To celebrate the 100th episode of the IoT For All Podcast, IoT For All’s new Editorial Director Ken Briodagh and Leverege Co-Founder and CEO Eric Conn join us to share some exciting news about the future of the podcast, as well as to discuss some of the biggest questions asked in our past 99 episodes. We talk about predictions for the IoT landscape and the progress of some of the most talked-about technologies in IoT.
Eric Conn is currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Leverege, a world-class technology company creating an enterprise solutions development platform for the Internet of Things. He’s a serial entrepreneur, writer, and software engineer who is passionate about technology and lifelong learning.
Ken Briodagh is the Editorial Director at IoT For All and will soon be unveiling his podcast, Let’s Connect! He’s particularly interested in the potential for IoT and the profound positive impact it will have on the lives of people.
About Leverege: Leverege is an IoT Solution provider on a mission to enable and accelerate the digital transformation of all organizations by making IoT Solutions as easy to build, buy, implement, and use as web applications today.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(00:36) Intro to Ken
(02:56) Intro to the new Let’s Connect! Podcast
(04:35) Intro to Eric Conn and Leverege
(19:33) What advice do you have for companies starting their IoT journey?
(24:03) What is the importance of a strong partner ecosystem for component or service companies in IoT?
(25:55) How should companies vet potential partners at the start of their IoT journey? What questions should they be asking?
(38:41) What role is AIoT playing in the IoT space?
(47:51) What is 5G’s role in 2021? What does this mean for other connectivity options?
(53:48) What are your predictions for 2021 in IoT? What’re you excited for?
– You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All podcast on the IoT For All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon, one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or join our newsletter at iotforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Ken to the IoT For All podcast. How are things going on your end?
– [Ken] Oh, great, you know, keeping busy, having fun, having some conversations.
– [Ryan] Yeah, this is a very exciting episode. This is episode 100 for the IoT For All podcast. We have two guests today. So you and then Eric Conn, who I’m gonna introduce here in a second, but I wanted to bring you on first to introduce yourself to our audience because not just are you a guest on this episode, but you’re also a newly added member to the IoT For All team. And another exciting piece of news. We’re gonna be launching a new podcast on the IoT For All Network that you’re gonna be the host of. So would you mind just giving a quick introduction about who you are, kind of, you know, what brought you down to IoT For All, what you’re gonna be doing. And then quickly introduce the podcast and talk about the focus a little bit.
– [Ken] Happy to, I do have to say though, when you started to say Ken is, but also, I just wanted to say but also a client. I’m gonna start over here, but folks, thank you for listening, really appreciate it. I’m Ken Briodagh, new editorial director for IoT For All. And I sort of come here through journalism and editorial and marketing all the way down the line, and I’ve been podcasting for a long time and I’m really excited to sort of bring this new podcast. “Let’s Connect!” to the IoT For All Media Network. On this podcast we’re gonna be talking about how ecosystem players in IoT technology thought leaders and sort of all the innovators, you folks out there listening, in IoT can sort of get a place and a platform to tell your stories, the things that you’re working on. And also when you’re listening to these episodes you get sort of an inside look at how technology strategy works. What are some areas that you should be thinking about innovating in? If you’re an implementation company or an end user company listening, then maybe this is gonna give you some tips on directions that make sense for your company and things in IoT that you weren’t aware of. So the idea is to help bring sort of the best practice in IoT implementation to as broad an audience as we can manage. So you know, all the rules like, subscribe, rate, review, comment, all the things that help us feed the algorithm so we can get as many earballs on these things as we can.
– [Ryan] Yeah, and a good followup that I’ll kind add in here is I’m sure people are wondering, well how will that change the IoT For All podcast? Since a lot of what you said is stuff we’ve been doing for the past, you know, 100 or so episodes. And I think a good way to explain it is that, your show will be much more focused on connecting with the IoT ecosystem. You know, what’s happening in the ecosystem, new offerings in the ecosystem, talking to more of those individuals and experts. And then the IoT For All podcast, we’ll kind of have a little bit of a broader reach talking to companies maybe that are more of the adopters of IoT and the journey they went through, the solutions that are out in the market for companies that are not in the IT space to adopt, and just kind of offer that kind of advice and education to those maybe earlier in their IoT journey and may not directly be connected to the IoT space or work and they live and breathe in it like we do. And you know, your target guests for your show.
– [Ken] Yeah, so we’re gonna be, I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited about this concept of the the IoT For All Media Network, because now we’re gonna be able to sort of reach out to a lot of different audiences and over time maybe bring in additional shows and start syndicating them out, really trying to make this a hub for the IoT industry to go to listen to their own stories and to learn from each other.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, and that expansion that we’re hopefully do later on this year, bringing on some other popular podcasts to the network to kind of utilize the IoT For All engine to you know, gain attention and put more resources out in the world. Is gonna be a fantastic thing that I absolutely am looking forward to. So let’s go ahead and pivot here for a second. Let’s bring in our guests for today, Eric Conn, the co-founder and CEO of Leverege. Eric, you wanna go ahead and unmute yourself and join?
– [Eric] Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me, Ryan. I remember when you did your first podcast approximately two years ago, and I have to admire you for your consistency and devotion to basically one podcast a week without fail for two straight years. So that’s an amazing achievement and I’m really happy to be on for the 100th anniversary of your podcast.
– [Ryan] Yeah, thank you. It’s been an exciting journey. A lot of people involved behind the scenes that have really made this possible and you know, a big shout out to our fantastic guests, you know, that we’re able to kind of, you know, put faith in the brand and in the podcast when it was getting started, they helped to really kick it off, to get it to where it is now, and our ability to expand into two shows and potentially more going on. So I appreciate that. And it’s great to have you on here. I think what would be nice is I know a lot of our audience is probably already familiar with Leverege and what you all do, but let’s start off by having you give a quick introduction just who you are, and then talk briefly about what Leverege does, and kind of your overall offering and approach to the market.
– [Eric] Yeah, absolutely. So a little bit about me. I’m a software engineer/math guy. I’ve been in this tech space since I graduated from college quite a long time ago. And basically for the last 25 years I’ve been a serial entrepreneur. So when I started working, I worked at a place called the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. We did a lot of basic research, and the internet was just sort of starting to come to be, and it was really exciting. And I wanted to get out of research and more into product development and more into commercial types of endeavors. So I joined a company, started a company with a couple other guys. None of us had actually done startups before, and we figured it out though. And you know, by the time we got done it was very successful and it was sold to Raytheon, which is one of the probably top three or four companies in the defense market. And I haven’t looked back since then. So I just love creating new products, looking at the white space and markets and solving problems with technology. So that’s essentially what drives me. Leverege is kind of a joint offering from me and one of my long-time best friends, Steve Lee, who’s my co-founder and CTO. We got together, we had been working together in previous companies and in July of 2014, we decided, Hey, it’s a good time to start a new company. We both had a kind of breaks and the action of what we were doing at the time. And so we started that. We spent the first six months just figuring out, okay, what do we wanna be when we are a company and not just two guys hanging out for lunch. And we decided IoT was really buzz-worthy and had all the ingredients, something that was hard. There wasn’t like a 800 pound gorilla as they say in the market, it was very sort of fragmented, which meant that there’s a lot of opportunity to solve problems. And there wasn’t a gigantic company already sorta owning the market. So it looked like a really good spot for us. We really enjoy technology. We have a lot of experience with wireless communications, hardware, cloud computing, all the things that are ingredients of IoT. So we’d been doing that basically since I guess, early 2015, when we really started in full force and you know, been having fun and growing the company since then.
– [Ryan] So we’ve spoken to a lot of guests obviously that cover many different areas of IoT. And I’d be curious to kind of get your take on how you positioned Leverege in the market to not just differentiate yourself from other companies, but also kind of your overall, you’ve got to focus on helping companies adopt and implement IoT and kind of you know, what role do you all play? And what I’m getting at is having you kind of speak to those individuals who do not work in the IoT space, but are looking to get started on their journey. How would Leverege play a role in that for them?
– [Eric] Yeah, at its foundation Leverege is truly a software company. So we make a product that runs on top of your standard cloud providers like Google and Amazon and provides basic IoT services, which is still relatively abstract for somebody that doesn’t know what IoT is, but it it’s a value added layer, very close to the end user that’s very much needed and it’s not really supplied by the big cloud companies. So we said, we run on top of them, but what we found when we went to market when we first started is just trying to sell this abstract concept of an IoT platform, was a very tough sell. There’s you know, tough sledding, a lot of education required. Customers didn’t even know exactly what IoT meant, because I mean, it is a strange acronym, the Internet of Things. What does that even mean? Right. So we ended up sort of working backwards almost from the product through a systems integration and ultimately to pilots, because what we found now over doing this for six years is pretty much every company goes through the same three phases. They wanna do a pilot, a proof of concept and MVP they have different names for them and different goals, but they wanna see, one, does the technology work? Does it provide some sort of ROI for their business? Because at the end of the day IoT is all about solving business problems or people problems with technology. So they wanna understand how it works. So you have to train them up on a lot of the terminology. There’s an incredible amount of technology involved and you need to simplify it for them. And in some cases, abstract away around the complexity so that they can really focus on their business. So we have a product that we call jumpstart, which is kind of a productized service that we just go in very quickly and we can build, you know, gather requirements, figure out exactly what they wanna do. What is the pain point they wanna solve, deliver something and let them see it, touch it and feel it. It’s not Just a paper tiger, it’s an actual system with hardware in the loop. And they get to see it working in their business. If they like it, they see the value from it. Then they can move to phase two, which is we become their systems integrator. Which before we started doing that and basically embracing becoming a systems integrator, we were having a lot of problems of what I call crossing the IoT chasm. So to go from a pilot to a scale deployment across your enterprise is a really, really big jump. There are a lot of pieces involved. There’s a lot of costs that you have to uncover. There’s a lot of operational friction. There’s a lot of digital transformation within an organization, training of staff, you know, changing of processes. There’s just so many things involved. And if the customer doesn’t have someone they can trust to help guide them through that journey, they can kind of get lost or the pilot will just sort of go away. So as soon as we made the mental leap as a company to say, you know what, we’re going to do, essentially the dirty work, if you will, but it’s rewarding too, because ultimately we get across the chasm. But until you do that for a customer and build that trust and really help them understand how they use this technology for the betterment of their business, they will never scale. So in essence, to summarize what does Leverege do? We provide a software product that enables the creation of low cost IoT solutions much more quickly than if you tried to do it all yourself. So it’s a set of tools that you can Leverege just to build things more quickly and more inexpensively. And we provide the guidance that a customer needs, especially enterprise because that’s our main focus to get that integrated into their business so they get the maximum value out of it.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, and speaking of, kind of getting across that chasm into you know, scale, can you share some of your more successful projects that have maybe gotten you know, started out in the jumpstart phase, you moved into you becoming the systems integrator and helping them get to scale now. You don’t have to share company names if you’re not comfortable, but just some more real life examples to kind of bring it full circle to how you all are helping the market.
– [Eric] Yeah, I’ll talk about. One of them it’s public, so there’s no issues with disclosing it, but it’s you know, within what they call the LPWAN, or Low Power Wide Area Network, subsegment of IoT just to add more buzz words on top of buzzwords. It’s a very interesting Applications that on its surface seems very simple. But there’s a customer we worked with our partner Cox2M. We have a close relationship with Cox Communications and they use our platform to solve problems for different industries. But one of the first ones that we did together was for Manheim Auto Auction. So if you’re in the auto industry, you know who Manheim is. They’re the largest sort of supplier of used cars in the US and potentially the world, but definitely in the US. The stat that I’ve heard is three out of every four cars that is sold in a used capacity in the United States touches a Manheim lot at some point in its life. So that’s an amazing amount of cars, when you think prior to the pandemic the US was maybe selling 18 million cars a year, somewhere in that range to have you know, 12 million of them go through a Manheim as they convert from leases or resold. It’s a lot of volumes. It’s a lot of cars. The fundamental problem that business had was they would have these large parking lots with tens of thousands of vehicles on them. And they would need to get all of these, you know, they’d have to orchestrate to get thousands just a subset of the tens of thousands. Get thousands of very specific ones in a certain order for a live auction that happens in very quickly. It’s both live with people there, as well as online, and cars come through. There’s cameras. There’s sort of barkers. Everything you would think about when there’s an auction. And if you can’t get the cars lined up, if you can’t find them on the parking lots, it’s a real problem. You can’t sell cars and cars are depreciating assets. So every month a car’s value goes down. So if you can’t get the cars, move them and sell them, resell them, you’re losing money every day. So Manheim had been trying for years I think maybe even a decade to essentially put low costs GPS trackers on these cars that are battery powered, that would last for multiple years and be very inexpensive. So they could see where all their cars were on the parking lot. When I first heard about this Applications, I thought, well, that’s really simple. Like we’ve all had GPS on our phones forever. But when you think through it, the requirements there make it way more difficult, because you’re talking about your phone, you as a human you’re the custodian of your phone. You charge it, you make sure it’s charged. Well, I had a little tracker that’s just thrown into a car, who’s watching over it, no one. So you have to track the trackers. You have to know their battery States. They have the batteries have to last a really long time to get the value. And that’s essentially the solution we built, it’s a Cox2M product that uses Leverege platform underneath, it’s all our vision. And that same product is now been sort of genericized and has been applied to multiple types of industries where you have lots of things on parking lots or in buildings that you just need to find them and sort them and understand their conditions. So that’s been a very successful thing. I think Manheim at this point is closing into 400 or 500,000 vehicles. The triumph they’re tracking at any one time, and it uses a niche by growing technology called LoRa from a networking wireless standpoint to be able to transmit the data because it’s very friendly on battery life and other things like that.
– [Ryan] That’s awesome, and before we bring Ken back in, what i want to ask is, is the way you work with Cox2M as far as kind of having your technology being the underlying platform, but they are in a sense the ones selling it and operating under their name kind of like basically a white label solution. Is that how you often work with most companies that you have as clients, or is there kind of a mix with how that’s handled?
– [Eric] Yeah, it’s only one of two ways when you get to the scale side of things. We either sell it like a platform or as a service, and that’s kind of the case with Cox2M at this point, where initially they had us as their outsource product team and we did everything, basically built all the applications. But as they’ve evolved as a business and they’ve grown their team, they now have their own developers. They have their own product people. They basically replaced us. All the systems integration activities we used to do on their behalf, they’ve replaced them with their own people which is perfect for them and perfect for us, because we just wanna be the platform company anyway. So in that case, we sell them platform as a service. They modify it, they customize it, they then resell it under the Cox2M brand. And that works out great. We also have a subset of customers that I would label more as software as a service, where solution as a service is probably more appropriate. Where we are kind of the lead systems integrator. And we provide a solution at a fixed cost to a customer. And it’s much more of a black box for the end customer. They don’t necessarily know nor care how it works. Like what are the different components, where the hardware came from, what communications protocols it uses. They just wanna know that it can solve a business problem at a certain cost. And they wanna know what that cost is. They want it to be very transparent. So that’s the other segment of our businesses, essentially this SAS business, where we’ll have a solution we sell it into a customer and they just use it, and we provide sort of 100% care and feeding and a service level agreement for that product or solution.
– [Ryan] Okay, awesome. So what I would like to do now that we’ve kind of learned not just about Eric, but also Leverege and what y’all are doing. I was thinking it’d be a fun kind of pry or game to kind of go through some of the most commonly asked questions or commonly discussed topics in the first 100 episodes and bring Ken back in. And kind of pose these questions out for Ken and Eric. And we can talk back and forth about, and spend the rest of our time together, kind of going through some of these higher level questions that I think got a lot of engagement early on last year, and could definitely use some revisiting going into this new year and what we can you know, talking around what we expect the IoT space to look like in 2021. So with that being said, the first question I have for you all is around kind of the IoT journey. I guess the first couple of questions around the IoT journey that companies that embark on once they kind of understand what IoT is and the value it provides to their business. So starting with Eric, what advice do you have for companies who are looking to get started on their IoT journey? These are companies who understand what IoT can do for their business, have internal buy-in, and have some budget and are really looking to begin. So where would you recommend they start and what should they be thinking about as they kind of embark on this IoT journey?
– [Eric] You know, I think the best place to start would be with a company like Leverege or a systems integrator of some sort. And the reason I say that is they not only have knowledge of the market and the ecosystem and all the different technologies involved, but they have also built systems. So they’ve read about it, but they’ve actually practiced it. And so I think you have a better chance of success if you can identify a systems integrator to kind of help you and they can kind of do consulting in a way, but they’re actually building things and showing you things instead of just providing the graphs, they’re actually testing it in the context of your business. And so only companies that have a native ability to create products and write software or work with hardware vendors and integrate things are gonna be able to do that and give you the confidence as a business to move forward beyond that. So that would be kind of the first place I’d start. But even before that, I would make sure that as a business you’ve really done your homework on your own pain point, like what is the thing you’re trying to solve? And how much is that worth to you? Probably the biggest impediment for all of us on both sides of the buyer and sellers market is a customer that doesn’t know what the solution has to provide for them, either from a requirement standpoint or it doesn’t know what the value is. So if you’re a business, like if you’re a Manheim to go back to the example, you essentially run this, if that L statement is in your head. You’re like, if I could eliminate, you know, if I could know where all my cars are, instantly in the Palm of my hand, what would that do to my business? How would that save me money? How would it improve my customer experience? Would it allow me more revenue opportunities? And kind of thinking through that purely at the business level first, don’t forget about how it might get done, but like what would be the value of that? You know, is it really reducing manpower or getting rid of really bad jobs where you have high turnover and low quality and replacing it with higher level jobs that are better paying for people, just providing higher customer experience, maybe as competitive advantage in your market. Really thinking through that, that would be the very first step I would do. And that can be all done somewhat internally because every business knows their business really well. So I would start there, next step I would try to find either a larger systems integrator or a smaller niche one like we do. We provide them services in the area that we focus on, and kind of work with them and do a little, you know, build a little test a little and get feedback and then go from there.
– [Ken] I’d step us back even one more and I’d be terribly risk if I didn’t say you should start by reading on IoT For All. And they should look into some education onto what IoT is all about.
– [Eric] Absolutely.
– [Ken] If you’re not plugging, are you even podcasting?
– [Eric] That’s true.
– [Ryan] Yeah, Ken and some of Eric’s points I feel like, you know, the education piece is super important and obviously we started IoT For All with the idea of helping educate the market so that we could help adoption across the industry, because there are different, or a lot of different components of an IoT solution. Everything from you know, the hardware, the connectivity to software, you know, you can keep going. And Eric made a good point of he recommends starting with a systems integrator. And I think honestly, even if Leverege didn’t play that role he’d probably still suggest that. Because we’ve seen talking with hardware companies and connectivity companies that it’s not bad to go down, you know, start with talking to them, but what they’re gonna do is bring in somebody who really understands the end to end solution. Even if that company doesn’t provide those services internally. Which really hits that one of the key elements of the makeup of the IT ecosystem, which is partnerships. And from your discussions with experts and guests from your past podcasts that you’ve already been recording for the new podcast, what has been kind of the overall, I guess, thought process and value that they see in a strong partnership ecosystem that each company kind of has.
– [Ken] Yeah, I mean, I don’t think you could have been more right in saying that that sort of the partnership economy is critical to IoT and the growth of the industry I think. Mainly because no one company or provider or anybody really can or should be all and end all, there’s no sort of Walmart for IoT. I think that the more specialized and expert a company is, the better they are at that thing. And IoT is really complex and there’s a lot of different moving parts in any sort of system or IoT solution. Working with the right partners is how you get the expertise across the system that you need. Now, sometimes there’s a sort of pyramid of partners. You’ve got your SI partner who then works with a bunch of other tiers of partners. That’s often how it works. But if you’re just starting out or even if you’ve been implementing IoT for a while and you’re looking at a new Avenue creating a new profit center, doing some other thing, there is an expert partner out there, that will be who you should work with. And so I think that the research around finding those experts is critical as an early step. And that’s actually a really high bar. It’s hard to find those experts and those companies that can do the thing you need. So finding the right partners probably couldn’t be more important, I think.
– [Ryan] Yeah, and Eric kind of elaborate on that. What are your thoughts on kind of the vetting process that non IoT companies kind of how they should approach that process when they’re looking for the right company to work with? ‘Cause there’s tons of platforms out there, there’s tons of hardware manufacturers and SIs. How do you recommend, like what kind of questions should they be asking or what things should they be looking for? And then on the opposite side maybe, what are the red flags that they should be avoiding if they come across a potential kind of lead partner for them during that process?
– [Eric] Yeah, I think you know, at the end of the day every business that’s buying something wants to buy something that’s open at some level, right? So you know, and secure. Like security and openness are probably one of the top two things that a buyer should be thinking about. And when I say openness it’s the ability to change whatever you’re doing in the future. You know, giving yourself options as a business and not getting tied 100% into any particular same sort of single thread and encounter, so that you have optionality. Because your business will change. You don’t know if your partner’s business could change. And you know, the days of vendor lock-in they’ve never been very popular, there’s advantages to vendor lock-in, because if you’re a vendor like you’re in Amazon, for instance, right. Amazon kind of does almost everything these days, and they do, they offer a lot of services in IoT. But you know, one of the downsides of using Amazon for everything for instance is, now you’re really, really bold with Amazon. So if they change their products, if they increase their prices, if new technology comes in that wasn’t invented at Amazon, you can necessarily get at it and use it. So you have to kind of thread the needle there. As I said, there are there advantages to, you know, single sourcing in some cases. But I think the disadvantages that way, and so looking for something that’s open, a company that’s approaches things in an open way, so that you’re trying to use open source, you’re using your processes and tools and all the things that like, the rest of the world is settling on and it’s changing all the time. The ability to change going forward and kind of future proofing your decisions is really important. And then the second aspect, which is really probably the top thing that most buyers think about is security, right? Security now is probably more important than it’s ever been, just because we’re all working remotely I the pandemic. So we’re all physically not present in our offices at our job sites, we’re doing everything over the internet basically. And so if you don’t have a secure connection and you can’t physically be there to mind your devices, you know, somebody could be out there, say you’re all monitoring an oil leak and you don’t have anybody out there, because as there’s COVID shut down. Well, somebody could just walk in there, and you know, start physically manipulating devices moving them around, doing different things to them, injecting different types of firmware into them. So you have to be very, very vigilant from the physical device all the way through all the layers that we hear about, you know, with ransomware and stuff or the cloud that you hear about that all the time. But IoT it’s even more important, because you’re talking about things that are out in the world, that other people, bad actors potentially physically interact with. That’s a higher order of security needs. So security and openness are the two big things that I would look at as a buyer. But you know, going back to what you and Ken were just talking about, like resources, like IoT For All are so important and that they are the first place you should start, you know, is really reading. And it’s kind of the same for everything, you can only get a balanced opinion and kind of get a vector on what you should be talking, who are the players in the industry? What are the general technologies? You may not understand all but getting like a working knowledge of things is really important before you even start reaching out so you’re not just like picking something that’s showed up in a Google ad, and like I’m just gonna use them, right? So education is so important in IoT because it is so complex and there are so many moving parts to it, and so much specialization that that’s really you know, you can’t ever read enough basically to try to stay up on what the latest trends are, and the latest technologies that are coming in that can affect how you even do an implementation.
– [Ryan] So let me throw another question back at you. It’s from my experience talking with a lot of different guests and just companies in general, especially the company that don’t work in IoT, they’re looking for a solution. Oftentimes once they do that education process they’ve reached out to a company to start working with, one of the first questions they ask is around the business model. And how you know, the business model is, not just on through the relationship with that company. Let’s say an SI in this instance, but if they build a solution then for a customer there’s a business model attached to that end as well. From your experience, what are like the top couple business models that companies are kind of more leaning to engaging with when it comes to working with a company? I mean, I know there isn’t a number we could kind of go into, you can get as creative as you want. But from your experience, where does the business model kind of conversation take itself once it kind of begins?
– [Eric] Yeah, that’s a great question. So and a lot of times a business will start with one model and switch to a different model along the way as they get more educated and they can bring some dudes to the Cox2M’s a perfect example, right? You start with essentially outsourcing most of the things to Leverege, but ultimately you grow your own team and you start insourcing it back. And you just ultimately just use the software that we provide as a platform license, right? So the way I kind of characterize the general organizational or engagement model is three. It’s always, you know, pretty much the answer for anything is like three, right? There’s two extremes and then the thing in the middle, that’s a hybrid. So what I call them are the turnkey solution model. And so what I would recommend that for our businesses that really are not in their heart technology companies at all, you know, they don’t understand software development they don’t understand hardware. They’re not a wireless community. They’re just users of all this stuff, but they have no innate ability to objectively look at something and say, that’s good software, bad software, or that’s hard to build or easy to build. Like they just don’t have the ability to know that, but they know their business really well. So in that case, I think if they find the right partner, you know they still should go through the prototyping and the integration and all that stuff to prove out the solution works for their business. But a turnkey solution model, as I call it, I think is the perfect one. That’s kind of, you buy a solution as a service, it gets customized for your business. Maybe you get your logo on it, it’s integrated into the systems you are currently using as a business, but ultimately you basically have one company it’s providing the solution. It probably has a bunch of other partners underneath it. There’s sub contracting or partners at some level providing hardware cellular conductivity or whatever it may be. But ultimately that customer doesn’t care about that. They only have one contract they have with the prime contractor, if you will. And they just want the solution to work. Once it’s integrated with their system, they pay a fee. It’s usually based on this, every one of these is based on some sort of consumption model these days. So you know, as you go pay as much as you use kind of thing. And you get a service level agreement, because it becomes integral to your business and it really can’t go down for any significant amount of time once it’s integrated, it’s part of how you operate. So that’s kinda on the hands-off approach. And that’s great for companies coming really from the other side of the field from a technology company. The other side is kind of the Cox2M model, right? So Cox communications they are technology company, they’re familiar with technology especially wireless technology. They’ve built software, they’ve built hardware. They are not an Amazon, but they’re certainly not a company that just makes windows and doors or tires or something. Like, so they’re a technology company. So in that case, they have an understanding and they need understand as part of their business to be a technology company. So they can adopt more of a platform model, where they essentially just use basic tools. They can even go directly if they wanted to, and not even use a company like Leverege, just build write their own software on top of the cloud provider and just work it from the ground up. So that’s that. And then there’s this kind of blended solution. The blended solution model is where the customer and we’ll say the prime contractor, whoever’s responsible for the solution. They sorta like horse trade basically and say, okay, you do Tier 1 support, you pay for the cloud bill so you understand the consumption on the cloud spend, but we’ll take care of writing the software for you, we’ll do the QA. You know, we’ll do those kinds of, we’ll do monitoring 24/7. So you kind of break the overall solution into different pieces and you say, who’s gonna be the owner and the primary one responsible? So in that case, the customer doesn’t have to do everything. They don’t have to be a technology company, but they actually understand a lot more how it works. And they feel like they have more control. And then they can go up or down from this kind of middle level to either writing a lot more software, taking a lot more ownership, maybe even buying all of the fundamental components and owning it outright if they really wanted to. Or they can go up the other way and say, “You know, this is a lot more work than I thought. You know, my IT department was already screaming at me before you did this, and now they’re about to kill me. So we wanna sort of back off and just let you take everything and give us a white glove service.” And that’s more of the solution turnkey solution model. So that’s kind of the three models that generally work
– [Ryan] Now, when it comes to this solution as a service home approach, does that simplify the buying process for the customer? Basically what I mean by that is, if you’re doing your research and you’re understanding that there’s a hardware component, a connectivity component of software and cloud component you know, et cetera, et cetera, you’re thinking about, man, I have to now figure out a relationship with hardware company to figure out pricing there, I can then negotiate connectivity costs and handle that as an expense, and then also the cloud bill and you know, the software development for the actual solution in the UI. Like is that kind of the approach you recommend to not have to worry so much about that? And it can all be an all in baked in costs that is just, you know, they’re paying monthly or per device or whatever it is.
– [Eric] Yeah, I think you know, it ultimately comes down this way. I was harping on like business value. Once the end user knows the value, and if you’re gonna be a successful seller in IoT, you have to line whatever your pricing is to the value they need it to be. Otherwise the math doesn’t work and they will never scale it. They’ll just do a pilot and we’ll go, this is great it actually solved the problem technically. But when I run the cost and I run my spreadsheet, my CFO is telling me this is gonna cost us twice as much it would cost us if I just had people do it. clearly that’s not going to go through the organization. So you really price it on value. Business models that are starting to emerge now, as you get the IoT system gets a little more mature, are things where you’re aligning basically your success as an IoT solution provider, like say Leverege for instance, in our niche, you would basically say, we’ll take a percentage of how much money we save you. So if you know the solution, just to pick a random number, it’s gonna save you a million dollars a year, the contracts written to say, as long as you could figure out how to measure it. And that’s the tough part here. But if you can measure it, if you can say, you know, if I could sign up a contract with someone and said, Hey, we’re gonna save you $ 1 Million a year. And we get to split that 50/50 with you. And if we can both look at that and subjectively look at that data and say, yes it did save you a million dollars, that company that we’re selling to, our customer would be more than happy to pay us half of that, because they just they had no risk and they just saved half a million dollars a year, right? So those kinds of mutual alignments if you can really determine by value how much you can save, but that goes back to the business that they have to do their homework. They have to know what their true costs are, if they eliminate things or change things, right? So that’s another way to do this.
– [Eric] Great, that’s fantastic advice. A lot of very relevant points there that a lot of our audience can appreciate. I wanna pivot quickly into kind of more general topics and just get your take, a kind of rapid fire questions here. I’ll start with Ken and then Eric, please feel free to add on to anything Ken, or any different opinion or thoughts from what Ken shares. Obviously we all know about IoT we’ve heard this new phrase coming out AIoT. So the kind of the mixture of AI and IoT which we’re seeing now. Ken, I’d love to just hear your view on kind of the role AI is playing in the IoT space and how it’s kind of contributing to just overall, kind of efficiency, adoption and so forth.
– [Ken] Sure. This is great ’cause I’ll start with a hot take. There’s no such thing as AI. artificial intelligence doesn’t exist. Really, it’s a really cool name. And I prefer to think of it as automated intelligence. The role of AI in IoT or AIoT is to take the data, it’s collected via sensors and run them through statistical analysis algorithms to then produce the outcomes that you need to make your strategic decision-making happen, or your automation happen if you’re in a highly automated environments or environment that you’re trying to make automated. It’s a another really useful and close to inevitable tool for any IoT implementation to be thinking about. I think that it has a lot of secondary benefits especially in terms of using human resources in more effective ways to create more efficiency and additional profit centers in the business.
– [Eric] Yeah, I think that’s a good way to look at it. You know, actually, my master’s degree, my focus of my master’s degree was artificial intelligence, and it was really big back then too. So this term has been around for a long time. But yeah, ultimately AI is math, right? So it’s essentially running a whole bunch of algorithms, and these days because of cloud computing and nano computing and just all kinds of just, you know, Moore’s law type of things, you can just do more faster and better and more complexity in shorter periods of time. And so therefore you can do a lot more what if, type statements. You can do a lot more recursion a lot more sophisticated statistical analysis and A, B, C, D, E, F, G testing of all that in real time. So AI, you know, at the end of the day, IoT’s primary job is to feed data to AI, because AI is only as good as the data it’s given, and the larger the quantity of data, the better the AI algorithms can get at determining whatever the insight is or the outcome or the automation or whatever that is, right? So the more data you have, the more normalized the results, the less outliers, the more it’s filtered the more exact it sort of becomes. So the reason AIoT is becoming a thing is because they are basically like peanut butter and jelly. You know, AI obviously exists without IoT scaling to like trillions of devices, because every one of us has a cell phone and a computer and other things that we’re already feeding data. It’s a lot of human derived data. We’re already feeding into the cloud. So there’s billions of data points every second going up there that you can run algorithms on. But the exciting part for IoT is you can have $10, $5, $1 sensors, feeding very small amounts of data but have trillions of these things. And you know, imagine if you could track, if you could know the condition and the location within inches of every single thing in your house, and you can do that at a cost that was affordable, who wouldn’t do that? Like you would do it, right? Like if I could know right now where anything is I could think of, if I could Google search essentially, anything in my house and just get it. That’d be marvelous, right? I’d never lose anything in my house again. Everyone would want that. Well, what stops them from doing that? Well, there’s a technology path to get the batteries and things like that. But ultimately it’s a cost thing. It’s a cost and a form factor thing. So as everything gets cheaper, smaller, more efficient battery, technology gets better, you’re going to be able to put sensors affordably on everything. And so that sheer amount of data that you’re getting from basically metric-ing every single thing on the planet is going to have a major impact in increasing these AI room’s ability to determine all kinds of stuff. So you get sort of a second order of facts.
– [Ken] For the record, and I might take us down a little bit of a garden path here, Ryan, so I apologize. I’m curious Eric, about what your thoughts are in those sort of scenarios where some people are saying, rather than putting a sensor in every object, you use one sort of smarter sensor like a video camera that can recognize objects to then sense a lot of things at once. And that that’s one way to make that more cost effective. I kind of find that exciting, but I think it introduces some security issues and some other type of issues that need to be addressed before it works. I’d love to hear what you have to say about that.
– [Eric] The video always gets people in trouble. sensors don’t mind being videoed, people do though. So yeah, I think it’s probably a hybrid, right? You know, I’m sort of pushing things to the extreme, you know, and just saying, Hey, this one type of way to detect things right, through a very inexpensive sensor, but yes you could either, I mean, I just got a Tesla this year. I don’t even call it a car, it’s like a phone that rolls down the road and does cool stuff.
– [Ken] That’s a gigantic phone
– [Eric] Yeah, it’s just a gigantic smartphone basically that conveys me physically around the world. But yeah, it’s really amazing to see, you know, kind of where this can go. And it has LIDAR, it has HD cameras everywhere. So yeah, camera’s computer vision, you can start doing things where you don’t have to physically touch it, but you can detect it through LIDAR or detect it through, you know, regular video and pictures and things. So there’s lots of different ways to solve the problem. But I think the fundamentally going back to like what is the pain point? The pain point is you’d love to know where everything in your house is, wherever it has located. So you know, it’s probably a combination, just like IT is. There’s a lot of common networks there, and that’s why you need, like going back and rolling back up to my systems integrator kind of pitch. You need someone that understands all the different options to say what is the best? ‘Cause a lot of times just like when you write code, which I used to do a lot of when I was younger, there are a dozen ways to solve a problem. Some of them are much better than others though. And so it’s uncovering the ones that are the better way or the more elegant way or the more effective way to solve something.
– [Ken] I’m looking forward to sort of the traveling SI, like a knit your neighborhood plumber or electrician You’ve also got the phone number of a neighborhood systems integrator who comes by and fixes it. I can’t find the thing that does all of my laundry maintenance, you know.
– [Eric] Yeah, and there’s a big philosophic debate. And you can argue both sides of it, but like does automation, is it gonna cause you know, reduce jobs. So ultimately at the Fi you know, if you take it to its ultimate conclusion, there’s one person like a Jeff Bezos that runs everything and everyone else is out of work, because everything’s automated. I don’t think that’ll ever happen. Like we’re just creating new jobs and we’re creating the new skills gaps that everyone is just gonna keep continually in educated, more specialized. And so I think people will always have plenty of work to do. The nature of that work though in your ability to learn is gonna be increasingly important in the modern world. You need to be not in a formal setting, like in a completely informal setting if you can’t just learn new things, whatever they are, you’re going to be left behind. So focusing on education and teaching kids how to learn quickly is gonna be really important for the future world we’re all sort of going towards.
– [Ryan] That’s great. Speaking of kind of the future world, there has been a topic that’s been on the minds of, or it;s out in the market and is kind of slowly getting into our lives especially through our cell phones, which is 5G. For years leading up to this, everybody’s kind of said there’s a lot of hype, but nothing kind of really valuable coming out of it just yet. It seems like it’s now hitting more mainstream with the new iPhone and then additional smartphones in the market. But I wanted to get your take as far as 2021 goes and how you see 5G kind of playing a role in the IoT space. And then how that relates also to other connectivity that we’ve seen success in like LPWAN technologies and so forth.
– [Eric] I’ll let Ken go first. I feel like I just monopolize a lot of words there.
– [Ken] All right, Ryan, you keep jumping into my hot take areas, which I appreciate. I once moderated a session at an event that was called 5G is Bold, Change My Mind . And my mind has largely been changed since then. But I think that the main impact that we’re seeing with sort of 5G in the consumer and commercial space is just gonna be in terms of more facility of use. You know, I think consumers are gonna be excited about, you know, a better video quality and things like that where it’s available. On the IoT side and the enterprise and the industrial IoT, I think that the main impacts are going to be in the most secure and sort of command and control areas. Places where millisecond latency matters. So I’m talking about fully automated transportation. I’m talking about critical infrastructure. Places where if there’s a fault, then a millisecond later there can be disaster, things like that. I think that’s where you’re gonna find your most common Applications, at least for the medium term. You know, maybe over time it becomes everybody just uses it ’cause it’s the thing. But I think that that’s gonna happen first, although it’s also super interesting to look at it like the CBRS bands, ’cause I think that there’s more sort of wide applications there, and that technically I think also counts as 5G. So I think there’s some more interesting things that are happening there too.
– [Eric] Yeah, the thing that you know, maybe the general public kind of misses with 5G because it’s always been advertised as just more bandwidth. A gigabit of bandwidth to your phone. And that’s great. Like everyone will take more bandwidth, you know, more data space more cowbell, right? Everybody wants more of everything, but the thing that’s really gonna have the biggest impact is really this latency that Ken mentioned. So why does latency and what is latency? Latency is basically the time it takes for you to either think to do something or press a button until the time it happens, right? So the time you detect something to the time you can operate on that detection. That’s kind of your lag time or your latency. So if you can drive that down to zero, then essentially you can remotely operate anything from anywhere in the world, other than the speed of light type issues, which you know, for getting into that kind of thing I think is probably beyond the level of this podcast.
– [Ken] Do we talk about quantum computing?
– [Eric] That could be another whole thing. I’ll have to do a little more research on it, but that’s probably-
– [Ryan] That’s better for Ken’s new show.
– [Eric] If you can essentially have guaranteed low latency and the other part is guaranteed. So variance and latency is just as bad as a high latency. If it’s one millisecond now, but you do it again and it’s five milliseconds that you can’t do things like robotic surgery, remote surgery, you can’t operate an autonomous vehicle if pedestrians walking in front of it. And most of the time it stops, but sometimes, you know, if the sun’s at a certain angle, maybe it doesn’t stop and it runs over a person. Like that’s not cool. Right?
– we probably won’t run you over.
– [Eric] We probably won’t run hit you. Right? But yeah, I mean, it’s all a probability, but that’s one of the huge thing in 5G and also on kind of an overlooked thing. And again, 5G is probably more overloaded than even IoT is at this point. Like, what does it mean? It’s this incredibly complex modem that just can do all these different bands simultaneously and send data to receive data at its base thing. But you know, everyone thinks of 5G as high bandwidth stuff, low latency, high bandwidth, but there’s also a whole element of classified under 5G I’ve heard these days that’s just low bandwidth, but very inexpensive connectivity. And that’s an area that we focus at Leverege which is this low power wide area. So on the cellular side, there’s two sort of standards that have emerged, LTE-M, which was mobile a version of that. And then there’s NBIoT Narrow Band IoT. So those essentially are also bundled in with 5G. They’re kind of like available now, but they’re sometimes bandied about marketing wise with 5G. Those are actually really useful, because now you can get a connection to a device, a cellular connection that has guaranteed sort of service for, you know, 25 cents a month. You know, something like that. I mean, the connection on our phones cost us $40 a month. So you know, that’s a couple of orders of magnitude less and that enables Applications for an enterprise. If they need to know the location of a million things, well, if you’re only paying 25 cents a month that’s much better than paying $5 a month. It makes things, you know, much more feasible.
– [Ken] So here’s a tactical question then. How many of these 25 cents a month chips do I need to duct tape to my phone to get the same kind of service? Like I can add in a ton of them, and I’ll just have a nice big phone.
– [Eric] Yeah, I have one of those old brick phones, like I could go back and watch “Miami Vice” or one of those older ’80s, late 80’s early 90’s shows again. That’s how many of them you’d have to put together to get up to a gig, there’s a lot of stacking there.
– I don’t want that already .
– [Ryan] So as we wrap up here, I wanna ask you all kind of one very big kind of broad question as we’re kind of now into 2021. And that is just your general predictions for the year. What are you most excited for? What do you think is going to happen? What do you hope happens? Maybe on the side same conversation, what do you hope does not happen that maybe you’ve heard may happen? And just kind of get your overall thoughts there.
– [Eric] All right, I’ll go first. I’ll leave the conclusion, the cleanup batter to Ken. So I think the most important thing for all industries including IT is a vaccine. So what am I hoping for in 2021? I’m hoping everyone can get vaccinated as soon as possible so the world can get back to a bore normality. In the IoT space in particular, we’re extremely excited the pandemic has been very difficult on everyone in different ways, some people more than others, for sure. But one of the things that it’s really shown to the world and to all our potential business customers is if you can’t remotely monitor and operate your business at some level, you’re gonna be in a really tough spot. So you have a lot of executives now that just like me don’t go into the office anymore. Haven’t for 10 months. And they’re sort of trying to understand what their business doing day to day through a Zoom window or something like that. And you can do that with people as you can make them come to the camera and turn it on, and you assume that an elementary school kids things like that, but you know how do you know what’s going on in your business? How do you know what’s going on in your office building? You may be having a gigantic office complex. How do you know what’s happening there? How do you know there’s not leaks? How do you know you’re not expending energy that there’s not a fire hazard? You don’t know ’cause there’s no one there. Right? So there’s really a big, big growth in interest of using IoT to sort of digitally transform all businesses. So the pandemic just put that on steroids and really got that message across to everyone if they were a little reticent about digitally transforming the business. And on the other side is, you look at the large tech companies and how they’re basically just gobbling up entire industries because they’re playing from a position of strength because they’re already digitally native companies, and they’re able to go in to more traditional brick and mortar or whatever it may be. And adjust their costs containment. Their ability to innovate is just from day one. And they just can undercut prices and essentially eliminate very, you know, big players from huge markets, right? And just take over this market. So from a competitive standpoint not only from a convenience and just ability to operate more efficiently, but from a competitive standpoint I think every business is going to have to digitally transform an IoT is gonna play a major role in that. So at Leverege, we’re very, very excited about that, but until the country, then the world can really truly open up, the supply chains, get back to normal and everything else it’s going to be bumpy, because the recovery is just not there, the demand’s not gonna be there, but everyone’s excited about doing it. So we’re all kind of waiting on the vaccine and then it’s just gonna be go 110 miles an hour.
– [Ken] I do not disagree with any of that. So I suppose I could just end there. But I actually can’t, I don’t think it’s possible for me to not say a thing. So I’m gonna sort of reframe the question and say an answer instead. What does IoT have in store for 2021? Because I think that I’m not willing to predict what the next year has in store for us, but I think that what IoT is going to be able to offer as an industry is a lot of things that we learned last year as an industry how to do, are going to become standard practice because they made sense. Things like remote work is going to become much more common I think, now that people have been doing it for nine months and companies are gonna go, Oh, I guess I don’t need to walk around my office and look at people working. They’re working. they’re doing their thing. And so I think that’s gonna have an impact on like commercial real estate markets, for instance, and perhaps commuter traffic and things like that might all become very different over the next year that folks are gonna have to learn about and adjust to. I think that supply chain tracking asset tracking, cold chain, all of those things which have been growing and becoming more and more sophisticated for the last several years, got a big shot in the arm in 2020 and are going to continue to do that in 2021. And I think the next step, once those implementations that are underway have become fully sort of put in place is more automation is getting the A into the IoT in those situations. So that’s sort of the broad things that I think are coming. And generally I see all that as good stuff. I think that the world is better for it. And we’re gonna find not just business efficiencies but sort of sustainable solutions and global efficiencies that are gonna help with a lot of, sort of unintended consequences things.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s great. I appreciate both those insights. And to kind of last question I have is aimed at Eric, just kind of how we usually wrap up most of our episodes is on the Leverege side, what are you most excited about or anything out there that the audience should be on the lookout for? And then on top of that if they have any follow-up questions wanna connect with you, what’s the best way to do so?
– [Eric] Yeah, so we’re excited this is more of an internal thing, but we’ve been working, we basically have been spending a lot of our time that during the pandemic when our customers weren’t answering their phones, in some cases, you know, working, investing in our technology. So we spent nine months basically building the next version of our platform to help customers do things even better, faster and more maintainably. And so we’re launching that this quarter actually, some early customers. So we’re very excited about that product launch. It’s a major upgrade to how our platform works, which will enable our customers to do things better. And then we have, you know, we have a couple of things I can’t mention them right now, but we have a couple large partnerships that are in the works that we’ll be announcing at some major virtual conferences here in the next two months. And products and solutions that we’re working with partners on that will be launched. But yeah, we’re asset tracking, as Ken said is one of our major focuses, low cost asset tracking. And we just see that getting you know, a big boost coming out of the pandemic. And we’re primed to help solve a lot of those problems for certain classes of businesses.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, well, we look forward to seeing more coming out of Leverege, and I wanna thank you both for your time being on the 100 episode IoT For All podcast. And I hope you enjoy the rest of your week. And look forward to having you back on. And Ken good luck with your show, I think our audience is gonna love it. We’ll make sure we kind of cross promote it over here as well. And for our audience, you’re welcome to the team. I think we’re all excited to have you. And thanks again for your time guys.
– [Ken] Really appreciate it. And do you folks out there listening, I know you love the IoT For All podcast. I know you love Ryan as your host, but if you want to come over to “Let’s Connect” that’s okay. You’re welcome there. You can listen to both of you want. But you know, do what your heart says.
– Thank you guys.
– Hello, everyone, thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you did, please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcasts on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a note at ryaniotforall.com, and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a future guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next time.