In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, The Things Industries CEO and Co-Founder Wienke Giezeman discusses the current IoT landscape, how it fits into the ongoing digital transformation, and aspects of IoT integrations for businesses. From challenges to solutions to embedded hardware, Wienke talks about topics businesses commonly encounter when a company is looking to integrate IoT. Wienke also gives guidance for businesses exploring IoT. He recommends that they do their technology exploration and spend time understanding any problems internally to ensure IoT is utilized properly when integrated.
Wienke Giezeman is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Things Industries, a LoRaWAN connectivity and services provider with over 150,000 users. He is also the initiator of The Things Network, the first crowdsourced free and open internet of things. With over 150,000 active members from over 100 countries worldwide, The Things Network brings together startups, developers, businesses, universities, and governments in building a public Internet of Things data network.
Update: The Things Conference date has changed to September 22-23, 2022
Interested in connecting with Wienke? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About The Things Industries: The Things Industries provides a LoRaWAN network management system that allows anybody to build LoRaWAN networks where data is routed in a secure end-to-end manner. Being interoperable with many IoT data platforms, LoRaWAN gateways and LoRaWAN sensors.
This episode of the IoT For All Podcast is brought to you by Losant.
Check them out at losant.com
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:21) Welcome Wienke Giezeman
(03:42) How IoT and digital transformation fit together
(05:35) Obstacles for companies building IoT solutions
(07:50) Encouraging companies to invest in hardware
(10:20) Choosing a successful IoT solution for you
(12:56) Off-the-shelf versus custom solutions
(16:10) Role of embedded IoT in IoT adoption
(18:34) The future of IoT
(21:29) The future of LoRaWAN
(23:40) The Things Conference 2022
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All podcast. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon, and today’s guest is Wienke Giezeman, the CEO and Co-Founder of The Things Industries and the initiator of The Things Network at The Things Industries. And to give you a little background on both, Things Industries is a LoRaWAN connectivity and service provider and The Things Network is a global community of over 150,000 active members from over 100 companies around the world. He put on a fantastic event. This one is the end of March in Amsterdam, I can sincerely promise that it is something you wanna check out. Get into the episode real quick, we talk a lot about digital transformation and it’s combination and role with IoT. We talk about how enterprises can adopt IoT, kinda barrier to doing that, how to do it the best and the future of LoRaWAN as a connectivity option for the IoT industry. But before we get into that, customers choose Losant because it’s unique low code approach to application development, offers a level of agility and speed to market that is hard to find anywhere else. Losant provides the foundation and lets you focus on delivering the IoT applications your customers require. Start now and see how the Internet of Things can transform your business. Visit losant.com, l-o-s-a-n-t.com And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome, Wienke, to the IoT For All Show, I guess I should say Welcome back to the IoT For All Show. Thanks for taking some time to chat with me today.
– [Wienke] Yeah, thanks for inviting me be back.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s fantastic to have you. Let’s kick this off with having you give a quick introduction about yourself some background, any information you think would be relevant to maybe some of our listeners out there who haven’t had a chance to hear you speak?
– [Wienke] Yeah, thanks. Yeah, so my name is Wienke Giezeman, CEO and Co-Founder of the Things Industries. And our company specializes in helping enterprises be successful with their LoRaWAN solutions. And basically LoRaWAN helps you in building sensor-to-cloud application. So you need a specific temperature measurements, from your operations, LoRaWAN technology allows you to send that data over a IoT infrastructure into your cloud applications or your enterprise resource planning or you low-code no-code platform. And we have a developer approach to it. And we help companies around the world be successful with that.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, and you also started The Things Conference, correct?
– [Wienke] Yeah, so we started off our company six years ago. And we saw two things, first of all, the IoT technology is still very immature. And we saw that it was really hard to build something successful end to end. So we thought we need better developer tools, and we need an ecosystem of knowledge and of companies that can partner to build the specific components that are necessary in the IoT stack. And that was The Things Network and The Things Network was always around events, we launched with an event, we have many meetups in our ecosystem, in our open source ecosystems around the world. And yeah, after a year, we launched The Things Conference, which is now a global, recognized IoT conference. And we do it a big one in Amsterdam every year, but we also have one in Hyderabad. Big one in Sydney, in London, different places, in Europe. And we have a next one coming big, The Big Things Conference is back in Amsterdam, the 24th and 25th of March.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, well, we’ll talk more about that in a bit. I wanted to dive into a couple different topics throughout our conversation today. The first one I wanted to talk about was around digital transformation in IoT. So those terms are used sometimes interchangeably, but I know, they’re not exactly the same, IoT kinda plays more into the overall idea of digital transformation. So, talk to me from your perspective on what your company does, on how digital transformation and IoT kinda fit together.
– [Wienke] So we feel that after the massive IoT hype, IoT companies should be humble and and also recognize their play. So digital transformation is the bigger goal, we believe, to where digital tools basically help you improve your business, change your business, adapt it to the new world. IoT is just a very small microservice step potentially can help you do that. And our approach to that is that, for this digital transformation, you have a toolbox. IoT is one, AI is one, big data is one, cloud is one, low code no code is one tool. And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that the LoRaWAN technology we provide easily integrates into your digital transformation strategy. And basically is running and visible and also doesn’t give you any headache. Yeah, the more and more we’re seeing, and more and more we’re becoming successful because our customers are successful, we see that the most simple and simple integrated solutions that integrate directly into the business processes, they start to scale. So, yeah, that’s a bit of how we see digital transformation and Internet of Things.
– [Ryan] And as we kinda talk about the growth of the Internet of Things, what are some of the biggest obstacles that you all have seen, for companies, when they’re trying to build a solution? Whether it’s, they’re building it themselves, or they’re building it, with a partner, or they’re either paying somebody to help build a solution for their company? What are some of the biggest obstacles that you’ve seen in these solutions being developed?
– [Wienke] Yeah, so, what we see, for instance, if there’s a really strong need for a data point to be a part of an operational process, and that operational process, including the stakeholders of that operational process have an incentive to make it work, then almost always it’s a success. So, then you’re working backwards from the incentive, and the need for the digital transformation, to make it work. And then most of the times the puzzle pieces, especially now, where the industry is right now, the puzzle pieces are there. When it gets a bit more complicated, when, for instance, vendors or suppliers get in the way, by pushing, that’s a bloated software, bloated that’s IoT platforms, or like offering, let’s say, too much, and making it more complicated. So one of the advises that we always give, to our customers, or to enterprises that have these problems, is that, hey, just keep it simple. Use the tools you know, use the tools you have, and use IoT as a very simple micro-service to gather the data points. And don’t get caught up with too many consultants or too many IoT platforms because, most of the time, things are getting over complicated. And I think we’re at a at a tipping point, or just, I really sense this level of inertia in the market where all of a sudden, as the simple solutions they are being created, they are generating a lot of business benefits, and then they start to scale. Yeah, it’s really nice to see that a lot of these puzzle pieces are falling together.
– [Ryan] Now talk to me a little bit also on the hardware side. So we know that hardware is always, though not always but is oftentimes a challenge with these unique use cases out there and everything that we require, in order for the hardware to meet the the needs of the use cases, so how do you, when you work with companies? How do you help them prioritize or strategize? And encourage them to invest earlier on in the hardware part of the process? And kinda what’s your approach there?
– [Wienke] Yeah, so, if you look at the LoRaWAN ecosystem as a whole, we now have a few hundred hardware partners that have created off the shelf products. So the first one, we say, okay, just don’t start, build your own hardware, look at it, look what’s there. And of course, we have experience with a lot of these devices and we’ve highlighted them. And of course, we also know as a company, which ones are higher quarter quality, and which are of lesser quality. But this abundance of availability make sure that you can choose, and also make sure there’s a market. Second, if you wanna move into, let’s say custom hardware development, because the sensor is not out there, or because you wanna build up IP or because it’s, I mean, you can think of many reasons. What you now see is that with, in the LoRaWAN ecosystem, there’s a lot of libraries, there’s a lot of tools, a lot of modules, that also makes it easier to build your own hardware. So we’ve started off with an open code initiative called a generic node, where we were offering the ecosystem, that’s a example of how we feel what should be the perfect LoRaWAN device and you can use it for inspiration or we can help you further. And also there, what you see is that these puzzle pieces are starting to fall into place. That’s that hardware is hard, like we’re facing still a component product crisis, and that’s gonna have a nasty tail, right? Like this is not gonna be over yet. So, yes, hardware is hard, trying to make it a bit easier. And the good news is that there is, a lot of vendors out there that have ready made products. So like the likelihood that you really need to get into this hardware development process also decreases, and and that’s a pattern, right? There will be more and more off the shelf products, and there will be less less need for customization. And, yeah, that at all really contributes to the attraction we now see in the LoRaWAN ecosystem and in our business.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, that’s fantastic way to kinda explain it there. Now, if we transition from the challenges piece to more of the how to be successful with IoT adoptions? We’re in a situation where oftentimes what we see are the solutions that need to be developed are very specific. It’s not necessarily this off the shelf opportunity to just purchase something and it works from end. How can enterprises kind of approach that conversation where, there’s gonna be companies out there, they’re gonna say, oh, yeah, we have off the shelf kinda solutions and other ones that are like focusing more on the customization side. And so, talk to me about how a company can interpret that conversation, approach that conversation and best understand what’s needed for them to be successful when they’re starting out understanding what they need to build?
– [Wienke] Yeah, so usually, what we now say is that, you need to do your technology exploration. But if you look at the market, and even other technologies that we don’t support, like Narrowband-IoT, or SigFox, or anything else, there’s quite increased level of maturity across the board. So you can do your technology exploration, but you should be able to trust the market and be pretty much finished up with that in a very short time. So the other part is that, the most important stuff that you need to do probably is not exploring the opportunities, but exploring the problems that you have internally. We have seen projects that we did, where data then, just ends up in a dashboard or ends up in, let’s say, a database, but it’s not, the project, people in the project, were not able to convince their business or other stakeholders to, hey, you can use this data because you can optimize this, this and that. I would say we’re now in a market where there are so many commodity components, that that’s not your concern, your concern is to find the internal stakeholders that see value in the data and are your sponsors and are your advocates, and that’s really how you build success. And that’s a positive thing, right? Like we used to talk about, there’s no hardware, there’s hardware is hard, and networks are not there and et cetera. But I would love to steer everybody now internally and say, hey, go fix your digital transformation plan first, and then, come back later to us, and we will have the workbench for you to to make it.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think it’s important for companies to understand how the planning piece really plays into this, and also having the buy in from those that are important within the company to make this decision happen, and how key that is. So, you can have somebody who runs the IoT area of a company goes and starts a pilot, but if that pilot either doesn’t return the ROI that they’re expecting, or they don’t have the buy in from upper management, then it’s tough to ever get to scale, which is not really what most IoT, software, development, hardware, whatever companies are interested in. We need to get to scale for us to benefit from not just the company itself, but also the company who built it, and the industry as a whole, so IoT can continue to grow. So I think that’s a very important thing is to kinda have that buy in as early in the process as possible, set clear expectations, set a clear plan, work with a company who can help understand all the different components of an IoT solution and provide you the right pieces, for your particular use case and not feel like this is gonna be a just an off-the-shelf purchase. Because it’s too unique of a situation in my opinion for that to be a viable thing, there has to be some level of customization. Now the level of customization may vary from project to project but, there’s something that’s unique to that individual business in their use case. Especially the way that their end users will actually interpret that data, and how they interact with it. I think that those are all important things to just keep in mind.
– [Wienke] Yeah, and I agree with you what you’re saying is there’s always this level of customization. So this issue we’re seeing is that, there’s a lot of IoT platforms, and they can do 100 things, but they’re always they cannot do the 101st thing you need. And one of my issues that I have with IoT platforms is that that, you missed that final level of customization, and you have no complete generation of micro services, micro service architectures, cloud and low code no code that are exactly solving that problem for enterprises. By exactly giving that level of flexibility to create your own apps and create your own processes and flows. But also creating to service, you know these exceptions. Yeah, exactly what you’re saying like you always need this level of customization, and we’re trying to make sure that all our software is compliant with what they nowadays calls the Enterprise Developer. So the enterprise developer is somebody with a generic skill set, they have DevOps skills, they have some programming skills they have some scripting skills, but where they’re really good at is tying systems together. And our goal here is just to make sure that we are complying to that, because the organizational impact that that has, when you introduce a new skill into a large organization is massive. You have to retrain, you have to reevaluate security, you have to reevaluate your architectures. But if you’re just compliant, to everything that the company already built, then adoption is easier, right? Then the stakeholder management is easier, then the success is more likely.
– [Ryan] Definitely, I definitely agree. Now, one of the things you kinda mentioned, we talked about low-code no-code, which are relatively new adoptions in IoT that are helping increase adoption. We’ve also seen more of the connectivity, and sensors, all kind of baked in together, kind of on the embedded side of things. How are you seeing that play a role in adoption within IoT?
– [Wienke] So, if you, look around cloud platform, low-code no-code that’s all in the cloud, and it’s also very easy to update and it’s super flexible, and it can scale vertically, horizontally, whatever. Yeah, we at the MCU, sensor X level you don’t have that luxury, right? I mean, that’s still a hard thing to do. You have some developments, where you see that these real time operating systems are trying to make your life easier. But yeah, I would be lying if I would say there is, you would have an enterprise developer fix your firmware problems, that is still a very specialized thing. But then again, as to what I said, right? There’s a lot of off-the-shelf products available. I don’t see a technology out there that really allows you to make that as easy as like low-code no-code. But you see more like a modular approach. Particle IO, for instance, they have these modules, you put them in, and they also can help you with the firmware. So, you have that, what we’re doing with the generic node, like I said, the boilerplate, you can adapt it, change it, you can get in touch with the partners that can help you to finalize it and industrialize it. But it’s still a hard hard thing. So, yeah, that doesn’t come with the ease of low code no code kinda development.
– [Ryan] Yeah, definitely, I completely agree. Very exciting stuff kinda coming on the horizon, and we started to see implemented over the last, year or so, in the IoT space that, all connected to helping increased adoption, which I think is fantastic. Is there anything that maybe we haven’t chatted about yet? Or any kind of areas of IoT that you’re most excited to see kind of evolve over the next year, that are gonna help really play a role in companies adopting IoT more?
– [Wienke] Yeah, so I think a humble approach to it is very, suitable right now, we passed the hype, we’re now in like this trough of disillusionment, if you look at the Gartner Hype Cycle. it’s just hard work and making things stable, like adding an extra 9 to the 99% availability and make it 99.9, right? It’s not sexy, like it’s not gonna shout innovation but it’s really what the market wants. Because they wanna scale from, let’s say, having temperature measurements of 1000 fridges and they wanna have it in 100,000 fridges, it’s a different game. We’re investing heavily in making sure that, for instance, our software can keep running, like the continuous development and continuous integrations that you just have a very solid platform, even if you run large updates, and have the data flowing, because IoT devices don’t sleep, right? You can maybe find your update on a website on a quiet moment, that doesn’t work for our platforms, right? So I think that has been our focus, we have been focused on, on a lot of, let’s say, maturing things. So what are the developments to look forward to? Is this, yeah, a few things, like making sure the humble approach of being just that simple micro-service that delivers these critical data points. And another side, making sure you’re complying with, this new governance type of doing IT. Because then then through the IT channel, in a company, you can get into the business processes, right? And then, like, our customers now have a way easier sell internally, because it’s easier to sell to their CISO or the chief information security officer, it’s easier to sell to their business, it’s easier to implement themselves. You don’t lose the momentum, like it’s all goes more smooth. So, is there any sexy thing that’s gonna happen in the next two years? I don’t know, probably not. It’s probably what we promised five years ago, and doing that very, very well, at 100,000 devices.
– [Ryan] 100%, yeah, I totally agree. It’s very interesting to kinda see how we’ve evolved over the last couple years. And the areas that we’ve learned are the bottlenecks or the roadblocks for adoption, and figuring out how we can solve them. So I think, we’re definitely still on that journey for sure. The last thing I wanted to ask you, before we wrap up, is we kinda talked a little bit about what we’re looking for on the IoT front going forward, what about on the LoRaWAN front? What is the future of that kinda look like from your side of things?
– [Wienke] So what the future looks like is that we now see that, the most in the segment that LoRaWAN is used is in sensor-to-cloud integration, on premise, and within enterprises. So stores, shopping malls, farms, mines, and that’s really where it starts to grow. And because building your network is so easy, and also controlling the quality and the service levels, also is more easy and easy. You see that that’s just the best way to go. And the investments, the capital expenses and the operational expenses are so extremely low, like a gateway, you can get it for $200. And now you have enterprise credit gateway that can last for five years as a battery backup as a cellular backup. And then, your building is covered for five years. It’s like peanuts, we’re talking about, less than, almost a few dollars a month, if you were to add it up over five years. So to where it’s going is that, that’s scalable, right? That’s a scalable cost model, and this is where the success is so it’s really in to secure a sensor-to-cloud integration, on premise, with the centralized management. So you have very little operational costs on DevOps or IoT ops. And you just can get that from our cloud service and the capital expenses are also so low and the data keeps flowing, right? It’s five years of temperature monitoring, for instance. Five years of evaporation monitoring. That’s your capital expense, which you get the benefits for, like five years. So, yeah, the business case is data cost models there, we just have to be humble, effective, and scalable. And then yeah, the market will come.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, well, to wrap up I wanted to, dive back into something we started talking about at the beginning of this episode, which is The Things Conference that we have next year. Tell our audience a little bit more about it, talk about kind of what the focus is, the overview, where it is, when it is and how they can attend.
– [Wienke] We moved it to 24th and 25th of March. Of course, a lot of the world around us is constantly changing, as the current admin said. We started The Things Conference because of all the conference we saw they were either highly corporate sponsored or, there was no clear distinction between commercial interest and honest technology, let’s say, presentation. So we said we want a conference where everybody can be valuable, everybody be truthful about what they do and what they’re good at. And that’s gonna be like a small ecosystem of, let’s say, where we have a few days where we separate commercial and technology, for the interest of everybody of the ecosystem. And that resonated somehow very very well. Because people in the industry were lost, like okay, of course, this company is saying this because it’s in their interest that we get their services or products. And that’s what, well let’s say, The Things Conference originally is focusing on, what we do with the LoRaWAN technology and the larger, let’s say, The Things Network community. And this is still what it is, like we have very strong rules for participants on what they present. And we are adding rules, so we are adding, rules around the content. So one of the rules we are adding now is that you need not only tell us how you are doing the sensor-to-cloud integration, but also what’s the digital transformation? What is the data point gonna change in a business process? And how would that pay back at least 10 times the IoT investments? Yeah, so we’re trying to mature every edition. The next maturity step that we’re taking is that this whole IoT sensor-to-cloud integration only makes sense if you also tell us what the digital transformation was. So this is what you can expect from our next event. We’ll have a series running up to it, so The Things Conference Embedded will be virtual 28th of January, where we’re gonna focus on technology only. Also Embedded in hardware, and then we have a series of events running up to the big event in Amsterdam.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, well, it’s very exciting. I know we were actively involved last year. We think it’s a fantastic event, we’re very excited for it to start, to come back. This coming year, I know there’s a big things on the horizon with everything that you have going on on both sides of the event and the company side, so I really appreciate you taking the time. If anybody wants to kinda find out more, learn a bit more about the company, the event, what’s the best way to do that?
– [Wienke] Yeah, so go to, for the company, go to thethingsindustries.com. If you wanna explore the technology, you can go to our, let’s say, open source community thethingsnetwork.org. And if you wanna go and visit us at the conference virtually, or physically go to thethingsconference.com
– [Ryan] Fantastic, well, Wienke, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much, again, for being back on. We’re excited to continue to be involved with the event promote the event to our audience, we think it’s a great thing. And we love all the stuff you have going on at the company around, LoRaWAN and all the deployments, all the things you’re doing to help the industry grow. And that great increase that adoption across the board. So thank you for everything that you all do, and thanks for being here today.
– [Wienke] Yeah, thanks for having me again.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, alright, everyone, thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notification so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching, and we’ll see you next time.