On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Ryan Chacon is joined by Kotakt.io’s VP of Enterprise Sales, Robert Kowalik. Robert discusses why the smart building market is in need of disruption and how companies can leverage technology to their advantage. He also talks about the use cases and solutions of Kontakt.io in addition to the different layers of monitoring when integrating IoT into buildings. The podcast is concluded with a high-level conversation on what to expect from the industry and Kontakt.io in 2022.
Robert Kowalik is a business solution leader specializing in the emerging technology market, with over 25 years of experience leading sales from early-stage startups to technology pioneers. He specializes in enterprise solutions for Healthcare, Smart Buildings, Manufacturing, and Supply Chain worldwide applications, emphasizing IoT technologies and cloud-based analytics. With his extensive track record of leading successful sales efforts, he has mastered the art of channel strategy and market development. Before joining Kontakt.io, Robert led market entry efforts for several RFID companies, including Precyse Technologies, Ubisense, AeroScout, and PinPoint. Robert has also held Oracle, Vertical Net, JBA, and Macola positions. Robert is a Chicago native and holds a degree from the University of Wisconsin.
Interested in connecting with Robert? Reach out on Linkedin!
Kontakt.io is the industry leader in indoor environmental, location, and occupancy services using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE®), focusing on smart buildings in healthcare and carpeted spaces. Kontakt.io’s mission is to deliver human-building interfaces that provide people with delightful, useful, and safe indoor experiences to help make buildings work for people. Starting in 2013, when Kontakt.io built the first enterprise-graded BLE beacon solution for building-mobile interfaces, they have provided BLE solutions to over 30,000 end-users, delivered with over 1,100 partners using more than 3,000,000 IoT and covering about One Billion square feet.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:21) Introduction to Robert and Kontakt.io
(03:19) Use cases and solutions of Kontakt.io
(05:37) Why the smart building space is ready for disruption
(09:28) Different layers of monitoring
(14:15) How companies can begin leveraging these technologies
(21:30) What to expect from Kontakt.Io and 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 Robert Kowalik, this VP of Enterprise Sales at Kontakt.io. Kontakt.io is an industry leader in indoor environmental location and occupancy services using the Bluetooth Low Energy, so BLE. We talk a lot about, a lot of different topics here today so we talk about why the smart building market needs disruption, three layers of space intelligence so spatial awareness, environmental awareness, object awareness, and also how companies can get started using and leveraging real time people, equipment, and space interactions to really help them more business related outcomes, helps with property operations and really helps build a better relationship with occupants within those buildings. So we cover a lot of that and a bunch more. 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 Robert to the IoT For All Show. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Robert] That’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m looking forward to this conversation. Let’s start off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself to our audience, anything relevant from your background experience that would give ’em a little bit of context on who they’re to listening to.
– [Robert] Yeah, of course. So my name’s Robert Kowalik, I’m the Vice President of Enterprise Sale here with Kontakt.io. Kontakt.io We are a disruptive leader in the IoT space, primarily focusing on two strategic markets, which would be carpeted spaces, smart buildings, as well as in the world of healthcare, the solution sets that we offer focus on everything from hardware and software, as well as comprehensive cloud-based solutions and APIs to integrate to be able to do practical solutions. So I’ve been in this space now for about 20 years. Back in the days where it was primarily focused around location services and technologies to tell you where stuff is and have worked with industry leaders in every type of solution sets that are out in the location services marketplaces, primarily in proprietary location technologies within ultra wide band, wifi, Zigby, LoRa But for the past, I would say six, seven years as the market in the space of location services started to really pivot towards BLE, I was able to adopt and change into this new open standard and to try to create ubiquitous solutions that focused around how things are not necessarily where they are. So that’s my background.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So you mentioned two areas that the company’s kind of focused in, the smart building space and the healthcare space. Talk a little bit more about how you all play in those areas and maybe connect it to some use cases that kind of bring it full circle so people can kind of see what impact you’re having in those industries from a solution standpoint.
– [Robert] So from solution standpoints, listen, where the world is going and especially today, we’re trying to be able to create more awareness and better workflows that are associated with visibility and to be able to digitally touch. And specifically like in smart buildings today, we’re trying to move from traditional IoT use cases that I have marketed and sold and implemented with many major corporations that have traditionally focused around efficiencies of putting sensors in that will tell you how a pump is working or how an elevator system’s working. To trying to create more of a human element behind solution sets. And therefore, I see technology now supporting more than just point solutions that a lot of vendors are selling, that you have tons of them behind you, into focusing more on the human experience and how we actually interact with each other, how we work in a workspace or in a healthcare organization, they’re fundamentally similar, how we can create better workflows associated with real data that we can digitally touch. People’s location, occupancy, environmental sensing, all of these type of sensing capabilities to create a better experience and data that we can capture and capitalize on to be able to improve workflow.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it it’s sounds like it’s kind of, from my understanding of, and experience in this space, it’s kind of a natural evolution to kind of, that coincides with kind of where the industry has been trying to get to with the focus that you all have. So if we kind of focus on the smart building space just for a second, moving from just focusing on efficiency to also to actually the experience side, which I would be interested to hear kind of why you think, and I guess why you think the market right now, especially in the smart building space is kind of in need or ripe for disruption, has the technology kind of come a long way to allow certain things to be done, are we thinking about this in a different way now? What is it about the current state of the market that’s kind of really primed for disruption to kind of move us from being just focused on efficiency and using IoT to help improve that to actually now the human experience side of things?
– [Robert] Yeah, and these are great questions. So what we’ve been seeing and professionally speaking is a state of a lot of confusion right now, what is the smart office gonna be like in the future? And I’m sure that you’ve probably had guests talking about post pandemic responses, but the more that we peel this onion, we realize that a lot of efficiency issues that were engaged in smart buildings is not new. When I started to do some analysis when we’re putting our portfolio solutions specifically about building smarter and more people centric. We started to look at some studies and analytics that the big five consulting firms and players in the industries, there was a study done by CBRE back in 2015, before anybody could even spell COVID. This was studies of how are their facilities being utilized. And this was done, not from a facility of owner’s point of view, but actually tenant’s point of views. And they started to break down by different industries and of who their tenants would be. And we found as high as 70% of the space that’s in a smart building is empty. Telecommunications, companies 70%, building service consulting firms, 65% update. But even in 2015, you would have people that would be screaming, oh, we need more space busting at the seams. And the data doesn’t support that, the data supports that the space isn’t being utilized well. And by just being able to improve utilization, we will be able to find that we can maximize the square footage and the operators expense to be able to keep these spaces running by utilizing some sensing technologies and to be able to utilize workflows and analytical tools to be able create better work environments. Now, since the pandemic, we’ve become much more aware on health and wellness and making sure people are happy, since the pandemic, since everybody’s been working remotely, what the new office is gonna be like, Microsoft just did a study, almost 70% of their workforce would prefer to work remotely, come in only when necessary. So it’s really changing the space of not only what the office is gonna look like, but how it’s going to be used. And so traditionally, most of my competitors and companies that I’ve worked with in the past will be very point and analytical in saying, oh, I can put a PRR sensor and tell you where something is. And then the Honeywells or somebody in the HVAC industry will say, we have sensors to be able to tell you environmental controls. But nobody really puts it all together into being able to create smarter and healthier workspaces. And this is an area that I think we work very strongly. Go ahead.
– [Ryan] I was gonna say, you’ve mentioned a couple things that I’d be curious to have you just kind of expand on a little bit. You’ve talked about kind of the environmental side, when it comes to evaluating and understanding the space. You’ve talked about understanding where objects are, so more of an object awareness type feel. And then also just generally what’s going on in the space. So there are a number of different things that can be monitored. Can you kind of break those three kind of layers down a little bit and kind of, I feel like they, they kind of sum up a lot of what we’re seeing when it comes to connecting IoT with these buildings and helping improve everything we’ve been talking about so far.
– [Robert] Yeah, for sure. So our value propositions within contact IoT, traditionally focus on working with our customers to talk about space intelligence. There’s a lot of buzzwords, but space intelligence is really not just taking a point solution off of, hey, we’re gonna make your elevators more efficient, we’re gonna make your lighting cheaper. We have to take a look at the overall picture. And so when we take a holistic view of creating solutions that focus around space intelligence, usually layers and into about three different layers. So spatial awareness, how is the space by human beings actually being used? Do we have the space? Are the occupancy and the conference rooms being utilized? Are there enough breakout rooms that will accommodate the way people generally end react and work? Or do we have way too many conference rooms that set four more people? We shouldn’t have twice as many breakout rooms with two, and take the board rooms and keep one for board meetings and then break them into more collaborative space. So we work with clients to be able to provide technologies and solutions and a level of data that will not only take the spatial awareness and also pull in environmental awareness for health and operational controls, which also help building managers. And object awareness, that’s our third level. To be able it to capitalize in asset utilization and maintenance and things. And when you take a look at this entire space intelligence puzzle, then you can start really making some dramatic changes. As far as how not only tenants, but facility owners and managers can start looking at the space that they have and try to capitalize it on the benefit of both sides. And so we work through not only sensors, not only cloud based services and APIs that integrate into analytical platforms, but that holistic view of space intelligence is what I think really is disruptive today. And what makes us different today. And I’m a gray hair guy, I’ve been in this game for 20 years. Back in the day when I started, a lot of this technology is not necessarily new, wireless sensing, temperature telemetry, it’s been around for 25 years, 30 years. But to be able to do it on open based standard networks, you’ll be surprised how many of your viewers may already have of IoT networks in place within their facilities. If they’re working with Cisco, or Meraki, new generation of access points, they have an IoT network. They may not be utilizing it to its capability, but they have one. If they’re utilizing smart lighting with BLE based controllers and gateways built into them. They have ways to be able to automate way finding. So this whole new standard where the networks are now becoming IoT centric creates solutions like Kontakt.io to be able to fit in very well and to make them very affordable. That’s what I think is probably one of the more compelling changes that I’ve seen over the past 20 years. Trying to find stuff or people. Necessarily isn’t new. But today you can do this with a variety of customers, which gives the customers an opportunity to choose and not get stuck with a single vendor that’s proprietary. It gives them an opportunity to democratize the way that they’re doing their spend, which forces us as vendors to compete. And the price point on a lot of these technologies over the past 20 years have become to the point. Now, you cannot do it because you can’t afford it.
– [Ryan] So then take me through how companies can really get started leveraging these technologies to deliver business outcomes, whether they’re property operators or focus more on maybe the occupants side of things. What is it that companies and people listening to this can do to get started in implement or leveraging this technology to achieve those types of goals in this building setting?
– [Robert] I think the first thing that everyone should do is to take a big cup of coffee and sit down and collaborate with some of their coworkers. And discuss, do you think that our facilities being run the way it should? Do you think our space is optimized? You have to be able to take a look honestly, and introspectively to be able to see what can I do within the four walls of this box to be able to create a better work environment? And what are we doing to be able to keep our employees and staff from a human perspective happy and not on LinkedIn looking for new jobs and for them to be able to be effective as we move through this century to become more successful? The technologies that companies that have in place, if they don’t have everything that would optimize space intelligence, there’s companies like us that would be very happy to consult. And talk to them, okay, what are your goals? How are you managing your occupancy? What are you doing with emergency response? How are we doing conference room optimization, scheduling? Is your environmental awareness up to part? Do you have anything? We can walk through very simple questions to try to steer the thinking of our clients to be being able to understand what’s out there and what’s available. And then we try to build out solutions. And most of our solutions aren’t necessarily just Kontakt.io, this isn’t an advertising pitch. The solutions are trying to be able to take something that’s scalable and replicable, and to be able to go an entire environment and to be able to hit the pain points and needs where our clients today may not even be aware that they could optimize. But if they were able to take a look at some of the numbers of where other companies that are a little more forward thinking have been able to optimize, the ROI is staggering.
– [Ryan] Okay. Yeah, I think it’s interesting ’cause a lot of the times I’ve had conversations, even taking out just the focus on the smart building space. It just seems like there needs to be more emphasis put on the early planning stages before anything gets implemented or discussed, ’cause the more prepared they are and the more they understand kind of what they’re looking to solve, the more companies like yours can come in and help explain what can actually be done and what’s possible because there is some kind and oftentimes a separation or a difference in understanding as to what is actually possible and what they want. And I think that causes lots of frustration in the development process for number of guests I’ve had on the podcast, is talk about how it’s just, the earlier we can kind of set the expectation and manage that, the better things are gonna be. But if companies don’t come to the table with clearly understanding what they’re doing, it’s really, or what they plan to do or like to do, it’s very difficult to get off on the right foot and really set this up for success.
– [Robert] Exactly. My phone is very busy. And with specifically now that most of the key big network players that have gotten into the IoT game and we work very closely with Cisco, and getting calls all the time, hey, just bought all these APS, what can I do with it? What can you do with it? There’s a lot of things we can do with it. What are your pain points? Well, we wanna just be able to tell you where people are. Oh, very good, that’s very simple to do. We put a badge, we can create some API streams that can feed back into a security system, I’ll tell you what kind of people are. But is that really what the pain point is in the organization? Well, I don’t know, I’m in IT. And I don’t really work with the line of business. I think what’s really important, and I think it’s obviously getting there because as these IoT networks are becoming more ubiquitous and they’re becoming part of network strategy, the it organizations are now engaged with line of business. To be able to support needs. And traditionally that was a very hard puzzle to fit. If I was selling a gadget that I only spoke to IT, I don’t care what a facility manager needs. Right, he’s not my customer. But now that IT is making decisions that have implications that can work with these facility managers or tenants of how to be able to capitalize on a better experience for their employees or tenants, you will end up finding that their goals are the same. It’s just, that they’ve never spoken to each other. And driving everything just through an IT decision, in my professional career, I’ve never met an IT CIO or director that’s ever been looking for a new project. These guys are very busy. The fact that whatever they’re doing right now with their existing networks provides line of business so that you don’t have to put a proprietary network out. It creates just a different value proposition that everyone can win. And put a feather in the IT guys’ cap that he did something other than just upgraded to the latest version of an operating system. You know what I mean?
– [Ryan] Yeah, I totally follow, absolutely.
– [Robert] So at the end of the day, we wanna take a look at how buildings are really being used. Are they being used efficiently? And to be able to create a stream through those three layers of, those three layers where we’re looking at spatial awareness, environmental awareness, object awareness, and to pull all these strings into this big pipe of metadata, and it’s gonna be this metadata layer of all this information coming out of a building that traditionally nobody’s ever had. And once we have this big metadata layer of, once we have data, oh, well, then you can actually start making decisions on facts, not just making guesses.
– [Ryan] Right. Absolutely, no, that’s fantastic, I really appreciate these insights. It’s very clear kind of when you articulate kind of exactly what’s happening in the space and why it’s so important, it just getting companies to really follow and understand the value is kind of the, the big key for sure. As we kind of wrap up here, I wanted to kind of bring it back to the company itself and ask what’s happening on, I guess, what should we as an audience be on the lookout for over the next number of months? Is there anything exciting kind of happening in the space that you’re looking forward to seeing that we should be kind of paying attention to?
– [Robert] What you’re going to be seeing specifically from what Kontakt is delivering as well as kind of the industry, I think you’re gonna see adoption of being able to create more of that metadata layer of lots of sensors, but to be able to do it amazingly simply, right.
– [Robert] Sure. Going in with a technology from one of the big five HVAC and controls or security system companies and ripping up ceilings and putting cables through, that was yesterday. Based on the world of Bluetooth Low Energy and wireless sensing and battery powered sensors, we are very, very busy with creating very rapidly deployable IoT solution sets that capture all these workflows and data to very large environments. What you’re going to start seeing, I would say over the next year. Is that the little guy can do it too. And so I’m not just talking to the big financial institutions in New York that have lots of money or the biggest healthcare providers in the world. This technologies and solutions have become very simple. As a matter of fact, this is kind of revolutionary, it’s a bit of a dork thing from an old guy like me, the last five implementations that we’ve done of scale, we had zero field engineering support on site. Why? ‘Cause it just got deployed by themselves. Everything was pre-provision, it was working through the network. They had a couple guys that were within a corporation that could go mount these devices, pull ’em out of a box, scan a barcode, it would be all cloud based and poof, it’s just working. And with within two days you’re capturing data and you’re starting to get analytics. You can tell me, hey, it looks like our four person conference rooms are used 60% of the time by one person. Maybe we change. Hey, the board room last week had an occupancy of 2% and 50% of the time is with two people and it could sit 16. This kind of data is very simple and easy to do now. And by making it simple and accessible, you get the adoption curve way, way, way up.
– [Ryan] Makes sense.
– [Robert] So for me to pile it with somebody, it’s very simple, I can send, ’em a test kit with a few sensors And we can start grind stuff. And access to the cloud and they’re grinding out. So that’s where you’re gonna see because traditionally, everything that I’ve done in the past, I would have 30 days with a professional services and labor and cabling and then spectrum analyzers and futsing around. Yeah. Those days are gone. Those days are gone.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, And for our audience out there that wants to learn more about the company, stay up to date, follow up with any questions, what’s the best way to do that?
– [Robert] Kontakt.io is our website. Please peruse our solution and our value proposition message, and contact us through the forums, depending on what you’re looking at, and I will make sure that one of our trained pros will reach out to you right away. And we will engage. Like I said before, this is a journey and you don’t have to take the full journey right away, it’s baby steps, but there’s ways for us to be able to support you right away.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, Robert, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. The insights you shared today were fantastic, I think our audience gonna get a ton of value outta this. And thanks again for being here.
– [Robert] Yeah, thank you very much, you guys have a good day.
– [Ryan] All right, everyone, thanks again for watching that episode 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 up episodes as soon as it become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.