Pasi Hurri, CEO of BaseN, joins the IoT For All Podcast this week to discuss digital twins and how they are evolving. The podcast begins with Pasi giving background into himself and BaseN before providing insights on their partnership with the European Union Space Agency. Pasi and Ryan then break down what a digital twin is, its role in IoT, and what the next generation of digital twins looks like. They then wrap up the podcast with a high-level discussion surrounding the real-world value of IoT and the challenges of deploying solutions in the industry.
Pasi Hurri has held the position of Chief Executive Officer since BaseN was established in 2001. Mr. Hurri is also a visiting lecturer and expert speaker, e.g., at IEEE and several universities. Before founding BaseN, Pasi spent more than a decade in senior technology management positions. He presided over the engineering effort of the KPNQwest Eurorings network, then the largest pan-European carrier transporting more than 50% of the Internet traffic. Mr. Hurri also was the Chairman of FICIX, the Finnish Commercial Internet Exchange, and a Member of the Board of Directors at Academica Oy, now part of Equinix. Within Ahlstrom Corporation, Mr. Hurri managed the creation of a global IP network in the early 90s.
Interested in connecting with Pasi? Reach out on Linkedin!
BaseN, established in 2001, is the inherently scalable computing Platform for hosting billions of spimes, the core objects of the Internet of Things. Spime is the permanent logical brain and memory of any physical Thing. BaseN currently handles over one million spime transactions per second and enables the transformation from physical products to intelligent services in any industry.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:24) Introduction to Pasi
(02:30) Background of BaseN
(05:23) BaseN’s initiative with the EU Space Agency
(07:30) What is a digital twin?
(09:29) Next generation of digital twins
(11:45) Contributors to real world value of IoT
(14:00) Challenges of deploying IoT
– [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 Pasi Hurri, the President and CEO of BaseN. They are a full stack IoT operator focused on controlling the full value chain in order to provide ultimate scalability, fault tolerance, and security to their customers. A lot of great discussions happen in this episode. We talk about the next generation of digital twins, which is a focus for BaseN, kind of what digital twins are, the evolution of them over time, the internet of things in the real world, kind of what that means when people say it, as well as other challenges that they see in the space, one of the biggest being how to change the people’s mindset, as they indicate that is one of the biggest things to try to overcome for a company in the IoT space at times. Other than that, lots of great conversation here. If you’re watching us on YouTube, please feel free to like the video and subscribe to the channel. If you’re listening to us on a podcast directory, please feel free to subscribe to that podcast directory for our show as well. We really appreciate it. 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, Pasi, to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Pasi] No, thanks Ryan. It’s nice to be here.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great to have you. So I wanted to kick this off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself, background information you think will be relevant for our audience to get a sense of who they’re listening to.
– [Pasi] All right, so I’m Pasi Hurri, I’m the Founder and CEO of BaseN, and we are a company who has been done IoT for 20 years, even though it was not called IoT in the beginning. But we started from situational awareness systems for the military, and we have developed our platform for, continued this for 20 years, and now we are fairly diverse customer base, both mission critical and also the industrial grade customers on our platform. And now we are, we are gradually moving to digital twins, and then we have a quite a strong IPR and technology base. So we are accelerating our growth quite nicely right now.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So aside from digital twins, tell us a little bit more about the company and the role you all play in IoT, kind of, do you have a focus on industries you work in, do you, from an offerings perspective, where are you kind of, what’s your sweet spot look like?
– [Pasi] Yep. So about 60% of our revenue is coming from large telecom operators whose networks and their diverse environments we are monitoring and collecting data, and providing all kinds of analytics based on the data collected from those networks. But the growing area actually is the 40%, which are industrial customers, and there, we are in fairly diverse businesses, like maritime, construction, retail, and we have a fairly different customer cases who are, some have utilized all our capabilities. Some of them are utilizing only some components, but the portion is growing quite nicely.
– [Ryan] So take me through some of those deployments that you have in those industries you mentioned. I think it’s always good to kind of give our audience some some full context, bring a more full circle around not just what the technology is and the offerings that you have, but also how it’s being used. So any that you feel comfortable sharing will be great, just to kind of get a sense of how the technology’s being used.
– [Pasi] So one of our fastest growing customers now is Trimble in the US, and they are providing large construction sites, and access control, and workplace safety solution, which uses RFID tags and Bluetooth sensors which are attached to the equipment that construction people are using. And when they log into the construction site, the name tags have an RFID tag. So we paint a complete picture where people are on the construction sites, and also only people with qualifications get to the dangerous goods areas or heights. So the system verifies their credentials at any point and also collects all the safety information. So if you go to a hard hat area, you don’t get in unless you have your hard hat on, so it’s detected by the Bluetooth sensor. So that is, we have more than 500,000 employees already registered in the solution, and it’s growing really nicely. So Trimble is selling it in the continental, the US. So that’s, I think, one of the highlights and fastest growing, because it’s deployed so rapidly to customers right now.
– [Ryan] I read something that you all are also working with European Space Agency?
– [Pasi] That is correct.
– [Ryan] So tell me about that initiative.
– [Pasi] So with the ESA, we started with a project on creating a digital twin for the Mars Rover that they are planning for the future. So we adapted our platform into a framework where you can manage a remote autonomous vehicle in a very complex communications environment, which arguably Mars is, because when you when you transmit signals from Mars to the Earth, it’s like eight minutes before the signal goes through, and you have Mars station, you have a Mars orbiter, then you have moon satellite, and then you have Earth satellite, and only then you have Earth station. So you have quite many hops before you can communicate. And we designed a framework on how you can manage a swarm of these kind of Rovers, but with a very simple way of getting all the hardware kind of in control.
– [Ryan] That’s super interesting. I think the, anytime we talk about, kind of, initiatives associated with satellites and space, it’s always very interesting for audience to understand how that’s being done. So that’s interesting you have that going on. How close, where is that in the stages of deployment? Is it kind of still being concept out, or is it actually deployed and being utilized right now?
– [Pasi] Yeah, we currently have a prototype running and we are planning the next stage of the project where we also extend the platform so that we can utilize it also for Earth observation, for deep sea exploration, and in these kind of applications, because practically the problem is the same. You have complex autonomous devices and challenging communications environment, and we can apply the same platform to quite many, many industry and scientific needs now.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So one of the things you mentioned when you were kind of talking through what the company does, and kind of your overall focus, is you mentioned digital twins. We’ve spoken about digital twins before on the podcast a while ago. We haven’t really revisited it in quite some time. I wondered if you could just, for starters, just explain to our audience at a high level what a digital twin is, and kind of the value it plays in the IoT space.
– [Pasi] So originally digital twin only meant a kind of 3D model of a physical product, or a physical machine. And it dates back all the way to the 60s when NASA was building the first Apollo Missions. Then afterwards, when the CAD and CAM providers, like Bassaw, and PTC, and Autodesk with their AutoCAD product, they started talking about this kind of live 3D models, and they adopted the term digital twin to that. So it would be kind of a 3D computer aided design. However, how we view a digital twin is that it’s the master object for almost any physical smart or not so smart item. So for instance, in this SR project, the digital twin of the Rover is actually the firmware that is running in the Rover, but the same firmware is also running in our platform. So whenever there is good connection outside, the Rover is actually run by the cloud side software. So that’s the digital twin. And going to the future, we see that for most physical products, the digital twin actually should become the primary merchandise.
– [Ryan] So, yeah. Expand on that a little bit. I was gonna ask, actually a follow up and ask you what the next generation of digital twins looks like, or what the evolution of them looks like going forward. You kind of hit on where it came from and how it got to where it is now, but what does it look like going forward into the future, from a either capability standpoint, a, you know, the value it provides, how it can be used? Like where do you see it going?
– [Pasi] I believe that it’s going towards the sustainable future, and sustainable products, and customer relationship. So if you think of today’s objects, like cars. When you buy a car, you don’t actually get a digital twin. You get some digital assets to be used with your car, but we see that in the future, your driving habits, and your service history, and the kind of your real need for the car is being mapped and augmented with artificial intelligence so that when you need a new kind of new car, you will actually be having a tailored physical twin for the existing digital twin that maps all your driving needs at that point. So thinking that it would be kind of an eternal customer relationship. So we think that companies should kind of embrace this kind of continuous communication, automatic and non-automatic communication with their customers with digital twins, and next generation digital twins, which should be the ones that are actually paid for. And then we think that the physical things, like the wheels, and the car chassis, those would just become as part of the service.
– [Ryan] Right, right, right. Okay, that makes a ton of sense. I’m very curious to kind of understand how, where digital twins is going. I remember going to events, I think right before COVID happened, and digital twin was one of the hottest topics at some of these events I went to, and just understanding where it’s come from, how it’s being used, and kind of the future of where it’s going I think is really interesting to kind of think about, because of the value it’s really providing for the space, which you kind of just shed a lot of good light on there. So I appreciate that. I did wanna take a second and transition a little bit, and talk more about, from your perspective, and not just the projects you work on, but just generally what you’re observing in the market. We’re seeing IoT go through a lot of different phases. We see early stage deployments that, you know, are very much more concept focused pilot, and then they get into the pilot stage, and then they maybe sometimes get through to scale, and actually being used in the real world. But through your experience, what do you think are the biggest contributors to IoT really being used, and utilized, and the value seen in the real world? You know, what does that kind of mean, and what does that kinda look like in your mind?
– [Pasi] I think that the barriers before for kind of real world IoT deployments, they’ve been in the price of communication, and availability of easy connectivity solutions. However, there is also the kind of 5G bubble, as we call it, kind of a hype bubble, that you’re supposed to create IoT solutions for every port, and every smart city, and places like this. However, when you don’t have any data collected right now, you cannot throw in gigabits per second, 5G there, and kind of expect the projects just to appear. So it needs kind of a much more down to earth thinking on what are the potential digitalization areas. And also sometimes we we have seen that it’s mostly the attitude, and the kind of the stamina of a company to really transform from physical product to a service. Like with Trimble, as I explained, they really wanted to create a new digital product for construction sites, and then that’s why it became a successful IoT project in that sense.
– [Ryan] Right, yeah. It’s, um… It’s a challenge that I think a lot of companies come across, and that kind of leads me into a question that I wanted to ask you, which is, when you are working on deployments, and trying to get things from the concept phase, through the pilot testing, all the way to scale, what are some of the biggest challenges that you all have come across and face, and maybe that your customers face? And then, to add on to that, what advice do you have for companies to kind of navigate those common challenges, and how to better prepare to maybe avoid them in the first place, just to be able to get to that ability to deploy IoT in the real world?
– [Pasi] We think that the primary thing is to make sure that IoT is not an add on product to something existing, that it should be part of the core product that the company is doing, because whenever you create something extra, then it takes a long time for sales and marketing to pick it up, and also the customers to pick it up. And it very easily happens that, if not enough resources is directed to the project, then it fades out very quickly because sales people are used to sell just the elevators, or cranes, or whatever they have been used to sell before. So it is very important to take it into the strategic planning of the company’s products. So what is the stage of digitalization that they need, and do they want to move to service based business? Because if there is no clear direction there, it will not happen with the technical project.
– [Ryan] Right, right. And what about when you’re having conversations around those topics with companies, how is their mindset coming into those conversations? And, you know, oftentimes what I’ve heard is that trying to change people or organizational mindsets around the value IoT provides, how it fits in, what their expectations are versus what’s the reality of what can be built oftentimes is one of the most difficult things for companies to overcome that are trying to help an organization deploy IoT. How have you kind of come across that, and what what have you done or been able to do to see success there?
– [Pasi] So we have seen the same thing you have observed, and we have usually helped our customer to create a minimum viable digital product. So we have said that, you know, that we take some of the risk for you. So we, together, in, let’s say two weeks, we create a product that is an IoT based, and that can be sold almost separately, and then demonstrate that it really works to convince the customer, and take large enough group of the customers, stakeholders with us, because that’s an important way, because if customers sales is against this kind of new product, then it won’t succeed. So it’s very important to interact with not only the Chief Digital Officer, or R&D. The product management and sales, that they are as important in the sales phase.
– [Ryan] Yeah, definitely. I think, you know, one other thing I think that’s really important, kind of tying into what you’re saying here, is that buy-in from other people within the organization, and the earlier you have that buy-in and support, and maybe potentially a champion within the organization for this initiative, the more likely you are to see it move down the pipe as you run through the pilot in the early stages. So I think that those insights that you’re sharing are super helpful, and something that organizations, I think, can learn a ton from in how this really could help get them around these challenges, and navigate around these issues that we do see across industry. That’s not just one particular industry or anything like that. So one of the last things that I wanted to ask just before we wrap up here is, you know, a lot of these conversations and these points that we’re having are, I think our audience is gonna get a ton of value out of, but as they have questions, and want to learn more about the company, what you all are doing, maybe follow up with questions on some of these topics, what’s the best way to do that? What’s the best way to reach out, engage, and also at the same time stay up to date with everything going on?
– [Pasi] So we have a multiple means. So of course, just by leaving a contact form, but also connecting with us with Twitter, or Instagram, or wherever. I think that the way companies learn about new IoT solutions, it’s transforming all the time. So the old fashioned ways of just mass emailing, or kind of having, let’s say, a booth in a fair, those are kind of in a flux right now. So we just need to keep up the messaging of our customer cases, and then we can easily walk through how Trimble work with us, how North Power did this over sales on BaseN, and we have trained everyone in the company, whether it’s our CTO, or product management, or sales and marketing, any of us can explain how we can get started.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, and anything kind of happening over the next six, 12 months that we should be on lookout for, or kind of pay attention to, to kind of follow along and see that’s coming outta BaseN?
– [Pasi] Yeah. I suppose to this, because of our military background. So if something military happens in the coming weeks, so we might direct some of our resources to military technologies, but at the same time, we are continuing with the European Space Agency, which is really exciting internally, and also we’ll have some nice surprises there on our overall digital twin platforms.
– [Ryan] Sounds good. Well, we’ll make sure we keep an eye out on kind of everything going on, and stay in touch. I think, you know, I’d love to potentially have you or another member of the team back sometime later this year, and talk about what’s been going on on the space side of things that you have, and also the evolution of the digital twin I think are super valuable topics for our audience. So I really appreciate your time today, and hopefully we’ll stay in touch. I look forward to having you back on to talk with our audience again.
– [Pasi] Okay. Thank you very much, Ryan. It was very nice talking to you. I look forward to appearing again and talking again.
– [Ryan] Sounds good, thank you so much.
– [Pasi] Great, thank you.
– [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.