In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Dan Mathers, President and CEO of eleven-x, discusses smart cities and the four key drivers. The podcast opens up with Dan talking about his background and what eleven-x does before getting into deeper conversations around specific verticals of eleven-x. Dan and Ryan also discuss how accepting cities are to IoT, advice for cities looking to adopt it, and important aspects of smart city solutions. They wrap up the podcast with a high-level conversation regarding challenges in the IoT industry.
As President and CEO of eleven-x, Dan is responsible for the vision and growth of the company, which is the leader in providing complete, high-performance, wireless IoT and Smart City solutions for intelligent cities, campuses, buildings, and industry. He has a proven executive management track record and more than 35 years of experience driving the development of various technology ventures, ranging from start-ups to multinationals, creating more than $1 billion in shareholder value. Dan is also an active member of the innovation ecosystem as General Partner in Stand-up Ventures, a Toronto-based, seed-stage venture capital fund focused on investing in high-growth technology ventures. Dan started his career at IBM, where he held various positions during a ten-year career, including being part of the founding leadership team at Celestica Inc, a Canadian multinational electronics manufacturing services (EMS) company previously part of IBM. He earned an MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business, a B.S in Electrical Engineering from McMaster University, and holds a professional engineering license from the Professional Engineers Ontario.
Interested in connecting with Dan? Reach out on Linkedin!
Eleven-x is a global leader providing wireless, high-performance, IoT, and Smart City solutions for intelligent cities, campuses, and enterprises. The company offers complete device-to-cloud LoRaWAN® solutions, incorporating innovative sensor networks that deliver secure data through dashboards and industry-standard APIs. Municipalities, leading businesses, and universities rely on eleven-x’s expertise to provide comprehensive solutions that are easy to use, fully scalable, and cost-efficient, enabling better programs and services. The company’s premier solution, eXactpark, is sensor-based stall occupancy tracking that detects occupancy status and monitors space usage in real-time via the award-winning, patent-pending SPS-X sensor. eXactpark provides market-leading accuracy, real-time data, and actionable insights into parking usage, enabling various management features to deliver a frictionless parking experience, increase revenues and reduce operational costs.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:37) Introduction to Dan and eleven-x
(02:29) The importance of smart parking
(03:45) Key drivers of smart cities
(07:04) Cities acceptance of IoT
(10:57) Advice for cities looking to adopt IoT
(16:56) Important aspects of smart city solutions
(21:22) Challenges in 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, the number one publication and resource for the Internet of Things. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. And on today’s episode, we have Dan Mathers, the president and CEO of eleven-x. They are a global leader in providing wireless, high performance, IoT and smart city solutions for intelligent cities, campuses, enterprises, you name it, by offering complete device to cloud LoRaWAN solutions. We talk a lot about smart cities in this conversation. Talk about the big key drivers for smart cities, flagship use cases, smart parking, kind of give you little hint into what one of those flagship use cases is. How to get started and kind of why the best approach maybe more of a modular type approach. And then the must a company should have when developing IoT solutions. And we round out the conversation talking about this general challenges that we’re seeing in the space. We kind of tend to do that with a lot of different guests, mainly to show different perspective on the challenges associated with IoT, how to overcome them and provide you all with the best advice for adopting IoT and getting it into your business and into the business of your clients, but all in all fantastic conversation with Dan, I really hope you get a lot of value out of it, but before we get started, 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 Dan to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Dan] Thanks a lot, great to be here.
– [Ryan] Yeah, looking forward to it. Let’s go ahead and kick this off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself to our audience.
– [Dan] Sure. I’m Dan Mathers, I’m president and CEO of a company called eleven-x. We’re a company that enables smart communities through intelligent digital solutions and really focused on driving value in the smart parking space.
– [Ryan[ Fantastic. And aside from smart parking, what other kind of areas do you play in in the more the community smart cities area or smart parking kind of the main focus right now?
– [Dan] The main focus for us right now is in smart parking or performance parking. Because we think that delivers the biggest value bang for the buck, but we also have a number of other solutions in the smart water metering and smart building space.
– [Ryan] So smart parking is obviously something that plays very heavily into kind of the smart cities conversation and seems to be a pretty popular use case that cities can easily deploy, or more easily deploy, I guess, than others. Tell me why you think, or why you all have chosen to kind of focus so much on the smart parking side of things?
– [Dan] Well, if you look at the definition of a smart city, it’s really pretty consistent across the board. You know, we wanna optimize operational efficiencies, we want to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors. We want to enable, encourage, and support local economic development. And we wanna meet our sustainability and environmental goals. And, you know, this is an absolutely huge market obviously. Smart parking is one of the areas that actually touches all four of those objectives and drives additional revenues for cities. And so that makes it very powerful. And, you know, our view is that smart parking can and should be the flagship smart city project that municipalities focus on and implement, the benefits are just staggeringly huge.
– [Ryan] And when you mentioned those four kind of key drivers in areas of focus, can you break those down a little bit further and talk about kind of the importance of them and how those kind of fit in with the whole narrative?
– [Dan] Yeah, absolutely. So here’s the problem, like today’s parking management approaches don’t work, right? They’ve got, you know, a lot of people going around trying to, you know, ticket people and not really understanding the full, you know, cause of the problems that they’re having, or the problems that parking is causing for them. So if you think about it, when you come to a city, the first experience that most people have with that city is the parking experience, and that’s a brand issue, right? I mean, I don’t want to go downtown ’cause parking sucks. Finding a parking spot and traffic congestion reduces interest in coming downtown and it reduces revenues for the city and businesses. In fact, there are a lot of parking studies that have been done that have shown that 15 to 20% of people who go to some communities to spend money turn around and go home because they can’t find parking. Another thing is just the traffic, 85% stall occupancy. Remember that number, when you hit 85% parking stall occupancy in a downtown core, there’s gridlock. And so what people do is they try and build new parking structures and parking garages, but because of the inefficiency of their existing parking, ’cause many times there’s more than enough parking a couple of blocks over, people just don’t know about it, they end up building over capacity of expensive parking garages, which is $45,000 a stall for those parking garages. And on top of that, enforcement’s really inefficient and results in lost revenue for cities. In the US we can no longer chalk tires, in Canada we can still do that. But you know, so what ends up happening is people are unable to really catch those who are not paying for parking. And this leads to a whole bunch of lost opportunities. Couple of quick facts for you, 30% of downtown traffic is from parking cruisers. There have been studies that have shown it’s, you know, 15% studies that have shown that it’s higher, but you know, 30% is a pretty good number for that. It’s still a very big number, no matter whether, you know, it’s 15 to 30%, and that’s really people looking for parking. Globally, this translates to 430,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per day, globally. Safety, one in five traffic accidents occur in or around a parking lot. More than 30% of people don’t pay, some studies say as high as 50% and only 5% of people get ticketed. And you know, there’s been studies that have shown that 190 billion is lost per year due to traffic congestion in the US. So when you kind of look at that problem, that’s the problem that we’re trying to solve, and that’s just the ultimate smart city use case. If you could fix those problems for cities, you’re just creating a whole bunch of social and economic good.
– [Ryan] And with all those kind of metrics and data that you have that kind of really paints a solid picture for this, when you talk to municipalities and cities about this kind of solution, what’s the response usually like, or I guess, do you get pushback? How are those conversations handled? Like what do you kind of run into in those conversations, or is it a pretty easy sell for most of these cities?
– [Dan] Well cities like any customer and any group of people have unique personalities, they have unique ways of doing things. They have different problems than and maybe their neighbors. So yeah, I mean, if you look at the smart city movement, which has been really gaining momentum over the last couple of years, we’ve noticed more and more forward thinking cities are thinking about parking as you know, one of the major things in traffic congestion and revenue generation. This whole space being one of the main things that they want to focus on because the benefits are so good, not only from driving additional revenues, but you know, even things like, you know, if you think about, let’s just take that one example of 30% of, you know, people don’t pay. And again, that can go up to 50%, only 5% of people get tickets. So what happens is you do the calculus and you go, “eh, I can kind of park here for, you know, “10 times before I get a ticket and not pay.” And that means that, you know, there’ve been not a bunch of other studies that have shown that cities really do need to charge for parking because anything that’s free gets abused and again creates traffic congestion. So what you wanna do is make sure that, you know, are able to maintain compliance. And that is by basically, you know, one of the products that we provide is understanding who’s in the stall, understanding how long they’ve been there, understanding their payment status, and then sending a notice to the bylaw officer to go around and write tickets. We create heat maps, we have omnichannel communication like texts and emails to the bylaw officer, and then route optimization to make sure that, you know, if you don’t pay, you get caught, and that helps cities maintain compliance. The other big thing that cities are looking at as they start to realize more and more about what causes traffic congestion and how to better attract people to their downtown core to spend money, and what they’re realizing is that, if you can, first of all, understand your parking situation, what’s your occupancy, what’s your turnover, et cetera. Second of all, make sure that you have navigation and way finding through apps and digital signage to get to the parking stall most efficiently, third of all, targeted compliance, you know, our data driven enforcement and compliance to make sure that if you don’t pay, you get a ticket. And all sorts of other value added features like reservation systems and, you know, really this can create an overall frictionless parking experience. And that’s very, very beneficial in terms of all those smart city objectives that we described. And that in fact is our vision, being the leader in the frictionless digital parking space.
– [Ryan] And this may be, you can think kind of pull this out to be a little bit broad here, but when you’re talking to these cities about getting started, what advice do you have for cities looking to adopt this kind of solution and in general, just IoT solutions across the board, are there kind of any commonalities between the approach and you suggest they adopt as opposed to kind of maybe doing everything all at once or helping suppress any of the hesitation they may have?
– [Dan] Yeah, no, that’s a great question. Look, you know, all sizes of municipalities from large to small can benefit from IoT solutions and from smart parking, you know, provided they implement a solution that is fully scalable as they grow, and as their requirements grow. You know, again, talking about parking, this has benefits in terms of implementing and enforcing effective policy, and as I mentioned, reducing traffic congestion, et cetera. So what you wanna do is you don’t wanna, you know, spend the next 10 years designing the be all and end all solution. For one, it would be super expensive. Number two, you know, I’ve learned this early in my career working for large companies, you know, by the time you finish the system design, the world’s changed and you either have to implement something that’s out of date, or you have to start all over. So, you know, the best approach is really a modular approach. Let’s use parking as an example, but all IoT solutions, you know, start with the sensor, that data goes from the sensor up to the cloud, or it’s hard wired. You know, our opinion is to deliver real ROI, particularly in parking, you need a wireless sensor that communicates wirelessly to the cloud. Then what you need is to get that data from the cloud into application software, and there are many, many use cases that can be driven. I mentioned three of them, business intelligence right. What’s the turnover, dwell time, et cetera on stalls. Navigation and way finding to direct people into the nearest most efficient parking stall. The direct data driven enforcement and compliance. But if you think a little bit further, we talked about reservation systems, being able to reserve spots. We haven’t talked yet about this, but monetizing the curb so that cities okay can monetize the curb for all these service providers, and beyond that, dynamic pricing. So changing the pricing on certain streets has been proven to not only balance occupancy, so you always stay under that 85%, but also drive additional revenues, even though overall the average pricing goes down. So what I’m trying to paint a picture here of is, you know, it starts with really, really accurate, low cost stall occupancy. And the amount of things you can do from that are, you know, 10, 15 different application use cases that we’ve identified. And, but you don’t wanna start with all 15 all at once. You wanna basically start with those applications that are unique to your city, and almost every city has, you know, a need for the business intelligence, a need for the navigation and way finding through digital signage and apps, and also the data driven enforcement and compliance. You know, by the way, you know, so the first one really gives you a picture of where you’re at. The second one helps you manage your traffic congestion, and the third one drives revenue. We’ve shown that through data driven enforcement and compliance that our entire IoT system gets paid for in under a year. Now, our sensors themselves, which we use, they’re the only ones that are patented and go beneath the surface of the pavement covered with epoxy. And with 99.6% accuracy and 10 years battery life. So we get an extra nine years of benefit after it’s paid for itself. So the ROI is just off the charts. So what you wanna do is you wanna start small, you want to have a modular approach. Our recommendation is that you work for the core system,, work with a provider that does the sensor, and the connectivity, and the application software, and that’s really so that you can make sure that, you know, it’s a bullet proof, always works system. You know, there’s a lot of vendors out there that provide different pieces, but if it’s all provided by one vendor, there’s a lot of benefits. Add use cases as you go along, add new areas of the city that you want to have added to, you know, smart parking, add these features. And that’s the best way to do it, whether you’re a small city or whether you’re a large city. And, you know, I’m talking about parking as an example, but that applies really across the board. You know, there are so many application areas. Don’t try and do everything all at once, pick where the biggest bang for the buck is and focus on that.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I was gonna jump in and kind of tie onto that and that it’s not just a smart parking approach, it’s for almost all IoT solutions, even outside of smart cities, just that modular approach and starting small, proving our ROI, making sure things are working correctly, and then building on top of that. From there usually increases the likelihood of success. And one thing I wanted to ask you is when we’re kind of thinking about this now at higher level, as opposed to just smart parking, just smart cities, what do you think are the biggest musts or the most important things for a company to consider when developing a solution. We’re talking about, obviously ROI we’ve mentioned, scalability, et cetera. Where would you say the kind of the main and most important things lie there?
– [Dan] For the supplier or the customer?
– [Ryan] You could take it from either side, I think maybe we talk about it from more of the customer side, just what they need to be looking for when they’re adopting an IoT solution, and like, obviously in matching up the ROI needs to be important, the company they work with and their skillset, expertise is important, but just what are your thoughts there?
– [Dan] Yeah, oh, that’s great. So this generally falls into the bucket of the entire kind of class of innovation budget. So there’s a lot of cities out there that actually have, you know, had a lot of luck implementing and piloting these solutions based on having an innovation budget. So You know, if you think about it, you know, they’ve got a lot of vendors coming to them and going,” Hey, you know, if you gimme $10 million, “I’ll make you smart.” With no real proof points that they’re gonna be that much better off. However, if you can start small with an innovation budget, many cities can do projects up to a hundred thousand dollars to try out different technologies on a pilot basis. So that’s been something that’s been very successful for, the cities that we’ve looked at. The other thing is, you know, you can go as a city and you can go and do, you know the search. You know, you can say, “Hey, I have this problem “and I wanna go and find the problem.” But there’s a lot of consultants out there that specialize in this area. In parking, for example, there’s a number of parking consultants, but there’s consultants in the water metering space, and the smart closing space. And you know, what a consultant does for you is they’re a subject matter expert. They’re, you know, understand the big picture and your bigger transportation picture in the case of parking, providing a broad cross sector experience. Cause you know, if you’ve got water metering, residential water metering, it’s also been there’s water metering for industry and there’s what, et cetera. You know, knowing the latest in the technology, saving really money in the long run, and then being a trusted partner as kind of the program evolved. So not to say that, you know, I’m not the advertising consultants, you know, services, but it’s a good thing to do to have somebody with subject matter expertise in your area working with you. Third of all, once you’ve got kind of your problem identified and you’ve got a little bit of consulting advice and you’ve done a pilot or two, then I think you wanna make sure that you understand the scalability of the solution. You know, as a small to medium sized city, you don’t want the big ginormous project and vendor that doesn’t scale down to your size of city, and by the same token, you know, if you’re starting with a smaller implementation in your smaller city, you wanna make sure you get something that’s scalable to large implementations, particularly if you’re a growing city or a larger city. You know, a lot of these cities like, you know, that have a large tourist influx in the summer, you know, this what the city looks like in the summer is completely different from what the city looks like in the winter, from a lot of different angles, or vice versa. You know, if you’re a ski town or whatever. And so making sure that not only is your system appropriately scalable for your size of business, but also that it will provide value through all the cycles that you go through through the year. So there’s a lot to think about, but really, you know, you’ve got social ROI, and you’ve got financial ROI, and the best city solutions that you can possibly pick deliver on both.
– [Ryan] Definitely, that makes a lot of sense. Before we wrap up here, I wanted to ask you two final questions. The first, we’ve talked a lot about kind of the must that companies or I guess adopters need to be thinking about when they’re adopting IT solutions. We talked a ton about smart parking, and municipalities, and cities, and kind of how overall that whole approach. But in terms of the IoT market in general, what challenges are you seeing are some of the bigger challenges that as an industry we’re either in the midst of working through, or we need to kind of be working to get over that hump to help adoption increase, to help the development of solutions become more easy. What do you see as some of the leading challenges in the space right now?
– [Dan] Yeah, great question, Ryan. You know, over the last couple of years, the industry has gone through a transition, like most industries, right? Like I was an early wifi guy in the industry, and back in the early days, nothing worked with anything, and, you know, there were reliability issues pretty well with every part of the system. And if you go back, you know, five or 10 years in the IoT space and its nascent stages, that was an issue. That’s largely been sorted out now with connectivity technologies like LoRaWAN and the industry maturing and settling on LoRaWAN as the unlicensed, you know, defacto standard for LPWAN type applications. You know, so initially there was this wild west phase in terms of, you know, a bunch of standards, and, you know, a variety of technology being tried, people doing your own proprietary thing, that’s largely stabilized, as I said. So now you’ve got the main problems of how scalable is that sensor that you are using? ‘Cause you know, we call it the DNA of IoT. Every IoT solution has a device, has network connectivity, and has application software, right? So the DNA of IoT. So how scalable is the sensor? How scalable is the software platform? What about the connectivity? You know, how inexpensive is it? How much power does your overall system consume? Cause again, we’re, you know, battery operated, we think that’s gonna deliver the biggest value, but there’s lots of applications that can’t be battery operated. You know, if you’re doing high bandwidth video, you’re going to need power. So what’s the overall system cost? What’s the total cost of ownership? And what’s been happening over time is the total cost of ownership has been going down and the benefit and the value has been going up. And we’ve kind of crossed over that point for many of these applications, including parking. And so now it’s really people, as my co-founder says, the internet of people that is, you know, needs to be overcome. Because people, you know, have to change the way they’re doing things based on these new technologies and remote sensing. And so I think that it most recently has been something that I’ve noticed is a much bigger willingness for cities and the people who run them to look at new technologies and adopt them. One thing that we’ve done quite successfully is run peer to peer learning groups with various cities who’ve tried different technologies, whether they be our solution or you know, other types of solutions and to give them the forum to be able to share with one another their learnings, what worked, what didn’t work, and that helps really accelerate adoption within cities. So you, the other thing as I mentioned, focus on solving one problem at a time.
– [Ryan] Yep, yep, yep. Yeah, I totally agree. So for our audience out there who wants to learn more and kinda stay in touch, what’s the best way for them to do that?
– [Dan] Yeah, so by all means, reach out to me personally, Dan Mathers, happy to have a conversation. And yeah, or point you to any of the resources that I’m aware of that could help you.
– [Ryan[ Nice, and as we kinda look forward here for a bit, talk to me real quickly before we jump off, on kinda eleven-x’s vision for IoT solutions going forward, like, what’s on the, what’s on the agenda, what should we even look out for?
– [Dan] Yeah, so yeah, as I mentioned, you know, we’re starting to see a large shift in the market towards adoption of IoT solutions in general. Our smart parking solution, we are now selling that solution globally and, you know, looking forward to have more and more cities across North America and Europe, and rest of world adopt our technologies. If you look forward, you know, in the kind of five to 10 year timeframe, we expect to be adding more application areas like residential water metering and smart building, ultimately becoming the smart city platform for cities.
– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. Well, Dan it’s been a great conversation, I truly appreciate you taking the time. We’ve mentioned smart parking before, but we have not dove into it in this detail, and I think the story you were able to kind of tell, and the picture you could paint for our audience as to the value this provides for cities, I think goes above and beyond anything our audience has probably heard from any of our guests. So this was a fantastic conversation, I appreciate you kinda sharing your insights and we look forward to sharing this with our audience.
– [Dan] Thanks a lot, Ryan. I look forward to talking in the future.
– [Ryan] Yeah, thank you.
– [Dan] Thanks.
– [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.