On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Sam Sharief, COO of Thinxtra, joins Ryan Chacon to discuss IoT and Massive IoT. The podcast opens up with Sam introducing himself, Thinxtra, and their founding story. He then talks about the recent Sigfox sale by UnaBiz before discussing the distinction between IoT and Massive IoT. Sam expands further on Massive IoT by describing the factors of its adoption as well as its challenges and overall direction of it.
Sam Sharief is COO at Thinxtra, an Australian company he co-founded in 2015 to power new ways to use the Internet of Things (IoT) technology and enable organizations in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Macau to connect their physical assets to the digital world. Sam led Thinxtra’s network deployment across Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Macau and oversees business operations and infrastructure. He is responsible for driving growth through innovative, repeatable, and efficient solutions. Sam spearheads Thinxtra’s commercial relationships with vendors, suppliers, partners, and customers to maintain continuity and security of services and certainty in supply. He works closely with the supply chain and logistics, facilities management, and ESG sectors, helping organizations optimize the value of their assets, operate more sustainably, improve efficiencies, and boost both business outcomes and customer experiences. Sam graduated from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and holds a Master of Engineering Management (Hons) Degree.
Interested in connecting with Sam? Reach out on Linkedin!
Thinxtra, Enabler of Massive IoT, connects physical assets with the digital world in the most energy-efficient way, at scale, and at a fraction of conventional cost. As the owner and operator of the only public, national 0G Network dedicated to the IoT in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Macau, Thinxtra teams with a broad ecosystem of partners to help organizations create new business models, optimize asset utilization, monitor indoor air quality (IAQ), and unlock new customer service offerings.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:37) Introduction to Sam and Thinxtra
(04:56) Impact of Sigfox sale
(07:13) Distinction of IoT and Massive IoT
(10:48) Biggest contributors to adoption of Massive IoT
(13:20) Challenges in adopting IoT
(15:40) Where is IoT heading?
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to our episode of the IoT For All Podcast, the number one resource and publication for the internet of things. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. If you are watching this on YouTube we’d really appreciate it if you would give this video, a like or thumbs up and subscribe to channel if you have not done so already. If you are watching or listening to this on a Podcast directory, please feel free to subscribe as well so you get the latest episodes as soon as they are out. On today’s episode we have Sam Sharief, the COO and Co-Founder of Thinxtra. they are an enabler of massive IoT. They focus on connecting physical assets with the digital world in the most energy efficient way at scale and at a fraction of the conventional costs. So we talk a lot about a number of different topics. We talk about the recent Sigfox sale and the implications that has on the space. We talk about the distinction between IoT broadly and what massive IoT means, what massive IoT is doing for the industry, the opportunity it presents, how companies can go about adopting different technologies to make massive IoT real for them. What use cases are leading the way, where their challenges are happening in the space and a number of other kind of very closely related topics in this discussion that I think we get a lot of value in. But before we get into it, 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 Sam’s the IoT For All Podcast. thanks for being here this week.
– [Sam] Thanks for having me here.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. You wanna kick it off by just gimme a quick introduction about yourself?
– [Sam] Yes, I’m Sam Sharief, background is in engineering. I co-founded Thinxtra 2015 with a friend of mine. And the simple question I think I got asked the day we decided to launch the company is, would everything be connected in the future? And my answer really to that question was yes. And then my friend said, “How about we go do it?” And the journey started then.
– [Ryan] And yeah, actually keep going. I’d love to hear more about that journey and kinda how you got to kinda where you’re now.
– [Sam] Yeah. So the Internet of Things or IoT as everyone knows it today is been a concept around for a long time maybe broadly known as M2M or machine to machine connectivity. And technology has been evolving as we know every year. Things have changed so fast and we got to a point where massive IoT or the large scale internet of things has become possible. So we looked around for technologies and saw Sigfox or as known today as 0G seem to have, if you like, be the foundation of massive IoT. And the idea is that connecting things at large scale, creating business efficiencies and sustainability, if you like, outcomes has been possible and that’s at the heart of our business today. Thanks to today operates 0G network in Australian and New Zealand and Hong Kong and Macau and essentially is a public network accessible to everyone. We’re not so much about voice we’re about collecting meaningful data and piping it through for intelligent business processing. Thinxtra as well does offer end to end solutions, in IoT that essentially means devices, the connectivity which is the wireless connectivity over the air. And also the platform services that turn that data into meaningful business insights and actions. And the IoT is about connecting the physical assets to the digital world to connect to and generate business efficiencies. Lots of companies have assets and today data insights become possible with a bit more information optimization can be achieved. A bit of insights into business processes and efficient actions I feel like can be generated. And that could be from moving assets that, whether they’re cages or trolley or bins that move around in large numbers or just simply the conditions of rooms or classrooms or office spaces that we all live in, the pandemic has given us a bit more of a push or needs to understand the environmental conditions where we spend a lot of time indoors. And all this can be done at a fraction of a cost through just sending little bits of information that give us that insight.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And you mentioned Sigfox I was curious how the recent sales Sigfox has implemented or impacted I guess what you all do.
– Yeah, earlier this year, Sigfox has gone into administration and just later in April, a company who’s an operator of Sigfox, the name is UnaBiz has taken over or taken the ownership of the French entities, which is Sigfox SA and Sigfox France. And for UnaBiz was one of the successful nine bidders that went into and offered to buy Sigfox went through the French courts and all that and they came out to beat the best option to take the technology and the business to the next stage. UnaBiz is a successful 0G operator in Taiwan and Singapore. We closely work with them as a fellow operator and they do understand the massive IoT ecosystem and the complexity that it comes with. They’ve been a great partner to us and the industry and they’re ready to take this to the next phase and we’re quite supportive and really happy to know that UnaBiz was the successful bidder. Sigfox to us, as things draw, as we operate our 0G network we own and operate the network in the territories we work in, we utilize Sigfox for the backend services. So that’s for message processing and some of the base station or station management. The good thing that Sigfox did is, they set up the backend services in the Google Cloud. And that’s really good. I mean, these days, everything in the cloud gives a bit more, the SLAs are better, the availability, flexibility is there. So that’s really good. And that’s what we rely on Sigfox for. We have a great working relationship with UnaBiz and we continue to collaborate on all aspects of the ecosystem in terms of devices and obviously now connectivity and platform services.
– [Ryan] Yeah, so funny you also mentioned earlier talking about massive IoT, I’d love it if you could tell our audience a little bit more about two things, one, kinda the distinction between IoT broadly and massive IoT and also just the general opportunity that there is when we’re talking about massive IoT.
– [Sam] Yeah, so connecting things to the internet could be done in very different ways. I mean we see all the technologies being very complimentary. And where 0G sits is on the other end of the spectrum of 3G, 4G, 5G now as we all see that’s come to life. The technologies of 3G, 4G and 5G are more at the high bandwidth, the high speeds whether it’s connected cars and more like data or more data demanding devices or services. 0G works on the other end of the spectrum where speeds doesn’t have to be so high, so it’s a near real time. But also it’s more meaningful if you like or small, I wouldn’t wanna say more meaningful but smaller bits of data. So an example can be to connect assets that are non-powered and non-powered is the key cause this 0G or the Sigfox technology are very energy efficient because it’s just built to be simple. Then you can do things that are non-powered at real mass scale. So whether you connecting cages or you connecting bins or you connecting trolley that’s kinda where we play. And massive IoT to us is connecting devices or connecting assets at a really large scale and just extracting… And the simple question we ask is, where are you for example to an asset and how are you feeling? Are you too hot? Are you too cold? Are you out of where you’re supposed to be in terms of a location? Does something look odd? And when you start having too many, if you like, data points coming in, message processing becomes important and you would want to know, for example the location of an asset repeatedly to come in if it hasn’t moved. So sometimes it’s a bit of that intelligence that need to come in to say, well, you’d prefer to get a notification if it’s actually moved not so much, just, I’m still here I’m at the same location. It’s definitely taken the, IoT’s experience, a full start. There was a big hype a few years ago. And the reason it’s taken a bit longer is there is a bit of complexity that comes to putting the pieces of the puzzle together. When I talk about the pieces at start the devices, the network and the platform really making sense of the data and giving a simplifying it to the end user of what actions are needed to improve the business efficiencies or to make decisions. 0G is definitely a technology that enables that ’cause the battery life, the total cost of ownership is always a consideration in massive IoT. It’s not just necessarily the cost of the hardware or the software or the connectivity, it’s essentially the total cost of how often do you need to swap the batteries? Battery life makes a difference into the TCL and also the cost of installation and all that. So it’s taken some time for if you like education of the market has taken a while. That transformation does take time. But we can see definitely the demand is ramping up in our regions and globally.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I was gonna ask you, it seems like massive IoT has grown in popularity over the last number of months and even beyond that. We had a number of guests on the Podcast talk about massive IoT. And what do you think are the biggest contributors? I know you’ve kind of talked about a few of them a second ago, but what are the biggest contributors to that adoption difference that we’re seeing with massive IoT versus just general IoT kind of across the board?
– [Sam] So one is… Yeah, there’s a few factors that go into that. One is that businesses obviously on their strategies and on the strategy map, if you like, have now come to terms of saying, we need to do something different and there’s value to be extracted out of the data to, if you like, improved business operations and maybe maintain a competitive edge or offer new different or different types of services to their existing customers or gain market share. And generally being the first mover in a business takes a bit of time. And which means… I mean, when you go and buy, for example a TV, it’s not the first time you buy a TV. So you kinda know exactly what you’re looking for in terms of specs. A lot with IoT, what we’ve seen is the customers, if you like, have not had kind of exercise. So mapping up the business processes and the competitive edge could take a bit of time, but what we do find is once a first mover is made and someone’s proven it, it takes time to prove it. And generally that’s done through APAC or POC as it’s called, where you are… There not to just prove the technology to actually prove the business case that you’re set up to test. And once that’s done generally the effort of implementation and the mapping out of how that can be done is done fairly quickly. So it’s taken a bit of time for the reason of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together needs to be done right and needs to be done perfectly right to be honest, but once that’s done you can see the scale starts happening.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Yeah, it’s a really interesting thing to just observe from our standpoint. I wanted to also ask, in the conversations you have with customers are there any kinda common challenges that they have when it comes to starting and successfully deploying on their IoT journey?
– [Sam] Yes. With any project, you do find difficulties. Generally the form factor of… Once you get past the business case, improving the business case. Once you get the data and the data processing and… At the end of the day, once data’s processed in some way the business actions have to change as a result and change management in that sense needs to be done properly. Somebody’s job would change in a way that all of a sudden they’ve got insights and there’s a different to-do list, for example. So I’ll give you an example. One of our customers owns and we’ve served them through if you like, Optus, the company’s called Gras Plis. They own quite a lot of cages three and a half thousand cages, they decided to connect. And as a result of the location information that comes through they can tell which cages are idle. This company and just like we all know logistics has kinda had a big boost during the pandemic. So they’ve experienced around an 80% increase in business in the last two years and they move about 30 million parcels a year just as you can imagine, it’s a large amount of Of business So instead of investing more CapEx and just buying more cages without managing them and knowing where they are at any point in time. By connecting the cages and just getting some location information they’re able to manage the throughput, if you like, of a bit better by utilizing the cages a lot more. And as the business expands you kinda scaling and adjusting operations according to more information available. So somebody to-do-list, for example, could be on a weekly or even a daily basis to say, hey these cages have been idle and as you can imagine, Australia’s quite a large continent. The more you know where cages are sitting idling not being used and bringing them back into the supply chain so they’re actually used where they should be and that’s a very sustainable business.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, yeah. It’s interesting to see the different challenges companies face, the way the industry has adapt or adapted to those challenges to grow. And I think more companies are coming around to understanding the low cost piece of IoT being a really big enabler for solution development. How do you kinda see this moving forward? Just outta curiosity. From where we are now. I know you mentioned, we talked about just IoT in general kind of experience, somewhat of a false started. It hasn’t really caught on as quickly as people expected it to despite all the hype that that’s been there. But I do feel like we are moving kind of out of that into more positive growth. What have you seen on that side? Where do you see things going, moving through the rest of this year into the next five plus years?
– [Sam] Oh, absolutely. I could probably… One trend that’s say quite common at the moment is the customer expectations have been adjusted, I think there’s expectation now from customers that data is to be used when providing a service or a product. And I’ll give you a bit of an example. We have a partner of ours name is Luskin who’s launched the track and trace solution. So they service a lot of the supermarkets, they’re an asset puller in a sense. They’ve adjusted the created a track and trace solution offering and are managing to gain market share as a result of that. And the vet, I mean as every business has tracking challenges when you have thousands or hundreds of thousands of assets is difficult because the amount of manual work required if you were to stay on top of everything takes time. So they’ve implemented a track and trace solution using the 0G technology and some of the services we offer them, essentially to ensure for example, the location of the goods that are transported through their bins and their assets and the temperature, the environmental conditions. And slowly you can see the customers that they have are kinda seeing that as a differentiator. And they see this as a differentiator in the service offering they have. It’s more… It’s almost like putting their assets in a different category, they’re intelligent assets that can speak for themselves and provide information on what’s going on the ground. You can see that customers… And there is the ESG component as well. There that, are we really being right to the environment by not using data that’s possible to use or we could tweak things and do things better, reduce our emissions and do things a bit more effectively. And that’s on the side of actually just doing the right business practices in terms of, are we deploying our CapEx effectively and reducing our optics as a result of data that’s possible and actually it’s achievable. And as you see more use cases being successful, you can see the trend heading that way. It like those who are sitting on the fence wondering, well is it really possible to get data from devices these days? And once that’s seen, you can see they jump on the journey and say, “Okay, let’s give it a go “and have a look if what’s really possible.”
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think that’s really important to mention because the successes that companies that have not adopted IoT are able to see other companies have with their adoption of IoT I think goes a long way in helping the industry grow. I think there’s a lot of hesitations, there’s a lot of misconceptions about IoT technology solutions, different use cases out there. And the more we can successfully show what IoT can do it’s more affordable now, it’s easier to deploy. And obviously every use case is different, every environment to which it deploy is different. But more options, more technologies are developed as, pretty regularly now that it’s making things more affordable so you don’t have to necessarily choose a more expensive connectivity ’cause it’s the only thing out there. You don’t have to choose certain hardware because there’s no other options. There’s tons of different paths that companies can go and working with a company who understands that and all the different components and how to put it all together, I think really is a big advantage for companies looking to adopt IoT. And it just starts with that conversation, it starts with that learning and that educational component. And the more we can deploy successful applications the better it is for everyone involved in the industry.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. And one thing I can, something I’ve seen over the years that we’ve done this for about seven years or so in IoT, like you said, customers and partners they want to test and see things and they go into this trial phase or the POC phase. And essentially as long as the POC is not just about proving the technology and a lot of companies go and just wanna prove the technology. The technology definitely needs to be a tick in the box, but it needs to go in with the mindset of wanting to prove the business case once the data is collected and is made available can that be monetized in a way to improve business operation to do the right thing sustainably. And if you go in with that mindset and have… If you like a set criteria for success then definitely things do go to scale, otherwise… We’ve seen around us a lot of trials just go in to prove the technology and then you’ve got that technology tick. And then so you see them looking for a business case after that. And the idea is that it needs to stack up on paper first to say, if that criteria is met then it doesn’t make sense for the business to roll this out at scale and it just makes environmental and sustainable sense.
– [Ryan] Couldn’t agree more. Yeah, it’s very exciting times I think in general, across the board. Lots of different technologies, use cases applications more adoption. It seems like your region is exploding as well, kind of more in the APAC side of things. So definitely interesting times. And I think the conversation we’ve had today shed a lot of light on that and I really appreciate your time and your insights. For audience out there who wants to learn more get a better sense of what you all are doing, maybe follow up with questions to this episode, stay in touch, anything like that, what’s the best way they can do that.
– [Sam] Just go to our website to thinxtra.com and we’re happy to bring things to scale. And like we say to see everything, do less and know more.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. Well Sam, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. Audience I think is gonna love this episode, it’s a very relevant topic and provides a lot of optimism going forward for the space. So thanks again.
– [Sam] Thank you for having me.
– [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 notifications, so you get the latest episodes as soon as it become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.