On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Ryan Chacon is joined by Alastair Williamson, CEO of Wyld Networks, to discuss IoT connectivity with satellites. The podcast touches on a number of interesting points regarding IoT connectivity and how the evolution of low-orbit satellites will provide lower-cost connectivity for IoT devices. Alastair also discusses how IoT aids in companies becoming more sustainable, managing customer relationships, and the current state of connectivity. Ryan and Alastair wrap up the podcast with high-level conversations around challenges in deploying solutions and growth predictions for the IoT market.
Alastair Williamson was born and raised in East Africa with a career spanning 30 years in telecommunications. He has held a number of sales leadership roles at Krone, Lucent Technologies (now Nokia), and Cambridge Broadband Networks. Alastair became CEO at Ranplan Wireless, taking the company public. Alastair then joined Wyld Networks as CEO in 2019 and has also taken the company public in the NASDAQ FN Growth Market Stockholm in 2021.
Interested in connecting with Alastair? Reach out on Linkedin!
About Wyld Networks
Wyld Networks is a virtual satellite network operator that develops and delivers innovative wireless technology solutions that enable affordable connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors anywhere in the world, especially for 85% of the world’s surface where there are no cellular networks. Wyld Networks have developed a hybrid module suite called Wyld Connect. Using the LoRa protocol, IoT sensors can communicate directly from sensors/devices to Eutelsat’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites or in conjunction with terrestrial LoRa networking. Wyld’s modems, devices, and embedded technology can communicate with the cloud, no matter the location, providing 100% global coverage.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:23) Introduction to Alastair and Wyld Networks
(02:15) Wyld Networks focus
(02:55) IoT with satellite connectivity
(04:22) Benefits of low power
(06:06) Customer relations
(07:14) Can current satellite connectivity evolve
(08:50) Benefits with satellite connectivity
(10:15) Sustainability in IoT
(11:48) Real world use cases of Wyld Networks
(14:00) Importance of predictive maintenance
(15:05) Challenges in deployment of solutions
(16:40) Low orbit satellites
(19:35) Growth in the IoT market predictions
– [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 resource and publication for IoT. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon and on today’s episode, we have Alastair Williamson, the CEO of Wyld Networks. They are a virtual satellite network operator that develops and delivers innovative wireless technology solutions that enable affordable connectivity for Internet of Things devices, and sensors anywhere in the world. So we talk a lot about topics related to that, we talk about the lack of connectivity that exists in the market, key to solving remote connectivity problems, benefits of low-power IoT, the future of satellites, and a number of other really important and valuable topics kind of associated with those areas of interest. One quick thing, if you are watching this on YouTube, be sure to like, and subscribe to the channel. If you’re listening to us on a podcast directory, please be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already done so. Truly appreciate it, it helps others find the content more easily, that we hope you all are really enjoying. 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, Alastair, to the IoT For All podcast, thanks for being here this week.
– [Alastair] It’s a pleasure, Ryan, how are you?
– [Ryan] I’m doing great, how are you?
– [Alastair] Very well, indeed.
– [Ryan] Good, good, good, very excited to have you. And I wanted to kick this off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself, to our audience.
– [Alastair] Yeah, absolutely, so my name’s Alastair Williamson and I’m the CEO of Wyld Networks. And just to sort of explain briefly who Wyld Networks are and what we do. So we’re a virtual satellite network operator focusing on the Internet of Things. So we deliver an end-to-end service to connect sensors or IoT sensors that are deployed in the field to deliver that data to satellites, and then deliver that data from satellites back down to the customers. And obviously our whole concept is about how do we provide 100% global connectivity for the Internet of Things?
– [Ryan] Are there any particular use cases or industries that you are kind of targeted or focused on, or is it more of a broad kind of span approach?
– [Alastair] Well, there is a focus. So our main focus is really on that 85% of the world’s surface where there’s no wireless network. So there’s no existing connectivity to the internet. And so obviously that sort of points us into Pacific verticals, such as agriculture, transportation, maritime, energy utilities, all of those markets, where they struggle to get access to the internet.
– [Ryan] Okay, and for our audience out there, who’s been hearing a good bit about IoT as it connects to satellite connectivity, tell us a little bit more about kind of how that works, what’s involved and what the current landscape looks like on that side of things.
– [Alastair] So satellite IoT connectivity exists today, but it utilizes traditionally sort of geostationary satellites that are sort of 36,000 miles up there and require expensive terminals to connect to the sensors and consume a huge amount of power. And so what we’ve done is different, we’ve sort of tried to change the landscape and what we are looking at is how do we provide affordable IoT, an affordable satellite IoT? And that’s about sort of looking at how we can connect up to low earth orbiting satellites, obviously about sort of 500 to 600 miles up in sky using lower power connectivity solutions. So we’ve implemented a technology called LoRaWAN which is a low-power technology to basically connect those sensors directly to low earth orbiting satellites. And this takes a huge cost out of the whole deployment and the whole to actually enhance that return of investment for our customers.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I was actually, what I was ask you next is if you could talk a little bit more about the benefits that are associated with kind of the low-power side of things. And obviously this does play into certain use cases, this is more applicable to, than others, you’ve already kind of alluded to, the lack of coverage and just expanding the terrestrial network reach and coverage that we have to enable things like agricultural use cases, transportation use cases to be more effective, but I’d love if you could talk more kind of about the benefits and kind of the applications there.
– [Alastair] Yeah, absolutely. So, we always talk about affordable satellite IoT connectivity and the affordability is quite key for us. So as I said, we are using the spectrum we’re using to connect to satellites is actually in the ISM band, which is a regulated but free to use band. So that takes the cost out of the equation for the customers, but on the low-power piece, it also has an impact on costs, but the real concept of delivering a low-power satellite IoT solution is really that our devices and all these IoT sensors are deployed in rural locations and there’s no electricity. So we are deploying our terminals and modules and sensors in locations where there’s no electricity and these devices actually have to go into the ground and stay there for two to five years. So the whole concept of low-power is very key in demonstrating a working solution and a solution that’s gonna provide our customers with a tangible benefit and a return on their investment.
– [Ryan] When you’re talking with customers and working with these organizations, are they coming to you to help kind of solve a problem and build the solution directly with you all and your partners, or do you have more, the companies within the IoT space who have solutions coming to you for the kind of the connectivity and the network side of things? How does that relationship, usually, how’s it handled?
– [Alastair] Interesting, it comes from both sides actually. So, we are engaged with terrestrial LoRa network providers who want to extend their reach. So, they’re gonna provide coverage for 15% of the Earth’s surface and they’re looking for partners to come and to actually deliver something that provides them with 100% global connectivity. So we’re working with the terrestrial LoRa network providers, but also we’re getting customers and end users coming directly to us saying, “Wyld, can you help us with solving a problem that we have?” And that problem is lack of connectivity.
– [Ryan] Got you, and so I know there are, when we’re talking about LoRa applications that are already out there without connecting to the satellite piece of it, are those use cases that are already in existence, able to kind of grow and now connect to the satellite piece, or is it a completely different kind of process they have to go through to kind of take advantage of that? Like, how does that transition go for people who may already have deployed LoRa solutions out there, but are not connected to the satellite?
– [Alastair] We’re a totally hybrid solution. So we’re not looking at creating another layer of network connectivity. Our solution will connect to a terrestrial network if it’s available, and if that terrestrial network is not available, then our solution will look for the satellite. And so, it’s a total hybrid solution. So we’re actually really enhancing what the terrestrial network providers can do, and ensuring that we’re actually creating one seamless network, and we’re not trying to create a brand new network here.
– [Ryan] So if I have a legacy kind of LoRa deployment already out in the field, is it an easy kind of transition to upgrade to be able to be on your network or is that something that is a kind of a totally different process that they’d have to go through?
– [Alastair] No, you can, so we provide those customers with a terminal or an IoT module that they could embed into their sensor and that IoT module will basically either go to terrestrial or go to satellite if satellites available.
– [Ryan] Got you, okay, makes perfect sense. One of the things you mentioned a second ago was also the affordability side of it. So working with the unlicensed spectrum in the ISM band, it helps with the affordability of the satellite IoT side of things. Can you explain kind of the other benefits that are really tying into the overall ROI to the problems that customers are coming to you to solve? So obviously the affordability is one you’ve talked about, the low-power benefits and the extending connectivity, but are there other components of the ROI that this is kind of really hitting at that you’ve seen be successful for the organizations you’ve worked with?
– [Alastair] Yeah, that’s a really interesting question ’cause we are, we’re coming up and speaking with customers and they’re talking a lot about sustainability. Currently today, a lot of our customers have sensors out in the field and they’re deploying truck rolls to go out there and collect that data. And so one of the additional benefits we are bringing to this is sustainability, is the fact you’re not having to do truck rolls to go and collect data from rural areas. And that does add to the affordability of what we’re actually deploying and it does add and help the return on the investment that our customers are looking for, and also, additionally, it is a benefit to our customers, and particularly when they look at their ESG credentials in how they’re actually looking at reducing the amount of carbon dioxide they’re putting out there and helping sustain the environment.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, yeah, it’s been interesting. I’ve had a lot of conversations recently with different guests about sustainability in the IoT space, connected to batteries, connected to energy harvesting, different things that are contributing to overall sustainability. And as you talk more about it, it’s very applicable to what you have going on. And I think we’re seeing that transition happen a lot more across all areas of IoT as improving the sustainability of kind the IoT space.
– [Alastair] Yeah, absolutely, I mean we look at sustainability, we look at it from two perspectives. We look at it from the perspective of the customer, reducing his footprint by deploying remote sensors. But we also look at the application that we’re deploying our solution into, it’s into agriculture. It’s looking at how to reduce, putting sensors out there, looking at how to reduce the amount of water that’s wasted. And I’ll give you one statistic that’s incredible that 30% of the world’s wastage of water comes from agriculture and technology is now being deployed to go and figure out how to optimize the use of water through soil moisture sensors. And we’ve seen sort of use cases where growers have been able to reduce their waste of water by up to about 37%. Most people think about technology and agriculture as being improving the yield of their crop, and that’s correct, but it’s also about how we reduce vital resources such as water. And so that’s the second part of where our sustainability plan comes from.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, one of the things actually, you just mentioned there, talking about use cases. I was actually gonna ask you if you had any live kind of deployments and use cases that you’d be comfortable sharing on here, just to kind of show the power of what you’ve all built and how this is being used in different industries in a little bit more detail.
– [Alastair] No, absolutely, I can give you sort of three use cases that we’ve got sort of in deployment. One is in supply chain management and that’s all about how do we track containers, but not just tracking containers, but how do we actually ensure that the perishable goods within containers is maintained? So how do we look at temperature, humidity, to ensure that goods that are delivered within a container actually arrive in their location, in the optimal condition. So supply chain management’s a real, real big use case for them. So we formed a consortium with a company called Senet in the US, that’s probably the largest terrestrial LoRa network provider in the US. And by putting our satellite capability together with Eutelsat, we’ve put a supply chain solution out into the market. Second use case, I go back to soil moisture sensors. So we’re deploying our technology into soil moisture sensors, those sensors have been deployed over a wide range of geographies and looking at soil moisture, or water moisture content in fields and optimizing irrigation and reducing the amount of water wastage at the same time, increasing the production of your yield. And I guess the third one that’s pretty strong out there, that’s doing pretty well is in the energy sector and that’s looking at preventative maintenance. So, putting sensors into rural locations, looking at corrosion in oil pipes and that’s very much about how do we prevent issues from happening and using IoT to give our customers insightful information for preventative maintenance.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, and those are perfect examples. And it’s funny, I’ve had some conversations recently around the supply chain side, around the agriculture side, preventative maintenance hasn’t been a huge topic that I’ve had the opportunity to talk more about, but it makes total sense, especially in those rural areas. And usually when we’re talking about it, we’re talking about it within manufacturing or within factories, indoors, not necessarily, kind of in rural outdoor potential areas where it is just not as much of a realization of how important that connectivity needs to be in order for that kind of thing to be available to them.
– [Alastair] Yeah, absolutely, you’re right, Ryan, I think the preventative maintenance piece is becoming much more important, particularly where you’re looking at the energy sector and you’re looking at the cost of downtime, and also the cost of spillage, which is not just impactful in dollars, but it’s also impactful in respect to how we’re actually managing the environment.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, absolutely. So let me ask you, in the use cases you’ve mentioned, or kind of just, even if you pull them out one level and talk more about supply chain agriculture and the preventative maintenance in these rural settings, what are some of the challenges that you’ve all seen in either the deployment of these solutions or in just the entire process of making these possible, have there been challenges that may have been unique that you didn’t expect? Just say anything kind of along those lines, it’d be interesting to hear.
– [Alastair] Yeah, I think the challenges that we’ve faced have been engineering challenges, that’s basically for us being able to sort of develop and deploy the solution, which obviously utilizes low worth orbiting satellites to collect that data. I think, we’ve got to be aware of what we are doing. We’re not collecting data on a real time basis here, we are collecting small chunks of data that provide our customers with insight. So I think we’ve really sort of got to the point where we’re overcoming those engineering challenges. And I think the sort of the business case challenges, they’re easy to overcome. We can demonstrate that return on investment really, really easily, and the benefits there, but mainly the engineering issues have been the issues that we’ve had to put a lot of effort in, to get ourselves to where we are now.
– [Ryan] And one question I wanted to ask you is I’ve seen a lot of new things coming out around kind of the low orbit satellites connected to IoT as of recent. It seems like this is still relatively, I don’t wanna say new, but it still feels like new in the IoT space specifically as an option to expand connectivity and make more use cases more viable. What challenges if kind of that cause just by being a relatively new option for the space. I mean, we talked about the ISM band and using that, does that play into any challenges? Like what other things are you seeing kind of that have, just because of where we are in the market and in the stage of growth, when it comes to using satellites for IoT, what challenges that may have kind of brought.
– [Alastair] I think the biggest challenge and our rationale for developing what we’ve developed is to make satellite IoT affordable. Making it affordable allows our customers to generate a return on investment and it allows the proliferation of our solution to sort of work its way through different sectors and be understood. So, the challenges really have been for us to get an affordable solution and to do that, we’ve looked at the ISM band to reduce the cost of actually paying for the spectrum. That obviously brings huge benefits, but also brings challenges. And those challenges are how do we mitigate interference? So how do we develop an end-to-end solution that’s gonna ensure that the SLA that we’re offering to our customer is met. So those are the challenges that we’ve had to adopt to get ourselves to a position where we can offer a solution to our customers that’s affordable and delivers on their return on investment.
– [Alastair] Absolutely, and I think just the mission, you all are on to provide the low-power, low cost option for satellite connectivity in IoT is an incredible one because of the success we’ve seen with low-power, low cost kind of the networks here without using the satellite, how successful that’s been to increase deployment. So when you add in that level of expanded coverage, still keep low cost, low-power. I think it just like the future of what we’re able to kind of now imagine, it just continues to grow. And I think that’s a very, very fascinating space to be in as the more people I talk to and learn where the problems are and kind of learn what’s working, what’s not, it just connectivity is so important and being able to do it in this manner, I think is an incredible thing for the space. And I wanted to ask kind of where this goes, where do we kind of go from here? What are the things that you see kind of being accomplished, the next steps that as we take to, in order to enable more use cases, more adoption, bring down the cost even further and make it something that is adopted and kind of at a wider scale?
– [Alastair] Yeah, I think what we’re gonna see over the next few years is a lot more satellite operators starting to launch low earth orbiting satellites, specifically for OT. At the moment, when we talk about low earth orbiting satellites, most people sort of reference SpaceX or Kuiper, and they’re looking at broadband. Now, my feeling is relatively simple, broadband is fairly prevalent out there, but there’s definitely a growth market for satellite broadband. But then again, when I look at the Internet of Things and I look at the billions of devices that we are gonna see deployed over the next few years, and it’s really starting now, we see the billions of devices are gonna be deployed across the world, I think the growth market really is in the satellite IoT space, rather in the satellite broadband space. So I expect to see a lot more satellites going up, supporting IoT and supporting LoRaWAN, I expect to see a lot more operators going up there supporting narrowband IoT, another LPWAN technology that maybe the telecom operators are more favor. And so I think we’re gonna see a lot more happening in this space, started really last year, the year before, but the real growth in this market is starting next year. And I can give you some forecast in numbers that they’re pretty massive, to be honest with you. I was reading McKinsey reports a few days ago, and they were pointed to the fact that whoever can solve this lack of global connectivity for the Internet of Things is gonna unlock a market worth about two to 3 trillion US dollars in local GDP over the next 10 years. So it really is fairly nascent market, but it’s a growing market and it’s a market that’s compatible with the terrestrial LoRaWAN IoT providers in just basically extending their reach.
– [Ryan] And I think that’s a very important thing that people need to understand of how powerful that is when you bring those together as a pit post to kind of choosing one or the other. We’ve been able to use the terrestrial connectivity, different options, and they’re great, they provide different use cases, they fit them very well from an ROI perspective, but that next step is that global coverage and that opportunity to not be limited by the connectivity piece, which oftentimes does limit potential use cases in different areas and different ways. And I think this allows the adoption to just be easier for people to deploy and bring into their organization. And I think any company that is focused on that, has a very bright future ahead of them and that’s what I think so exciting for us to kind of learn more about. So as we kind of wrap up here, the last thing I wanted to do was just ask if our audience has any kind of questions, follow up, anything they wanna learn more about how they can kind of get in touch and do that.
– [Alastair] We are really ramping up our sort of communications app to the market. We are attending multiple trade shows all over the world. We’re engaging multiple customers. You can go to our website, our website’s got a lot of information on what we do, where we are and how to connect with us. So, yeah, I think we are more than happy to engage with as many people as possible. It’s a big ecosystem out there, and it’s an ecosystem that is very relevant to what we’re doing and being part of the LoRaWAN Alliance also allows us to get in touch with a lot of the people. And we are getting a lot of input from the LoRa Alliance, particularly from sensor manufacturers, network operators who are really interested in extending their network coverage.
– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. I really think that this episode is going to do quite well with our audience. Like we’ve kind of already alluded to, just the power of what you’re bringing to the market is super exciting and I think there’s gonna be a lot of people that are looking to learn how they can adopt IoT in a simpler way, a more cost effective way and connectivity’s been a concern for some people and I think this allows them to really see that the potential is there, for them to achieve the goals that they’re looking for. So, I really appreciate you taking the time and jumping in and talking more about this in detail and I look forward to hopefully having you and other members of the team back on, on other video series that we’re doing to talk more about what’s going on in this space, because I think it’s super relevant, it’s growing fast and it’s a very exciting place to be. So, we look forward to kind of keeping tabs on what’s going on over there. And the last thing I wanted to ask is anything new and exciting kind of coming out from your company in the coming months that we should be on lookout for?
– [Alastair] Yeah, I think you wanna bid a lookout for the actual commercial launch of the service, which is gonna be in the second half of this year. So at the moment, we’re doing deals with customers, seeding our equipment into their networks, but the big event that’s happening this year will be the commercial launch of the satellite IoT service. At this moment in time, we’re going through use cases, through beta trialing, alpha trialing, but towards the end of the year, you will see some huge events and announcements happening from Wyld.
– [Ryan] Nice, and are you all going to be at the LoRa Alliance event in Paris?
– [Alastair] I’ll be the first one at the door, so yep. If you’re there, we’ll see you there, Ryan.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I won’t be, but another member of our team that handles more of the event relationship stuff with our partners and things like that, she’s actually gonna be traveling over there to attend, so we’re excited.
– [Alastair] Yeah, that’s really good, we look forward to meeting up.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, well, thanks so much again for your time, Alastair, this has been a fantastic conversation and look forward to staying in touch and hopefully having you back.
– [Alastair] Fantastic, you look after yourself, Ryan, cheers.
– [Ryan] You too, all right, thank you, bye
– [Alastair] Bye.
– [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.