On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Vodafone Business’ Internet of Things Director, Erik Brenneis, joins Ryan Chacon to discuss trends, challenges, and the impact of IoT. They begin the podcast by discussing Vodafone and its role in the industry. Erik then dives deeper into one of the use cases, preventing forest fires and how IoT makes it possible. Erik and Ryan then talk about trends in IoT and how they impact society before getting into a high-level conversation around IoT for businesses.
Erik leads the Internet of Things for Vodafone Business, where he is responsible for its growth, business strategy, and products and performance at a global level, including Vodafone Automotive. Since joining Vodafone in October 2009, Erik has helped to drive success in the IoT market, leading its development from the early stages through to almost 100 million connected devices and counting. Before Vodafone, Erik held senior positions at several organizations, including Siemens and Cinterion Wireless Modules. Erik has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Karlsruhe in Germany and a bachelor’s degree in business studies.
Interested in connecting with Erik? Reach out on Linkedin!
About Vodafone Business
Vodafone Business is part of the Vodafone Group, which help businesses of every size embrace positive change through digital communications technologies. They work with the world’s largest multinational companies, fast-growing enterprises, Government teams, ambitious start-ups, and small businesses worldwide. They can provide services globally, regionally, and locally – mobile, fixed, unified communications, Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud and security – connecting the people, places, and things that matter to businesses – wherever they are.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:19) Introduction to Erik
(02:13) Vodafone’s role in the IoT market
(03:43) IoT use cases of Vodafone
(06:34) How IoT can prevent forest fires
(07:26) Trends in IoT
(10:49) Impact of IoT on Society
(12:56) Challenges companies face in IoT
(14:45) Working with companies to understand IoT
(17:15) Advice for companies getting into 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 Erik Brenneis, the Internet of Things Director at Vodafone Business. Erik leads the Internet of Things business over there at Vodafone where he’s responsible for its growth, business strategy and products, and performance at a global level, including Vodafone automotive. For those of you who may be unfamiliar more with the Vodafone Business side of things. Is a part of the overall Vodafone Group. They are helping business of every size embrace positive change through digital communication technologies. And we talk a lot about a lot of fascinating things that we talk a lot about the IoT trends for 2022 and beyond the impact IoT is having on society, all the way from mobility to sustainability. And one are the biggest challenges being faced right now in the IoT space. So a lot of good conversation, a ton of value in this episode. So I really hope you enjoy 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 Erik to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Erik] Thanks a lot, Ryan. I’m happy to be here.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. Looking forward to this conversation. I’d love it if you could just kick off the chat with just some background information about yourself, anything you think will be relevant or interesting for audience to get a sense of who they’re listening to.
– [Erik] Thanks, Ryan. I’m Erik. I lead Vodafone’s IoT business, internet of things. I’ve been doing that for quite a while with a short interruption when I led another part of Vodafone. So I joined Vodafone in 2009, and I’ve personally worked in the internet of things industry for longer than the name exists. So back when I joined about 20 years ago it was called M2M, machine to machine. And I did a few other jobs in Siemens and some other companies in the IoT space.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And when we’re talking about Vodafone, it’s obviously a very well known company. Talk about how you all play in the IoT space, kind of what your role is overall and what you bring to the market.
– [Erik] Yeah, absolutely. So at Vodafone, it’s our mission to actually connect as many devices and machines and IoT products as possible in the world. We are currently the global market leader with more than 140 million IoT connections. And so we provide IoT connectivity. We also have a solutions business, we’re quite strong in automotive where we have an own company called Vodafone Automotive, doing connected car services. And we also provide mobile private networks for production sites, harbors, and similar places.
– [Ryan] And when you’re bringing these solutions to market, are you all doing this in-house? Is this something you do with a partnership network? Like how does that work?
– [Erik] Yeah, we… I mean, Vodafone is present in many countries across Europe, Africa, and the world. So we have very strong teams, technical teams bringing our solutions directly to customers. When we sell IoT connectivity, meaning when we help our customer connect their device, we do that with our own technical people. With regards to our solutions, we also work with integration companies, sometimes partners, but we have a very strong direct sales force and also technical teams deployed around the world, who deliver our solutions.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And I’d love it if you could kind of help bring this all full circle for our audience and talk about some use cases or applications of Vodafone and the IoT solutions that you brought to market and kind of worked on.
– [Erik] Yeah, so let me first start with IoT connectivity where we basically connect almost anything. There we’ve connected, which was quite important for the world recently, the cold chains for vaccinations. That was a pretty good thing. We’ve connected dozens of millions of cars. We connect all kinds of industrial devices and also consumer products such as e-readers. Then when it comes to solutions, we have actually just recently announced that we’re going to bring something to the market called MyFarmWeb, which is a complete solution for farmers where they can install IoT devices in their fields, which measure humidity and other critical factors, and which then give recommendations about how to optimally, you know, put water on the ground and so on.
– [Ryan] Right. That’s amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some other companies who have built solutions for or focus on the agricultural space in IoT. And it’s a very fascinating space. For most of us, we’re not farmers, we don’t understand much more about, except where to buy our food and how to consume it, but the way it’s made and the way the, you know, the crops are prepared, it’s an incredible process that IoT is a perfect application for.
– [Erik] Absolutely.
– [Ryan] I had his opportunity to talk with John Deere about a year ago, and they were talking about their smart tractor and how that is involved with IoT and able to really enhance the ability to be more accurate with planting crops and then yielding more crops at the end of the day. So this is probably right up that alley of kind of really helping move the agricultural space for farmers a bit further with the data they can collect and the precision that they can go about maintaining their crops.
– [Erik] Absolutely. That’s exactly it. So connected farming machines is one big part of it. Another big part of IoT solutions for farming are sensors, you know, which measure all kinds of things. And also last week at the moment of our congress in Barcelona, we presented at our stand, smart forest, you know, where you also can prevent illegal deforestation and where you can also measure the health of the forest. I mean, there are so many solutions. And then bringing together all the information in a system like MyFarmWeb just brings the benefit to the farmers and the authorities.
– [Ryan] The forest application, would that be able to prevent or monitor when forest fires break out or conditions that could trigger more highly likely for a forest fire to happen? Is that something that maybe you’ve thought about or implemented?
– [Erik] Yes. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So the forest conservation system that we built, actually puts a very good microphone, hidden on a tree. One application is to prevent illegal deforestation, you know, so it can recognize when somebody starts acting at night also. You can also measure other critical factors such as humidity and of course the noise. With the microphones, you can also detect the forest fire faster than visually. So that will help in that respect as well.
– [Ryan] Oh, great. That’s fantastic. So I wanted to kind of move out of this conversation just a bit and talk about something a bit more high level that I think would be great to get your perspective on as you lead, you know, the IoT business for Vodafone. And to just understand kind of how you see the market in IoT currently and where you kind of see it going. Any key trends, things that our audience should really be on the lookout for. Kind of what is the current state like and where do you see it kind of evolving to from a growth and a trend’s perspective?
– [Erik] Yeah, so IoT is still a significantly growing market, but it’s not a niche market anymore like it was about 10 years ago, right? There are many IoT applications out there and every day we kind of use IoT without sometimes even being aware of it. Now, what is happening at the moment and what has also happened through the COVID pandemic is that basically every customer thinks about how can I make my business more digital? How can I connect my devices? A lot of companies who are not able to send their service teams to repair their machines throughout the world during COVID, which means that they want to make sure they can reach and manage machines remotely. And that has actually really driven the market. And at this moment, more and more customers are thinking about IoT, not anymore as an innovative technology, but really as an operational asset, which needs to work. It will be part of critical applications such as autonomous driving or monitoring electric grid networks of a country. And that’s one big trend we’re seeing that IoT is really becoming an operational asset. The other big trend is also that IoT saves a lot of CO2 emissions, you know, through saving petrol or making things more efficient in general. And sustainability is also a big driver for IoT at this moment.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. And you mentioned the pandemic, and one thing I’ve found very interesting is the new use cases and applications of technology that have kind of risen to the top of the priority list for a lot of companies due to the pandemic. Whether it’s associated with smart buildings workspaces, the healthcare space in general, are you seeing any trends around those areas that maybe have be… Or I guess around those use cases that have become more important of a focus because of the pandemic?
– [Erik] Yeah, healthcare cases, you know, remote patient monitoring, that has become more important. Then also through the pandemic and the big funds that governments put out there in order to support their economies. That actually has a big focus on sustainability, smart buildings. Buildings is a big area where there’s a lot of investment, smart cities as well, also collecting information, making smarter traffic flows. So basically healthcare is one, buildings is another one and smart industry and smart cities is also a big trend we’re seeing at this moment.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. And what about from an impact perspective? Are you seeing… I think I already know at least a high level the answer to this. But what is the impact that you’re seeing IoT have on society as a whole? Not just within individual companies, but when you start bringing that out into society a bit more from mobility to sustainability. You’ve kind of mentioned a little bit about them, but at a high level, what is the impact you’re really starting to see IoT have now that it maybe didn’t have before?
– [Erik] Yeah. The impact that IoT had… Let me start with initially. Initially IoT was basically more a technology to make certain things more efficient, right? So you would put an IoT connection into an electricity meter, then you didn’t need to send somebody there to read the meter, you could read the meter automatically. Or into a vending machine and then you would only have to drive there if the vending machine needs to be filled up and you avoid unnecessary rides. So it was really for efficiency initially. Now recently, IoT has more and more become innovation for product companies, where they come to completely new business models, thanks to IoT. So for example, makers of machines, consumer machines, cleaning machines or something, they go to new business models such as pay-per-rent. And in general, IoT actually helps save CO2 emissions in buildings. And in medical, we also see all these new applications with remote patient monitoring, for example. So it’s really across the whole board, but the big aspect is that innovation, new products have become more important compared to the previous times where it was mostly about efficiency.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. That makes a ton of sense. And when you’re interacting with customers and talking with companies, and maybe just generally looking at the market, what challenges are you seeing companies have when it comes to IoT? Whether it’s… You can pick kind of any stage of the deployment process or their IoT journey, if you will, but are there any either stages that have more challenges or any challenges that maybe stand out to you that are more prevalent now than maybe they were in the past?
– [Erik] Yeah, one big thing of course is that an IoT system needs to be really secure because they mostly supports critical systems, energy, traffic, and so on. But interestingly, we do a survey every year with key customers, the biggest survey in the market, and we ask customers what is important for them on IoT. And the feedback was that, yes, security is super important, but it’s actually pretty well under control. The biggest issue is actually that if you introduce IoT, as a company, you completely need to change your own processes as well, as the company actually moves from a product company to kind of a service company. Again, let me make the example of somebody who sells consumer devices, consumer machines. Previously, that was a product business. You know, you sell the machine and then maybe you have to deal with repairs in one day, but maybe not. And now it’s permanently connected. So you find out how your customers use it. You can use that in order to develop better machines and you can also be in constant touch with your customer and you get a lot of data. But you obviously need to change all the processes in your company to deal with that.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. And one of the things we’ve noticed is that the educational component of IoT, not just the technology, but what it can actually do for a business is a pretty big hurdle at times for companies to adopt. How do you work with companies or how do you kind of make them understand that they need to consider IoT more of a process-oriented solution, as opposed to just focusing on the tech, but really adapting the business processes at the same time. How is that usually handled and what do you think about that?
– [Erik] Yeah, so that is the most important thing, because, you know, just connecting something without then making good use of the data, actually doesn’t really bring a lot of benefits. So what we do together with partners is we explain to customers what they can do. We also use examples from other industries or from related industries about how other companies transform their business model, thanks to IoT. But actually, you know, that’s also a positive effect of the pandemic. Most customers nowadays have a pretty good idea about what they want to do digitally with IoT. So I would say, we’ve come to a point where customers do not need to be convinced anymore that they need to connect their devices. The customers are more thinking about how, you know, how can I make good use of the data beyond the primary use? For example, efficiency, reading, you know, remote maintenance of a machine. They ask us questions like, “Vodafone, I put connectivity into my machine so that I can remotely control it, but what more can I do with this data?” And then we can help them connect this data to other applications. And that’s when you really get an internet of things and not closed systems.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think it’s important for companies to understand just having access to data they haven’t had before is such a powerful thing. And I don’t think… I think they maybe at a high-level understand that, but until they actually get it, it’s more of a… They kind of view it as a nice to have, but once they have it, they’re like, well, now what else can I do? I’m sure that, you know, this is even more powerful than I originally, you know, thought it could be. And if they really put the effort in and work with a company who understands it, it can be a very impactful thing across all areas of the organization. So before we wrap up here, I wanted to ask you one last question. And this is kind of just aimed at our audience who’s listening and watching and looking for advice on how companies can better understand how IoT or why IoT should be part of their business. And I think a lot of the points we’ve talked about today kind of hit on that. But just more specifically focus here for a second, what advice do you have for those companies to help them understand how IoT and even why IoT should become part of their business? If it’s something maybe they’re considering or haven’t even thought about. Like why should they be, you know, putting this as a priority on their list?
– [Erik] Yep. Well, the advice that we always give to customers who actually have not had an IoT project yet, is to start with a pilot, you know, connect some devices, measure it, and actually also define clear criteria from the beginning what they want to achieve, and then measure progress against that, so that they can really evaluate for themselves before they invest into a very large project, what will be the benefits? Now, we have also through these surveys which we do, actually 85% of all customers who implemented IoT project say that there are absolutely clear, you know, measurable positive impacts on their business. So the vast majority has that. Our recommendation, and we also help the customers with that is to start small, define exactly clear criteria against which they evaluate this, and then move forward.
– [Ryan] And if our audience out there wants to learn more, talk further, ask follow up questions, what’s the best way that you recommend they engage with you?
– [Erik] Depending on the country, we have, of course, large sales forces in the Vodafone countries. We also are present in all large economies such as the US and Japan. And on our webpage, you can also contact us. So very happy to be in touch with anybody who wants to drive IoT forward. That’s what we do.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And for our audience, another thing to kind of mention to them is, anything new coming out of Vodafone in the coming months that we should keep an eye out for and be on the lookout for in the IoT space?
– [Erik] Yeah. I mean, we’re constantly bringing out new solutions. Mobile private networks is a very exciting space where we’re building many new ones of these. And on IoT connectivity, our service is at the moment global. And we develop that further, so that we make it even simpler for anybody to connect their devices with Vodafone.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Erik, this been a great conversation. I truly appreciate your time kind of sharing your knowledge with our audience, your expertise. The company, Vodafone, is obviously I mentioned very well known in the tech space and the stuff you’re doing in the IoT area is fascinating. And I’m very excited to kind of keep an eye on everything you have going on. And I’m sure our audience is gonna get a ton of value outta this episode. So thanks again so much for your time.
– [Erik] Thanks a lot, Ryan, and have a good day. Thanks for having me.
– [Ryan] You too. Thank you.
– [Erik] 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.