In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Chief Technology Officer of Kajeet®, Greg Jones, joins Ryan Chacon to discuss IoT’s growing role in industries beyond tech and the industry’s current landscape. Greg shares some of the use cases they are working on with Kajeet, including how they are actively trying to close the digital divide, especially within the education and healthcare industry. To wrap up the podcast, Greg and Ryan talk about the IoT industry as a whole by discussing current challenges, supply chain issues, and the exciting things to expect in IoT for 2022.
Greg Jones is the Chief Technology Officer at Kajeet®, an IoT connectivity, software, and hardware solution provider to nearly 3,000 companies. He is responsible for technology strategy, product development, and innovation in this role. Before joining Kajeet in 2020, Jones held executive leadership roles and led digital transformation efforts at Kforce, an award-winning solutions firm, and Laureate International Universities, the largest international network of degree-granting higher education institutions. Greg Jones also served as CIO of the 4G division at Sprint Nextel, where he spearheaded the launch of the nation’s first commercial 4G service.
Interested in connecting with Greg Jones? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
Kajeet provides optimized IoT connectivity, software, and hardware solutions that deliver safe, reliable, and controlled internet connectivity to nearly 3,000 businesses, schools and districts, state and local governments, and IoT solution providers. Kajeet is the only managed IoT connectivity services provider in the industry to offer a scalable IoT management platform, Sentinel®, that includes complete visibility into real-time data usage, policy control management, custom content filters for added security, and multi-network flexibility. Whether to enable digital access that ensures student success, empower companies to connect and control devices in the field, or offer support and a platform to launch a complex mobile solution, Kajeet is trusted by many to make powerful and flexible wireless solutions easy. Kajeet is available for hybrid and multi-network access across all major North American wireless networks, globally in 173 other countries, and on multiple licensed and unlicensed networks. Kajeet holds 40 U.S. patents in mobile technologies.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:18) Introduction to Greg Jones
(02:23) Background of Kajeet
(04:30) Use cases Kajeet is working on
(09:42) Current outlook of the IoT Landscape
(17:29) How IoT is closing the digital divide
(21:06) Challenges in IoT
(23:50) How the supply chain has impacted IoT
(25:33) Exciting things to happen in the IoT industry this year
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All podcast. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. And on today’s episode, we have Greg Jones, the CTO of Kajeet. Kajeet provides optimized IoT connectivity software and hardware solutions for different industries. And on today’s episode, we talk a lot about the current landscape of IoT, from their perspective, and also how IoT is playing a role in different areas, maybe through non-tech companies, for instance, kinda what we dive into. We also talk about the key drivers and enablers to the exponential growth of IoT devices and use cases. And how are IoT devices connectivity really helping close that digital divide for people that are disadvantaged or otherwise unable to get equal good services and things like that. And we then wrap up by talking about the general challenges we’re seeing in the space and how we can overcome them. But before we get into this episode, if any of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor, Leverege. Leverege is an IoT solution development platform provides everything you need to create turn-key IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com that’s iotchangeseverything.com. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All podcast. Welcome Greg to the IoT For All show. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Greg] Thanks for having me, Ryan.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great to have you. Very excited about this conversation. And I think a great way to kick this off would be to have you give a introduction about yourself, background experience, anything relevant that our audience could get a little more context on who we’re listening to.
– [Greg] Okay, fantastic. Yeah, I’ve been in the mobile telecommunications world for about 15 plus years now. I started off with AT&T, then moved on to Nextel for a while, until Nextel later got bought by Sprint. And then I moved into other areas, different industries, worked for a Healthcare Informatics company for about four or five years. And then in education worked for one of the world’s largest education companies as well. So coming to Kajeet, it’s been great because I’m able to take all of those different industry experiences in some of the IoT industries and use cases that we have and then apply it of course, to all my mobile telephony background. As far as Kajeet’s concerned, I’ve been with Kajeet a little over two years now, and the company really had its roots in education. The initial vision for Kajeet was to provide connections for good. And that meant connecting children to all kinds of platforms and especially in the education space to be able to get safe content at a low-cost and to be able to really help bridge that digital divide for the children that didn’t have access to the same levels of internet activity and broadband that others did in more advantaged situations. And then it grew from there. It really became more of an IoT company. And since then we’ve expanded into healthcare, in transportation, in field services and several others.
– [Ryan] So what is the overall focus of Kajeet and how would you explain it to our audience to get a sense of the role you all play in the space?
– [Greg] Yeah, so Kajeet overall we fall into the sector, I guess that you would call IoT-managed connectivity solutions.
– [Greg] So what that basically breaks down to is we take everything from acquiring the devices, figuring out what devices a business may need for their IoT solutions, provisioning those devices, running them all the way through what applications are gonna be installed on them, et cetera, connecting them to various networks which could be private or public networks. We have relationships with over a dozen carriers in the US and Canada and other and abroad. Then from there, it’s about really taking those connections and turning them into intelligent connections through analytics alerts, actions that can be taken on the device, and of course, providing it all through multiple security layers and then doing all the support and service for our customers as well.
– [Ryan] And is there from a focus standpoint, like, I guess one way that’s usually good for audience to understand all the details here and bring in more full circle is to talk a little bit about use cases and any applications that you’re all focused on? I know you mentioned education, healthcare and so forth, but if you could maybe break that down to more of a use case side, remote learning, patient monitoring, things like that across the board where y’all focused on?
– [Greg] Yeah, great. So let me add one more comment that’ll probably give context for the listeners to help understand a little bit more about how Kajeet is set up. And that will lead right into how those use cases in the various industries play out. So at the very top level is what we call our platform. So Sentinel is the name of our platform. And the Sentinel platform is really built as a full end to end. I talked about everything from customer support on the front end, setting up their clients and their customer hierarchies and all the types of things that you need to get up and running, device groups, et cetera. So that platform starts there with our customer portal and being able to do all of those things, either white glove service through us or through our reseller part of the platform where others can sell white label on their behalf, who are doing support for them to sell to their end users. Then there’s a security layer that falls in there. An advanced analytics layer, a control layer, which really does everything from policy management to controlling the devices and doing things that really optimize the use of those devices and then really the network layer. So those are all the components that fall into what we call the Sentinel platform. Within the Sentinel platform, there’s a product portfolio. And the product portfolio really falls into a few different layers that I mentioned before. Some of the products that we support are in the same categories basically, but things like direct access, Sentinel insights, Sentinel control, there’s a whole bunch of different products in there. And what those are is ways for us to configure our solutions. So what you’ll find is that each of the products there’s about 12 or 13 products, I won’t go into here in our product portfolio. And in each of those may have 10 or over 15 features each. So think of it as being hundreds of features across a dozen products that sit on top of this all inclusive platform. So what happens from a solutions perspective, and that’s really what we are as an IoT-managed solutions platform, is from a solutions perspective, then imagine board with all those products and all those features, and when we go to a specific use case let’s say in education, Smart Bus is one of our solutions. If you wanna hook up a Smart Bus and you’re a school district, then the key features of a Smart Bus may be video monitoring to ensure safety of the children getting on and off the bus. The equipment may be 5G router, for instance, that can handle a wide spectrum of access to, also for all the riders to be able to do homework running on the bus, et cetera, handle the video. Things like that. And then also geolocation services. So some of the components of some of our products, obviously being able to track where the bus is, is the bus laid, what speed is it driving, is it driving safely, et cetera? So all of those features within the product portfolio that make sense to configure and package into that Smart Bus solution, is how we would go to market for that. Similarly, I’ll throw out another example of a solution EV charging has become a big growth area for us, right? So many, many more electric vehicles out there. In order to power those, many companies are popping up all over the place with these electric vehicle charging stations. Well, in order to monitor those, get the device telemetry off of them, figure out what’s happening. Are they charging it a hundred percent? Are they operating properly, et cetera, they need to have IoT connectivity. And so in that case, obviously a little bit different set of equipment, but then different features are important there, one of the feature that we have. And this solution is something we call direct access. So to be able to have a VPN tunnel essentially from their server out to their device, to be able to send instructions, make updates, et cetera, is important there. And in that use case, obviously being able to do a lot of analytics and alerts and controls on that device is important. So the solution is configured a little bit differently and it’s taken to market, and packaged a little bit different. And then it just goes on for remote patient monitor, et cetera. Each of those just kinda take advantage of different components of our product portfolio.
– [Ryan] Totally makes sense. I appreciate the breakdown. That makes complete sense. So if we move out a little bit, more high level here from our discussion standpoint, how do you, and the company as a whole view the current landscape of IoT? And what I wanted to hear because of your background and the company’s background, IoT has expanded from just being a focus for more tech companies or companies with more established tech presence to really covering a lot of different industries now. There’s a many reason of why that’s happening, but I wanted to get from your perspective, why you all feel like this is happening now as opposed to five, ten years ago and where potentially is going.
– [Greg] Yeah, so that’s a great question. It’s a big question. So IoT in general, like you said, used to be the real high tech companies were the Amazons and the others were out there pushing Googles whatnot, were pushing certain devices and smart homes and Alexa devices and intelligence for people to use more as improvement on how life works. But now it’s become an imperative, right? It has undeniably become the way that companies have to look at operating from if you’re manufacturing. Everything has to be connected devices, how you manufacture the process, how you monitor it, the passing information back and forth between devices, machine to machine, et cetera. The advent of what I think will eventually roll out even though it’s been a little delayed is the self driving cars, right? You have tons of information that you need to be able to have operating within that scenario. And 5G is gonna make that much more important in edge computing so that you can take information, process it within a device with high bandwidth and be able to have it be a really super smart device with high compute capacity instead of having to pass that information back to a data center or in the cloud, to process back out to the device. So that’s another one. I think the other pieces that are inevitable is revenue streams. Businesses now are becoming dependent on IoT solutions to power their revenue streams. I just mentioned one, which is electric vehicle charging stations, right? Now you have governments all over the place, whether it’s smart cameras, whether it’s lighting systems and all kinds of things that previously would be set on a timer maybe or on a, it’s always on. Now, you can control all those things remotely and optimize when they’re on, when they’re off, what the situations are, detect if there’s a problem with et cetera. So it doesn’t matter if you’re government, if you’re trying to build new revenue streams, if you are out there on the cutting edge, IoT has just become pervasive and the proliferation of devices and the investments there. And like I said, 5G and other things that are now making the bandwidth extraordinary or just creating tons of use cases.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think to even to expand on what you’re saying, 5G is coming in a way that’s gonna provide opportunities for new use cases to be developed. But at the same time where 5G is may be over-kill, there’s such a diverse number of different connectivity options in the market now where you can find things that better fit your solution to help bring the cost back around to, or bring the cost more in line with the ROI that you’re searching for as opposed to overpaying potentially for bandwidth you don’t need, or features in that connectivity that you don’t need for your use case to be successful. So I think the diversity in connectivity is a huge piece. And then just the general reduction in cost across all different pieces of an IoT solution, combined with the reducing of complexity and how a lot of those work or how quickly you can get a lot of those to market, I think are really big contributors as well.
– [Greg] Yeah, a hundred percent. And I think two points that I make on what you just said, first of all, the cost is going down, right? The device cost is going down. The connectivity cost is going down as a per unit cost. I’ll give an example, say asset tracking, right? If you’re trying to track things that are going into a port or the temperature of a vehicle, those things before may have been a little too hard to do, or the cost of setting it up and running it and monitoring and all that was a little too much for companies to wanna buy it off because they’re like, Hey, we’re a transportation company, we’re not an IT company. So the cost per unit has really gone down. And so now it’s worth investing in these things. And number two is there are now companies like Kajeet that are able to take a very daunting journey of, gosh, I gotta talk to the device manufacturers. I gotta make sure its secure. I’ve gotta get connectivity, all these different things, so we’re able to take those and put them in a box, and just say, here’s your solution in a box. We’re gonna ship you the device or devices that you need. You’re gonna tag whatever it is, you’re gonna put it in place and we’ve taken care of the rest. Right now you’re gonna have the applications, everything you need to manage it and whatever it is that you need to do, it’s all encompassed in one solution. So I think that’s made it a lot more accessible.
– [Ryan] I could not agree more. It’s interesting when you’re talking about asset tracking to think about how far the industry has come. And that goes back to the point I was making about connectivity. And at the same time on the cost side, a lot of these use cases were too expensive to justify the assets that they were tracking to implement. So like if you had a very inexpensive asset and the tracker costs more than the asset, then it doesn’t make sense. So as these costs are dropping, it’s becoming more optimal for companies to build out an asset tracking solution that they have hundreds to thousands to millions of assets. If they can bring the cost per device or however it’s costed out down to justify implementing it and the results and the return that they’re gonna get. So all of that is very well taken. So I completely agree.
– [Greg] I’ll throw one more funny one out there. It’s because people laugh when they ask me what I do and I tell them a little bit about the company in the types of use cases. We have a chicken farm. Well, it’s larger than a chicken farm, but chicken coops where we monitor the temperatures in each one in the chicken coops. So every little chicken needs to make sure that it’s in optimal temperature in order to lay the most, be as most productive in terms of laying eggs and all that stuff. And so we have entire chicken farms that are censored up to be able to make sure that they’re optimizing production. And it seems like that’s crazy to use IoT for, but it is big business. I mean, it’s a billion –
– [Ryan] Oh, for sure.
– [Greg] Of business, And you think about the such a tiny cost that’s basically just sending a shirt back saying, Hey, take care of me, I’m like out of, you need to change the thermostat or to even just do it machine to machine, to keep it in the optimal temperature. You think about that as a use case that wouldn’t have been accessible five, 10 years ago on a cost basis and made sense, but now it’s easy and it just makes sense.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. I think what, again, tying it back to the cost piece, like you just said, once you can make it make sense from an ROI perspective, then it becomes much more clear on how this fits and what it can do for a business. So for sure, totally agree. Now I wanted to ask another question. So if we’re talking about IoT devices connectivity and how they’re really contributing to places where let’s say people are not as well off or unable to get the same good, same services and stuff in other places, I’m curious as from your perspective, in the space, how IoT is really helping close that digital divide that is sometimes present in certain areas.
– [Greg] Yeah, that’s really important for us at Kajeet. It’s part of our mission statement when we say connections for good is for us to help those disadvantage situations by providing broadband connectivity where they wouldn’t otherwise have it. One example was we set up almost a half a million students with remote learning during the whole COVID pandemic when everybody went to school from home. In order to do that, it was daunting for schools. How do we do that? How do we take all these kids that don’t have broadband at home and give them the same advantage as those that do? And so in some cases we were sending out smart spots if they may have had a computer or in some cases they didn’t even have a computer. And so we were embedded LTE, laptops or Chromebooks sending those out to students. But for all those school districts to be able to have equity, we provisioned a ton of devices, got them to the schools, within a month, I think we pushed nearly half a million out so that kids could continue to receive quality education. Another one is healthcare. And that one’s huge. I mean, it’s the amount of money that the government spends. I wanna say it’s definitely in the top two or three from a GDP perspective of what we spend on healthcare, hundreds of billions of dollars is spent on it. And just from a government perspective, the funds that they flow into Medicare and Medicaid to take care of what ends up being in Medicaids in the case of Medicaid, people that just can’t afford to have internet connectivity. And in the case of Medicare, a lot of people who are home bound because they’re so sick with so many disease conditions. So you take these people that are the sickest and poorest and unable to get to their doctors and hospitals, et cetera. And what the studies show is that those that have acute care situations are not able to get in the doctor cost significantly more to the system because they’re not getting the treatment that other more affluent people would be able to have access to. So by being able to do remote patient monitoring, telehealth, et cetera, you can take somebody who has some of these issues and send out an in the box solution to monitor them, to connect them into their healthcare providers, et cetera. And so they don’t have to do anything, they don’t need to worry about, I gotta configure this with my Wi-Fi connection, and they don’t need to be experts. It comes in the box, they take it out of the box. There’s a simple card with instructions. It’s already ready to go in terms of connected to their doctors. It can be a blood pressure cuff or a Pulse Oximeter, or a smart scale or whatever it is, say, you’re a diabetic, you need four or five devices to monitor you. It just comes in a box and you just plug it in and there you go, you’re connected. And that bridging that gap to be able to get those sick patients and the patients that wouldn’t have otherwise have access to healthcare it’s a game changer for us being able to better control and have healthier outcomes.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. I wanted to kinda, as we’re wrapping up here, I wanted to ask you a quick question from your perspective on the challenges in IoT. We talked a lot about out enablement or enablers within IoT, as far as different connectivity, cost driving, being driven down edge computing, things like that. But from a challenges side, where are you seeing the biggest challenges lie in IoT? And you can take this from any angle you wish, but just outta curiosity, what are you seeing as some of the biggest challenges we need to work to overcome?
– [Greg] Yeah, so I think in general, some of the big challenges is it’s a complex ecosystem. Not all devices talk to other devices, and applications, how companies deploy then the logistics, reverse logistics, how you get connected and maintain that connectivity. Maybe you’re in a bad area for one carrier, but not another. There are just so many aspects to it. And so companies or individuals have a hard time really putting all that together because they’re not experts in it. And so I think just the overwhelming fact that there are so many different types of use cases, so many different types of places for things to go wrong. Unless a company is a high tech company that’s used to dealing with this, it’s a struggle for them. And so that’s one of the niches that I would say that Kajeet tries to overcome is we’re gonna take care of all that stuff for you. We are gonna take that really daunting ecosystem. We’re gonna boil it down to whatever your use cases are, we’re gonna give it to you all packaged up and we’re gonna support it. And you’re not gonna have to do anything except for sign a contract with us, tell us how many you need, where you want them, and we’ll send them out and support them and et cetera. I think one of the other challenges, well, I’ll say just a challenge for us as a company is focus. There was so much happening every day, changing like new devices, new protocols, new security threats, so many different things that are happening. So to kind keep up with all of that, Kajeet probably one of my biggest challenges is for me to work with our GMs and our product folks to say, what are those best use cases where we can make the biggest impact? And then let’s focus on certain industries and certain use cases, and then build from there. We try to boil the ocean, we’re gonna be mediocre at everything. So instead it’s what’s that five, 10 things that we can work on to establish. And then the next two and the next two, et cetera. So for me, it’s about maintaining focus because we wanna be excellent at whatever industry and whatever use case we go after.
– [Ryan] How is the, or how have you all seen the supply chain pan down, don’t wanna say, issues that we’re seeing really influence IoT, like how has it been handled on your end and how just high level, how are you seeing it influence things as more of a challenge for IoT since there are a lot of moving pieces and components that need to be implemented to be successful.
– [Greg] Yeah, especially during the early stages of COVID, we would call suppliers and we would say, “What devices you have?” “Okay, we’ll take them all.” “How many Chromebooks you got?” “Okay, we were calling literally everybody from CDW “to directment…” Every single one, we’re getting sold out, we’re getting sold out. So for us, it was buy every device that you can and we’ll provision it later. And so we went into a mad scramble and then things calmed down for a little bit. And then in the last, what, six months or so, it’s become ridiculous again, as you know, shipping and all the other things that manufacturing in China, et cetera, have all slowed down, we’re right back to the same place again. So now trying to get devices is a mad scramble. And unfortunately, what happens is that you get used to, Hey, I’ve built a solution around these certain types of device and certifications, et cetera. And then the market doesn’t have those devices. And you have to then move to the next tier device and get those certified quickly and make sure that they work properly. And so you’re not moving down two or three tiers and using lots of different vendors in order to meet supply and it becomes more complex.
– [Ryan] Yep, no, that totally makes sense. I’m curious to see how this kinda just all works itself out over the coming months and that leads into a good maybe way to finish this off is, as we are still early in the year, what are you all seeing as the biggest things you’re excited for maybe in 2022 or expecting to happen in the industry going forward?
– [Greg] Yeah, I’d say there’s probably two things that are gonna play big for us, maybe three. One is video as more and more bandwidth like 5G is available in mobile broadband, many more video applications are gonna be important in the IoT space that weren’t possible before on an LTE device. And that plays into my second part, which is remote patient monitoring. One of the companies we’re working with right now that we’re supplying for is it has some really cool things like they can set up video monitoring. You can’t afford a home healthcare professional. So let’s say you’re not ready to go to an assisted living, but you can’t afford to have somebody in your house all the time to be able to set up video monitoring that takes certain, either motion detected or at certain times of the day check ins and stuff like that, sensors that maybe you put in your shoes or whatever so you can kinda keep track of what’s happening with these people that can’t afford one, but they’re not sick enough to go to the other setting. And so I think that’s gonna be really exciting is how we can monitor patients and/or just the population in general. I love in their solution either a doctor can check in or a family member can check in and say, “Hey, they haven’t gotten outta bed today,” or whatever. And check in on them. So I think that’s one really cool one. And then also we’re starting to see a lot more private networks.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s true, very true.
– [Greg] With people taking advantage of the CBRS spectrum, that’s out there now. Many organizations, governments, et cetera, are trying to say, Hey, I want a smart city or a smart campus, or a smart whatever, and I don’t necessarily need to go to all the carriers to do that for me because I can set up antennas and build my own private connection on covered three miles or five miles or whatever, and stay within my Wi-Fi network and then roll out into my private LTE network. So I think there’s a lot of room to run there for private networks as well.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, yeah. I had a guest the other day talking about a similar topic around private LTE and the role it plays with campuses, hospitals, stadiums, things like that. So, they’re definitely very relevant stuff. So for our audience out there who wants to learn more about Kajeet, what you have going on, how to stay in touch, ask any follow up questions, what’s the best way to do that?
– [Greg] Well, they can go to our website at kajeet.com. Learn all about our products and services there. Also on Twitter, well, I think you can post some of that information. And of course you can always reach out to me on LinkedIn, if you wanna connect and be happy to either talk directly or I send you to the right person in the company.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, Greg, this has been a great conversation. Thanks so much again for taking the time. And really appreciate you being here.
– [Greg] Thank you very much for having me, Ryan.
– [Ryan] Thank you.
– [Greg] All right, bye-bye.
– [Ryan] All right, 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.