In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Akenza AG’s Co-CEO and VP of Business, Jonas Schmid, joins Ryan to discuss low-code IoT and self-service solutions. The episode begins with Jonas talking about the background and structure of the company, and how they are building a horizontal IoT platform that can be used over a wide array of use cases. The podcast continues to cover various topics regarding low-code platforms, including tradeoffs of low-code versus fully customized solutions, challenges to implementing, and how it will change the IoT consulting business. To wrap up the podcast, Jonas and Ryan talk about what they’re looking forward to seeing from IoT in the remainder of 2022.
Jonas Schmid has an MBA from the University of Geneva and experience in international project management for different companies, such as Siemens and ABB. With his knowledge in business, project management, and previous entrepreneurship experience, Jonas Schmid defines and leads the vision of Akenza with Co-CEO Simon Rieser. Akenza is a low-code IoT application enablement platform, making IoT more accessible for corporations globally. The self-service features of Akenza and support for numerous low-power connectivity technologies & network providers significantly accelerate the launch of new LPWAN projects while mitigating the risks of PoC failure.
Interested in connecting with Jonas? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About Akenza AG
Akenza is a self-service IoT platform, allowing you to build great IoT products and services with value. It connects, controls, and manages IoT devices, all in one place. With simple and secure management of smart devices, connectivity, and data, the Akenza IoT application enablement platform enables the rapid introduction of innovative, smart solutions. The platform is adapted to organizations of all sizes, from startup to enterprise, from one device to massive IoT deployments. Thanks to the self-service and low-code functionalities of Akenza, you can start creating your IoT case right away, even without coding skills.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:16) Introduction to Jonas Schmid
(02:33) Background of Akenza AG
(04:37) Who are the intended users of Akenza AG’s platform?
(06:04) What use cases are leading the way for adopting low-code platforms?
(07:36) Who are Akenza’s tools aimed at in a business?
(08:22) Tradeoffs of low-code solution vs fully customized.
(10:43) Is Akenza aimed for specific use cases?
(12:04) Is self-service IoT a realistic solution for all business adopters?
(15:48) How do you think IoT consulting will evolve?
(17:18) Biggest challenges of low-code adoption?
(18:30) Is low-code education a big focus of adoption?
(20:12) What other ways are there to minimize IoT products from not launching?
(23:15) What to look for in the IoT industry in 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 on today’s episode, we have Jonas Schmid the Co-CEO and VP of business at Akenza AG. They are a company focused on low-code IoT application enablement platform. And we are a very interesting conversation, we talk a lot about what low-code IoT means kind of the value it provides to solution development, how it works from a complexity standpoint, what the current landscape looks like in this low-code, no-code kind of conversation that we’re seeing rise up in the IoT space, as well as can answer the question. Can self-service IoT really be a thing? So a lot of great points, a lot of great pieces of this conversation that I really value and think you’ll find a lot of value in it as well. But before we get into that, 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 solution development platform provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and re-sell 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 to the IoT for all show, thanks for being here this week.
– [Jonas] Thanks for having me, very great to be here.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m super excited. There’s a lot of interesting things you have going on that I wanted to really dive into. And I think our audience is gonna get a ton of value out of it, but let’s start off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself to our audience. They can learn a little bit more about who they’re listening to.
– [Jonas] So I’m Jonas Schmid, I’m Co-CEO of Akenza we found that this company in June, 2017, so it’s about four and a half years old, 30 people based in Switzerland and we have a really great IoT platform that I wanna talk to you about today.
– [Ryan] Totally unrelated to the company itself but when you have like a Co-CEO kind of arrangement, how does that work? Just outta curiosity.
– [Jonas] So I’m more a business guy, less the techie guy, my techie guy that’s also why he’s not here. He should be here and talk with you actually today but he’s concentrating on a product and I concentrate on talking to people that works pretty well like that.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, we’ll keep you relatively high level anyways. So I think you’ll be the perfect person for this conversation. Why don’t you go ahead and just introduce, go ahead.
– [Jonas] Just because you asked that question this is how we handle that, you know, with Co-CEOs with like kind focusing on technology and focusing on business on both sides.
– [Ryan] Totally makes sense, that’s fantastic. So, talk a little bit more about the company. What do you all do? What’s the focus kinda, what role do you play in IoT just to kind of catch your audience up?
– [Jonas] So we think or we thought before we found this company that it is kind of difficult to connect devices to a cloud. So you have a high level of complexity and it’s very difficult for you to use all those different connectivity technologies. When we came up there was LoRa was like the thing that was just coming up here in Switzerland, for example, LoRaWAN. The national telco carrier here, Swisscom they rolled out the national network and nobody knew how to use that national network of LoRaWAN. So there’s connectivity technologies that are difficult from a operating perspective or from the technological perspective. There is a very heterogeneous market of different devices that are out there that you wanna connect or every solution needs its own connectivity, its own device, its own thing. And that’s just difficult to do. So when you start up with your it project, you have your great idea and you wanna run out and create your case. You don’t wanna start developing for the next six months, right? Imagine you, you have your hardware and you wanna connect it. That needs to be done in 30 minutes, not in like three months or six months or whatever. So this is where we come from and where we have decided that we need to build an IoT platform that helps people to solve that problem. Especially those who are not IT developers and know how to set up all those kind of services.
– [Ryan] The complexity around IoT is something that a lot of adopters kind of shy away from. They put a lot of the reliance on the companies they work with like yours for instance, to help them bring something to market. But at the same time they want control, they want to be able to interact technology and do parts of it themselves, or potentially do parts of themselves down the line. So helping lower that complexity, I think is one of the biggest contributors that a company can make to helping drive adoption in this space. So that’s fantastic. You all are having, you kind of are focused on that. And what I wanted to kind of expand on from there is who is kind of the intended end user of your platform, or are you all building tools for people to, for like, for a company to go in and utilize themselves? Are you handling kind of building the solution end to end? Where does it, how does it kind of fit with your all focus?
– [Jonas] So I would say our user group certainly has a technical background, not necessarily an it background all are an operations background. So they’re usually people out of an R&D team, for example, engineers, maybe even out of the hardware sector, people out of a digitalization project or out of innovation projects, all those kind of people who might have a use case or a part of their IoT architecture stack, basically ready and also the knowledge and that, but they need basically that quick fix or that solution, how they can create a solution out of that. I would say that’s probably our target group or people who can work with our product and they can do it completely in self-service. So they can just log in online and they can start setting up the case. And even people with me, I have an engineering background, but I’m not it background. People like me can set up a case in like 20 minutes and have a very steep learning curve and you know how to handle those things. And for example, send a message into slack. So I’ve just done that before Christmas to connect the device that you can push a button and then some messages like all those kind of things that give you a very quick achievement of goals.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, and one of the hottest kind of topics that I’ve had guests mention throughout my period of conversations is around like low-code and no-code IoT. From your perspective, when it comes to lowering these bare of complexity to help increase IoT adoption, what types of use cases or industries have kind of been leading the way from the companies maybe that you work with, adopting these types of platforms?
– [Jonas] So what we strongly see at the moment, there are very strong market that we see at the moment. This is the whole smart building market so one of our close relatives is for example, ISS facility management, which is a very big facility management provider that provides those digital services to our clients. And they are exactly those kind of people that scrap before. They might have an idea, they have a very good understanding of their own vertical. They might even have a device lying around somewhere and they can create a valuable use cases for their end clients, basically with setting up something like that. So their more or less technical operators can also run that thing afterwards. That’s maybe the whole other perspective that you also have to have on those IoT platforms or in those cases is if you have a lot of devices out there on the market, you might have even less technical people who actually have to maintain that stuff. So someone has to know about battery levels or whatever’s out there and fix that case over thousands of devices that you have out there.
– [Ryan] Yeah, definitely for sure. And when you all are working with companies externally, you mentioned that they’re more technical individuals, but is there a certain role or certain kind of level within the company that your tools are kind of more aimed at? Obviously if you don’t have the technical background, it may be a little more difficult to understand and utilize the tools in the way they’re intended to be used. So I assume, like you’ve said, you’re kind of aiming them at more of the engineering and the technical side of the business.
– [Jonas] I would say probably mostly on the project level. So they’re usually project engineers, head of R&D or R&D people in different stages of the project. And then on the other side, people out of operations that actually know they have a pain to operate a case like that.
– [Ryan] Right, okay that makes a lot of sense. And then one of the other things I’ve been thinking about as these I’ve had these conversations is what the tradeoffs are and how do you kind of work to communicate what the tradeoffs are, are go are to adopting more of a kind of low-code solution that’s limiting or lowering the complexity to adopt these IoT solutions where they are doing more of the work, the versus kind of the other path, right? Which is more of the hands on from the company where they’re gonna build it all for you. You don’t have to do any of any of that piece. What are the trade offs? What are the values for both sides and kind of where do you see the market kind of going when it comes to both of those options?
– [Jonas] So from a historical perspective, I would say you see a lot of those use cases out of IoT that are very make, right? I mean, they come out, even if, if you look at those different technologies, they also come out of the Makers space. So they come out of a group of people who were very used to customize just things. So they know how to code, they know how to set up all those kind of things but they also have their own requirements or specific requirements, maybe even their personal requirements, how a solution should look like if you start to go into a direction of no-code, or you start to standardize stuff, your customization parts like that follow away, of course. So they have to get used to being less possibilities at certain points. So what we’ve done in the product is we still allow them to code in certain boxes. So they can, for example, do data parsing in a field, or they can code their own rules, but they’re not going back to that hand knit stuff basically that they did before. And this is also the tradeoff in the other direction. If you see maybe bigger enterprise or corporates that have a make decision, I would still say it’s a make decision or build that on, on their own services. We’ve seen quite some risks and maintainability there. So company that actually decides to go for a Maker IoT solution and potentially puts that load of work or that knowledge into just a few people. They come back two years later, or three years later because that person has left the company and they are just not able to maintain their own solution. So standardization is certainly will limit certain things certainly, but it also gives you kind of the resilience to go into the future with that.
– [Ryan] And are you all focusing, I know you mentioned the kind of smart building space, but are you all focused on individual industries and building the tools and the components to allow them to build solutions or applications more quickly a at certain industries and use cases first before you can kind of expand into another one, if that makes sense, or are you just giving them the raw tools across the board and they figure out how to put together.
– [Jonas] So we’re horizontal IoT platform. That means you can use us basically in every vertical what we do but we also do very closely with our customer versus that we call what we call connectors. So this whole no-code or low-code approach also goes into a direction that we try to provide the connections into ERP systems on one side or into devices on the other side and standardize them for the client. So if one client integrates a device or something, the other others should also be able to use that same case and built their case more quickly. That means you can, for example, very easily connect our system to Microsoft or AWS or SAP or whatever you want and send data there, basically. Yeah, it goes a bit in that direction. It’s more of enablement than going into specific verticals or focusing on specific solutions.
– [Ryan] Gotcha, okay then I follow that. Now, let me think about or let me ask you about, let’s look three, five years down the road and high level self-service IoT, how realistic is this? Is it for us to be able to get to a point where any company can go to, be able to put it an IoT solution together themselves quickly at an affordable cost, from all the way from hardware to choosing the right connectivity, to having it on the right platform, understanding the data to make sure they have it displayed in a user interface that their end users can use, that full scale thing. How realistic is it to get to a point where we do have more self-service IoT and they’re just building on top of a platform like yours across the industry as a whole. But what do you think about that from a future standpoint?
– [Jonas] I think we’re still at a point where it as I think I mentioned it before, we’re we’re on a very heterogeneous market. Okay, so there’s still a lot of different solutions, a lot of different connectivities, a lot of different architectural parts, but you already see that those things are kind of conglomerating together. Is that a word I don’t know, like kind of, they’re starting to stick together and building up and I see in five it has to be, I dunno, about the hardware part, I think that’s probably also why the difficult part that you basically need to standardize hardware, but we will certainly see that certain connectivity are gonna continue in others not. There’s always kind of a variant in there, but we definitely have to get to a point where the knowledge is already there as well, you know? So there’s quite a lot of people and you see that in other areas of digitalization, quite a lot of companies or people that don’t have the knowledge yet of that market or of the possibilities that they have to standardize those things.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think there’s education on both sides too, right? It’s not just the platform companies and the IoT companies, understanding the industries are getting involved in to build specific applications or tooling to help them succeed. But it’s also the other side is just understanding how to do this or how a company can do this themselves. And when you’re getting to the hardware point, which is what kind of what you were mentioning that’s an interesting piece to this whole puzzle as well. And I think the there’s a couple different paths I’ve heard people are exploring taking one is the more devices you can integrate within a platform. So it’s kind of like an off the shelf kind of grab for a company to be able to use. But at the same time, there are such unique use cases out there. And I don’t know if that’s ever really gonna completely go away to where certain there is needs for customized hardware. And I think that will still serve a purpose, but the integration of that hardware into a platform and the easier that can be, I think helps make everyone’s life a lot easier.
– [Jonas] Definitely, so what I see or what I believe, or what I’ve also failed, first of all, in the last few years when we’ve worked nothing, we’ve noticed that we need to do less anglization people know already what they talk about and what I strongly feel and I think this is why IoT is more an evolution than a revolution at the moment, is that people are aware of locking effects. So people are very aware of the potential implications of taking a decision in direction of an IoT platform or a solution and of the lock in effect those decisions have. So they think a lot of how they can use those components and if they should do a lock in with their product or not, and how they will maintain that whole process over the long term. So I think an IoT platform are using different technologies in the architectural stack, lost them also to exchange components, for example. So you might be able to exchange your hardware, you might be able to exchange your IoT platform or your end application over the lifetime of your product.
– [Ryan] And do you think the I don’t wanna say consulting, but it’s more of the consulting relationship side of IoT development. How do you think that’s going to progress? Do you think that’s going to go away and minimize, or do you think it’s going to maybe just shift in what they’re helping companies do from the point where a company realizes they need to kind of adopt IoT in some capacity?
– [Jonas] I think it will probably shift towards more business value I would say. Probably away from a technological solution, finding, making process to a business value or actually requirements that are more related to what you’re actually gonna do with your case than actually picking the components of that case. At the moment, I still have the feeling, especially with system integrators that a lot them, they love to sell ours of course, that they would go on and about and search for components that they can actually build or even develop because that’s where they get the money from. And the future is more into kind of business consulting or solution consulting I believe than in technology here.
– [Ryan] Yeah and I think when you start to tying that into these applications, interacting with potential customers, generating new revenue streams and things like that, there is a very different approach to the conversation and the kind of people that are I guess, able to answer those questions and help strategize there as opposed to more of the technical team that as of now is more involved in help putting the solution together as opposed to the business side, which is what you’re kind of alluding to know. So let me ask you this, where we are now versus where we’re going, we kind of talked about that a bit with the low-code, no-code type side of things. What are some of the biggest challenges that you see right now when it comes to adoption of low-code across the industry and then kind of the tie on to that, how do we overcome some of those challenges that you all have seen and probably worked on and worked through yourself?
– [Jonas] I think that’s quite a difficult question or the challenges of low-code itself are probably more in the direction of the awareness that those kind of technologies even exist. So the belief that I basically have to break my knee and build things on my own still quite strong, especially in the, I would call it the CIO corner of those people who have been around somewhere in the 90s and fixing everything together on their own. So going with that low-code thing, I don’t think it’s a big challenge. It’s more the awareness of people to know, oh yeah, I can do that on my own. Why do I need to pay an external consulting firm a few hundred thousand to build that for me?
– [Ryan] And on the educational aside from your all’s perspective, what is that a pretty big initiative to help? Not just educate on what low-code kind of is how it benefits, why, how it can be used the value and so forth, but also the how to use the tools. So somebody comes in, they are able to either directly ask you all questions, or they have there’s documented in place where they can easily get set up started all the way through scale. And just kind of how big of a focus is that for the low-code kind of movement, if you will.
– [Jonas] So documentation needs to be there, it’s on the website. And it also has to be of course, the whole customer journey within the product. But I think, and that’s probably also the feeling that the personal feeling for me, people decide very quickly, if they wanna continue with a learning journey or not in a product, do they have an aha moment or not? They sign up for a 30 day trial and they might be there for 10 minutes or something, and you basically have to educate them very quickly how that low-code works. There is not an expectation to read a lot of documentation to it, but it has to be kind of hands on. So people have a strong expectation that they initially understand how that works and that they have a very quick success. And if there is any error or something doesn’t work, they fall out basically. So totally, that’s probably the biggest challenge out of what you’ve just task is probably to keep their awareness here and then also provide them with that quick success.
– [Ryan] Totally makes sense. That quick success helps them kind of get approval and buy in for more budget, for more initiatives and just continue on down the path as opposed to being deterred and kind of pushed away. One of the last questions I wanna ask you before we wrap up here is a lot of obviously what your focus on building is reducing that complexity that we talked about at the beginning of the conversation, outside of the platform piece what other things or guess what other ways are there to help minimize IoT projects, not getting off the ground and what can companies be doing to kind of help that to reduce complexity in other areas that maybe you all don’t necessarily focus on, but you’ve seen from afar that there are challenges that they are really kind of hindering, maybe the adoption across the board of IoT that you think is worth noting.
– [Jonas] So you might actually think that’s funny, but one of the biggest issues I think is that it seems that not all engineering teams have credit cards yet. And that’s not a joke. One of the things that we made and that we were not expecting that it was actually that successful or the feedback that we up was you can buy connectivity in our product. Basically we have connectivity in there, you can pay it by credit card and it works that’s perfect. But there was certain clients who actually had to go to their boss’ boss to ask for a credit card, to buy a product and try something out. I mean, we’re talking about trying something out for a few dollars a month and not a lot of money, but the whole buying center has changed a bit in the direction of those people who are using product like that. And it seems that the financial decision hasn’t been given to them to decide what’s best tool for them to use. So there is kind of a conservative of is in the sense of who’s the buying center, or who’s actually buying a product like that, or even worse from the other side. And that’s why I made the example of telecommunications before, imagine you have to call, and it goes back to the first thing that we said, imagine you have to call your telecommunications provider for IoT connectivity. You can just reach him from eight to five during the daytime and just five days a week. And you’re trying to build an IoT case Saturday night at 11 o’clock, and you actually need to sign a contract with them before you can use their connectivity, not in the sense of buying self service in the product. Those are the kind of features administrative hurdles that actually block those projects out that have nothing to do with technology at all.
– [Ryan] Right, that makes a lot of sense. Cause I think the companies in the IoT space are working to help minimize the roadblocks to adoption. But if it’s not being, if the same kind of roadblocks that are happening on the company side or the adopter side are not being minimized like engineering, having the ability to spend money, user credit card, that kind of thing across the board, it doesn’t matter how much work you all do to make it easy. If they can’t get approval or they can’t bring things to market or test things in the correct way, it’s never gonna really get out the door for them. Yeah, that was fantastic. So the last thing I wanted to ask you here, because we’re still early in the year what are you looking forward to in 2022? What are you all most excited about? What’s any big things on the horizon coming out of your all’s company that we should be able to look out for just generally across the industry, anything that’s really exciting from your all side of things?
– [Jonas] So I see quite a few projects ripe for global rollout this year. We’ve also seen connectivities that do global rollout, like helium, for example at the moment that is running out with all over the world. And I believe there’s gonna be quite some scaling or at least some preparation for scaling this year that I wanna see and that I’m very much looking forward to that will also take that whole IoT topic out of that corner that it sometimes is. I guess 2022, we’ll see quite some stuff that are going on over different countries.
– [Ryan] And when you’re talking about scaling, are you talking more about which pieces of IoT do you think are gonna be scaling? Is it more of just solutions in general or is it the connectivity side or what?
– [Jonas] I think it’s gonna be solutions. So I think this whole kind of adoption by corporates that are gonna scale solutions globally and into different entities, that’s gonna be the topic of that year.
– [Ryan] And I think I’m definitely in agreement there, I think we’ve had COVID has been an interesting process for companies to go through where initially projects were stalled, but then they started to come back to life they realized how important these solutions were to their company from an efficiency standpoint. And now they’re starting to get out there more. And I think as we start to see more successes and bigger successes, you’re gonna see adoption across the board increase and companies looking for tools like yours to help get to market quickly, add an affordable cost and enable better operations internally with business, and just kind of do a lot of great stuff with IoT. So, I’m very excited as well for the year and see what happens.
– [Jonas] We’re very much looking forward to that and to the end of Corona, of course.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. So, our audience out there listening wants to learn more, kind of explore your tools, explore your offerings, all that kind of stuff. What’s the best way to reach out, best way to follow up or learn more?
– [Jonas] You find us under Akenza.io on the website, and you can also try the product out there for 30 days free. And just come by, ask questions we have an email on the contact form on the website.
– [Ryan] Awesome. Well, this has been a great conversation, thanks so much for taking the time to talk about this. Definitely a hot topic in IoT, you guys are doing some fantastic things, really helping lower the complexity for the industry to adopt and that’s one of the biggest things I think company can really be doing to contribute and we wish you all the best success and thanks again for your time.
– [Jonas] Thanks for taking the time, Ryan, and thanks that I was able to be here.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Alright everyone, thanks again for watching this 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 notifications 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.