In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Ryan Chacon is joined by Erin Kelly, the Content Specialist and Producer at Argentum. Erin and Ryan cover various topics from marketing to direct currents versus alternating currents to what it’s like being a woman in tech. Erin dives into detail about the use of IoT in smart buildings and why building managers should be integrating IoT sensors. In the second half of the podcast, Erin shares insights on translating a marketing background into the tech industry and the IoT industry in Canada. They wrap up with her giving advice for women working or looking to break into the industry.
Erin Kelly is the Content Specialist and Producer for Argentum and a content creator for local businesses in Niagara and the Greater Toronto Area. She has been strategically creating content for businesses since she graduated from the University of Toronto in 2016. Over two years of that time has been dedicated to working for manufacturing and tech companies in which she maintains a strong interest.
Interested in connecting with Erin Kelly? Reach out to her on Linkedin!
About Argentum Electronics
Argentum provides an Intelligent DC power distribution solution for commercial buildings looking to save energy and operational costs. DC power distribution alone saves energy, but when paired with their IoT products, buildings can save even more energy. Argentum’s IoT related products include sensors and the SpacrApp.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:12) Introduction to Erin Kelly
(02:13) Verticals that Argentum focuses on
(02:51) How IoT ties into Argentum’s work
(04:13) What are the benefits of using IoT?
(05:41) What does the future look like for Smart Buildings?
(07:09) Why is it important for buildings to be energy efficient now?
(09:40) AC versus DC power
(17:00) Challenges of translating marketing background into a technical space
(21:10) Landscape of IoT in Canada
(24:51) Women in tech
– [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 on today’s episode, we have Erin Kelly, a Content Specialist and Producer at Argentum Electronics. They are a company focused on providing an intelligent DC power distribution solution for commercial buildings to help them save energy and operational cost. So we talk a lot about what you can do with IoT technology, with inside buildings, how buildings can save energy, and why it’s important, especially now. And we wrap up by talking about the evolution of the power side of things. So we talk about where DC power came from AC power, how they compare, what’s being used, the benefits, the trade-offs, et cetera, really good conversation. Erin is fantastic guests. So I really employ you to listen to this entire episode, I think it’s a ton of value. 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’s IoT solutions development platform, provides everything you need, to create turnkey 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 Erin to the IoT For All Show. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Erin] Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, I’ve been looking forward to this conversation ever since we scheduled it. So let’s introduce you to our audience. How about you give a quick overview of background experience and anything you think would be relevant for audience to know?
– [Erin] Yeah, sure. So hello everyone listening to the show. My name is Erin Kelly and I’m the marketing coordinator for a company called Argentum Electronics. We make products that basically save commercial buildings up to 40% of energy. And that is through, by making the electricity running through the buildings more efficient by basically transforming the AC power that buildings get into DC power, and then distributing that DC power to the connected like LEDs, and HVACs, or everything like that, because 80% of our building systems actually do require DC power. So if they’re getting DC power, they need it just saves them energy intrinsically.
– [Ryan] Now when you’re talking about buildings, is there a specific kind of building you all focus on or industry or vertical, that you all have really been aimed at?
– [Erin] Yeah, so we focus on commercial buildings. We don’t have a specific type of commercial building that we’re focusing on right now. Though we have worked with companies like EllisDon, we like to work in the real estate value chain, and we’ve also worked with companies like HH Angus, and a few others. We’ve worked with also a residential apartment complex. So we’ve pretty broad range of commercial buildings or multifamily residential buildings that we work with.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, and talk about how all this work that you do, or at least pieces of the work that you do tie into the IoT space. How is IoT connected to your company in some way?
– [Erin] Yeah, sure. So, because we decided to basically base our building off of like energy saving technology. We branched out a little bit from just converting AC power to DC power. And we also have a bunch of devices that save energy just through their automation capabilities, and so in order to have like automation capabilities, you need to have sensors because you need to be able to sense information about different building systems like lighting and HVAC, just to check maybe for example, the brightness or air quality, just things like that, so that you can modify those things based on, what is the comfort of your employees or what will make the systems, the most energy efficient that they can be. So we have those things and then those things you can also control and monitor through a cloud based app. So that’s where everything integrates into the IoT space, because if the internet of things is essentially things connected over the internet. And so we do that. We basically connect to lighting and HVAC systems and a bunch of other building systems over the internet and then control them to make them more energy efficient.
– [Ryan] And there were a couple other topics I actually was gonna dive into, but because we’re on the subject of buildings, I wanna stay there for a second. When you’re thinking discussing internally with the team, and you’re talking about implementing IoT technology and your solutions into these buildings, at a high level, is energy saving the main benefit? And if so, what are the other benefits of doing this? And at the same time, how do you gonna view the future of smart buildings? Do you kind of view it as most buildings will have to be smart in the future? And what does that look like?
– [Erin] Ooh, okay. There’s so many layers to that question. I’m not really sure which one to tackle first, but let’s start with the benefits aside from energy efficiency, I guess?
– [Ryan] Yeah.
– [Erin] So there are four main benefits. There’s the benefit of saving energy with these systems. Then when you save energy, you also reduce operating costs, and you can also make employees or tenants more comfortable, and I know that there’s another one. It also improves safety. So I guess that could be another one, because you’re reducing VOC, which are toxic compounds in the air, and you’re also reducing CO2, or actually you’re reducing CO emissions and CO emissions, carbon monoxide is toxic, whereas CO2 Is non-toxic. And so you’re reducing both of those gases.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, and what does the future look like in your opinion when it comes to a smart building technology and implementation adoption, things like that.
– [Erin] I think that there are a lot of different opinions on this and we don’t really talk about the other side, like the black mirror side of things in our company, but we talk about mainly what the benefits are, for commercial buildings or for many buildings, by being integrated with smart technology in the future. And I think personally that yes, commercial buildings will become mainly smart in the future just because there are so many benefits to it. It’s kind of like so many building managers have switched their lighting, for example, from fluorescent over to LEDs. And that saves their lighting just 75% in energy cost for lighting, which is significant amount. If you add automation controls to that, it saves an additional 20% to 40% or something like that, just on lighting a cost. So I think building managers will see the potential in that and then they’ll feel like they’re wasting money if they don’t switch over to smart technologies in the future. And then as these smart technologies become easier and easier to implement and more cheap to implement, then they’ll become more into the market. So it’ll be a slow process, but I think it’ll be worth it.
– [Ryan] So as we just talked there about the future and where we think this is going, if we look into the past a little bit, why is it so important for buildings to be focusing on being energy efficient, saving money on energy, saving energy itself now, as opposed to where it was before? and how we evolved to be able to do this better now, than we were able to do it, five plus years ago?
– [Erin] Yeah, sure. So let’s see. I think I learned a fact the other day it was something about how, well we only started to implement building controllers recently, actually, let’s talk about occupancy sensors for a second. So I think that occupancy sensors became available in the 50’s or 60’s. So this kind of technology has been around for a while and I have to first check on that, this kind of technology has been around for a while. It’s just a matter of how it becomes cheaper and more easier to implement. And so five to 10 years ago, I’m not sure exactly where we were at, but I think that companies even still today, are still switching their lights over from fluorescent or in candescent over to LEDs, and so they need to do that really before they can implement smart building technology, because it’s not really worth it. If you are adjusting, if you have smart technology built into fluorescent or in candescent bulbs, is not worth it because you’re not saving the money that you could be with LEDs. Yeah, so that’s the big part of it. I think that just technology takes a while to develop. And then also I think that we’ve become more hyper focused on the fight against climate change over the past five to 10 years. So building managers are starting to realize the responsibility that they have to reduce the output of carbon emissions to their buildings. And also we have the program called Lead. So Lead, if you don’t know, Lead is a program that is basically an international building certification program that qualifies your building as being a green building. So in order for people to gain points towards a Lead Certification, they have to meet certain standards in their building design, such as in their building materials or the ways that they’re saving energy, with building automation, controls, and sensors, and everything. So there have been certain benefits, that have been put in place in the past little while, because of climate change and everything.
– [Ryan] How about on the power side? like the DC power AC power, side of things, where we’ve kind of grown, right from being more AC power to DC power to handle higher voltages in a safer way. Talk about that a little bit, and at the same time, if there’s some audience members who may not be as familiar with this space, if you could break down DC verse AC, and what the differences are and how they’re used.
– [Erin] Oh yeah, for sure. This is such a fun topic actually. It may not sound fun initially, but it is really fun. So let’s talk about electricity for a second. You might have heard of the war of the currents before. Have you heard of the war of the currents before?
– [Ryan] I have not.
– [Erin] All right, Well, let’s talk about that. So in the late eighteen hundreds, there was Thomas Edison and there was Nikola Tesla. I’m pretty sure that most of your audience members will have heard of the two of them, but maybe you don’t know why they’re famous. Edison produced the world’s first light bulb and it ran on AC power. And then Tesla was actually, he worked for Edison for a little while before he produced AC power. I mean, yeah. Before he produced AC power. So AC power is alternating current power and DC power is DC current power. Edison created the light bulb and made it work with DC power which is direct current. And then Tesla was working on this alternative type of electricity called alternating current electricity and Edison didn’t really like that. Tesla was putting all this effort and energy into this new type of electricity. He kept putting down Tesla’s ideas and then Tesla started working for different company, different hydro company, and that hydro company, really embraced his ideas and they end up used, they ended up using AC electricity, to power the world’s fair in the late eighteen hundreds, and then eventually, because that brought a lot of attention to AC power, It was used for powering Niagara’s hydro plant. And so when they were able to see that you could power buildings within a 26 mile radius, I think it was then they were like, okay, AC power is actually extremely powerful, it’s amazing that you can transfer it to such long distances. So then AC power just became the norm and it won the war of the current. So that’s an interesting backstory of, why we use AC power versus DC power.
– [Ryan] Okay.
– [Erin] But the reason that we continued to use AC power, the reason that AC power went out over DC power was because you could transfer over long distances. It’s not necessarily couldn’t do that with DC power, but with AC power, it was more efficient to do so because you could send higher voltages over longer distances because you could use transformers with AC power. And a transformer, is something that takes a high voltage power source, and then it steps that voltage down, so that voltage can be used within a building because you need only a certain voltage level within your buildings. And so you need transformers to step down that voltage and with DC power, DC power electricity, or yeah, DC electricity, it just doesn’t work with transformers because a lot of scientific reasons that I could go into, but I’m not sure of your audience really wants me to go into, but basically you can use transformers with AC electricity and you can’t use them with DC electricity, which makes it more efficient to transmit AC power across long distances.
– [Ryan] Awesome, so where are we now, is AC still the dominant player in the space? Or is DC starting to become something that can be used for one reason or the other?
– [Erin] Yeah, so we actually have a blog article. Actually, we probably have four articles coming out on that topic alone, because high voltage DC is actually gaining traction nowadays, again, like back in the 60’s, that was when the first high voltage direct current power transmission plant was invented. And they were able to do that by doing this work around because you can’t use transformers with DC electricity, but you can use what’s called a rectifier. And so you can take DC electricity and then rectify it and then turn it into AC electricity, use a transformer, step down the voltage and use a transformer, or use a rectifier again, and then transform that AC voltage that’s now lower into a DC voltage. So that’s how that was their little work around so that they would be able transmit this high voltage DC power, but it’s only worth it to do so, because rectifier are extremely expensive. So you have to think about the cost of rectifier, then you think about the cost of implementing this station that transmits DC power. So basically if you are treating transmitting power past 600 kilometers, then the energy saving cost of DC power makes out for the cost of the rectifiers basically. So it has to be this certain distance in order for the cost for rectifier to be worth it.
– [Ryan] That’s all super interesting. I don’t know if I I’ve had a conversation where we dove all the way back to Edison and Tesla, and talked about the whole backstory to get to where we are now. So that was super fascinating. Give a background in how would you learn all, was this stuff you learned before you were at the company, or just stuff you learned while you were at the company? Where does this interest come from?
– [Erin] I learned most of it while I was at the company, but I started working at this company because I have my background in marketing. That’s my main focus obviously, but I do have a very strong interest in technology. I’ve built two computers, a lot of people build computers, It’s not really that impressive, but I like to mention that just to show how interested I am in technology. And also I remember when I was in high school science class and we learned about circuits and we built our own circuits. That was interesting to me. We also built tic-tac-toe boards and I was in university and that was fun too. So I always liked playing the circuits whenever I got the chance to in school. But at this job, I’ve never had the opportunity before or the need to really look into circuits or learn about them. So that’s where I learned a lot of this stuff that I know now, from this job, but you can learn a lot if you’re dedicated to it for eight hours a day, if your just five months I’ve been working there.
– [Ryan] That’s cool, yeah. If someone has a marketing content creation type background, getting into the tech space and being able to play a role, I think the tech space is probably where the biggest, from what I’ve seen, biggest need for people who really understand marketing and content creation to translate the technology lingo and conversation to the people that may not necessarily be as tech savvy, but need to understand how it works, what to do, and the benefits of it for their business. So I imagine when you’re talking to, and building content for, to promote the brand to potential buyers, you’re having to kind of break this all down into a way that resonates with the buyer themselves and the interest on their side. So I imagine there, and I’d be curious to get your opinion on what some of those challenges are like. Being able to go from general marketing background into technology space and how you’ve been able to apply that, to help the business grow through marketing and content efforts, which I think a lot of our audience could probably benefit from understanding on what you’ve seen work and how that’s complimented the growth of the company.
– [Erin] Yeah, sure. So you want me to talk about how I break down these more complicated topics into topics that can be more easily digested, right? From a marketing standpoint and for customer?
– [Ryan] Yeah, In a sense. So you have a background, it’s it dabbles in tech, but it’s not a tech focused background than marketing and such, but you’ve come into a tech space now. There are principles that the tech space can benefit from people who understand marketing at a deeper level to help benefit their growth. And I’d be curious if you just talk about the lessons you’ve learned, the things you’ve pushed for, that maybe several audience could benefit from understanding how marketing in the tech space works.
– [Erin] Yeah, sure. So something that I know about marketing in a tech space is that there are very few people who are, or maybe it’s not that there are a few people, you have to be skilled in order to be like a tech copywriter who writes about technology. And then those people in marketing end up being a little bit more expensive as contractors or as freelancers, just because they’re taking on, not only marketing responsibilities, but also the responsibility to do some research and find reliable sources and be able to write about something that’s more complicated and deep, but from a more, as you said before, high level. So something that was a little bit, just a little bit more easy to understand. So I think that people in the tech field, like, for example, when I came to work with Argentum, they were great, the team is fantastic, but they were all engineers. And so they did need help with their marketing strategy, obviously that’s why I was hired. So I think that it’s something that’s important for marketers to realize that they have a lot of knowledge that people in the tech space don’t have. And it’s very important because every company needs to be able to relate to human beings on a personal level and they need to be able to make technology something that everyone can find interesting and be able to relate to, especially when technology is so crucial in finding the climate crisis, because the better technology we have, the more energy efficient our technology is. I think personally, the more quickly we can reduce carbon emissions. And so when you’re able to put that message across to building managers who are potential customers, or when you’re able to put that message across to the general public or to even gen Z, then they can take on that message and think about how interesting that is. Maybe it will inspire them to be in the tech space or help them realize that it is something that is important to learn about. So yeah, that’s why marketing is so important in the tech space and marketers just need to learn a little bit, ask questions to the engineers and then try and repeat back the information that you got from them, so that they can say, yes, you’re right about that. Or no, this is the correction to make that statement more accurate. So that’s how I’ve learned, is I’ve just listened to what my co-workers have talked about and then asked a bunch of questions. I also have these things that I do consistently with one of the head engineers called tech talks, where he and I just get together a couple times a month. And then I ask him a bunch of questions that came up about the technology, and then he explains things to me or gives me resources. That’s really helpful too.
– [Ryan] That’s awesome, yeah. That’s fantastic. I appreciate you diving into that. So as we wrap up, I have two questions that I actually asked you at the beginning, but we got so driven into talking about the buildings that I didn’t want to pivot away. So you are located in Canada, correct?
– [Erin] Yes.
– [Ryan] Okay, I’m curious because I actually had someone on earlier that is in South Africa, we were talking about the IoT landscape in Africa, which is different than what I’m used to here in the states. And it’s different then when I talk to guests in Europe. So from your perspective, even though Canada is very close to the US, how is the landscape in from for IoT up in that space, you can take it from a company standpoint, like the providers of IoT, ecosystem or adoption use case focused kind of thing. I’m just curious for your take on how the Canadian IoT market may differ than other markets you’re familiar with.
– [Erin] That’s a really good question. I’m not sure exactly. I feel like I wouldn’t really be able to give you a full answer to that question, but what I could probably comment on about that is that, just from my perspective, I feel like there are less tech companies doing what we do here in Canada. Whenever I look up our competitors, a lot of them just seem to be more US based. The vast majority of them, seem to be in the US. And whenever I come across one that’s Canadian, I get kind of excited about it, because I’m like, oh, it’s cool that someone else is doing this. It’s fine if we have a little bit of competition, that’s okay, it’ll push the market forward. And I’m happy about that.
– [Ryan] Definitely.
– [Erin] Yeah, so that’s really all I have to say about that.
– [Ryan] Yeah, from my perspective, it seems like the markets are similar from ecosystem makeup standpoint. I definitely have seen more startup focus companies, especially in the US jumping into IoT and building things. But I’m very curious to see and follow the applications and use cases that maybe gear more, what companies that are in Canada, in the IoT space, what use cases and applications they focus on, do they stay more regionally focused? Do they try to go global? Do they try to compete and sell into the US market? I’m very curious to watch how these other country and markets start to bleed into each other, because obviously US companies are trying to focus on the US, but then they’re now expanding globally, which I’m sure is a natural progression for Canadian companies as well. I’m just curious if Canada has unique applications and use cases that may be more prevalent up there as opposed to in the US. I think that’s where I’m kind of keeping my eye on the most, to see how things evolve.
– [Erin] Right, yeah. That makes sense, for sure. So our company, even though we’re located in Canada, we have two locations in Canada, one in Toronto and then one in Cobourg. We do business with companies internationally too, Like we’re happy to work with companies in, or buildings that are located in America or really anywhere throughout the world, because it’s very simple to install our system, it really is just like a plug in place system. And then our sensors are all wireless and then everything is just synced up with the building, with the building systems, with their own software in the background, by the engineers here in Canada. So we don’t really have any restrictions on where we can work. I think that been a real benefit, it’s been something positive, at least this come out of the pandemic, is that more people are adjusting to working remotely and they’re figuring out ways to make sure that they can do things remotely. And our system is no exception to that at all. So that’s nice, I feel like maybe being in Canada, we have maybe a smaller pool of potential clients. So it’s nice to be able to expand their pool, by being able to have things installed remotely.
– [Ryan] That’s awesome. Last question I have for you before we wrap up. So obviously if you’ve looked at our podcast history, we haven’t had the pleasure of having that many female tech enthusiast players experts on the podcast. I’m do doing everything I can to get more on. So I was very much also looking forward to learning a little bit about your experience being a woman in the tech space and how that’s been for you, and I know there’s lots of opportunities and new things happening in the space in general, that I’m curious to see where you’re interested or expanded to, as you played more of a role in a tech company’s growth. And just learn about that for a second.
– [Erin] Yeah, sure. Thanks for asking that question. And I’m really happy to hear that you’re planning on getting more female guests and everything onto the podcast. I would love to listen to more podcasts where there’s female guests talking about tech in a way that’s really digestible. So for me, the first company that I worked with, that was in the tech industry was back when I first graduated from university. Well, I graduated from university and then I went and I volunteered in Africa for like six months. But then after that, I went and I worked for a company that manufactures custom folding pocket knives. Yeah. And so something learned from that experience was that it was very easy as the only woman working in this company, that was like a team of 10 of us or something like that. And I was the only woman working there and I was the only one also doing marketing. Everyone else was working on the products, or doing packaging, or doing accounting. No one else was really working on the marketing side of things. So I found it very easy for me to devalue the work that I was doing and feel like it wasn’t as important as the work that my male co-workers were doing. And so something that I would like to say to other females in the tech industry is, don’t devalue your work, work on your craft and maybe also work to understand what your coworkers are doing, but it doesn’t matter if they’re men or women, what matters is the value that you bring to the company, and so just focus on that, and have regular communications with your boss. Something that I do with this company, with Argentum, is we actually have warning meetings, and we have evening, weekend meetings. So we have like a meeting at 9:00 am and then a meeting at 4:45 and the one at 9:00 am, we talk about what we’re gonna do and then 4:45, you wrap it up and then we say what we did. So it’s nice to do that, to stay on track. and my boss and I are always creating new goals together. So it feels like the work that I’m doing really is something that’s necessary. So yeah, I think that that’s just a great way for teams to operate in general, regardless of gender. So I hope that that helps some women out there, or men, either one.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, that’s fantastic. I appreciate you diving into that. And I think it’s important to shed light on kind of the industry as a whole and not feeling like anyone should be deterred from trying to get into it, because I think it’s a fascinating space and you can learn a lot and there’s tons of tons of opportunity out there, for everyone and it’s been awesome to hear a little bit more, about what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished. And I really appreciate taking the time today to talk to me.
– [Erin] Yeah, of course. It’s been a pleasure.
– [Ryan] Last thing I want you to do, if you wouldn’t mind is just tell our audience where they can learn more about the company, follow up questions, all that kind of good stuff.
– [Erin] Yeah, sure all right. So thanks everyone for listening to the podcast, you can find us at argentum.ai. So our website again is just argentum.ai. I’m sure that that’s gonna be in the show notes or something like that. We’re also very active on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook. I post a lot of memes actually on Twitter, because I think that that’s a great space for them. So do you follow that if you want some tech memes, and follow us on LinkedIn to learn a little bit more about the technology behind our products. And we also have a blog going in, I’m posting a lot of our blog articles at Medium now, too. So you can follow us on Medium. we’re really active in a lot of places.
– [Ryan] That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much again, we’ll make sure our audience has all that information to stay in touch and reach out. And I’d love to have you back sometime later this year, so we can learn more about everything you have going on, the company is going on, and stay in touch.
– [Erin] Yeah, that would be great. I’d love to do that.
– [Ryan] Okay, fantastic. Yeah, thanks again, Erin. And look forward to talking again soon.
– [Erin] Cool, sounds good. Yeah, take care.
– [Ryan] Bye. All right, everyone. Thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT for our 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 it become available. On that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.