume that they know all the use cases and they have all the requirements for the device when they do the first version of it, which implies that if they have a set of requirements and use cases that they need to meet right now, they’ll choose to hardware so they can just barely fit that just to minimize the cost. And the third one is probably that they assume that the… Some of the kind of what I would call a table stakes in features and capabilities are omitted. Like secure phone were updated. We’ll figure that later.

– [Ryan] Sure. Right.

– [Mikko] Those are the things that I think are the most usual mistakes and where the order is, unfortunately, as boring as it is that you should figure out the security from the very beginning, you should make sure that you can do secure firmware updates, and we call them a little bit more broadly secure lifecycle management for the devices.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Mikko] You need to plan for those and design those into the architecture from the very beginning.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] That’s the reality kind of where you should start from, in my opinion.

– [Ryan] Now, if you were to kind of look at it from the adopter side, less the technical side and the creator side of IoT. How do you kind of recommend companies that, let’s say, don’t have the capabilities to build an IoT solution in house, or build a component up. And they’re just looking to find a company to work with to help guide them down their journey, provide the right partners and so forth. How would you kind of advise those companies to seek out the best partners? What kind of things should they be thinking about? That kind of thing.

– [Mikko] Hmm, that’s a good question. Well, obviously that’s a lot of… That’s actually surprisingly, although we’re providing a kind of this device management and connectivity management platform, we very often end up consulting our customers and partners in those things a little bit more broadly outside of our scope, because we have quite a bit of experience. Not in hardware design, but hardware choices and general advice. Based on the experience what we’ve seen and where we’ve seen how our previous customers have succeeded.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] But, I think the one advice I might have is that although it’s a little bit tempting to do a kind of a bespoke, go to a partner, let’s say, a well-known well-respected large system integrator or a design house and ask them can you design something bespoke for us for this?

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] Sometimes it’s an interesting proposition and it’s a little bit tempting, but it does kind of open the door for some design pitfalls that if they designed the solution for your current use cases, you sometimes find it that it’s a little bit hard. If you have some time, at some point down the line, later stage, you come up with a new use case and you figure out, okay, we’ve actually had such a custom design bespoke solution that we can’t meet the new requirements with it. So

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] In that sense, a more horizontal platform approach is we’ve seen it kind of being more, let’s say future-proof in many cases. That I would say that going with a partner who understands that, you might have more use cases in the future, and they’re not trying to design and sell you with a bespoke custom solution for your current needs and current needs only.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] I think that’s a good approach and kind of a good thing to keep in mind.

– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. Great. Yeah, we know partners when it comes to companies that are new to IoT, they usually start their partner journey at one state, at one area, whether it’s hardware, whether it’s connectivity, whether it’s the platform, the application side,

– [Mikko] Yeah.

– [Ryan] And it’s a very necessary process to go through. So we’ve seen the importance of partners across IoT in helping increase adoption. And one of the things that most companies recommend when you start out with them is to kind of start with a pilot of some kind. And I wanted to ask you from your perspective, why pilots are so important to start out with, and then we can get into some other questions related to that, but just starting out there. Why are pilots so important for companies to make sure that they focus on in the early stages of their digital transformation journey?

– [Mikko] Well, the traditional kind of reason for a pilot or a proof of concept is that you validate all the technology choices and the internet architecture. But I would say that maybe even more importantly, it’s to validate or your product requirements. Have you thought about everything? That’s really the reason because… There’s a lot of really smart, really imaginative, fantastic, brilliant people everywhere, but I guarantee you that when they, you know, when the people who are the product managers, for example, when they see the first version of the product, real in tune product in the pilot, they’ll come up with 10 new ideas, always, that, oh, wouldn’t it be cool if we had this, how to do this also, and this and that.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] So I think it’s more the kind of a complete product vision validation and requirements validation. That’s maybe, well, at least sometimes it’s even more important than the validating the technology and the architecture.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. And aside from the security point, which we’ve already brought up, what are some of the most common areas that an organization that’s planning to deploy an IoT solution can overlook during that pilot stage?

– [Mikko] Maybe if they’re just looking at the kind of fancy, let’s say more fancy features and capabilities that are visible to the end customer, then they’re super important, no question about that. But sometimes some of the stuff that’s under the hood

– [Ryan] Yes.

– [Mikko] The more table stake capabilities, sometimes they might be left kind of that there and kind of ignore or just forgotten in during the pilot stage.

– [Ryan] Yeah, I think it’s also important for companies to be thinking really hard about the intended end user. Oftentimes the individual who is working on the deployment or working on kind of planning out the deployment is not always the intended end user and kind of those table stake things that you mentioned are oftentimes forgotten, which then lead to issues when they want to get to the end user and eventually to scale. If they skip all that, it really causes headaches down the road if they’re not really thinking from the end user backwards up the process, as opposed to thinking about technology first. And I think that’s something that is oftentimes overlooked, but very important early on because that’s what’s gonna get you to see the ROI before you decide and before you get internal buy-in to decide if it’s something that your company is going to adopt, which is what we’re all hoping for.

– [Mikko] Yeah, absolutely. The table stakes, how do the device really connect and

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] If you have some kind of complicated connectivity schemes and or if you have devices that are only intermittently connected only online, offline, how do you manage the devices? How do you update them all securely throughout their 10, sometimes 15 year life cycle? And how do you securely end of life the device? How do you completely disable and wipe it clean when you decommission it. Things like that. Yep.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. One thing I wanted to kind of finish up talking about is how AI and IoT are kind of working together.

– [Mikko] Right.

– [Ryan] And from your side of things, what are some of the, I guess first off, how are AI And IoT working together, we can start there as kind of elementary question to help our audience understand the connection. But when it comes to companies looking to implement AI into the IoT side or into their IoT solution technology, you name it, what advice you have for companies looking to do that, and are there any potential ways or challenges that you’ve seen during that process that would be good to bring up so companies hopefully can potentially avoid them.

– [Mikko] Right. That a really good question. So first of all, I really… kind of what you already said that IoT and AI, they really go hand in hand and I think that’s quite literally true in the sense that how do you, well… How do you use AI? Well, first of all, what you need is data from the devices. So how do you get that data from the devices? For that, that’s really the kind of a prime use cases for IoT because what IoT is. It’s really that you are able to communicate with a device that’s deployed somewhere and you’re efficiently and securely able to communicate with the device. So you really need the fundamental IoT capability of secure communication with the device to pull the training data for your AI models from the devices.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] I mean, yes, it’s one way to do that is that when you’re developing your devices, you have custom engineering devices, development devices, where you have an SD card and you dump all to data on the SD card and you then physically go to the device and pull the SD card and upload it to your platform and use that as train data. Yes, that’s something that you can do initially. But do you really think that you don’t have any possibility that you might have to pull more training data from the live devices after they’ve been deployed? Of course not.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] You are going to need that. So the first and foremost, the prime use case for the IoT in AI is that you need to be able to pull more training data from the devices securely. Why securely? Well, if you cannot be sure that it’s valid real data and it’s not spoofed or it’s not replayed. Somebody is not creating false data into your AI training set, the value of the data is practically zero. So you need to have secure way of pulling authentic data from the devices. Okay. So that’s the first thing. Well, once you retrain your ML model or your AI, and you need to deploy that new model to the devices. How do you do that? Well, that’s a fundamental use case for IoT device management. You’re able to push updates to the devices. The new pulse you’re pushing a new model to the device is just almost identical as a process, as pushing a new phone, where two devices, because you only want to be able to push the model to the devices of certain type. And sometimes you want to do a deployment first that you, just subset of devices. You want to monitor how they’re performing after the update. And then you want to push the, if everything goes fine, you want to push the new model to all of the device fleet.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Mikko] And again, you want to be able to adjust securely. You absolutely don’t want anyone else to be able to push their own, let’s say, fake models on your devices. Who knows, you have absolutely… You can’t allow that to happen. It’s same as you allow anyone to push any false data into your backend systems. So it’s simply unacceptable. So again, you have to be able to test securely. So the two fundamental IoT capabilities, secure connectivity to the device, and a secure management of a device. They are the kind of a basic fundamental building blocks kind of a foundation that you can then build your AI on top of and utilize AI on top.

– [Ryan] Right. That’s fantastic. No, I appreciate that. Kind of diving into that a bit more from a technical perspective, because we talk a little bit about it high level, but I think getting into kind of those points you mentioned are great for our audience to kind of start to understand, but overall, this conversation has been great and very insightful for me as well. I’m sure our audience is gonna love it. I wanted to wrap up by having you just tell us a little bit more about any maybe news or exciting things coming out from your side in the next couple of months that our audience should be to look out for. And then at the same time, if they have any questions or any follow up they’re interested in doing, what’s the best way to reach out.

– [Mikko] I think we actually have a super active and super good people at our marketing team. So I know that time we have anything cool happening there, they’re blasting it out on social media. So LinkedIn, everything. So I really haven’t been worrying about too much of that. They’re doing a fantastic job on that. I think we have some cool stuff now, I think where we are kind of everybody is looking forward, really, really looking forward to is that once the global pandemic starts to ease off, hopefully as we go towards the next winter we’ll be able to go to meet the ponders and customers more and be participating in a few of the key industry events where we found them all was a really nice place to meet the and customers who actually use our products. But on top of that, I can’t put my finger on anything specific right now, but just follow us on LinkedIn, Pelion, and the marketing team is pushing out all the cool stuff out there. If they want to get touch on with Pelion, I think the LinkedIn is the best place to connect with us because the team is doing a really stellar job on that one.

– [Ryan] Awesome. Yeah, that’s great. I hope live events start to come back too so we can get in person and start meeting everybody I’ve been talking to on these podcasts and over the phone in person, it’d be great to start doing some live recordings and start just seeing some faces out there. We recently were at IoT evolution and there’s good turnout. People were very happy and excited that events were back happening again. So I think we’re gonna start to see it pick up very soon.

– [Mikko] Yeah, I think US is a little bit ahead of us

– [Ryan] Agreed, agreed.

– [Mikko] In the old continent. I think we’re following, but taking a little bit slower in that but

– [Ryan] Absolutely.

– [Mikko] We’ll get there. We’ll get there eventually.

– [Ryan] Yeah. We’ll get there. Well, this has been great Mikko. Thanks so much for your time, appreciate the insights. Carving out this time to chat with me and sharing your knowledge and everything you have going on over that way to our company. So again thank you so much, and we really appreciate it.

– [Mikko] My pleasure Ryan, it was really nice talking to you.

– [Ryan] 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 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.

Special Guest
Pelion provides everything you need to securely connect and manage your IoT. Our origins within Arm have provided Pelion with deep industry knowledge and a vast ecosystem of partners.
Pelion provides everything you need to securely connect and manage your IoT. Our origins within Arm have provided Pelion with deep industry knowledge and a vast ecosystem of partners.

Hosted By
IoT For All
IoT For All
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.